What happens when your measurement tool relies on a secondary source of data, and that secondary source suddenly becomes potentially unstable?
That’s a question currently facing Altmetric, which is heavily reliant on Twitter as a source for its scoring and ranking system.
In the post-Musk era, the data coming from Twitter may not be what it once was, with some unknown number of the following factors possibly affecting it both quantitatively and qualitatively:
- Changes to the Twitter algorithm
- Accounts explicitly closed by users abandoning the platform
- Accounts effectively abandoned by people turning their backs on the platform, but unwilling to close their accounts entirely
- Less activity from legitimate users, as the platform’s future has become clouded and their participation in it more fraught
- Less activity as alternatives like Mastodon and Post stir to life
- More activity from bots and non-standard users
How long it will take for these effects to show up, or whether they’ll be discernible at all, remains to be seen. Quantitative measures may not capture the extent of turbulence on the Twitter platform. According to Altmetric’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Cat Williams, “So far, we have not noticed a perceivable drop in mentions from Twitter — and will of course continue to monitor this.”
It will be more difficult to understand if the quality of activity has changed.