Twitter Likes & Impact Factors Are Equivalent

Twitter Likes & Impact Factors Are Equivalent

This is one of my favorite tweets (regular readers have seen it before; it’s screenshotted because all my tweets die tragically of coronadoom—it used to be cancer—after 7 days):

Here is another tweet by a popular figure:

The first difference you will have noticed is that the first tweet is funny, and that the second is hilarious.

There are other key differences. The bottom right of the first tweet indicates that 3,176 people “liked” the tweet when it was screenshotted. And I can report to you that it did not rise much about that when, alas, the tweet finally died. At the time of writing (Thursday morning), the second tweet had 20.8K “likes”, a number sure to grow by the time you see this article.

Now simple math shows that 20.8K divided by 3,176 is about 6.5; and by the time you see this, the ratio will likely be above 7. To fix ideas, let’s use that number.

The scientific conclusion is that Biden’s tweet is 7 times funnier than mine.

If you smiled at mine, you must have guffawed to Biden’s. If you chuckled aloud at mine, you must have nearly choked with laughter at Biden’s.

Science says so. Because voting proves scientific validity.

This isn’t me, Briggs, Briggs The Cancelled One, Briggs the notorious Thought Criminal, telling you. This is science telling you. And I can prove it.

What do you say when a sack of cow shit dropped from a great height hits the floor? You say it makes an impact.

Presumably, the larger the sack, or the more that is stuffed into it, the greater the impact. And the larger area of spread and spray. If we measured—or, to say this more scientifically, if we quantified—the amount of cow shit in the bag, we’d discover an increasing numerical relationship: the more shit, the greater the impact.

We could call this scientific quantification the impact factor.

Some of you will have pegged my second hilarious joke, which if it were subjected to a tweet would surely prove to be more than 10 times funnier than Biden’s.

For those who haven’t uncovered the humor, I am pleased to announce that scientists already have an impact factor. It functions exactly the same way as likes on Tweets.

According to Wokeipedia:

The impact factor…[is] the yearly mean number of citations of articles published in the last two years in a given journal, as indexed by Clarivate’s Web of Science. As a journal-level metric, it is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field; journals with higher impact factor values are given status of being more important, or carry more prestige in their respective fields, than those with lower values.

Each citation is a “like”, and the greater the likes a journal gets, the most prestigious that journal is. Scientifically speaking. The only difference between Twitter likes and impact factors is that citation/likes are limited to scientists.

Also like Twitter, he who has shall be given more. The more likes you get, the more prestige and followers, and the more likes you receive in the future. The higher your impact factor, the more prestige and readers and submissions, and the more citations you receive in time.

Scientists being scientists, there are rival measures to the impact factor, “altmetrics” such as the H-index and G-index and so on. They are all the same at heart, however, differing only in mathematical detail.

So now, at long last, the question you knew was coming: do the number of likes indicate truth or quality?

Obviously not, that would be the Voting Fallacy. Though the two can be correlated. The correlation, however, is weak, both on Twitter and in journals. And it can be time dependent: in times of sanity, the correlation is positive; in times of great madness (ours), the correlation is negative.

For the indexes (likes and citations) are only measures of popularity. Knowing only their value tells you nothing. The numbers themselves produce vast, vast over-certainty, as if one number can capture all dimensions of humor or scientific worth. And knowing only the number, and not the times, tells you nothing at all.

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  1. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Article hit like a super-sack of shit plummeting from a B-52. Major impact. Liked, upvoted, and repooped. Instructing bot farms to push story — expect by tomorrow people frightened to go out for fear of falling shitsacks.

  2. Stan Young

    The words “air pollution” have appeared in the title of ~45,000 papers, 1993 to 2021. About 1,500 in the year 2001 and 4,500 papers in the year 2021. Measured air quality has greatly improved while citations would say it is 3x worse over 20 years.

  3. Forbes

    –>”this has never happened before in American history” because spending has never been so lavishly out of control.

    A proud achievement of the Biden administration. There’s almost nothing they won’t attempt that “has never happened before in American history.” The record of “firsts” by this administration is nothing short of record-breaking. Another achievement that “has never happened before in American history.”

  4. Rudolph Harrier

    I actually would have gotten one drink with that game when I visited my parents over the weekend. In one commercial (I forget for what) there was a very quick shot of a young white couple walking hand in hand in a park (only after couples had been shown from other races, of course.)

    That would have been the only drink though. There were several commercials where a white wife came home to her family, and it was never to a white husband. Even the commercials that used homosexual couples made sure that both of them weren’t white.

  5. Rudolph Harrier

    But getting back to the “cites as likes” topic, it’s also true that most of the citations of highly cited papers are fake, just like twitter likes. It’s no secret that academics will engage in “citation for citation” arrangements (much like the “subscription for subscription” arrangements used on Patreon and youtube) where one writer will cite another writer’s paper with the understanding that he will be cited on that writer’s next paper. It’s also not a secret that writers often pad out the bibliography section because it is an easy way to make it look like you did more work than you actually did. And of course everyone likes to throw in citations to papers on hot button topics like global warming or COVID, even if the paper is almost completely unrelated, because it makes it easier to grant grant money if you can say that you are doing research in “related areas.”

    Combining all of these factors I would say that at least half of all citations are “fake” in the sense that the citation and corresponding reference could be removed from the paper without affecting its quality or the strength of its arguments.

  6. JohnM

    If a Paper is cited negatively, i.e. one shows that the premise or results are in error; does this correspond to a ‘like’ (or a ‘dislike’) ?

  7. Briggs


    Nope. Just like on Twitter you can only “heart” or “love”. No bad feelz.

  8. mrsean2k

    Judging by the adverts I’ve seen over the last week, white men still corner the market in adverts for fungal foot powder, erectile dysfunction, and warnings that you shouldn’t act like a nonce online. So some good news.

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