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Most tweets are garbage, Twitter users say

Twitter has been celebrated for its ubiquity and impact on world events from natural disaster recovery to political uprisings. But researchers from a group of big time universities have found that useful tweets are few and far between.

Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have found that even though Twitter users follow who they want to follow on the microblogging service, they say only about a third of tweets are worth reading and that a quarter of them are completely worthless.

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The researchers are spending their time looking into this issue in hopes of discovering better ways of presenting and filtering useful content. They gathered their findings by first setting up a website called "Who Gives a Tweet," where, over 19 days in 2010 and 2011, 1,443 visitors rated about 44,000 tweets from roughly 21,000 Twitter users (Twitter claims more than 200 million tweets are sent per day). Visitors were incented to rate tweets in exchange for getting some feedback about their tweets.

Favored tweets included questions and links to Twitter users' original content (Oh, say such as many of those from my Alphadoggs Twitter account?). Among the most disliked tweets are those about current mood or activity, or those that are part of a conversation between others, the researchers found. (Here are 9 tips from the researchers on how to improve your tweets.) 

"If we understood what is worth reading and why, we might design better tools for presenting and filtering content, as well as help people understand the expectations of other users," said Paul André, a post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute and lead author of the study, in a statement. Andre, plus colleagues Michael Bernstein and Kurt Luther, doctoral students at MIT and Georgia Tech, respectively will present their findings Feb. 13 at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Seattle.

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