Twifficiency: A hard lesson in how business news travels fast

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Those of you who have been tweeting today will be well aware of Twifficiency, a new service that has swept across the Twitterverse at a rate of knots. The simple service claims to calculate "your Twitter efficiency based upon your Twitter activity" and is the sort of thing social media geeks love finding out.

It started to appear on the social networking plarform this morning and very quickly Twitter streams were filled with users' Twifficiency rates:

But also very quickly, users began getting frustrated with how many updates were being posted; me included!

Frustration about the number of tweets soon turned into a realisation that the results were being tweeted without most people's knowledge. The service was automatically posting the statistics without asking permission as is usual. Accusations starting flying about with many calling Twifficiency a scam:

But a simple check at reveals it's highly unlikely to be a scam. The service is something a 17-year-old Dundee-based IT developer James Cunningham has created as a little bit of fun.

Not so long ago, such a service would only have reached the eyes and ears of a very niche group of IT fans but in the modern of world of social media, James has discovered that when launching anything - even something you don't intend to be a commercial business - you've got to be prepared for the feedback - both positive and negative - and test and test again.

James' service was so talked about it became one of the most tweeted phrases on Twitter:


James has started to respond to angry users and look into correcting the problem but one particular tweet from him reflects how the business world has changed:


Believe me James, the most unexpected of things do catch on nowadays and while in reality no real harm has been done, the young entrepreneur's Twifficiency experience should serve as a lesson to all that new business news doesn't travel fast in the 21st century; it travels very fast.

UPDATE (1445):

It's not all about hard lessons for James Cunningham. He has clearly shown an entrepreneurial spirit which at such a young age is very admirable. He could even get a new job out of it!

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About Dan Martin

About Dan Martin

Dan Martin has 10 years experience as a journalist writing about entrepreneurs and the issues that affect them.

After three years working as a researcher for Sky News, he joined as a reporter. This was followed by two years working as news editor for during which time Dan also contributed to Growing Business magazine. In 2006, he joined Sift Media as business editor before being promoted to editor of He also has responsibility for UK Business Forums, the UK’s most active online forums for small business entrepreneurs. In addition, Dan founded The Pitch,'s nationwide competition for small business owners. He host the grand finals in 2009 and 2010 in front of an audience of 300. 

As well as interviewing many entrepreneurs, Dan has written content for leading business organisations such as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business, Investors in People and Business Link for London. Among the publications that have quoted Dan are The Times, Mail On Sunday, Financial Times, Personnel Today and Bristol Evening Post. His articles have also been published by publications including eGov Monitor, Virgin Express in-flight magazine and Personal Success.

Dan regularly speaks at events about small business and social media issues. Among the events he has presented at are the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies' annual conference, Learning Technologies, Publishing Expo and World of Learning. He has also chaired high profile debates featuring senior representatives from Business Link and the Federation of Small Businesses and Dragons' Den judge James Caan.

Dan was named the 10th most influential political blogger on Twitter by the Independent and won the public award for best B2B tweeter at the Golden Twits 2010. He also organised the Bristol Twestival, part of a global Twitter driven charity initiative, in February 2009 and March 2010. Volunteers from 175 cities around the world organised events using the social network. In total, $350,000 was raised for charity: water in 2009 and $500,000 for Concern in 2010. In Bristol, £1,500 and £5,600 was raised.


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By Jon K
18th Aug 2010 10:58

am I just stating the obvious when i say that #twifficiency is fundamentally flawed,because 50% is the attainable optimum? Since when was 50%, ie 5/10 a perfect score?

Is this an example of modern life once again celebrating the mediocre? Fair play to @jamescun for designing it, but #twifficiency 2.0 should be a sliding scale with 100% in the middle, not at one end.

(follow me on twitter @kenjonnard)

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By Bill Ryan
18th Aug 2010 12:38

It seems that Twitter is getting more powerful by the week.

I keep hearing of businesses monitoring for customer complaints on the #FAIL hashtag and responding to them all due to Twitter.

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By AppletreePrint
18th Aug 2010 13:05

A simple calculation of data to give people a rank or number, brilliant and simple. Everyone loves the idea of being the best or competing with their mates, 2 thumbs up.

Once the issues have been ironed over, should be great for James and I wish him all the luck in the world - he has now made a name for himself. I'm sure many of you can remember what you were doing at 17, and would agree that it definately wasn't creating hype over a new service you created..!

Dan |  

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By betterlanguages
18th Aug 2010 15:50

Hi Dan, a very interesting and informative article on Twifficiency. As someone starting off with Twitter, I would love to get the exposure that James Cunningham has generated, or so I thought until now! Our online marketing approach has been to go for long tail search terms like label translation for which we are no 1 ranked on Google, great for anyone operating in a niche, and a great conversion tool. However, as for any small business the personal service, fast response and quick turnaround of quotes and work would all grind to a halt very quickly if we got so overloaded. This case has clearly been fuelled by two factors, people retweeting quickly without checking out the original, and also everyone loving a geeky online tool. Will I be downloading it, no, not til there is a fix. I have noticed this phenomenen elsewhere though, with some Facebook apps being particular culprets, writing automaticly to your wall without permission. There is nothing more annoying than all your friends getting 8 million notifications without your permission. Regards, Mike Hunter, CEO, Ltd.

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By Martha_Forester
01st Sep 2011 11:39

I agree, those Twifficiency tweeets were pretty annoying at that moment... There's always some annoying and rather viral stuff in social networking sites.  However it worked good for James, I'm glad for him.


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By SamWagner
20th Sep 2011 13:01

Wow That's how people can become famous!

This Twifficiency tool was an interesting one btw;) However it was wrong to post updates without the page owners' awareness.


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