Late last night, former Engadget editor-in-chief Ryan Block tweeted out that he had done some research to attempt to quantify the “Oprah Effect” — that is, the number of users who signed up for Twitter after Oprah featured the service on her show on Friday. The number he came to? 1.2 million.
So did 1.2 million people actually sign up for Twitter as a result of Oprah? It’s possible, but tracking down this data is a bit tricky. I asked Block what method he used, and he told me he looked at the user ID on a Twitter account from early Friday versus one from the afternoon on Sunday. You see, while most people only know their Twitter name, if you look at the RSS feed for your Twitter account, you’ll see a number assigned to it — that’s your user ID, and Twitter increments it upward as new people sign up.
An account I created just now, for example, has an ID of 33471207. One I created on Friday night (a few hours post-Oprah) had an ID 32779621. Does this mean 700,000 signed up between then and now? Probably not. Twitter has a lot of users, but it does not have 33 million. The reason the user IDs are that high is because Twitter stopped incrementing the number sequentially in March 2007. While it’s not entirely clear what method it switched to, at least one theory had it going back and forth between sequential and increments of 10. Read more