The UK’s Top 40 tech celebs – and why Stephen Fry isn’t number 1
When I volunteered to write a feature about the most techie celebrities from these fair British Isles, I hadn’t anticipated the amount of work involved. I figured there would be around 15 celebs, maybe 20, who had been enticed into the wonderful world of Twitter, Facebook and blogging, but the list just kept on growing. I eventually settled on 40 as my cut-off point. Now to work out how to score it.
Fortunately my years working in the PC Pro Labs came to the rescue, and before I knew it I’d worked out a scoring system based on Twitter followers, interactivity, quality and quantity of blogs, techie knowledge and sheer amount of fame. Add it all up and out would pop a lovely number, somewhere between 1 and 100.
Naturally, the phrase “out would pop” is entirely untrue. I had to spend a good two weeks following each celebrity, checking for hints of their geekiness, before I could rate them with any authority. Then there was the small matter of trawling through blogs, Facebook accounts and even long-abandoned MySpace pages.
By the end, four men were vying for top position: TV and radio presenter Richard Bacon, comedian Dave Gorman, novelist Neil Gaiman and the inimitable Stephen Fry.
Each of them had something a bit special to offer. Richard Bacon is perhaps responsible for promoting the phenomenon of social networking to a whole section of the British public that might otherwise have remained oblivious to Facebook and Twitter.
Not only does he share pretty much all of his private life via Twitter updates, he also encourages his hundreds of thousands of listeners to tweet him ideas and responses to include in his nightly Radio 5 Live show. When I started my research in early June he had 430,000 followers; that number now stands at an almight 661,345.
Then there’s Dave Gorman. He’s best known for his offbeat BBC2 series The Dave Gorman Collection, where he went on a quest to find other Dave Gormans around the world, but what pushed him into the upper echelons of our tech celeb list was his thorough embracing of Twitter – he uses it to directly communicate with fans, not just for self-promotion – and the quality of his blogs. He’s also a rather mean snapper of digital photos.
Before I reveal our surprise winner – at least to some – let’s talk about Stephen. There’s absolutely no doubt of his strengths. He has excellent technical knowledge, he tweets roughly 7,000 times a day and his Twitter following comes second only to Richard Bacon in our poll, at 655,000 as of today.
He’s also a true celebrity. Everyone knows who Stephen Fry is, at least in the UK, which can’t be said for anyone else in our top five (Charlie Brooker creeps in at this position).
No, what pulls him down is his blogging. Or lack of. Now, technically he still has a blog on the official Stephen Fry website. However, since 2 March he’s made only two posts, and those have been cut-and-paste jobs from a lecture and an already written Guardian piece. It’s a real shame, because he was a witty blogger with an excellent turn of phrase, and the 140-character limit in Twitter isn’t really designed for eloquence.
Bearing in mind that I gave him 0 points for blogging out of a possible 20, it shows how highly he scored in all the areas to even be in our top three – you can see the full top 40 list, and how they got their scores, at the bottom of this blog.
So, to our number one: Neil Gaiman. At this point a hefty percentage of readers will probably be muttering obscenities about this non-entity, but he’s a bona fide celebrity – especially in the States, where he currently lives – and has a rock-star girlfriend to prove it.
But what wins him our top accolade is his voluminous tweets, his interaction with followers (like Dave Gorman, he actually responds!), his excellent blog and the fact that – while he’s no uber geek – he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to technology.
And as you might expect from a man who’s collaborated with Terry Pratchett, he’s also very funny.
To find out more about our Top 10, pick up the latest issue of PC Pro (which also includes a darn fine article about improving your children’s IT skills during the school holidays). And to discover exactly who makes up our top 40, and where they score their points, see below.
Note: click on the table to see the full-size image.
(Lead illustration by Howard McWilliam)