Twitter – The Barometer of Mass Human Feelings?

With all of the recent Facebook developments we’ve hardly touched up Twitter in the last few weeks, so let’s see what the talk is about the micro-blogging site.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter can be used as a real-time barometer for finding out what is happening during important events, and also fo breaking news stories, so say US researchers. Tweets made during NFL games were monitored by engineers from Texas Rice University, who were able to tell within seconds when any significant match action happened, such as touchdowns and interceptions. The university engineers were helped by staff from the Betaworks group of the Motorola Mobility Applied Research Centre to devise the SportSense software which monitored and analysed tweets made during football matches in 2010. The software was able to register events within 20 seconds of them happening – often before sports news giants such as ESPN had published anything.

This technology could also be used in many other scenarios, such as political debates and localised problems like power cuts. In fact, for many people Twitter is the first port of call for confirming big breaking news. In July I just came off a sports field to hear one of the spectators saying that apparently Amy Winehouse had died. I reached for my iPhone, and instead of going to the Sky News app or Facebook, my thumb found itself hovering over Twitter. Sure enough, within about 10 seconds I could tell by the sheer volume of tweets that the news was indeed true.

Massive spikes in tweets occur around major scheduled events – the 2010 Football World Cup recorded in excess of 3,000 tweets per second – as well as breaking news stories, such as the revelation that Beyonce is pregnant. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine that as users of a social network we aren’t all continuously participating  – albeit passively – in a mass crowd sourcing exercise. This is not to say that this was Twitter’s intention – more so a byproduct.