Thursday, March 21, 2013
Glued to Twitter, but who or whom to follow in a crisis?
by Larry Geller
Questions of grammar aside, when world news is breaking out, which Twitter followers offer the most accurate, up-to-date account of events?
During the Egyptian revolution I found myself glued to the computer screen, selecting and following tweeters who seemed most connected to the action. It’s intoxicating—the ability to “be” there as events unfold, hours before news reports might appear (if they ever do) in the daily newspaper.
I even set myself up to do rapid translations from Arabic via cut-and-paste. Maybe there’s a better way, but I didn’t want to exclude tweets from my input stream just because they were in some other language.
So while the dinner dishes waited to be washed, I followed events taking place literally on the other side of the planet.
What a remarkable age we live in.
But back to the question: who or whom to follow when stuff is happening? Check out this article and the research paper that it links to:
The researchers ran an automatic process to discover the main topics from the database of Arab Spring tweets, then manually went through them to choose those most relevant to the uprising. Users whose tweets most often contain these relevant topics, who are also near the action, are the ones you want to follow.
In a paper due to be presented at the ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media in Paris, France, in May, Kumar writes that the most useful tweeters are not expected to have a large number of followers, or be influential on Twitter outside of the crisis.
[NewScientist, How to find the right Twitter user in a crisis, 3/20/2013]
(hat tip to ResearchBuzz. I’ve been a subscriber probably since 1996, before the Internet really existed.)