Scientists Will Soon Be Trawling Through All of Your Tweets | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
November 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

The New York Stock Exchange all gussied up for Twitter's opening day. (Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis)

Scientists Will Soon Be Trawling Through All of Your Tweets

Twitter is opening up their entire archives to researchers

smithsonian.com

With 241 million users, Twitter represents a relatively small slice of the human population, especially considering that only a small proportion of Twitter users send the bulk of the tweets. But that small pool of people is disproportionately loud, and, like it or not, Twitter and its users are a force.

The service is affecting how we consume, report, share and discuss the news, and affecting how people forge and congregate around facets of their identity. Though the same can be said of all social media, Twitter's default—public and open accounts—means that it does this a little differently. It's easier for others to look in and watch conversations take shape. And, for scientists, Twitter's public nature means that tweets are relatively easy to study.

For years scientists have been studying people's tweets: they've tracked how misinformation spread during the wake of the Boston bombingsthey've used people's reports of shaking to detect earthquakes; they've tried, with mixed success, to use it to track the spread of the flu.

Unfortunately, researchers' access to Twitter's archives has been limited, says Melinda Wenner Moyer for Scientific American: scientists can only pull and analyze around 1 percent of the tweets. That's changing, though, says Moyer: Twitter is opening up its archives—every tweet all the way back to the service's inception in 2006 will be available for research.

Tags
About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus