Monday, August 18, 2008

In a Twitter

I finally (finally) got around to joining twitter. More to figure out how it works and what it can do than anything else. I'm really interested in the potential for web and sms based services like twitter to capture 'real time' data from people in relation to their behaviour, feelings, attitudes, intentions, location etc etc.

My own business sector - market research - has only begun to think through the implications of web 2.0 tools for what we do: which is mostly capturing information from people and turning it into statistical insight. The 'capturing information' part has always been the killer: most of the industry in Ireland (and to a lesser extent the UK) uses the same methodology invented by George Gallup back in the 1930s. Namely:

- we print the questions on paper to create questionnaires
- we send the questionnaires to interviewers around the country
- they get people (the sample) to answer the questions
- the interviewers send back the completed questionnaires
- these are then entered into a data file for analysis
- tables are produced summarising the results.

It's still the best (only) way to ensure statistically representative results for, say, a sample of the total population. But the times they are a-changing: and when nearly 9 in 10 adults have mobile phones (and rising) then it won't be long before mobile (and ultimately web) surveys are as robust as face-to-face surveys. By "won't be long" I'm thinking 5-10 years tops ...

And the likes of twitter will get us there sooner rather than later.

1 comment:

  1. I was recently asked by a colleague how useful I consider Twitter to be and put together a post about it on the blog of the Geary Behaviour Centre.

    The first thing I noticed was that the website of Summize Labs is well worth a visit. One can enter a topic in the Summize Labs search engine to find up-to-the-second "tweets" about that topic, then automatically analyze the attitudes expressed in the "tweets". (Tweets come from Twitter - in case you wondering). As an example, the overall sentiment on Obama is "swell". This could prove to be a very powerful tool for political scientists, and all kinds of researchers.

    Whats more, the Summize Labs blog, desribes how to use a local operator in twitter search, enabling one to search within tweets near a location. For example, you can find what people are saying about Obama near:oregon while he campaigns there. The easiest way to find this operator is to use their advanced search page --- there you will see an input box with "near this place." Just fill it in with your city, state, zip, etc. along with what you are looking for. This combines with GIS with novel attitudinal data --- very powerful indeed! (For those interested in GIS/GPS, Summize Labs use the Google Maps API to interpret (or "geocode") a free-text location as an actual place that can be put on a map).

    In my opinion these methods have considerable advantages over Twitter's public timeline, 'TweetScan' and 'Quotably'. But the question remains - is Twitter a very select sample? I don't use it all that much and I don't know nay people that do...


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