Top influencers: The new visual exploration tool (beta)

Influencers graphDid you even wonder who the top influencer about the #debt crisis is on Twitter? Is it a Republican? A Democrat? An independent – maybe an official news source?

I did, and to answer that question – and countless more about other hashtags – I just published on the first beta version of a new “top influencers” feature.

With this feature, when you visually explore Twitter hashtags, following their relationships, you can also see up to 6 of the top influencers for the selected hashtag. These users are listed by name, ranked by their estimated influence, and shown on a graph where you can also see their relative influence (y-position), how specialized they are on that hashtag (x-position), and how many followers they have (bubble size).

This feature is still in beta and the hashtags usage data is still being collected: This means that, especially for the less used hashtags, the influence estimate isn’t very precise. Still, while I’m working on augmenting the data collection rate for this kind of data, you can already get an idea about the influencers on your topics of interest. And a similar feature is in the works about the top websites for an hashtag: Stay tuned!

Oh, and by the way: It looks like the top influencer about #debt is @MikeBloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York, followed by @WestWingReport, an independent White House journalist – you can see it for yourself here. Where are the Dems??

Are hashtags too geeky for Google+? A meditated answer to Loic Le Meur

I was able to join Google+ last week, and found it very interesting for three reasons:

  1. Circles
  2. There are mostly early adopters, and this generates some very interesting conversations
  3. It isn’t blocked at my office yet, so I don’t have to resort to dirty tricks to use it like I have to do with facebook – yet

Is it all good then? Of course not, there are many useful features that could be added. But the one I really miss is tags. I fell in love with tags since I first started using (before the yahoo-less-licious days) and were delighted to see them spreading to more and more uses. It’s no coincidence that I created a website completely devoted to (hash)tags!

Today I found out I’m not alone when I stumbled upon a post on G+ about the use of hashtags on G+ itself. After all, the use of hashtags on Twitter started exactly because there wasn’t a tag feature there, like on G+ now. And, as I discovered later, the same Chris Messina who first proposed their adoption on Twitter did the same for G+ just four days ago.

Not everybody agrees, though. Loic Le Meur commented on that same post where I first read about the debate that “hashtags are geeky and they shouldn’t be added to G+”.

I answered that hashtags are geeky, but simple tags aren’t. But, on second thought, the real answer should have been: Hashtags can’t be “added” to G+; they weren’t even “added” to Twitter, only half-heartedly supported after their use became widespread.

So the real question should be: Should tags be added to G+? I definitely think they should; is there any better way to allow the discovery of interesting conversations? And: Are tags too geeky for G+? Considering that they’re also used on Facebook, I guess they really aren’t.

So please, Google, add our beloved tags to G+; and, while you’re at it, also add a sampling streaming API for public messages so that all sorts of interesting research could be done and, why not, so that I could also add the data from G+ to :)

Working on hashtags/users data… and a little setback

These days I’ve been working on getting the data needed to show the top tweeters/influencers for an hashtag.

For the less used hashtags that’s not easy, but for the more common ones I was already getting some interesting enough data and I was thinking about the possibility to publish a first beta this weekend.

Unfortunately, while working on this new feature, something got corrupted on Redis – the database where we collect our data – and had to go back to an older backup; you might already have noticed that the number of examined tweets displayed on hashtagify fell from over 50 to 43 millions.

Nothing serious, but this means that we’ll need to wait some more time for the first beta. I just hope to be able to publish something before I’ll leave for a 2 weeks vacation to Russia next week… but don’t hold your breath!

While working no this I also learned something interesting about how to execute batch jobs on node.js: I expected some complications from the non sequential nature of node, but I hadn’t forseen the full extent of the surprises! I’ll try to share this to thos interested in this kind of technical details an upcoming post.


The next feature

The poll we ran about which features I should add first to hashtagify closed today, and the winner is… “Find top tweeters/influencers for an hashtag” (49% of votes).

I wanted to thank everybody who voted for the poll, and add that I’ve already started thinking about how to implement this new feature. I’d like to show this information in a highly visual and usable way, and I have some interesting ideas about that.

Gathering significant users’ data for the more than 1 million hashtags already categorized by hashtagify will be a real challenge, but at least for the most used ones I expect to be able to have something useful in a few weeks.

I’ll keep you posted about the developments. In the meantime, if you have suggestions or related requests feel free to post them here or to write on twitter @hashtagify

Have a great weekend. Cheers!

Poll: Vote a feature for the next upgrade of!

Under construction

This blog will talk about the technology and the developments of I already have a list of posts to write… I just need to find the time. Hopefully, in this century!

Stay tuned…