Thursday, July 23

SIGIR Social Media Workshop: Abdur Chowdhury Twitter invited talk

Abdur Chowdhury gave the invited talk at the Social media Workshop called "Emergence"

"...Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.."

Abdur's presentation primarily focused on Twitter Trends. It was a series of questions and illustrations to provoke discussion. You needed to be there or watch it to experience it. This post is a bit disorganized because it was hard to capture the discussion dynamics.

Twitter Trends
Last thanksgiving he built Twitter Trends. The word Mumbai popped up and he thought it was a bug.

What is a trend?
examples: Mumbai Bombing, the NY plane crash in the hudson, the Jakarta bombings.

The ability to share information quickly and easily:
It changes our awareness of the world and causes new emerging behaviors not fully understood:
  • What social, technological & research questions emerge from this?
  • What happens when it's not one reporter, but millions of all of us talking?
    Lowering the barrier for all of us to share information and allowing it to propagate quickly.
- He presented a movie of Twitter chatter during the super bowl.

(It's cool. I wonder what the bias is towards those who tweet. The midwest is very underrepresented considering the interest in football and the Super Bowl.)

"More interesting than query logs, you can drill in and read the tweets; what people are actually saying."
  • What will the emerging behavior and benefits from sharin events with the world?
  • What does it mean when the water cooler is the size of the planet?
Trend spam
- Hackers band together and try and game twitter. If you have 10k people sitting in basements, they can create a trend. It's getting harder as the traffic volume grows.

Country Perspective
Location based trends.
There was a good question about looking do trends in a sub-community instead of just in a location... it's possible, but it just hasn't been done yet.

One of the big uses of Twitter is shared events: when you want to share an experience.
- Shared events make it in the trends list: SIGIR, Apple developer conference
Fun examples: near: searches (e.g. near: queries)

Go Marti! She brought up a very important missing topic, food! Despite the fact that people are talking about it, it's not a "trend" according to Abdur. It's background "chatter". (I disagree. You need to look at trends in a lower level in the hierarchy.)

Emergence: Interesting things happen:
FollowFriday -- a recommendation engine that emerged.

"What's it like working somewhere that simultaneously matters, and complete doesn't matter?"
  • What is the interesting research?
(Personally, I would have liked some more depth on how Twitter and Search interact more heavily, e.g. the use of hash tags).


  1. Anonymous5:24 PM EDT

    Did he give or posted any details on how Twitter Trends works?

  2. He didn't go into much; it was quite vague. I'm paraphrasing, but he said it was something to the effect of "standard language modeling stuff... that you should be familiar with."

  3. he mentioned needing to identify bursts from background noise... for example, "breakfast" has a pretty high level of traffic, but its steady so doesn't constitute a trend. The trends need to be surprising with regard to the steady-state language.

    The Kleinberg paper "Bursty and Hierarchical Structure in Streams" gives some idea of how this might be done over a couple different text sources.