Tweet Topic Explorer

By: Jeff Clark    Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2011

One problem I face on a daily basis is to decide for a given Twitter account whether I want to follow it or not. I consider many factors when making the decision such as language of their tweets, frequency, whether they interact on twitter with other people I admire, or if I have some personal or geographic connection with them. But the most critical factor for me is whether they tweet about things that match my interests. Sometimes you can get a hint about this by looking at their short one line twitter bio but the best way is usually to scan their latest tweets.

I have created a new tool to help see which topics a person tweets about most often. It also shows the other twitter users that are mentioned most frequently in their tweets. I call it the Tweet Topic Explorer. I'm using the recently described Word Cluster Diagrams to show the most frequently used words in their tweets and how they are grouped together. This example below is for my own account, @JeffClark, and shows one word cluster containing twitter,data,visualization,list,venn, and streamgraph. Another group has word,cloud,shaped,post etc. It's a bit hard to see in this small image but there is a cluster about Toronto where I live and mentions of run, marathon, soccer. Also, there are bubbles for some of the people on Twitter I mention the most often: @flowingdata, @eagereyes, @blprnt, @moritz_stefaner, @dougpete.

For all these images below you can click on them to go to a live version of the tool.

Here is another example showing the full tool. This one is for one of my favourite accounts to follow, @brainpicker, by Maria Popova. In this case the word 'book' has been highlighted with a click and the list to the right shows the tweets that contain the word. The words in the tweet list are coloured if they appear in the word cluster diagram. Clicking a different word bubble will select that word instead. You can click on any twitter @ID in the tweet list to load the data for that account. The tool is currently configured to load the last 800 tweets. For my account this goes back a couple of years in time but for more prolific tweeters it may only span a few weeks. The entry field at the lower left lets you explore the tweets for any twitter user.

Here are a few more examples of the word cluster diagrams generated from some twitter accounts. @acarvin is doing an extraordinary job of covering the events in the Middle East.

@scobleizer has been recently talking about ipad and iphone apps, the facebook datacenter, videos, and an interview about the new startup Color.

For @justinbieber:

And @barackobama:

This application was created with the wonderful tool Processing.js which is the javascript-based extension of the Processing tool I have used in the past. Performance is very good with the Chrome browser, and decent in Firefox and Safari. It will not work in Internet Explorer (except perhaps the new IE 9) and currently crashes on iOS devices.


Word Cluster Diagram
Explore Twitter Lists