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Visualising a monetised Twitter network

This is just a little experiment with nodeXL, inspired by this example of using it to visualise a Twitter network. NodeXL is a very nice social network analysis (SNA) and visualisation tool. It works from Microsoft Excel, and is very light and easy to use. The NodeXL Tutorial provides instructions on how to use it.

One thing that's particularly nice, for an SNA neophyte like myself, is that nodeXL can both search the net and do the visualisation (you can do this on VOSON too, though). And you can search Twitter too.

Many people on the Malaysian twitterverse will have noticed #xpaxblackberry coming up fairly often recently, and it seems clear that Xpax had purchased the help, perhaps via ChurpChurp, of various key bloggers/tweeters to get the word out. In addition, Xpax was organising an event last Saturday (which I was able to go to, after entering a competition with Nuffnang) to launch their new prepaid Blackberry service.

So - I decided to see what would happen if I put the search term - "xpaxblackberry" into NodeXL.

This is what I got on the 8th October - two days before the launch party
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

This represents the tweeters who mentioned 'xpaxblackberry' in their tweet, and the lines represent who follows whom, within that group.

The size of the picture is relative to the "Betweenness centrality" of the tweeter: i.e. some people are more connected to other people, either directly or via other people, so they are 'in between' more people. For example: if I know Joe, Peter, and Jane, but none of them know each other, then I have a greater 'betweenness' value.

So, in the above graph, we can see that the four tweeters with the greatest centrality are @kennysia (BC value = 1), @benjern (BC value = 0.876), @julesisapen (BC value = 0.703), @joycethefairy (BC value = 0.671).

I also ran a 'Cluster' calculation, which calculates "the number of edges connecting a vertex's neighbors divided by the total number of possible edges between the vertex's neighbors." (Hansen, Shneiderman & Smith, p16). Basically, it tries to spot the clusters of nodes that are more interconnected amongst each other than to other people. They are represented by represented by the different colours, which can be seen easier here - four major clusters are visible.
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

The next time I ran it was on the 10th October, in the afternoon before the event.
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

The top four this time are: @benjern (BC value = 1), @julesisapen (BC value = 0.834), @kennysia (BC value = 0.685), @spinzer (BC value = 0.357).

The third time was on the 15th October, the Thursday following the event.
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

The top four this time are: benjern (BC value = 1), @julesisapen (BC value = 0.625), @xpaxsays (BC value = 0.432), and @joycethefairy and @MyXpaX are equal in fourth place (BC value = 0.398).

• There are clearly more people, but not many more clusters here.
• Two new tweeters are prominent, @xpaxsays and @MyXpaX - they are 'corporate tweeters'.
• One interesting point is that although @joycethefairy has 1,521 followers, and @MyXpaX has only 19 followers, they have the same degree of centrality in this particular snapshot of the twitterverse. This shows how much the sample can influence the result of the 'social network' being analysed: within this sample thirteen followers of @joycethefairy and @MyXpaX tweeted 'xpaxblackberry', meaning they have the same weight in this sample. What has happened is that @MyXpaX keeps retweeting/mentioning and following tweeters who mention 'xpaxblackberry'.
• @kennysia, who was initially the most prominent and central person, has disappeared right off the graph. This must be because the archives are only kept for so long, and he has not tweeted recently enough; or that the tweets have gone beyond the 10-page limit (discussed here, I'm not sure what the exact story is). Or nodeXL only limits itself to a certain amount of days.

• To do an experiment like this better one would have to analyse more carefully over time (e.g. doing a search every hour or something - for a more sophisticated example see Tim Highfield's foray).
• What's interesting is to note the shifting of the centre of this particular 'conversation'.
• To get an idea of the relative importance of the tweeters, or at least assumed importance, it would be necessary to include some computation of the number of followers each one has.
• The reciprocity of follower/following is important too. The more followers there are compared to following, the more significant that tweeter is likely to be.
• The connections between tweeters are generally quite dense - that is to say, although there is clustering of smaller groups, there are lots of ties between the groups too.
• Overall, the leading tweeters are also leading bloggers. For the moment, I would say that there's no clear differentiation between the Malaysian blogosphere and twitterverse.

Twestivalkl - first tweetup!

On Sunday 19 September, I went to the #twestivalkl tweetup at the Mist club in Bangsar. It was my first one and so I went along to check it out. At the back of my mind I was wondering how it might be different from a blog meet, but I was also thinking that I should try to give fieldwork a break for once, and just enjoy. Which may be why I ended up drinking too much beer and regretting it for two days afterwards... :-|

They had stalls by 1901
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur 1901 stall

and New Zealand ice-cream
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur New Zealand ice cream stall

they were 'free flow', as was the Tiger beer (hence the morning after...)

I met a bunch of ex-students which was nice: reubenhot, cheeChingy, another guy whose name I forgot (I think it was Bryan? argh, sorry... beer...), and last but not least, DJ Prem :-)
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur DJ Prem

It always reminds me of my age to meet students who are now working in real jobs and so on, but it's also nice to see them outside of class. Honestly, teaching is a great job sometimes, and it's such an honour to have an opportunity to make a small difference in the life of so many people - sounds corny, but it's true. For a great rant on this topic - check out "What teachers make", by Taylor Mali.

Anyway, back to the twestivalkl.
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur

It was a charity event too - in to help Destiny Starting Point (video here). It's there to help boys who have dropped out and got involved in various delinquency problems - helping them to get back into schooling and get back on track.

Here is the Pastor who founded the place handing over a donated Lenovo computer to the fortunate Lucky Draw winner (looks happy, doesn't he!)
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur lenovo winner

and here he is again with @nikicheong, one of the organisers of the event,
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur niki cheong Pastor Stephen

the others being @davidlian, @suanie, @eevon, @radianceleong, @nigelais, and @Ling_Chan

Other prizes were a Poken, won by @kellster (who always seems to be winning things!)
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur kellster poken

And here are various Poekeners - with @aprilyim invading from the left :-P
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur poken

There were also some of the usual suspects: @dustyhawk, kruel74, @joshlim, and the intrepid photographer - @benjicajess
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur benjicajess

and others who I can't remember...

So. Were there significant differences with a blog meet-up? Basically, no. If they had had the live screening of tweets it could have made a big difference - with people interacting on and offline but in the same physical space. I'm sure that if I had a mobile access to the tweets it would have been different too - and would have contributed to and read what other tweeples were doing.

Many of those there are also bloggers, but not all. I reckon that many people who find blogging too much work, will enjoy tweeting a lot more. There would also be less of this kind of post happening after a tweetup (i.e. what happened, photos, etc). For a tweetup it's a lot more spontaneous and co-synchronous (happening at the same time). And once the event is over, there may be a 'thanks it was cool #twesitivalkl' tweet, and tweeple move onto whatever is happening in their life and tweetzone at that time.

[did a few edits - forgot to include a photo intially, some typos]

What is a Twitter network?

As I have learnt to use Twitter better, I have understood that one of the key things to keeping it useful is to follow the right person - for example, I like to follow various Malaysian politicians (e.g. @limkitsiang, @Khairykj, or @elizabethwong, amongst others) because when important political things are happening, they will be tweeting about it.

I installed TweetDeck recently, mainly because I found out it has a way of grouping the tweeters you follow - so now I have three groups: 'All Friends' (the default group), 'Academics', 'SoPo', and Facebook updates. Another thing that encouraged me to get TweetDeck was the realisation that much chatter amongst the academics probably happens while I'm asleep, due to timezones.

Anyway, this post is the second (the first was Social networks and commenting) that was sparked off by Would the real social network please stand up?

Thinking about Twitter, I agree with a commenter on the 'real social network...?' post (Adrian Chan) that a list of the people one follows would be more of a behavioural network: e.g. the groups I mentioned above are people I share interests with, but may never meet.

A Twitter network is also 'publicly articulated' in the sense that it's consciously expressed (i.e. through choosing people to follow) and people can see who you are following; in addition one can retweet in a name-dropping fashion, and people organising to meet up may display all the others who are in on the conversation. If you were to ask a tweeter who her 'personal network' was it would probably include some of those she follows, but her personal network would include many who are not also tweeters. If one were to trace all the 'followees' (i.e. those who are being followed) a group of people have, one could probably infer as to personal and behavioural networks - the personal would probably be denser. A 'Twitter network' is apparently multivalent, and seems to support the argument that networks depend what you're trying to measure, and how you go about doing it.
Facebook social network analysis visualisation
A Facebook publicly articulated network
Bernie Hogan

Some recent discussion amongst Malaysian bloggers about a soon-to-be-launched Malaysian Twitter monetisation service, Churp Churp (it is run by Nuffnang) makes me wonder about how their responses could relate to the different types of social networks.

The discussions has tended to centre around the inherent property of tweeting, that the tweet comes to you directly, whether you want to see it or not - as opposed to a blog, where you can choose to not read an advertorial (in fact, this is rather 'old media' in a way - like television; which must make it attractive to advertisers). So, Colin Charles (aka @bytebot) recommends that tweeters do not use the service, asking "do you want to alienate your followers?"; ShaolinTiger (@ShaolinTiger) argues that followers should be able to opt out of the sponsored tweets, but not have to unfollow the tweeter; David Lian (@davidlian) asks "Can you purchase conversation?" and argues that advertisers need to become part of the conversation, rather than pushing a message out through paid tweeters.

The symbolic aspect of tweeting, the exchange of pleasantries and informational titbits, is important to consider. Jeremy Woolf in Hong Kong makes an similar point to David Lian in talking about "gunners" who are paid to "seed" forums and the like - the process is like this:
"You identify a forum like Uwants or DiscussHk as an influential channel where discussions relevant to your brand, product or service are taking place. People care enough (or, at least are passionate enough) to share their feelings and ask probing questions. Instead of joining the conversation in a meaningful way by replying to posts or establishing a contributing and helpful role within the community, you instead hire a gunner to spam inappropriate comments at this influential audience." (Dear spammers – can we have our social media back?)

One of key difficulties of social network analysis is understanding the relative meaning of the different ties, and the classification of different types of networks helps in some measure to address this. To become part of a social network means that others need to derive positive meaning from associating with you; that meaning will derive both from their personal reaction, and the interrelated association with commonly valued practices. For the examples of social media, one needs to display commitment, relevance, and integrity. The latter does not preclude being a paid operator with vested interests, but only as long as disclosure is made; the motivation for participation is a central marker of authenticity and integrity.

With this in mind, we may speculate that tweeters may unfollow, or continue to follow, someone for reasons associated with the different types of networks. For behavioural social networks, if the content of the tweets starts being irrelevant to the initial interest, the tweeter will probably end up being unfollowed. So, if a politician starts telling everyone to buy cheap air tickets, he will probably be unfollowed. However, including a certain amount of personal, non-political tweets, is a good way to show commitment to the casual, conversational ethos of Twitter.

For the publicly articulated social networks (and assuming followees will realise when they've been unfollowed), there may be a delicate balance to be negotiated. For a personal friend with whom one has stronger ties, it would probably be easier to unfollow them (and explain via another channel why) than to unfollow someone with whom one has weaker ties, but not weak enough to not care about their reaction altogether.

OK I've rambled on, and thanks for getting this far. What I'm trying to say is that by understanding what objections people have to sponsored tweets, we may understand more about why people tweet in the first place. It's related to:
1. Both building and maintaining personal networks that operate on meanings developed through relational practices. Social and cultural capital are generated here.
--> For example: I keep in contact with some offline friends, and we develop a mutual understanding about how much to tweet, and what kind of stuff to tweet about. This strengthens our social ties (social capital), and we learn more about each other's preferences and ideas (cultural capital).
2. Developing more functional informational networks directed at increasing cultural literacy and capital.
--> For example: I start to follow various academics in order to have an idea of what they're doing and talking about; I learn new buzz words, read recent articles they tweet about, and so on.

Coming up soon - how do blog networks and Twitter networks differ, and what are the consequences for monetisation strategies?

Web Marketing - FAIL!

I'm sure most of you have heard about the Twitter virus/worm that spread around last weekend - it was not very serious, in that it wasn't deleting information or anything, but still I'm sure it pissed off many Tweeters out there.

As has often been the case, it was created by a 17 year old teenager with nothing better to do; in fact the guy seems quite talented as he has created his own Twitter-like service (which I'm not going to link - seeing as that was what the worm was doing) - which I suppose is not very easy.

The thing that is mind-blogging is the reason he gave: apart from being "bored", and the standard 'exposing security problems', he said that he wanted to
"promot[e] myself or my website." (

Think about it: you want to attract people away from Twitter, what is a good way to do this?
1. Provide a better service, do promotions, get media/blog coverage, convince Microsoft to buy you out, etc. etc?
2. Hijack their accounts and piss them off forever?

"The Twitterization of Blogs"?...

--Another one that I couldn't post it here due to another problem to do with a 'mod_security' module on the Apache sever (apparently, I don't understand what it was) - I will blog about that in the Geekzone at some point--

From what I can work out, Twitter is basically like a forwarding service that can send your messages to multiple receivers. The key innovation being the ability to send directly from your personal communication device (email, IM, phone, web connection) to a number of preset recipients (other people's phones, your blog).

As with many of these services, the recipients also need to be signed up to receive the messages (e.g. on their phone). The messages can be private (one-to-one, one to selected people) or public - i.e. onto blog, or even the main Twitter home page apparently. FYI: Twitter FAQ section

You may ask, what's the point of having an extra way to send a text to a friend? Well I think the advantage here is that you can send one text and it then goes to all your group of friends - this is easier, and maybe saves money too? Also, the message stays in one place online, so people can see what you have been up to even if they check later on or something (i.e. asynchronous communication).

I took some screenshots of the Twitter home page today at c. 13.00 (Malaysia time):

Twitter screenshot June 2007

Q: Why bother telling the world that you're about to go to bed (Mewzii, Chernobyl)?
A: As pointed out by Holahan, the intended audience is more likely to be a small group of friends rather than the world. Still, I can’t imagine texting any of my friends to tell them I'm about to go to bed, only my significant other would get a goodnight message. Continue reading ""The Twitterization of Blogs"?..."