Sentiment data from Twitter and Google Trends

Great day of class, last Wednesday. It deserves a short summary, which I am publishing here. The basic idea for the class was the exploration of sentiments around a place, using Twitter.

First I showed my students that Twitter admits a pretty advanced set of search options. Among the most useful is the Geocode options, which gives the coordinates for a certain geographic point. Then Twitter will search for all Tweets that were issued from that geolocation. If you need to know your geolocation, just ask https://whereamirightnow.com. If you want to know the coordinates of any place on Earth, just ask Google Maps. At this moment I am at a computing lab, here:

Latitude:18.466334°
Longitude:-66.105722°

Then, to do the search it’s enough to go to search.twitter.com and enter the following:

geocode:18.466334,-66.105722,0.5km

The third parameter represents the radius of the search circle around the indicated location, in this case 0.5 km.

This way, one can search whatever idea on Twitter around a given place. For instance, we could query all tweets containing the words “Sagrado” or “Universidad” or “estudiar” around those coordinates; and we can even exclude retweets. Like this:

-RT Sagrado OR Universidad
OR estudiar geocode:18.466334,-66.105722,0.5km

Try it here.

Twitter has got also a powerful API that can be used programmatically, so one can design a pretty great program that do sentiment analysis in Python and see what happens!

Of course, I showed students where all this savvy comes from! Here: http://thoughtfaucet.com/search-twitter-by-location/examples/

The Twitter search brought us later to Twistori, the wonderful tool that shows all Tweets in the world displaying a certain word in their text: love, hate, wish, think, etc. Like in the following video:

I love Twistori, and it also comes with a Mac screensaver!

 

After Twistori, a stop at Google Trends was de rigueur. We discussed how to get data on epidemics, or brands, or political issues. G-Trends display great graphs of the data, too.

<<Examples>>

This is the Google Trends search for zika, chikungunya and dengue viruses. We discussed how, exactly as with the Twitter data, one can query and analyze data that may shed light on possible epidemics. And, if we project the term “epidemic” to something that is socially spreading in the same fashion as a biological infection, we can have interesting results by geo-limiting the search to a specific region, all of which is easily done with Google Trends.

And this is the world map corresponding to the same data.

Note that oddity that Serbia, of all European nations, is seemingly very much interested in zika.

Last thing I did was to  inform student we have an interview set with the great Dolors Reig for next Monday, May 2nd at 9:40am, live from Barcelona! Dolors is the champion of the famous blogsite El Caparazón and she tweets as @dreig.

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Serial series

Pardon my slightly redundant title. “Serial”, or.. series, wonderful series.

We are quite surrounded by TV series. Everywhere. Even on the Web, recently a few television-like series have appeared with a lot of success. Actually, calling them “television-like” is an error; these series are not TV, use multimedia and the Web, and have quite different writing and production cycles from classic TV shows. They are usually low-budget, lo-tech microformats. One, quite intriguing actually, is Shieldfive, the first series being broadcast exclusively on Instagram. Appearing every day on Instagram with 28 episodes of only 15 seconds each. Moreover, each episodes cycles infinitely, so one has good opportunities to fully grasp it. I think the series phenomenon has established a golden age for TV and has spun off a number of new formats that are creative and almost avant-garde beautiful, impacting storytelling.

In class, last Wednesday, we shared the world of Serial, a professionally produced podcast series now at its second season. The beauty of Serial is that the story is intriguing and you get absorbed by it almost immediately. You are brought back to ol’ radio days when you begin to imagine faces and landscapes, accurately described in words and sounds. The podcast format allows one to subscribe and get each episode through RSS feeds with one of many apps for every platform. Like with all podcasts, one can download an episode and then enjoy it offline when walking or driving.

Thus, we shared the world of Serial and we listened to its whole first episode. There were few students, sadly. And of those, I saw quite a few yawns. True, it’s a medium we’re completely not used to. Even if we may enjoy radio shows, this one is a format so different that it puts a listener off-guard. I proposed to follow the transcript while we were listening, because we could then 1) more easily understand what was being told, and 2) get more easily immersed in the story, btw, a well-known story. In fact, there was no transcript for season one (which I haven’t listened to), and, as said earlier, I believe this affordance gives all an invaluable degree of immersion.

In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.

 

Also, each chapter does not stop at the story being told. Each episode is complemented by maps, extra info, etc. So, it’s a full immersive environment for storytelling, and one that cost a number of production hours and dollars.

Serial podcast: Season 2, episode 1.

Serial podcast: Season 2, episode 1.

I enjoyed it. And I hope we’ll watch listen at least to a couple episode more on our own. It’s a good exercise: at the end, let’s each post our ideas and reflections on the experience, through our blogs.

How Do I Get A Podcast?  << READ here!!

 

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The riddle 50% of Harvard students got wrong

Does it mean they are stupid? No, it actually means they are not pondering the question. Instead they get distracted by intuition and do not get to see there is a deeper sense to the problem. The problem itself, devised by Yale professor Shane Frederick, is:

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Of course, everyone’s initial idea is: “Yes! The ball must be 10 cents!!“. Which is wrong. Watch the video below. It explains that if a problem is posed in a simple way, then people are more likely to not reflect on it. They even show that if you make the font of your presentations a little more complicated to read then students are more likely to remember and understand the concepts explained. Wow.

I mean, there are a few interesting myths at play here. One is certainly the belief that students learn in class. The video, the research and everything reinforces the concept -so predominant in this hemisphere, that learning happens within the classroom, and no effort is asked of the student to actually, well, *study*.

The second thing worth discussing is that some (including yours truly…) say students do not understand problems posed to them because they have a poor mastery of their own language. But the video and its research show that precisely if you express a problem in a more difficult-to-get language, students get it easier!

Test yourself: Are you being tricked by intuition?

But the problem show also another issue. It may well be that students do not have the analytical abilities to solve this kinds of problems? I mean, logical and mathematical problems? Can it be that schools are failing students on this issue? The answer we intuitively issue is that yes, schools do not give students the cognitive, logical and reasoning skills to solve problems like this. Of course, Harvard students do get to solve the problem provided they are not sidetracked by a problem’s expression. And the other 99%?

Anyhow, bad job our institutions and our Schools of Comparative Irrelevance are doing with their overstated competencies, especially the one in “critical reasoning”. #FAIL?

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The Department of Oxymoronics and Hitler’s testicles

We were younger and very much under the spell-illusion that we were changing the world. I read Foucault’s Pendulum and I loved that book that mixed the Knights Templar and Rosicrucian with conspiracies with truths and falsehoods. And I laughed contagiously over reading of a special college department specializing in impossible studies. This is the second great moment in my memory of Umberto Eco’s readings. The first was The Name of the Rose. Other books I read too, like The Island of the Day Before, and the next ones. But those three stayed in my mind.

They all fall under the heading of Tetrapyloctomy. . . . The art of splitting a hair four ways. This is the department of useless techniques.

[See A conspiracy to rule the world, by Anthony Burgess, The New York Times, October 15, 1989.]

This department tends to educate on the sense of irrelevance. The School of Comparative Irrelevance, on the other hand would “turn out scholars capable of endlessly increasing the number of unnecessary subjects”. It contains courses like Potio-section, the art of slicing soup.

We’re not sure, though, if Pylocatabasis belongs, since it’s the art of being saved by a hair. Somehow that doesn’t seem completely useless.”

“The Tetrapyloctomy department has a preparatory function; its purpose is to inculcate a sense of irrelevance.”

Umberto Eco

Another important department is “Impossibilia. . . . The essence of the discipline is the comprehension of the underlying reasons for a thing’s absurdity. We have courses in Morse syntax, the history of antarctic agriculture, the history of Easter Island painting, contemporary Sumerian literature, Montessori grading, the technology of the wheel in pre-Columbian empires, and the phonetics of the silent film. . . .”

The best is the Department of Oxymoronics, with courses such as Tradition in Revolution, Democratic Oligarchy,… Tautological Dialectics. . .

Goodbye Umberto Eco. The news of his death has stricken me. He is one of the few people that I have come to read and enjoy widely over the years. I read many of his books. I loved his obsession with paradox and fakes mirroring humankinds’s obsession with lists and conspiracies.

I read his column La bustina di Minerva religiously for years. Unfortunately L’Espresso magazine buried it under a paywall recently, but I read them whenever I could. Few today remember that Minerva means not only the goddess of knowledge, but was (is?) also the name of that small package (bustina) of flat matches. And I passed many times in front of the Minerva statue at the University of Rome, her symbol, one that brought bad luck if you looked at it just before an exam!

He was a snob. Like Borges, perhaps, and like Borges he was the last 20th-century erudite. Who knew so much, and wanted to share it. I especially admired his knowledge of the middle ages. And the connection between the middle ages and communication theory. Yes, unlike the typical bar, where the fool can talk with the unfortunate few, on the networks of the Web everyone can be a moron. Or a dog. However, I swear I know a few morons who do their job live without Internets.

Only Eco could remember that the recent thing about Hitler having one testicle was a meme as old as WWII itself. YouTube helped find the song that British soldiers sang at the time under the tune of Bridge over River Kwai:

Hitler, has only got one ball
Goering has two but very small
Himmler is very similar
but doctor Goebbels has no balls at all.

Just pronounce “similar” so it rimes with Himmler! Here is an excellent interpretation by Steve Buscemi, from the movie City of War: The story of John Rabe.

Let’s go back to our own departments.

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Paying Off Debt (Papers sans respect)

A last fake newspaper for the week. This time, the theme is getting rid of debt, and I had lots of fun doing it.

Another creation from Newspapers sans respect.

Another creation from Newspapers sans respect.

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