Posts Tagged 'Conversational Media'

Ad hoc trend tracking (or where’s it snowing?)

The heavy snow falls last week in the UK have caused quite a lot of chaos, a lot of which is due to not knowing how bad off different areas were. Ben Marsh created a mashup of a snowmap last Sunday, before snow had fallen over much of the UK, which plotted posts on twitter with the #snowuk tag against a photo and report of the snow level. This shows how quickly it is possible to directly track things over the internet using an ad hoc organised system over services like Twitter.

Contrasting to my last post, where the trend was tracked indirectly, this is directly tracking on outbreak of snow with tags from people. This is tending towards ideas from the semantic web by making information more machine readable, and twitter is encouraging this with the internet population. This is not done in a semantically strict way though but using ad hoc tags and meaning decided by people as they are needed, as we have learnt from the past with the web.  This is probably more the way people would want to interact with the semantic web, but it does remove some of the key ideas of interoperability and data linking.

Mashups like this won’t be able to accurately or reliably predict anything but they do have a very fast reaction time. This makes them very useful to people, which is what matters, so how can we start using systems like this on a more global scale?


Disease trends and blog posts

The project for my M.Sc. this summer is going to be about tracking disease trends through blog posts. This will mostly likely be tracking Influenza as it is the most common disease each year and has readily available data, especially in the US, though I hope to include the UK and other countries if I can too. I’m not sure how reliable or accurate this is going to be, but there’s only one way to find out.

Tracking disease trends through indirect measurements is starting to become quite an interesting area in research. The internet has a vast number of users and small lag time between events and publication which makes projects such as Google Flu possible to accurately predict trends faster than direct means.

New social and conversational websites such as Twitter and Facebook also bring a lot more data directly posted from users in an almost real time basis that could improve disease tracking even more if the data is use in the right way. With website like these still being quite closed with their data for commercial, privacy, and technical issues it is still away off before researchers can go further with this.

I’m going to post my progress on this blog as the project develops to try and be as open with this research as possible with the hope that it can be applied to other sources of data than I have access to.


What are you doing?

Is a question people ask you all the time, and so do Twitter and Facebook too.

I used to never use the Facebook status as I didn’t like putting my whole life into Facebook, but recently I started to use Twitter to post (more tech related out bursts) and the Facebook application to update my status when I post in Twitter. This made me think about the different between these two status feeds, Facebook is more about what I’m doing that my friends would be interesting in and Twitter is more posting comments to like minded people which my friends don’t always appreciate. This leaves me with posting more general things in Twitter or just updating both separately, which I don’t want to do.

Maybe there should be a new service where you can compose your status and tag what it is about, then have it sent to different status stream services appropriately. For this to work you would need to get replies (or comments in Facebook) to be in one place too, which will be hard till Facebook opens up more. We’ll see where this unfolds this year I guess as the usage of conversational media grows on the web.

About Me

I'm a student at Edinburgh University studying Artificial Intelligence. Find out more about me and my projects on my website

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