Web Site Can Measure Tweets' 'importance'

EVANSTON, Ill., Sept. 9 (UPI) — New technology can tell who the most influential tweeters are on important issues, U.S. researchers say.

A Web site developed at Northwestern University and online since May and has been tracking the top trending topics from Twitter in real time since then, a university release said Thursday.

The Web site, pulseofthetweeters.com, uses a specialized algorithm to rank the most influential people tweeting on trending topics, says Ph.D. candidate Ramanathan Narayanan, whose thesis project sparked the Web site.

“The question we’re really asking is: Whose opinions are most interesting and influential on any given topic?” Narayanan said.

“There are about 50 million tweets produced every day, but most of us only read 10 or 20 tweets in one sitting,” Narayanan said. “So, which tweets should you read? Which tweets are being read by media experts on any given subject, such as politics, law, fashion, food?”

While celebrities gain huge followings in the Twitterverse, the top influencers on the hot topics of the day are likely to be people with much lower profiles.

“If someone from BP is tweeting about the oil spill, for example, his opinions are likely to carry much more weight and be of much greater interest than those of Ashton Kutcher, who has a legion of followers,” Narayanan said.

“The good thing about our system is it’s completely automatic, and it needs minimal human supervision,” Narayanan said. “We are able to generate really useful choices for people who are interested in Twitter.”

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