For one reason or another we decided to sponsor a pub crawl this weekend. The plan was hatched over some beers at Underbones on Thursday night for a Saturday morning go time. We knew we basically needed three things: a list of bars, some swag (tshirt?), and obviously a website. We decided that the route of the crawl should follow the MBTA Redline so that we could start downtown and then finish in Somerville. This made picking bars pretty simple, gave us some branding, and of course we registered REDLINECHALLENGE.COM.
We wanted the website to have some informative information, live location updates, and of course pictures of the debauchery. The biggest problem was that neither Daum nor I have location aware phones. To get around this, we decided to update Twitter with our current location along with a “#loc” hashtag and then have the site update based on that. Since we were all ready using Twitter, we decided to use Twitpic to allow us to post pictures to twitter on the fly. Additionally, we took advantage of Verizon Wireless’s email to SMS service and allowed people to contact us via the website. All told, we built the site in about 3 hours and it proved to be pretty useful. People used it to find us on the crawl and to contact us while we were out. Everyone also got a kick of seeing a live photo stream.
Well as everyone saw last Tuesday night, Obama won the election by a pretty significant margin and has all ready taken steps to announce his transition agenda.
Anyway, at the end of our run, we captured 11021 tweets with the breakdown being 2501 for McCain and 8520 for Obama. Since we had been generating maps all day we decided to take snapshots at 5 minute intervals so that we could watch the progression of the map. The timelapse map is embedded below:
We hope everyone had a good election experiance – we had a lot of fun building this mashup. Now to find the next big thing…
So we’ve captured about 6000 tweets and the map is basically all blue. Just to clarify – we never intended this to be a serious vizualization or estimation of how the election is progressing. The project was soley meant to be a fun peak at how information spreads across Twitter.
Anyway, a couple of people have been asking about our methodoly so I’ll try and explain a bit.
We are using the Twitter Search API to run searches that we thought would indicate that someone just voted or intends to vote for either John McCain or Barrack Obama. Next, we apply some heuristics to the tweets to make sure they really are “just voted” tweets. If the tweet passes through the heuristics we record it for whichever candidate and then record the “from_user_id” to ensure a single user can’t blow up the vote totals.
In order to geolocate a user we are using the twittervision API I get the impression that the twittervision API just scrapes user profiles but I can’t verify this. We probably could have avoided using their API and just scraped ourselves but one less thing to deal with at 4am is always good.
The graph colors are calculated by taking the larger vote total (red vs blue) and then determining in percent, how much larger this is than the total number of votes for that state: