Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

magnifying glass on white background with clipping pathIf you are ready to pull data and are looking for advice on how to build a strong Boolean search string, this blog post is for you. I don’t post to this blog often, but I have received several requests about this topic, so I decided to write a blog post about it. I’ll use the Charlottesville protest as an example because my work is in social media and activism.

Discover your keyword pool
Conduct an Advanced Search on Twitter for your event dates and try different keywords to examine tweets. Do the same for hashtag searches during the time of the event through Advanced Search on Twitter. Next, you will sort keywords in an OR paragraph or an AND paragraph that you create in a Word document.

Build a list of OR words
First, identify any anchor word that is undoubtedly about the event you want to capture. For example, HeatherHeyer would be an obvious anchor word choice for the Charlottesville data because you can reasonably expect that anyone talking about her on Twitter is going to be talking about her in the context of the Charlottesville protest. Continue making a list of any word that uniquely connects with your event. Those words will be words that you connect with OR in your Boolean search string.

Build a list of the AND words
Next, you will make a list of “and” words by identifying combinations of words that immediately capture your event. In the context of Charlottesville, you would write something like “KKK and cville” if you think that individually, these words will not capture your event. Put all of your word pairs together and connect them with OR.

After you have finished your OR and AND lists, connect the two lists in a giant search string with OR as a connection word.

Add NOT words if needed (make sure to test your words)
You can easily capture irrelevant data if any of your search terms refer to other people, places, and events than you want to capture (such as a city that has the same name as the last name of a key person). You can test your search terms by individually looking up your OR words and by individually looking up each AND pairing in Advanced Twitter Search to see if irrelevant results pop up, especially if you do not sort by your event date.

Finally, connect the OR list and the AND list with “NOT.”  You can use parentheses for complex search strings (see my example below).

My Charlottesville data pull from GNIP resulted in so many tweets that we had to break up the request into three pulls. You will see that I have some

Pull 1: (Charlottesville OR cville OR VA OR Virginia OR McAuliffe OR @CvilleCityHall OR @VSPPIO) AND (antifa OR Nazis OR Nazi OR neo-Nazi OR Nazi/KKK OR KKK OR (white supremacy) OR (white supremacists) OR (white activists) OR (white activist) OR (James Alex Fields))
Timeline: May 7 to Oct. 12, number of tweets: 3 million approximately
Pull 2: (Charlottesville OR cville OR VA OR Virginia OR McAuliffe OR @CvilleCityHall OR @VSPPIO) AND (antifa OR Nazis OR Nazi OR neo-Nazi OR Nazi/KKK OR KKK OR (white supremacy) OR (white supremacists) OR (white activists) OR (white activist) OR (James Alex Fields))
Timeline: Feb. 7 to May 7, number of tweets: 40,000
Pull 3: (Charlottesville OR cville OR VA OR Virginia OR McAuliffe OR @CvilleCityHall OR @VSPPIO) AND (statue OR memorial OR (Robert E Lee) OR (Lee Park) OR (General Lee) OR Confederate OR (Emancipation Park) OR (Stonewall Jackson) OR protest OR march OR marchers) OR cvilleaug12 OR #invisiblecville OR #HeatherHeyer OR #DeAndreHarris OR (DeAndre Harris) OR #unitycville OR #defendcville OR #cvillestrong OR #standwithcharlottesville
Timeline: Feb. 7 to Oct. 12, number of tweets: 2.8 million approximately

Remember to filter out bots
You’re not out of the woods yet. Once you have your data, make sure to use a method for filtering out bots if you’re doing any theory-building about people’s behavior. There were enough political bots in the Charlottesville data to affect our topic modeling, and this is a fundamental step. Look for identical tweets, nearly identical tweets (because bots can swap out adjectives to try to evade capture), and tweets that tag a bunch of people with the same link. 

Final thoughts for now
One reason I love being at UNC Charlotte is the access to big data and the institutional support for collaborating on interdisciplinary projects! My thanks go to Ryan Wesslen for training me (he is an incredible teacher of more advanced topics, as well). If you have additional tips for search strings or can improve my post, feel free to leave your feedback in the comments area.


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There are plenty of good reasons why students should publicly participate online. Although I strongly recommend public participation for reasons described by outstanding University of Oregon graduate Staci Stringer and University of Georgia professor Karen Russell, students should not be required to participate by their teachers, at least not in an identifiable way (see the bottom of this blog post for a discussion about alternatives). The following arguments apply to requirements to share one’s writing or identity online in an identifiable way.

1. Giving students control over their privacy and self-presentation is the right thing to do.
Students’ grades should not suffer from their preferences to avoid sharing their writing or identities online. We should not impose our ideas on others about what constitutes safe and comfortable participation online nor should we require others to follow our beliefs about where to draw the line on privacy. We can, however, share ideas about these topics as part of a conversation. Will students who want to be public relations practitioners be disadvantaged by not publicly participating in social media? Yes, as Staci and Karen have explained in detail. I suggest, however, that we present the arguments and let students make the decision for themselves for the reasons expressed in this blog post.

2. When students believe we are asking them to do something that violates their privacy, the relationship suffers.
Strong relationships are built on mutual understanding and respect. When students believe we are asking them to do something that violates their privacy, control mutuality (satisfaction with the amount of influence one has in the relationship) suffers. With required courses, students are coerced into publicly identifying themselves online or having their grades suffer. We do not know students’ histories and reasons for wanting to have a private identity. Simply wanting privacy is enough. In terms of the relationship argument, there would likely be more leeway in an elective course titled “Establishing Your Digital Footprint” that presented expectations on the syllabus because students have chosen to take the elective and there are alternatives they could take while still pursuing their intended majors.

3. Requiring identifiable public participation online is legally questionable.
I am basing this third argument on my untrained review of the law, Web site documents I’ve found by other universities, and two blog posts by a credible source (including mixed comments by her readers). With the qualification that I could be wrong, for now, it looks like requiring identifiable public participation online could be prohibited by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Exhibit A: Joann Golis wrote a blog post and a follow-up post about this topic. I find her to be a credible source because she wrote these blog posts in preparation for a workshop she was giving at Educause Learning Initiative’s annual meeting. In addition, she works for the Instructional Design and Development Department at DePaul University. I am reliant on speaker credibility because I am not an expert in this area.

In response to a blogging requirement scenario, Golis wrote

“Another land mine in this scenario is the fact that the blogs were not necessarily made private, so anyone could view them and associate the student’s name with the course they are taking and reveal that they are students in a particular course, term, and institution. Requiring the student’s name to appear on the front page is also a red flag.”

It should be acknowledged, however, that some comments to her first blog post indicate an opinion that identifiable blog posts are fine as long as an instructor does not comment on them. Even with these responses by other credible sources though, I return to the excerpt by Golis quoted above.

Exhibit B: A guide to FERPA by Auburn University suggests that requiring identifiable participation online could violate FERPA.

Scenario: “I want my students to create an account at a wiki/blog/similar webpage where they will complete tasks required for class.”

Auburn University response: “FERPA may be violated unless students are provided with anonymous computer aliases and only faculty has the key to identify students by their aliases.”

Exhibit C: A student disclosure form from North Carolina State University suggests that requiring students to have public blogs is a violation of FERPA.

“Under the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and NC State’s FERPA regulation, a student’s education records are protected from disclosure to third parties. Because of the public nature of weblogs (blogs), students must provide written consent for blog participation in a course setting.”

Concluding Thoughts About the Legal Argument
Despite the legal questions, social media assignments should not end. There are alternatives we can share with students. As Michael Staton wrote:

“FERPA is in place to make sure that institutions are careful with and respectful of a student’s right to privacy, but it was not intended to hold back education in the 1990s before there were things like APIs and the social Web. No school has ever lost federal funds because of FERPA, which is the only punishment that can occur for being in violation (besides being tied up in a lawsuit). Privacy, security, and personal control over information is more than a valid concern, but let’s not let it be a brick wall of anxiety in the face of the march towards user-friendly, interoperable, and multitudinous educational solutions!”

I agree with this statement while insisting that we provide alternatives for students who choose privacy.

I am establishing the following alternatives to my assignments.

Blog: Give students the option of establishing a blog that is only visible to themselves. For the commenting requirement, provide the option of turning in the other person’s blog post with the comment they would write.

Electronic portfolio: Give students the option of hosting the electronic portfolio on a blog that is only visible to themselves. Students can use Google docs to host their work and only provide access to me.

Twitter: Give students the option of signing in and tweeting from a generic class account.

LinkedIn: Give students the option of submitting their resumes.

delicious: Let students complete a tagging assignment from a generic class account if they do not want to set up their own accounts.

PR Open Mic: Present a recent discussion forum topic or blog post topic from PR Open Mic and require students to write a response to it in Word (like a traditional assignment) if they do not want to set up a PR Open Mic profile and submit the response to the online discussion.

I will no longer require students to set up a Google Alert. Although it is not publicly identifiable, I don’t see that the requirement is justified. Students can learn enough for classroom requirements by watching my demonstration. They can sign up for their own account within minutes if they wish.

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There were many insightful presentations today. I’ve summarized a few of the great ones. Feel free to join us tomorrow on Twitter at #IPRRC2010. Many thanks to the Institute for Public Relations, the University of Miami, and our other conference sponsors for this incredible experience.

Pretty charts didn’t matter to analysts:

  • KDPaine & Partners examined analyst reports about whether to buy or sell a particular company’s stock; one conclusion was that the company’s charts and tables had no impact on the tonality (e.g., positive, negative, neutral) or valuation (e.g., outperform, buy/medium risk) of analyst reports.

Three top companies spent 81% of Twitter time building one-on-one relationships:

  • Gee Ekachai and Amanda Stageman from Marquette University studied three Fortune 100 companies and found that 81% of the tweets they examined were replies to people or were addressed to people, which shows strong engagement efforts.

Shifts occurred on the social media scene following the recent gift disclosure law:

  • Kelli Burns from University of South Florida studied “momfluentials” (mom bloggers with a large following). Her participants noticed that some companies have sent fewer free products for review since the passage of the law requiring disclosure. Momfluentials also observed that some companies have been more insistent about disclosing free gifts. Several momfluentials have responded to the law by not only adding disclosures to blog posts but also having disclosure policies as separate sections on their blogs.

Kelli also described various approaches momfluentials adopt with regard to negative evaluations of free products, such as

  • checking with the company to see if the company would even want them to post a review because the review would be negative
  • writing a negative review while finding some good things to say
  • writing a negative review and warning all gift givers in advance that a negative review will be posted if the product is disliked

What do you think about these approaches?

For conference attendees: Feel free to share one of your research highlights from today.

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With encouragement from Dawn Gilpin, I decided to introduce in-class tweeting to my class hashtag in my Media and Society class.

Below is a slidecast I shared with the Teaching Effectiveness Program at the University of Oregon about my experiences with using in-class tweeting. I discuss benefits of in-class tweeting and recommendations for presenting in-class tweeting to students.

As mentioned in the slidecast, I share a video with my students to open a discussion about Twitter and the importance of conversation. You can find the video I show here.

Additional Resources

50 Ways to Use Twitter in a Large Lecture Classroom

Tweeting in Class

Live Tweeting Makes Learning More Lively

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7 Twitter JournalismSuzi Steffen and I held an online panel titled “Extra! Extra! Tweet All About It” with professors and journalists on CoverItLive. Due to the number of participants (more than 200), the discussion was like “chat on steroids” as described by Kathy Gill of University of Washington. The drawback of using CoverItLive was that we couldn’t organize our discussion into separate threads, so keeping track of the path of each discussion topic was challenging.

I’ve taken excerpts from our transcript and organized it by threads. Below is an excerpt from one of the threads.

Tiffany Gallicano Q6: What is your advice for aspiring journalists with regard to Web 2.0?

Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith):  BE CAREFUL.

Suzi Steffen:  Ryan, you’re scaring me.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  Advice to aspiring reporters: Don’t post photos of yourself on Facebook holding a Mickey’s or Boone’s or whatever.

kathy:  LOL! Ryan’s PSA re Facebook is spot on. 🙂

[Comment From Meghan Grall]
Ryan, good advice. Seems like it would be common sense… but apparently not.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  Twenty years from now, there will be naked photos of everyone on the Internet and we’ll all just yawn and move on. Until then, they will get you fired.

[Comment From Tyler] I think anyone that is “credible” in society should never put themselves in a situation for a picture of drugs or hard liquor.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  I think that reporters are now targets. You may not realize it, but people will search through your Facebook profile, your online life, etc., in order to “damage” your brand and discredit reporting that they disagree with. Even if you keep Facebook personal, you should post on there as though it were going out to every subscriber or viewer of your employer.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  Nothing is really protected on the Internet. Remember that.

Dora Valkanova:  Yes, it is interesting because both Twitter and Facebook seem deceptively private when you are alone with your laptop but really, the whole world is watching (reading).

Ryan Teague Beckwith: Everyone is a celebrity now, in a sense. We’re all just waiting to be discovered. I think a lot of people don’t realize that they’re just a news story away from having their online life scoured and devoured.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  It’s not about “personal” and “professional” per se. It’s about your representations of them. I don’t really post “personal” things online, though I do occasionally reference the fact that I’m eating lunch at a certain place or working on my house. But it’s not really my personal feelings.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  As a journalist, you have set yourself up as a person with more credibility than the average person. You give up the rights to certain things, such as expressing your ill-thought-out opinions, when you do that. It’s like being a monk.

Mark Hamilton (@gmarkham):  Q6: You need to participate to really grok it, even if only at low levels. It’s the understanding that matters.

[Comment From digiphile] Answer to Tiffany’s question – register your name or (more likely) preferred nom de plume on relevant social media platforms ASAP. Get a Google voice account. Learn how to use a Flip camera. And choose a second major, like comp sci, science or the like. Niche is where it’s at.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  I second digiphile.

[Comment From Greg Miller] Related to the advantages of a “second major”: once you develop an area of expertise, try tweeting exclusively about that subject for a while. Try to build a reputation.

Mathew Ingram:  At an event I was at recently, Andrew Keen (@ajkeen) said that journalists of all kinds should be thinking about how they can build their own “brand” in a specific area, and using social-media tools to do that — I think that’s a good point.   You need to know how to use these tools at the very least.

[Comment From LydiaBreakfast] Agreed Mathew, @ajkeen’s self branding advice is prescient. We all need our own brands in addition to the one we carry from the publication(s) we contribute to.

Carrie Brown-Smith (@Brizzyc):  Q6 Yes, be careful, but experiment with these new tools and don’t be afraid. Twitter is especially nice I think to help teach students a) what is news and b) how to write with brevity and wit.

[Comment From LydiaBreakfast] Journalism students would do well to establish relationships with seasoned editors and reporters from all over via SM. Not just for seeking work but to expand their professional community and find possible mentors.

[Comment From anblair2] I think Twitter has given a lot of young journalists the chance to meet new people. I never realized how many connections I could make.

Carrie Brown-Smith:  Good point by Amber anblair2. I have to say I wish that when I was in school I had the chance to learn from so many professionals and connect with them via Twitter!

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  More advice: Whenever you think of responding to an angry reader, write out what you would say, take a break, go get a cup of coffee, chat about the weather, come back and delete it. Then just answer the factual question or assertion they made and ignore the mean spirited attacks.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  Respond to them as though they had phrased it how you wished they had phrased it.

[Comment From Alicia] @Ryan Teague Beckwith – That’s good advice about responding to an angry reader. With new media technology it is often so easy to quickly respond to people that we don’t think things through clearly – which is one of the reasons there are so many posts at the end of news articles online that are simply rants.

Suzi Steffen:  Ryan, that is SUCH great advice.

Ryan Teague Beckwith:  Final words of advice to aspiring journalists: You are living in one of the most exciting times to be a young reporter in the history of journalism. Enjoy it.

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Image from Lee Oden

Twitter is an application that allows you to share thoughts and questions with people who choose to follow you. To keep the updates brief, entries are confined to 140 words. You can “follow” people on Twitter by subscribing to their updates.

Chris Brogan cautions against using Twitter to broadcast PR messages. Twitter is about personal relationships. Public relations researchers, from the John Ledingham and Stephen Bruning team to Elizabeth Toth, have found that personal relationships are important to an organization’s public relations. Hence, the relevance of Twitter to PR folks.

If you can help people with problems or topics people are considering, respond to their Twitter posts. To send someone a message, type “d username message”(without quotation marks) and write your message.

This will feel bizarre the first time you do it. I felt like a secret agent when I was typing the code. To get used to this, partner with a classmate and send a direct message to each other. You can only send a direct message to people who are following you on Twitter, so make sure to add one another first.

Additional reading:

Ten Simple Steps to Build Your Twitter Community

If You Don’t Twitter Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

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