Are top Twitter cities really helping track user location?


When I see tweets about the social space I usually get suckered in to the link because of a catchy tag line. One that recently caught my attention mentioned the top cities that tweet. Finally, something I would find useful. The best I could find previously was a content analysis of a portion of the Twitterverse that didn't yield enough data to be truly useful. Like all things Twitter is was just a snapshot in time. After clicking a link like this I look to see how such a bold claim could be explained. The fine folks at Twitter Grader made it quite clear where the information came from and it is dead simple. They looked at the tweets that had the location set by the user. 

As these type of things go I suppose it makes sense that you could keep up with Twitter users by that variable. Most people are likely to set it to their true location where they live rather than the location they would rather be, but there isn't anything stopping them. This approach doesn't take into account the physical location of the user when they tweet. In a really poor example, what if everyone that says they are in London never actually tweet anything while they are in London? Maybe all Twitter users that are London residents only hop on twitter when they are in Brighton for the weekend.

What I find interesting is that on Twitter Grader you will see a city like Austin, TX ranked #12. Austin doesn't even rank in the top cities by population in the world. According to this Wikipedia page Austin is ranked #15 in the US with 757,688 people. Austin showing up on the list is not surprising given the tech centric focus in the city. Keeping in mind that these numbers are based purely on Twitter encouraging users to set a location preference when they hit the website I find this stat less meaningful than I'd hoped. Meaning if a city with 750,000 people is at #12 then how many more could London have in the number one spot? London is 10 times the size of Austin. 

Allowing users to set their location is a nice touch, but as someone looking to find people I'm more interested in where they are at the moment and where they want to go. To me the city or location affiliation is nothing more than a preference for the user to identify with a locale rather. I need deeper associations and context and the location preference doesn't really provide what I'm looking for. The search continues.

Blogger vs. Journalist

This last week CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, spoke to the American Society of News Editors about the future of newspapers and he believes that they can make money together. Was he just pandering to the crowd or did have have some big ideas that Google is working on to help traditional media rise to the surface above the noise of bloggers everywhere? It may have been both for all I know, but I suspect the recent news about the demise of newspapers and the complaints from people like Ruppert Murdoch have indicated that there is a significant issue.

The NPR story above really spells out the issue. The death of news on printed paper isn't the end of the world. The bigger issue is the demise of the newsroom. Consider the New York Times Policy on Ethics in Journalism. It is guidelines like this that separate bloggers from journalists. There are bloggers that pride themselves on being held to the same standard as a journalist. Some of the larger organizations like Gawker or Weblogs Inc. (now AOL) have editorial resources that are supposed to ensure that their standards for blogging are better than someone like me. Perhaps those larger organizations have a policy available to the general public, but I didn't see it. 

The quotes that were made by Eric Schmidt sent waves through the blogosphere and other social media outlets. Many taking exception to the following quote during his speech.

"There is an art to what you do," he said to the real journalists. "And if you're ever confused as to the value of newspaper editors, look at the blog world. That's all you need to see. So we understand how fundamental tradition and the things you care about are." – via Read Write Web

I wish bloggers would use a little more common sense than calling all of the villagers to bring pitch forks and torches. Anyone that spends a decent amount of time on the web will easily attest to the fact that bloggers are not reliable news sources and are not held to the same standards of reporting that we have come to expect from traditional journalists. That isn't to say that the entire blogging community is worthless and I don't believe that is what Schmidt is referring to here. Surely he is excluding sites like Huffington Post or The Daily Caller or True/Slant. One thing that I have found in the blogs I follow is a lack of standards when it comes to being a journalist vs a hard headed but good writer. They aren't the same thing and I suspect as blogs continue to fail in painting the "big picture" accurately people will realize that true reporting is handled best by professionals that are dedicated to preserving a higher standard. 

Blogs should exist and provide a great micro story in many cases. Journalist are increasingly pressured to get stories prepared faster and apparently with less fact checking. I hope that this trend stops and editors will strive for excellence but not for the sake of the reporting.My hope is that bloggers will stop the arrogant attitude and realize that they are not being held to the same standards as journalists and until they are they shouldn't expect people, organizations or companies to cow tow to their every desire. By the same token journalists will hopefully accept the fact they are going to get "scooped" by bloggers but that they still serve a purpose in collecting information for the "big picture". This isn't a case of one is better than the other but rather a peaceful coexistence will benefit both in the long run.

Sunday Morning at Starbucks


Sunday mornings are lazy in my world. We spend Saturday evenings in church which could allow me an opportunity to sleep in if there weren't two loud boys arguing over an Xbox game. The lack of coffee meant that someone was going to have to make a run for some fresh brew. I volunteered because I have a slight addition to Foursquare and enjoy score boarding my co-workers. 

I was fortunate to get an empty line, score. My iced coffee was ready first so I went to "customize" my drink. While I was standing  at the table tinkering with my cup I looked around to see what people were doing. There were just a few open tables and a handful of chairs along the outside window. Slightly more than I would have expected for that time of morning. Everyone I observed was dressed pretty casually and seemingly content to enjoy the cup of joe in their hand. I noticed three different table engaged in conversation. One discussing a book another couple talking seemed like old friends catching up and the third table had several people talking about something where one person seemed to know all the answers.

At this point I was curious if anyone ventured in with their iPad. The answer was no. In fact I only saw two computers but at least seven tables reading newspapers. It is important to point out that this Starbucks is not in the hippest, richest or coolest location so I didn't have much of an expectation to see tables full of iPads. It did get me thinking though that with the easy access to newspapers it is a relatively cheap way to pass the time. In fact there are plenty of "extra" papers laying around that one could just pick up and read if the desire was there. How does a $500 device compare to what basically amounts to an impulse buy in this context? Is the iPad a coffee shop time killer? 

What if Starbucks, or insert your favorite coffee shop here, had an iPad at every table? I'd be curious to see how people would interact with the device in that scenario. Surely someone will figure out a pay-per-use model that would allow this kind of thing to work. Any touchscreen device might work, but the advantage with a device like the iPad is that you don't have to worry about someone hacking or installing something evil. But I wonder if people would still prefer the tactile feel of the newspaper while enjoying their coffee. I also wonder if the newspaper isn't just filling a time killing void in the coffee shop. I wonder if anyone has done any studies on where people read the newspaper and their ability to retain the information they read. Might be a good Google Scholar exercise.

iPad, still a pass

This weekend was crazy. No, not with over zealous Easter Egg references or constant repeats of the Cadbury Clucking Rabbit. I think it must be official now, Steve Jobs is at least as big if not bigger than Jesus. Some reports put the number of iPads sold anywhere from 300k to 700k. My RSS reader blew a gasket with all of the blog posts about iPads. The thing is for the first time in, who knows how long, I could actually go out and get one if I really wanted to (thanks Uncle Sam). 

In my previous post on this topic I looked at some downsides from Gizmodo. Reviewing the list I still see some things that make me think twice about getting into the iPad and a few new ones that have come to light now that the iPad is in consumers hands. I don't think this is anything major, but I would like to see version two rumors in the coming months. 

No Camera
Whether this is a front facing or rear facing or both I still use several apps that can use the camera for things other than just taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. I have to believe that Apple is already planning that based on articles like this one. I'm okay waiting for the next version so I can get the camera. I don't personally have much use for a front facing camera and if that is all that is included I may consider the current version.

Light Computing
This is really a reference to the limited computing power needed for certain tasks that could not be accomplished on an iPhone or similar mobile device or where a computer is overkill. There are some times when using mobile safari on a small screen with the touch only keyboard is laborious. One could fire up the laptop and wait to get started but then you may not want to lug that thing around. I'm not yet certain that the iPad is going to accomplish my personal light computing needs. Anything work related is going to require a laptop for a number of reasons so that limits me. Others with a more open office environment may be in a better position.

Wi-Fi and 3G
Another point of interest for me is the availability of wireless versus an always on 3G connection. Certainly at home and the office I can use wi-fi but the problem gets more complex when you travel. I refuse to pay for wireless so I won't pony up for wi-fi on an airplane or in the hotel. That would render my iPad useless for productivity. Not a deal breaker but it forces people like me to think about where to get wireless connectivity.

I still believe that older people will really like this device because it is a simple computer. It kind of reminds me of the idea around Netpliance from the late-90's. It didn't have a touch screen but the product was a simple computing device to make it easy for people to get connected to the internet without dealing with the complexity of a full blow computer. The iPad is a 2010 version of that same idea and with the speed and portability I think there is great potential for the device.