If a tweet falls in the woods and nobody hears it…
Socialflow is a betaworks company that works no the science of real-time information. Today they tried to answer an interesting question that media types have been pondering from the human angle. “Keith Urbahn wasn’t the first to speculate Bin Laden’s death, but he was the one who gained the most trust from the network. Why did this happen?”
Gilad Lotan, who recently left Microsoft to become VP of R&D at Socialflow, worked with programmer Devin Gaffney to analyze 14.8 million public tweets and bit.ly links. Their analysis led them to conlcude that, “Before May 1st, not even the smartest of machine learning algorithms could have predicted Keith Urbahn’s online relevancy score, or his potential to spark an incredibly viral information flow. While politicos “in the know” certainly knew him or of him, his previous interactions and size and nature of his social graph did little to reflect his potential to generate thousands of people’s willingness to trust within a matter of minutes.”
Earlier in the night, when news broke that President Obama would be making a surprise, late night appearance on television, there were others who speculated that it must be the death of Osama bin Laden. But they didn’t make a convincing case and the speculation didn’t spread.
After Keith Urbahn made his now famous declaration, it was retweeted by New York Times reporter Brian Stelter. As you can see in this marvelous graphic, they form the two central nodes from which the information spread. Without that second affirmation, it’s possible the news would have stayed speculative until much later, perhaps until the White House decided to officially confirm.
The whole report is over at Socialflow’s blog and really worth checking out.