What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?

Sunday, December 13, 2009 - 2:23pm

Computer Science Department Colloquium

Computer Science Conference Room 1132

Dec 17, 2009, 3:00-4:00pm

Speaker: Sue Moon, KAIST

Host: Ben Zhao

Title: What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?

Twitter is a microblogging service that has emerged as a new medium in spotlight. Its unique social features (e.g., follow and retweet), brevity of messages, and easy access via SMS have all helped Twitter users share information. In this work, we study the nature of Twitter as a social networking medium and its power as a new medium of information sharing. We have crawled the entire Twittersphere for 38 million users as of September 2009, 4; 262 unique trending topics, and tweet messages about the topics during a collection period of four months. Using the massive amount of crawled data, we present an extensive analysis of Twitter. We study the degree distributions of followers and those one follows, the degree of separation between users, the number of tweets per user and its correlation to the number of followers. We also examine the motif distribution. Our findings on Twitter show that Twitter is not a typical social network in traditional analytical sense. Next we present detailed analysis on how trendy topics emerge, spread, and disappear. We compare those topics with Google Trend and CNN Headline News and show the characteristics of Twitter topics. Retweet is a convenient Twitter convention to spread information. We examine how retweet spreads through the Twitter network and in time. Our data shows the rise of Twitter as a new media of information diffusion. Our findings shed light on unique strengths of Twitter as a new media and possibly a social studies platform.

Dr. Sue Moon received her B.S. and M.S. from Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, in 1988 and 1990, respectively, all in computer engineering. She received a Ph.D. degree in computer science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2000. From 1999 to 2003, she worked in the IPMON project at Sprint ATL in Burlingame, California. In 2003, she joined KAIST and now works as an Associate Professor. She served as a TPC co-chair for ACM Multimedia 2004 and ACM SIGCOMM MobiArch 2007 and in the program committees for ACM SIGCOMM 2010, IEEE INFOCOM 2003-2006, World-Wide Web 2007-2008, NSDI 2008/2010, ACM SIGMETRICS 2005, ACM IMC 2007/2009, and many others. Her research interests include: measurement and infrastructure building for emerging media, social networking services, future Internet design, and network performance measurement and monitoring.