On February 11 afternoon, André Panisson was testing a Python server that connects to Twitter and converts the stream of tweets and retweets in a format that can be read by the Gephi Graph Streaming plugin. In order to check if it was working, he used one of the most active hashtags at the moment, the #jan25 hashtag used by the Twitter community to refer to the Egypt Protests, and at some point there was a burst in the activity: Egypt’s vice-president had just made the resignation announcement.
In real time, this fortuitous visualization was displaying the exact moment in which Tahrir Square, from a mass protest demonstration, had transformed in a giant party. And simultaneously it was showing the virtual counterpart of the event, taking place in the Twitter network.
The video shows the network of retweets containing the hashtag #jan25: if a person forwards (retweets) somebody else’s message, these two users will appear in the graph as nodes connected by an edge. The aggregation of such events displays how different users (the nodes) relay other user’s messages (the edges).
Before the announcement, the dynamics of the network are relatively calm — few people retweet each other — but when the announcement arrives, people start retweeting users and news sources from whom they got the information, and bursts of retweets appears on the network.
Tools and data
This visualization has been realized by André Panisson using:
- Twitter streaming API to receive twitter data.
- A custom server to convert the Twitter Stream in Gephi JSON Streaming Format.
- The graph streaming plugin to load the streaming network.
- Gephi to visualize the network graph.
The dataset is available in GEXF format.