Proceedings of the 2012 workshop on Data-driven user behavioral modelling and mining from social media

Identifying and characterizing user communities on Twitter during crisis events


Twitter is a prominent online social media which is used to share information and opinions. Previous research has shown that current real world news topics and events dominate the discussions on Twitter. In this paper, we present a preliminary study to identify and characterize communities from a set of users who post messages on Twitter during crisis events. We present our work in progress by analyzing three major crisis events of 2011 as case studies (Hurricane Irene, Riots in England, and Earthquake in Virginia). Hurricane Irene alone, caused a damage of about 7-10 billion USD and claimed 56 lives. The aim of this paper is to identify the different user communities, and characterize them by the top central users. First, we defined a similarity metric between users based on their links, content posted and meta-data. Second, we applied spectral clustering to obtain communities of users formed during three different crisis events. Third, we evaluated the mechanism to identify top central users using degree centrality; we showed that the top users represent the topics and opinions of all the users in the community with 81% accuracy on an average. The top central people identified represent what the entire community shares. Therefore to understand a community, we need to monitor and analyze only these top users rather than all the users in a community.

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social media, twitter


ACM Press

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