Webometric Thoughts

February 15, 2009

Twitter, Politics, and Looking for Meaningful Metrics

Filed under: Twitter,metrics,politics,twitometrics,webometrics — admin @ 11:57 am

As Twitter seems to be the latest shiny web site that has everyone interested, and with a general election on its way (well, June 2010 at the latest), I decided to see how the political parties have taken to Twitter.

The most simple comparison is between the raw numbers of the parties:
Obviously these numbers don’t look good for the Labour Party, not listening and not many followers. They don’t even have a single account, but rather two different streams with the same information.

Whilst such comparisons will be made with increasing regularity as the election approaches, for example:
…, we quickly realise we need to take into consideration a far wider variety of Twitter accounts and take into consideration other metrics.

@DowningStreet, the official Twitter channel for the office of the Prime Minister, provides a total different perspective on the Labour Party’s fortunes.
If @DowningStreet’s Twitter friends were an indication of support, Gordon could expect a landslide victory at the next general election. Unfortunately things are not that simple. As one comment to @DowningStreet shows, people follow for many different reasons:

any chance next week i can have a pic taken outside No.10? im visiting for a few days? i know its cheeky but i had to ask!

Obviously @DowningStree is not the only other UK political Twitterer, many individuals, groups and departments have accounts. All contributing to the complex picture of the UK political landscape.

Twitter potentially offers a lot of useful information about both the attitude of the parties to the electorate, and the electorate to the parties. Unfortunately, as with all webometric studies, for meaningful answers to be arrived at there needs to be distinct methodical steps rather than just a grabbing of raw data:
1) Select appropriate Twitter accounts to answer the research question.
2) Investigate Twitter interactions:
Not only ‘do they follow and have followers’, but are they ReTweeting comments and Responding to questions directed at them.
3) Investigate the nature of the interactions:
Unfortunately the simplest way of finding out the nature of many of the connection is to analyse the comments, a very long and tedious process.

As with so many things on the web, it would be interesting to investigate, if only one had the time.

May 2, 2008

A Third Way

Filed under: politics — admin @ 9:38 am

If there is one subject that is likely to get me talking/spouting-off/ranting for hours, it is politics. Therefore I have finally decided to write down some of my rants in a new blog: Politico-mania. It is not a blog that will change the world, but maybe it will stop me feeling as though I will explode at the ignorance of the masses.

March 20, 2008

The Surprising Web: The case of UK political traffic

Filed under: BNP,parliament,politics,web traffic — admin @ 11:53 am

Despite years of surfing and investigating the web, I still find some of the habits of its users surprising. I spent this morning reading Charles Leadbeater’s ‘We-Think’, one of the many books that are currently discussing the future of collaboration caused by new technologies. Whilst an enjoyable quick read, this post is not a book review, instead it is a reflection on one of the points made in the book: “The British political website that gets the most traffic belongs to the British National Party: racists are not given room to express their views on television so they use the Internet to promote and organise themselves.”

Although I know the BNP has a web site, and have visited it more than once, I was nonetheless shocked to be told it is the political web site with the most traffic. As Leadbeater provided no reference for the statement, I decided to have a look for myself.

Whilst the sites that provide traffic information are notoriously unreliable, both Alexa and Compete provide the same picture. The BNP’s traffic seems to be larger than the UK’s major political parties, as well as some of the smaller ones who may have found it equally difficult to express the opinions in traditional news sources (e.g., greenparty.org.uk, ukip.org, respectcoalition.org, and the extremely un-mainstream natural-law-party.org.uk).

It is healthy to see, however, that British Parliament still commands a healthy lead over the BNP, and personally I would view that as a political web site:

Personally I hope that the majority of visitors to the BNP site are approaching them as an antiquated curiosity whose policies shock and disgust, rather than as a site with which they relate. Maybe these statistics give credence to the opinion that has been expressed elsewhere, that whilst the mainstream media state that they abhor the policies of the BNP they do give the small party far more exposure than they really should.

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