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Twitter Data and Social Networking Analysis

date: 2016-05-12 15:27:33 -0400

I'm new to social network analysis, and like anyone with a lot to learn, I've been reading papers and example applied scenarios and code. Although there are a number of these examples, and many of these use Twitter as a data source, most Twitter examples seem to analyze the relations between terms rather than actors (or Twitter users), for example, see Or if they do look at actors, the examples are incomplete in some way and are thus difficult to apply (well, maybe for a newbie like me), especially to the kind of data that we are able to extract from the Twitter API using the popular twitteR package. 1) This data does provide account information, such as the screen name of the tweeter as well who that tweeter is replying to (see replyToSN variable in Twitter source data), if they are replying, but it only records the first Twitter account mentioned in the tweet and not all the accounts the tweet is replying to, if the tweet is replying to multiple accounts.

Thus, it was a nice surprise to read about the new tidytext 2) package, authored by Gabriela De Queiroz, David Robinson 3), and Julia Silge 4), and demonstrated on Silge's blog 5). When I read about this package, my immediate thought was that it would make it much easier to parse the text of the tweets for all the account information. That is, I could use it to tokenize each tweet and associate each token to the respective account name. To proceed, I just need to analyze the data that contains account information for both columns (tokens that equal source accounts). Overall, the steps include:

  1. Retrieve Twitter data based on a search query using the twitteR package
  2. Convert the data to a data frame
  3. Create a keep words list (opposed to a list of stop words) based on the screen name variable
  4. Save tweets and screen names in a separate data frame
  5. Tokenize each tweet, one token per row and associate each token with the tweeter's account name
  6. Filter token list by the keep words list (this means we keep only those tokens that are screen names and remove all other tokens, i.e., the content of the tweets)
  7. Plot the data

I still have a lot to learn, generally, about SNA. Plus, I'm not sure yet if the process here captures the entire network. I also need to better understand the igraph package (it'll help if I work with more standard data). Later, I'll tackle the ggraph package 6) for creating nicer looking plots, but so far, here's what I've been able to do. The following code analyzes recent tweets containing the hashtag #rstats:

consumer_key     <- "[enter consumer_key here]"
consumer_secret  <- "[enter consumer_secret here]"
access_token     <- "[enter access_token here]"
access_secret    <- "[enter access_secret here]"
twitCred         <- setup_twitter_oauth(consumer_key,
# Search Twitter for #rstats for the last three days
rtalk <- searchTwitter("#rstats",
                       n = 1500,
# Convert results to data frame
rtalk <- twListToDF(rtalk)
# Maintain a list of screen names
keepWords <- rtalk$screenName
# Save tweets and screen names
rtalk.ts <- data.frame(rtalk$text, rtalk$screenName)
# Rename variables
names(rtalk.ts) <- c("text", "screenName")
# Convert tweets to character class
rtalk.ts$text <- as.character(rtalk.ts$text)
# for each user's tweet, split into component tokens and save in new df <- rtalk.ts %>% unnest_tokens(accounts, text)$screenName<- as.character($screenName)
# keep only tokens (parts of tweets) that were screen names <- filter(, accounts %in% keepWords)
# Plot social network

Crowded SNA Plot of #rstat tweets

It seems to work but the plot is overfilled and thus difficult to read. We can fix the crowdedness, and have a more accurate picture by removing those tweets that are simply retweets (likely just noise, depending on the question asked of the data), and then recreating the plot:

# Since the network is too crowded, start over and remove all retweets
rtalk2 <- filter(rtalk, isRetweet == FALSE)
rtalk.ts2 <- data.frame(rtalk2$text, rtalk2$screenName)
# Rename variables
names(rtalk.ts2) <- c("text", "screenName")
# Convert tweets to character class
rtalk.ts2$text <- as.character(rtalk.ts2$text)
# for each user's tweet, split  into component tokens and save in new df
rtalk.at2 <- rtalk.ts2 %>% unnest_tokens(accounts, text)
rtalk.at2$screenName<- as.character(rtalk.at2$screenName)
# keep only tokens (parts of tweets) that were screen names
rtalk.at2 <- filter(rtalk.at2, accounts %in% keepWords)
# Plot social network

Cleaner SNA Plot of #rstat tweets

Here the plot is much clearer and patterns emerge. This makes sense given the centrality of, e.g., @hadleywickham. Still, there's more to learn and do to make sure this is a valid approach. Any comments welcome.

  • categories:
    • sna
    • social network analysis
    • twitter
    • R
blog/twitter-data-and-social-networking-analysis.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/07 12:22 (external edit)