Ethical Challenges of Using Social Media Data In Research

Check out my talk on the ethical challenges of using social media data in research for   delivered as part of the Bite Size Guide to Research in the 21st Century on the 24th of January, Sheffield, ScHARR. Thanks very much to Andy Tattersall for organising this very great event, and to Dan Smith for editing this very good video. Watch here:

Comments, and thoughts welcome.

A look back at the last 6 months (with pictures)

I thought I’d look back at the previous 6 months or so, in terms of the some of the workshops I have delivered, and articles published.

July 2016

Attended the CIFI Security Summit in July, endorsed by the Metropolitan Police and with speakers from the National Crime Agency (NCA), and participants including Barclays, HM Revenue and Customs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Counter Terrorism Command, US Air Force, and Unilever. See write up here. See an image below:

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Presented a poster at the graduation celebration event at the Information School related to the topic of my PhD. I found the event to be really helpful as it allowed me to talk about my research within the iSchool, and hear about previous research that doctoral students had undertaken. See an image  of me at the event, below:

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August 2016

Delivered a workshop to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The seminar was also broadcast to members from the DWP Office in Sheffield.  The talk centred on social media analytics from my PhD work and covered applications such as Echosec, Visibrain, and NodeXL.  Slides here. See an image of me speaking at the event below:

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September 2016

Published a blog post based on a conference paper looking at the benefits of Twitter in teaching. The post  was ranked among the most popular posts of the week when it was released. Both the conference paper and blog post have been co-authored with Sergej Lugovic, Senior Lecturer at the Zagreb University of Applied Sciences. The LSE blog post can be read here. Our paper has over 300 reads in ResearchGate, and was ranked as the most read paper in my department for several weeks.

October 2016

Early in the month of October I delivered a talk to A-Level students at High Storrs School, Sheffield. The talk centred on what it was like to do a PhD, and provided a brief introduction to social media research.  I also touched on the ethics of social media research, and the dangers of over-sharing. Slides can be accessed here. See an image of me talking to A-Level Sixth Form students at the school below:

hs

It was great to go back to my old school, and meet the teachers. Later on in the month I was off to London, and I delivered a talk on Social Network Analysis with NodeXL at an event organised by the New Social Media New Social Science (NSMNSS) network alongside the Social Research Association (SRA). The event was attended across sections with delegates from industry, academia, and government. See an image of me talking at the event below:

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November 2016

I delivered a workshop titled “insights into social media” at Media City, Salford, which is the home to the BBC and ITV. The workshop was a part of the Creative Entrepreneur event, which aims to foster collaboration between academia and industry, and which was attended by over 500 delegates. See an image of me talking at the event below:

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Other highlights

  • I enjoyed helping and taking photographs of various events that were organised as part of the Space for Sharing Project. One of the events was a play following five women diagnosed with breast cancer. It took place in the Spiegeltent in Barkers Pool. See an image of the event below:

space-for-sharing

  • I advised and sent feedback to a number of University Research Ethics committees in regards to social media research ethics. We have co-authored a book chapter on social media research ethics forthcoming in 2017.
  • I was featured in the annual White Rose DTC Newsletter, in the Researchers in The News section, for the third academic year in a row. Read here.
  • I was featured in the Doctoral Times magazine (Autumn 2016) circulated widely across the University of Sheffield.
  • I taught on the Data Analysis Module for the third and final academic year.
  • I had an abstract accepted to the iConference 2017.

Visibrain as a Tool for Cyber Security and Intelligence

Visibrain is a powerful media monitoring tool which has access to the Twitter Firehose which means it has complete access to tweets and is not limited in the amount that can be retrieved unlike the Search and Stream APIs. See more about Twitter APIs here which explains why the difference matters.

The problem often faced by those in the security industry is monitoring social media, online press and blogs in a high risk fast moving environment without being overwhelmed by huge quantities of data.

As Twitter is a news sharing and dissemination platform via Twitter using Visibrain it is possible to monitor a number of social media platforms such as Facebook, and YouTube among others as these are often parsed through Twitter. For example, using data derived from Twitter I was able to identify a blogger who was tweeting and blogging pro raw-milk material which contradicted the advice provided by the Foods Standards Agency.

crisis comms

Figure to show an example alert system

Visibrain would allow an organisation to monitor social media for queries specified by an end user, and if these are triggered an almost instant notification would be delivered. For example, if a bank wanted to monitor mentions of a hacking group and the bank using Visibrain this would be possible.

Additionally, if a local or national authority wanted to monitor mentions of a region or city for keywords such as ‘name of city’ + ‘riots’, or any other threat, Visibrain would sent out an alert almost immediately. Major news stories are often reported on Twitter by citizens and/or journalists before reaching the mainstream media.

Moreover, for those wanting reports produced and delivered almost instantly displaying tweet content, actors, URLS, and so forth, it is possible to receive these alerts via email to almost any location in the world. Below is a screenshot displaying how simple it is to create a report, and the wide range of metrics it is possible to monitor.

case report

Setting up a case report

Here is an example of a client who wishes to receive updates on the Chilcot report, especially alerts when the expressions i.e., tweet content begins to mention Tony Blair, when they are away from their desk:

alert

Designed with the cyber security and intelligence services in mind, Visibrain is a robust service with a range of clients such as:

clients.png

I’d also recommend checking out some of my previous articles on Visibrain, here, here, and here. Interested in finding out more? Or have a specific question, please don’t hesitate to get in touch (@was3210).

How a blog post I wrote took me to Split, Croatia (Part 2)

This blog post continues on from part 1 of this 2 part series and looks at my short time in Split, Croatia.

I arrived a day before the conference so I had some time to explore the absolutely  wonderful  city of Split. Just as we were walking around we could see some beautiful views:

amazing views

I was able to work on my workshop by the coast:

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I noticed that on display by the coast of Split there were many Olympic medalists:

Gold medalists.png

We headed to De Belly, a beautiful restaurant in the heart of Split and were able to get our hands on some fantastic dessert. I’d highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting central Split.

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After that, it was back to the hotel to work on my workshop, so that was my first day in Split!

Overall I really enjoyed my time in Croatia, and I hope to visit again soon. The people are very friendly, and unlike some holiday destinations, you are not hassled by locals to purchase anything.

 

 

 

How a blog post I wrote took me to Split, Croatia (Part 1)

On July 7th, 2015 the Information School ran the iFutures conference (I severed on the committee and operated the social media strategy). I met Sergej Lugovic, from Zagreb University Of Applied Sciences, Croatia at this conference.

I had submitted a blog post for the LSE impact blog and was unsure whether it would be published, Sergej assured me that they would like the post. Three days after the conference on July 10th 2015 the article was published. I kept in touch with Sergej, and he had seen how well my blog post had done receiving thousands of hits and shares.

In June 14-18, 2016 as part of the Contemporary Issues in Economy and Technology (CIET) Sergej was able to organise a workshop that I would deliver on Twitter analytics. Below is an image of me and Sergej shortly before the workshop:

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The workshop marked the first collaboration, in history, between Zagreb University of Applied Sciences, the University of Split, the Information School, University of Sheffield, and one of the largest food company in the world measured by revenues, and ranked within the top 100 on the Fortune Global 500 in 2014.

All thanks to Sergej’s hard work.

I would also like to thank the hard work of Dr Boze Plazibat in organising the conference. And for providing a tour of the Department of Professional Studies which hosts state of the art facilities.  I was truly impressed by the department. Below is an image of me with Dr Boze Plazibat, CIET 2016 conference organizer:

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Split is a beautiful city and as I arrived a day earlier and left and day later I had the pleasure to do some sight-seeing, and speak to locals. This will be covered in part 2 of the blog post.

New article published today on the Data Driven Journalism Resource

Today I published a co-authored article on the Data Driven Journalism, titled The EU Referendum debate on Twitter: Who is winning on Twitter – vote leave or vote remain? you can read it here.

 

The EU referendum debate on Twitter

For non-UK readers, the EU referendum is to take place on the on Thursday 23rd June 2016 and  the UK will vote either to remain in or leave the European Union. 

There is much buzz around social media and the referendum and I thought I’d delve into some analysis. However, as an academic looking at this critically, and as having published several papers using Twitter data. I have to state that:

  1. Twitter is a highly non-uniform sample of the population. Not everyone in the UK uses the Internet, and of those that do use the Internet only a sample of those use Twitter.
  2. Twitter also allows members of the public to hold more than one Twitter account, so in theory one user could set up several accounts to post about vote leave or vote remain.
  3. There is also the issue of bots, which are Twitter accounts which tweet in large volumes automatically or look to mimic real users.

With such caveats in place let’s look at some recent analysis produced by using different analytic programs.

Using hashtagify  I located the most frequently used hashtags associated with #EUref. I then used the quick trends explorer offered by Visibrain Focus  to compare the frequency of the VoteRemain and VoteLeave hashtags.

Below is a time series graph of the hashtags  VoteRemain and VoteLeave 

vote reman vs vote leave.png

There are over 900 thousand tweets that contain VoteLeave in comparison to VoteRemain within the last 30 days.This suggests that the VoteLeave campaign is more active on Twitter.

Here is a more complicated graph with a number of hashtags compared against each other such as StrongerIn, Brexit, VoteRemain, VoteLeave:

more time series.png

As the graph above demonstrates, Brexit has been used in over three million instances within the previous month. However, many news articles and general media coverage use this term (see G2 in the NodeXL graph below). Therefore, it is difficult to attach the Brexit  hashtag solely to those whom wish to vote to leave the EU.

Now lets take a look at the data using @NodeXL  which can produce network graphs alongside comprehensive reports which are uploaded to the NodeXL graph gallery.

Using data which was already published by NodeXL, I then examined the EURef hashtag which  is impartial as opposed to VoteLeave or VoteRemain:

The network graph below displays 6,259 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained “EURef”, or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets over the 3-hour, 46-minute period from Friday, 10 June 2016 at 12:58 UTC to Friday, 10 June 2016 at 16:44 UTC.

nodexl

The network graph is made up of several groups of Twitter users. Notable highlights of the report are that:

Group 1 (top left)  contains the following most frequently used hashtags:
[8009] euref
[1888] brexit
[1122] bftownhall
[859] voteleave
[360] itveuref
[350] voteremain
[342] strongerin
[330] remain
[302] leave
[288] bbcqt

Group 1 contains Hashtags and URLs which point to the vote to remain and leave campaign, this suggests it may be a polarised group (see Smith, Rainie, Shneiderman, & Himelboim, 2014).

In Group 2 is interesting to observe an isolates group which shows that a number of users which are not connected to each other are tweeting using the hashtag. For instance, they may be tweeting media stores. This is one possibility for why the Brexit term is used so frequently.

There are a range of different domains that are being used within this campaign including Facebook, the Guardian, and YouTube , full list below:
[798] twitter.com
[685] co.uk
[449] twimg.com
[183] facebook.com
[129] trib.al
[98] org.uk
[97] theguardian.com
[88] youtube.com
[88] ac.uk
[54] buzzfeed.com

The full report NodeXL report including top influencers, top URLs, top domains, hashtags, keywords, word pairs, and replied to can be found within an interactive version of the graph. This was produced by Marc Smith who resides in Belmont, CA, USA.

I’d also like to mention the ongoing work by colleagues:

Any questions? Feel free to drop me a message (@was3210).

Disclaimer: At no time was any personally identifiable data and/or information physically stored and/or analysed by-myself and/or using any of my own equipment. The post draws on the various analyses conducted by others.

What does @paulmasonnews look like on Twitter?

Grateful for a recent favor from Paul Mason, (writer, broadcaster, film-maker, and recent author of Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future) I thought I’d report findings on his Twitter network graph. Thanks goes to my Connected Action Partner Marc Smith for generating the graph.

The graph below is of 2,416 tweets that contained ‘paulmasonnews’ taken from a 9 day period starting Tue May 24th and ending Thurs 02 June, 2016 (the graph gallery version of the graph can be found here)
paulmasonnews Twitter NodeXL SNA Map and Report for Thursday, 02 June 2016 at 18:06 UTC

The network graph is made up of several groups of Twitter users. Group 1 displays the Twitter audience of Paul Mason, which is known as a Broadcast Network which contain an audience of people who are linked only to Mason’s account (see Smith, Rainie, Shneiderman, & Himelboim, 2014).

I’m always interested in seeing the most frequently shared URLs in a graph and the top 5 most shared related to Mason consist of:

  1. Spanish article by Juan Carlos Monedero which analyses Mason’s new book Postcapitalism
  2. Mason’s own article for the Guardian on How to make James Bond relevant – make him battle Trump and the oligarchs
  3. A tweet by Mason related to Corbyn and Labour
  4. A link to a spanish live-stream titled Ciudades Democráticas (Democratic cities)
  5. A tweet by Mason on  Uberisation and Europe

The report shows there is much discussion surrounding Mason’s recently released book Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future.

The following are notable highlights:

  • The most frequently shared URL is based on this book.
  • Moreover, the keyword postcapitalism appears in the URLs of G2, G3, G7,
  • Postcapitalism it is the third most frequently used hashtag overall and the hashtag makes an appearance in G1, G2, G3, G6, G8
  • it appears in G6, G8 as among the top keywords
  • In G8 the top word pairs include:
    • [29] postcapitalism,paulmasonnews
      [28] penguinukbooks,paperback
      [28] paperback,postcapitalism
      [28] paulmasonnews,published
      [28] published,today

I could delve into many further aspects of the graph, but I’d like to point you to the NodeXL graph gallery which contains a comprehensive overview of the analytics overall, and by group level.

Disclaimer: At no time was any personally identifiable data and/or information physically stored and/or analysed by-myself and/or using any of my own equipment. The post draws on the various analyses conducted by others.

Tips for a Professional Social Media Profile

I’m always asked for tips and tricks form academics or those from industry starting out on Twitter and other social media platforms. So I thought I’d collate my responses into 5 points.

I draw on principles covered in the Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users which is a really good read for anyone thinking of building a profile on social media. In no particular order here are 5 tips:

  • Pick a relevant screen name and/or Twitter user handle. I would suggest using your name and including it as your ‘@’ handle e.g., @JohnSmith.
  • The overall look of your profile is very important as the users visiting will make a snap judgement with the information you provide, and the image that you portray. I’d say scrap the long paragraphs and communicate key points.
  • You need a good profile picture, it has to look professional, and it has to be of your face. Stay away from poor quality pictures and if necessary hire a professional to take a picture. Make the picture the brand and use the same picture across social media platforms.
  • If possible, have a blog and/or website unique to yourself that you list across your social media platforms. Produce content relevant to your discipline that can be shared and linked back to you.Examine what is in the media and see if you can draw a link from the work in your discipline either for a tweet or a blog post.
  • Follow users within your discipline, and remember to engage with other Twitter users rather than solely post your own content. If you like, retweet, or share another users post then they are likely to reciprocate.
  • Produce regular content and produce a content sharing plan. Alternatively, you can use a social media managing platform such as Hootsuite or Buffer. When considering what to share remember that visual posts gain more engagement, and tweets with hashtags will attract a larger number of views and impressions. The time of sharing a post will affect how many impressions and engagements it will gain, so don’t be afraid of sharing similar content throughout the day. Below is a useful table adapted from the Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users:

Table 1 – Recommended number of posts per social media platform

Platform
Casual users
  Hard core users
Facebook
1-2
3-4
LinkedIn
1
4
Twitter
8-12
25

These tricks will certainly increase engagement on your social media accounts.

One of my clients Gary Spence, Managing Director of Hybrid Supply Chain Ltd, was able to increase his social media statistics significantly within a matter of weeks by following this methodology:

Figure 1 – Increases in Gary’s social media statistics within 1 month

increases

Do you want help running a professional social media account? Drop me a message for a quote!

References 

Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Andrew Latchford, from the VP Group Ltd, for inspiring this post.

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