#Hokies Tweets Network Visualization: How I extracted Tweets via TAGS 6 and visualized them in Gephi

Click to see larger or download.

Click to see larger or download.

A professional development goal of mine is to learn a lot more about social network analysis and visualization of social media data. This area has grown increasingly valuable and important in our field.  And I believe we all need to have at least a base knowledge of social data and how to play with it.

With my wife traveling for work and rainy weather here in West Virginia, this weekend presented a great opportunity to finally get my feat wet (no pun intended).

As you may know, my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies haven’t been playing so well this college football season.  So I decided to use Saturday’s game as an opportunity to play with Twitter data and Gephi, an open source data visualization program.

I’ll explain what I did below to make the above visualization in case you’d like to try this for yourself. This is a simple approach and I think you’ll find you can do it if I can learn it in a weekend! I started Saturday morning with zero knowledge of graph theory, social network analysis, how to use Gephi, and how to pull down Tweets.

I’m writing this up because I found several tutorials online. But, none of them quite came together to show me how to do all the parts in one tutorial. A major reason is that the Twitter API has changed since many tutorials available online were built. So, the ways offered for getting the Twitter data on those tutorials no longer works.  As such, getting Twitter data is a challenge if you don’t know a little programming with Python, etc (Needless to say, I don’t).

Fortunately, each of the tools together below made this first experiment in Twitter data visualization possible.

Here’s how I did it:

1) I used the TAGS v.6 Twitter Archiving Tool to gather Tweets with the hashtag #hokies. This is an amazing, free tool – thank you so much to Martin Hawksey for this! You can learn to use the TAGS archiver fairly easily via Google Docs. The only real slow down is that you have to get a Twitter API key via your Twitter account.

I ended up gathering 1583 Tweets between 3:19am – after midnight before the game – and the majority of the way through the game at 2:43. So, whatever Tweets going back I could pull when I extracted the data at 2:43; not a great picture of the #Hokies conversation, but it worked for this exercise.

2) I used @DFeelon’s spreadsheet converter to convert the TAGS spreadsheet to a file I could put into GEPHI to do the visualization. Thanks Deen!

His converter pulls only the first Twitter account that is mentioned in the Tweet or in a RT – so any additional persons mentioned in a Tweet were not counted. You can learn more about it here on Deen’s blog. It is easy to use. In short, I copied my Tweeter and Tweet text into his spreadsheet, and voila! This created my edge file in CSV for GEPHI with 2 columns (vertices, or nodes) – the first column being the person who sent the Tweet and the second column being the person to whom the Tweet was directed.

3) I noticed that some mentions of Twitter account handles were all lowercase whereas others were not. This had created duplicate nodes. That is, in some instances, one Twitter account had been split into two: an all lowercase version and the original. So, I simply made all text lowercase to address this problem. I used Google Refine to clean my CSV file because I want to learn to use this program. But, you could change the case in Excel or any spreadsheet software.

4) I then loaded the cleaned CSV file into Gephi (download it here) so I could do the visualization.

5) I spent a lot of time on Saturday reading about visualization and getting a basic knowledge of graph theory and how to use Gephi. While I’ve still got a lot to learn, I decided to follow a tutorial for my first “go round.” It seemed like a great opportunity to put together concepts and tools in Gephi that I’d learned in a guided environment. So, I followed the instructions on the latter half of this YouTube video for how to visualize the data and export it into the file you see with this post. The tutorial is by Michael Bauer via the International Journalism Festival. Of note, the first half shows you how to extract data using Twitter’s old API and that process no longer works. So you can take your CSV file gained through the process above, import it into Gephi, and pick up with the tutorial at 1:05:46.

So, that’s it!

A few quick things about this visualization:

As indicated by the size of the Twitter account name, we can see that Virginia Tech sports beat writer Andy Bitter for the Roanoke Times had the largest number of Tweets directed at him regarding the game (that is, his node – his Twitter account – had the most degrees. The degrees are the number of edges, or connections one node has to another). This makes sense. I’ve followed the #Hokies conversation on Twitter for years and Andy has been a constant presence and leader in providing news and analysis of Tech.

The communities are indicated in colors. I used the modularity script in Gephi to identify these, as is shown in the above-noted YouTube video. In short, you can use the color coding to make a basic clustering of who is talking to who.

In Closing:

While I’ve got a ton to learn, I’m thrilled with the progress I’ve made in just over a weekend from not knowing the first thing about graph theory, basic spreadsheet formatting for nodes and edges, or how to visualize a social network, to building my first visualization. And, while my goal is not to become a data scientist, I am excited to continue to learn and grow a base knowledge in this area. I know I am just scraping the tip of the iceberg.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on how I can improve my knowledge and skills! Also, please feel free to share your tips, tutorials, and experiences with social data.

 

Note: Thanks to Nathan Carpenter at the ISU SMACC for helping me get started with data gathering and visualization by generously sharing his experiences and tools!

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Time Management: How to Read when You Don’t Have Time with These Tricks

I like to write posts every once in a while about productivity tips and tricks or time savers. That’s because I know I love reading these types of posts and believe maybe some of the tricks I’ve picked up along the way might help others.

I wrote the below blog post months ago but never got around to publishing it. When I came across the Umano  app yesterday I was so happy. I was also reminded about the below post I’d drafted.

umano

First, Umano. Umano is an app that reads popular articles to you (you can also listen on their website). Voice actors record the articles and you listen. Simple as that. You can build a playlist so the articles cycle through one after the other. There are advanced paid features but the free app works great for me. Since downloading the app I’ve listened to about 10 articles already and I love it. I can tell this is going to be one of my most used apps for getting content. Here’s why:

I’d been long using Pocket and my Mac computer to achieve what Umano does. But Umano uses real voices rather than the robot in your computer or phone. This is a huge time saver. I get lots more content when I’m doing things that prevent me from reading – like brushing my teeth or cooking.

So why not just use Umano? Because Umano only has articles that are popular. I like to read a lot of posts from academic blogs and social media blogs I follow, the type of niche content that wouldn’t make it into Umano. In fact, I listen to a lot of content – such as websites or documents. That’s why I use the Pocket app and the text-to-speech engine on my Mac. So here’s the original article I drafted up:

You want to read more but don’t always have time to. You know that staying up to date on the latest news and trends in your field is no longer an option. It’s a must.

But great articles go whizzing by on Twitter or your RSS reader that you never get around to reading. You’re busy.

That’s why having your computer or smartphone read to you is an efficient way to save time while staying up to date on the latest buzz.

Imagine having blog posts and news articles are read to you while getting ready for work in the morning, cooking dinner in the evening, working out at the gym, or.. well, anytime you don’t feel like staring at a screen.

A student told me about this about two years ago. He’d have his Mac read him the online assigned for my class while he cooked dinner. (I’ll explain how below). But since you can’t always be at your computer, there are smartphone apps that can read to you on the go.

The one I’ve used is called Pocket (formerly ReaditLater) for Android.

getpocket

With Pocket, you can use the TTS (text to speech) engine on your Android phone to have your articles read to you. (I’m not sure if the iPhone has a similar function – does anyone know?)

Pocket is a simple but extremely useful app that allows you to collect articles on websites, blogs, news outlets, and so forth. There’s a browser plugin for that. Installing the plugin adds a button on your browser. Click it whenever you’ve got an article open in your browser that you want to save for later.

All the articles you “pocket” are saved to your account and accessible on your app, on the web, or on your Mac via their app in the Mac App store.

Using Text-to-Speech with Pocket on Android

In the Pocket app on your Android, select the more button (in the top right. It looks like 3 buttons on top of each other). And then Listen.

It’s as simple as that.

Listening on a Mac computer

To get your Mac to read text to you, go to Settings -> Speech. Click “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.” Then select the key command you want to use. I use COMMAND+S. Now, go into MS Word or a website in your browser, highlight the text you want the computer to read and click your command key. Your computer will begin reading.

As I said, I’ve been doing this for about a year. The voice sounds like a robot. But it’s not hard to comprehend and I don’t mind it. The way I see it. Time is precious. Time management is learning to maximize time – and time spent doing mindless tasks like cleaning, getting dressed in the morning, etc. are perfect opportunities to get more out of time.

How do you “get more out of your day”? If you’ve tried having your computer or phone read articles to you, how have you found it?

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Google Scholar Power User’s Guide: Research Recommendations (3 of 3)

This is the third and final post on what’s been a popular series of posts – becoming a Google Scholar power user. Post #1 explored the advanced search features of Google Scholar, and post #2 explored why you should have a Google Scholar profile.

This post about the Recommendations feature comes last because you must have a Google Scholar profile in order to use it.

In past blog posts, I’ve written about great ways to find research articles for your literature review. Specifically, I’ve talked about using Google Scholar search, and the Mendeley search option.

Google Scholar recommended research is another way of finding research articles that I’m loving. It is super easy to use and I’ve found tons of articles I wouldn’t have found before. As you recall, these recommendations are based on your citations – in other words, what you’ve published online. So of course they are going to be tailored to your research interests.

Google Scholar recommendations

Click to enlarge.

If you have your Google Scholar profile set up, Google Scholar will recommend new research articles to you based on your publications. So the recommendations are almost always super relevant and helpful for future studies!

To access these, go to scholar.google.com and click “My Updates” at the top.

Also, Google Scholar will often list the most recent recommendations under the search bar at scholar.google.com. You can get the rest by clicking “see all updates” (see photo above)

Here are my recommended articles today:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Tailored scholarly article recommendations – what could be better?

Hope you enjoyed this series of posts on Google Scholar! If you did, please share this post!

Other articles in series:

-Cheers!

Matt

Become A Google Scholar Power User: Scholar Profiles (2 of 3)

Thanks to everyone who read my first post in this three-part series on becoming a Google Scholar Power User:  advanced features of Google Scholar search.  It was one of the most popular posts I’ve had on this blog! If you haven’t read it, check it out. If you have, let’s get started with part 2! Here we go! (Note: Post #3 is also available now)

To get the most out of Google Scholar, including the library feature discussed in the last post, you’ll need a Google Scholar profile. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend setting one up. Here’s why:

A Google Scholar profile has many benefits. It is a public profile that provides author photo, institutional affiliation and contact information, and importantly an interactive list of all articles a particular scholar has published. (Get started with Google Scholar profiles). Google Scholar automatically populates your list of research articles by associating your name with articles it has indexed. You can also add co-authors, and keywords for your research agenda.

Click to enlarge. A look at my Google Scholar Profile

Click to enlarge. A look at my Google Scholar Profile

Here are 8 great benefits of a Google Scholar Profile:

1) Help people find your work. Remember that author feature I discussed int he previous post? Google Scholar search results allow searchers to click an author’s name to see what else they’ve published. This links directly to your Google Scholar profile with the list of all your research articles. If you have a website/blog, you can add a link so people can connect with you.

2) Track Citations of Your Work. What’s really great, is your Google Scholar profile summarizes some really informative stats.

This includes the number of citations for each article you’ve published, and up to date summary statistics across time. For example, here is my Google Scholar profile.

These numbers are helpful to have! For example, when doing my mid-tenure review, I provided a brief context / explanation of each publication I had (this was a recommendation made to me by a faculty member). The purpose was to provide an explanation of the significance of the work, and how it related to my research agenda. I noted the # of citations particular publications had received according to Google Scholar.

3) Follow New Citations. You can easily follow new citations of your work, and get Google Alerts emails when articles are published that mention your published works. This is great to know who is citing you, the impact your work is having, as well as finding articles related to your research interest that you may want to read.

4) Follow New Article. Have something in press and want to know when it is published? Go to your profile and click “Follow new articles.” You’ll get an email alert when the time comes!

5) Library. As discussed in the previous post on Google Scholar, you need a profile to use this feature. See explanation in last post.

6) Recommendations – Having a Google Scholar profile enables you to get recommendations. I’ll discuss those in our next post.

7) Easily Find The Work of Your Favorite Scholars You can see the work of scholars whose research you enjoy by searching an authors name in Google Scholar search, or directly from your profile page (assuming they have a Google Scholar profile).

8) Follow Fav Scholars. Want to get alerts every time a particular scholar publishes something new? Go to their scholar profile and click “follow new articles.” You’ll get an email alert every time they publish something. You can also follow new citations of their work, to receive emails every time someone cites their work.

That’s all for now! Update: Post #3 is now available: why you should have a Google Scholar profile.

What other benefits of Google Scholar profiles are there? How do you use Google Scholar profiles?

See all my academic Tips, Tricks, and Productivity Posts.

Become a Google Scholar Power User (1 of 3)

Update: Posts #2 (Google Scholar Profiles) and #3 (Google Scholar Recommendations) are now available.

I love Google Scholar. It is useful for not only your research agenda, but also it is a tool to teach your students about.

When teaching students about finding academic research, no discussion is complete without Google Scholar. In fact, I tell my students this is my go to source… though I’m sure the library probably wouldn’t be happy to hear that.

GScholars primary purpose is as a search engine for scholarly articles. Simply goto: scholar.google.com and search for an article title, subject (e.g., a theory, construct), keyword, or author.

There’s much more to GScholar than a simple search. GScholar has some little known (and some very new!) features that are very useful. Here’s how to become a Google Scholar Power User, Part 1 – Advanced Search Features: (See: Post #2 in this series on Google Scholar Profiles).

Great Benefits!

It works just like Google, but it indexes academic publications. Many libraries are linked with Google Scholar, such that if you search Google Scholar and an article comes up that your school library has, you can access it directly through your search engine results. (While this often happens automatically when on campus, you can find out if your library has the article when away from campus as well. Go to your settings, click library, and do a search for your universities library. Then click save).

Advanced Features:

1) Advanced Article Access

Another great benefit is that sometimes articles are hosted online in various places, and you can find access to those articles that you would otherwise not have access to through your library.

Identifying this access is easy. To the right of the search result, you will see [PDF] available from XYZ or [HTML] available from. For an example, here is a search for my own research .  Notice how the “Getting Political on Social Network Sites” is available as HTML from the online journal First Monday.

Example of Google Scholar Search Results. See explanation of features below.

Example of Google Scholar Search Results. See explanation of features below. Click this image to enlarge it.

2) More Access Options

See an article that you want to get access to, but your library doesn’t have it and you don’t see a PDF version offered in the search results? Click “## versions” directly under the search result description. Sometimes, the primary result that Google shows does not provide access to the article, but alternative versions do. By clicking “## versions”, you may find that another version of the article is available online.

3) Related Articles

When conducting research, we’re often looking for research on a particular theory, construct, etc. So, if we find an article that fits our search goals, wouldn’t it be great to see what other articles are similar? The “Related Articles” link under the search entry does just that. For example, if I find an article on agenda setting in social media in a search result, and want to see more like it, rather than try a new search query, I’ll click “related articles” under the article I like for a whole host of articles related to agenda setting on social media.

4) Cited By Feature

The cited by feature offers a similar benefit to the “related articles” feature. It is very helpful because you can see who has cited this work. Why is that great? Because if the article you have found is of interest, likely those works that cited it are related and may be helpful! More so, they may have built on that study and thus their theory and findings may provide more recent insights and advancements to the topic you’re studying.

5) Author

If you want to see more articles by a specific author, click an author’s name (such as my name in the example above). This will take you to the author’s profile on GScholar (if they have one) where you can see all the articles they’ve published. This is something I’ll discuss more in a future post.

6) Cite

Want the APA or MLA citation format for the article in your search result? Click cite. A window pops up and you can choose the citation you need. Quick. Easy. Super helpful. You can also import into particular format styles.

7) Google Scholar Library

This is a new feature and one I just discovered. It works sort of like how Mendely lets you create a library of articles. You need a Google Scholar account to use this feature – which is of course free and connected to your Google account.

What you get, is an online custom list of articles. When you enable Library, you are asked if you want to import all articles you’ve cited. That is, Google indexes all the articles you have cited in the online publications Google has associated with you.

To access your library click “My library” at scholar.google.com. To add articles to your library, in a search result, you can click “save” to save that article directly from search results into your library.

It seems the deleting articles requires you to click on them individually and then click delete. I found no mass editing.

You can set up labels to organize articles into categories. For example, I may have a label “politics” another “social networks” and another “blogs.” By clicking an article in your library, then clicking the ‘labels’ drop down you can create and select labels.

This is a brand new feature and it has a lot of potential. Given that I’m a big Mendeley user, the library feature may be redundant. But I’m going to play with it and see if it has added benefit. I do like the idea that it provides direct access to articles available online.

Here is the How to and FAQ of Google Scholar Libraries 

That’s all for now!

The next 2 posts get beyond the basics of Google Search search results into Recommendations and Google Profiles. Check them out:

  1. Post #2 Scholar Profiles.
  2. Post #3 Scholar Recommendations

 

Do you use Google Scholar for search? What are your favorite features? What do you think about the new library feature?

The Most Important Tool for Research Collaboration: Dropbox

Now that the semester is over, there are two major things I like to spend my break doing: research projects and optimizing my classes with mods and improvements (or creating new classes, if needed). So, let’s talk about research!

When it comes to research, there is one piece of software I could not live without: the FREE app Dropbox.

Nothing has more fundamentally changed how I do research than Dropbox. That’s because much of my research is collaborative with great scholars such as Dr. Francis Dalisay and Dr. Masahiro Yamamoto. (Yes, not even Mendeley – Not so long ago I talked about how Mendeley reference manager changed my life when it comes to productivity in research).

The Rundown: Dropbox is free and works with Mac or PC, or mobile devices. You get 2 gig for free (at least, that’s how much you got when I signed up), and can get more free space by completing certain actions like getting a friend to sign up (I now have 4.5 free gigs). There are paid versions.

I was under the impression that just about everyone was using a tool like dropbox when collaborating with others on research, until I heard otherwise from numerous colleagues. Many are still relying on the old fashion approach of: Edit and Email. So I thought I’d take a minute to highlight the crucial benefits of synching software for collaboration on any document.

Edit and Email

Before I started using dropbox, my research collaboration life went something like this: One person would work on a manuscript document. When he/she was done, that person emailed the document to me with some comments on changes made. I’d then take my turn when I could and reply back with an attachment of the document updates. Meanwhile, the other person was waiting on me and if it was a busy time of the semester, that may have been several days or a week. If he had downtown and could work on the document, or had a sudden inspiration, he was unable to for fear that I was making edits to the file he had previously sent me and to try and merge the changes between conflicting documents, his new edits and my edits to the original he’d sent me, would be a big pain. This made for a slow, slow, painful process. And that’s only with two authors. Things get exponentially more complicated with 3 or more authors.

Enter Dropbox

As soon as I discovered Dropbox, a file synching service, I quickly convinced my co-authors to adopt it. Here’s why:

Dropbox or other software like SugarSync enables you to share folders with others (through invite) that automatically sync whenever any file in the folder is changed, added, or removed.

The folders are stored on your computer like a regular folder. You treat them exactly like any other folder, including the ability to have subfolders.

For example, if I’m working on a manuscript titled Manuscript.doc, every time I save the file, everyone else who shares the folder with me is automatically updated to the latest version of the file (if their computer is off, it will sync when it is turned back on). When I’m done working on the file and close it, everyone immediately has the latest version of the file. A coauthor can immediately open the file and begin working on it. When she’s done, I can pick right back up, or a third coauthor can begin working (Note: You cannot work on a file simultaneously or there will be a conflicted copy saved to your folder). This eliminates the “hurry up and wait” nature of Edit and Email and the major headache of different coauthors having different versions of the manuscript, such as trying to merge one person’s edits into the latest version.

To avoid the possibility of multiple people trying to work on the file at the same time (which causes a conflicting file to be created in your folder that you then have to manually go through and be sure any conflicts are resolved), we always send a quick email letting the other co-authors know we are about to start working on a document or that we plan to work on a document at from, say, 1-3pm this afternoon.

If I could – I’d give Dropbox a high-five for helping me greatly increase my productivity as a scholar when it comes to collaborative work!

Additional Benefits of Dropbox:

  1. Add / remove files to your group folder – Because the folder syncs, you can quickly add other documents to the folder such as data, data analysis results, etc. and everyone will have access.
  2. Previous Versions: Previous versions of files are automatically saved to Dropbox. You can access previous versions of a file by logging in at dropbox.com.
  3. Multiple devices: The software also synchs your files between your own computers, smart phone, or tablets. So you always have access to these files whether on your work computer or home computer or mobile. I use this all the time not only for research but for teaching materials. This way, I don’t have to lug my work computer home with me if I want to access or work on any files from my home computer.
  4. Backing up: Because my files are synched to the web on dropbox.com, as well as my other devices, if I were to lose my computer or if it were damaged, I wouldn’t lose my files. I use this as a way to back up important documents (like when i was working on my Dissertation!)
  5. Web Access: Don’t have access to your own computer? You can access all your files on dropbox.com. However, any changes you make to files will need to be manually re-uploaded to dropbox.com when you are done.

That’s all for now! Best of luck to everyone who recently submitted to ICA. Hopefully my papers are accepted and I get to see everyone in Seattle!

Do you use Dropbox or a similar synching service for research? What do you like about it? What tips and advice do you have to share with readers? Which synching service is best?

Are Your Classroom Handouts Stuck In the Last Century?

A little while ago I posted about just how useful screencasting is for teaching students how to use tools and software on the computer/web. I also recently posted on a favorite image screen capture Chrome add-on that makes it super easy to grab screenshots from the web.

Here is another great tool I love for teaching providing students instructions on tasks they need to complete for assignments while incorporating visuals: the Lab Guide.

I opt for these over screencasts when the steps are clearly defined and need to be followed in a specific order.

I use Google Docs and Awesome Screenshot Google Chrome add-on to create these.  Here’s why I like Lab Guides:

I used to give a lot of handouts with instructions. They were a waste of trees. And black-and-white text… boring!

I realized something: We want to create content that grabs attention, that is easy to digest, easy to follow, yet we don’t seem to do a great job of doing that with our students!

More and more, i find images and multimedia are great additions to or supplements for words. But color-printing is expensive. I also felt limited by MS Word and wanted to be able to provide a URL, not a file for students to access so students could click links on the handout to access videos, additional articles, etc., without being bogged down by the cumbersome process of loading a link via a Word document.

And so, I began creating Lab Guides which are Instructional Handout with Multimedia (IHMs)

IHMs are easy to access via a short URL (e.g., Bitly) from anywhere on the web.

They contain instructional material, embedded images, icons, links.

And, they are super easy to create!

Here is a lab guide that utilizes a variety of multimedia examples to help students. This lab guide shows students in the intro class, Comm and New Media, how to create and edit their podcast assignment.

bit.ly/203_Lab2Podcasting

Here is a long and involved Lab Guide I created that walks students through the complex process of coding XML files for data collection using the Open Data Kit (ODK). Students in the (Applied) Research Methods class will be collecting survey data using iPads and Android Tablets.  Students will be creating their own surveys and programming them into XML to be hosted on FromHub.com. With the tablets, students can go out into the field and have people complete the survey on the tablet and the data is uploaded in real time to FormHub. Students can then download the data for analysis when complete with data collection.

http://bit.ly/435_lab_digitalsurvey

I like handouts where all the info is organized and students can follow along. It takes time to create. But I feel it saves me a lot of time on the back end with emails, time wasted in class, etc. Most importantly, the students find it helpful and it helps us move more quickly through the “must do’s” so we can get to the real learning!

Follow these tips for making your Google Doc Lab Guide to share your students once you’ve created it

Log into Google Drive or create an account.

1) Create the docs and make sure they are set up so EVERYONE can edit them. Here’s how:

After creating the document, click “share” (upper right – it is a blue icon). Next, click “Change” next to the field asking who can do what with the document….: Choose “Anyone with the link” and in the Access section, keep it as View”

2) Sharing the Document with Students – The URL for Google Docs is annoyingly long, not good for sharing. So use your favorite URL shortener to create uniform links for the assignment. I like Bitly but any works.

For example, if there are 4 teams and I set up the documents, each will have a URL something like:

bit.ly/SMClass_Activity1_Team1

That way, each team just types in the short link into their browser. Just note that Bitly links are case-sensitive. Be sure to test your link!

What tips do you have for creating effective handouts for students?