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Researchers Turn Twitter Into Real-Time Sports Commentator

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Rice University researchers, led by Siqi Zhao, say that Twitter can offer an accurate commentary of a sporting event that is accurate to within a few seconds of the action.

The team collected tweets on 101 football games from last year, constituting 19 million tweets from 3.5 million tweeters. The researchers had to separate the football-related tweets from the others, determine which game each tweet referred to, work out what plays occurred, and do it in real time while analyzing up to 800 tweets a second.

The task was challenging, considering only 11 percent of tweets have hashtags that indicate their topic, up to 10 games might be playing simultaneously, and they had to look for keywords and measure the rate at which they appeared within a given window and have their system make a decision on what action has occurred when the post rate rises above some predetermined threshold.

On average, tweeters took 17 seconds to report a game event. The system worked well on games except for the Super Bowl, because the sheer number of tweets seemed to interfere with Twitter's ability to distribute them, and the team was unable to see the increase in the rate at which keywords appeared.

From Technology Review
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