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PdF09 Twitters From the White House to White Flight: Whatever

BY Dave Witzel | Saturday, July 11 2009

I'm pretty confident that danah boyd's was the most talked about talk during the Personal Democracy Forum 2009 Conference in New York City. I can say this because she was mentioned more than 750 times in the twitter stream during the 2 days of the conference. Michael Wesch got a lot of buzz - almost 600 mentions - and Jeff Jarvis and Mark Pesce (who gave a really powerful talk last year too) did well, each getting almost 500 mentions. But boyd topped them all.

That isn't to say her challenge to a utopian image of social networks - she talked about how there had been "white flight" from MySpace to Facebook - dominated conversation. In fact, the White House was more on people's minds (and Alec Ross's reference to old diplomacy's "white guys with white shirts" got some mentions too). It is also true that the standing O's went to Vivek Kundra and Michael Wesch and that the new federal IT Dashboard Kundra announced was the most commonly shared URL.

Wordle from text of tweets during PDF '09 New York City

Such are the lessons one can draw from studying the more than 17,000 tweets from almost 2800 accounts sent during the 2 day conference. While tweet analysis is more of an art than a science, there are some tools that can help. An important part of the trick is capturing the tweets at all. In spite of Twitter's famously open API, it is hard to get a complete historical record for an active event. In this case Bivings Group's Twitterslurp came to the rescue by archiving all the tweets tagged PDF09 or PDF2009. The data can be crunched to show things like there was more twittering the first day (9,615 tweets) than the second (only 7,959); that noon on the 1st day was the busiest hour - following boyd's talk and during those by Jeff Jarvis and David Weinberger. (Or, maybe just driven by proximity to lunch?)

Number of tweets per hour during the days of PDF '09 in NYC.

A few folks caught a lot of twitter love, being mentioned frequently in tweets by others. Here's a list, in order, of twitterers mentioned at least 100 times.

  1. danah boyd (zephoria)
  2. Micah Sifry (Mlsif)
  3. Mark Pesce (mpesce)
  4. Andrew Rasiej (rasiej)
  5. Michael Wesch (mwesch)
  6. Jordan Raynor (JordanRaynor)
  7. Jeff Jarvis (jeffjarvis)
  8. Craig Newmark (craignewmark)
  9. David Weinberger
    (dweinberger)
  10. Andy Carvin (acarvin)
  11. Todd Herman (toddeherman)
  12. Clay Shirky (cshirky)
  13. Mark Drapeau (cheeky_geeky)
  14. Ellen Miller (EllnMllr)

We can get some idea of the themes resonating with folks by exploring the text visualizations created with IBM's Many Eyes tools including the Wordle (above) and the Word Tree below.

Michael Wesch's talk on a brief history of "whatever" was one of my favorites. He mixed video and anthropological analysis to talk about how we experience ourselves and each-other on the net.

Well, whatever.

How Can I Dip into the PDF09 Tweet Stream?

Explore the Bivings Group's Twitterslurp.

Read Meghann Parlett's Day 1 and Day 2 highlights.

Play with the Word Tree by clicking on words in the image or entering words in the search box.

Enter words into the search box of the Word Cloud.

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