While experts usually rely on polls, gross domestic product, and other indicators to determine happiness among large groups, a team at the University of Vermont decided to look towards a much more immediate source of data: Twitter’s Gardenhose feed, which produces a random daily sample of 50 million tweets. From this, the researchers created a Web site, Hedonometer.org, which measures the global mood based on a set of common words found in the sampling. For example, this past April 15 — the date of the Boston Marathon bombings — was the saddest recorded day in five years, with a marked increase in the use of negative words such as “victims” and “tragedy”.
What’s the Big Idea?
Although the sampling only represents a tenth of the total number of daily tweets, and Twitter users a small part of the Earth’s population, mathematician and site co-creator Chris Danforth says that that group is growing both in size and diversity and, consequently, “It’s becoming more and more reflective of what’s going on for people.” For now, Hedonometer measures only English-language tweets, but the team is working on including tweets from other languages. They also want to bring in data from other sources, such as Google Trends.