Finding Common Terms around a Twitter Hashtag

@aendrew sent me a link to a StackExchange question he’s just raised, in a tweet asking: “Anyone know how to find what terms surround a Twitter trend/hashtag?”

I’ve dabbled in this area before, though not addressing this question exactly, using Yahoo Pipes to find what hashtags are being used around a particular search term (Searching for Twitter Hashtags and Finding Hashtag Communities) or by members of a particular list (What’s Happening Now: Hashtags on Twitter Lists; that post also links to a pipe that identifies names of people tweeting around a particular search term.).

So what would we need a pipe to do that finds terms surrounding a twitter hashtag?

Firstly, we need to search on the tag to pull back a list of tweets containing that tag. Then we need to split the tweets into atomic elements (i.e. separate words). At this point, it might be useful to count how many times each one occurs, and display the most popular. We might also need to generate a “stop list” containing common words we aren’t really interested in (for example, the or and.

So here’s a quick hack at a pipe that does just that (Popular words round a hashtag).

For a start, I’m going to construct a string tokeniser that just searches for 100 tweets containing a particular search term, and then splits each tweet up in separate words, where words are things that are separated by white space. The pipe output is just a list of all the words from all the tweets that the search returned:

Twitter string tokeniser

You might notice the pipe also allows us to choose which page of results we want…

We can now use the helper pipe in another pipe. Firstly, let’s grab the words from a search that returns 200 tweets on the same search term. The helper pipe is called twice, once for the first page of results, once for the second page of results. The wordlists from each search query are then merged by the union block. The Rename block relabels the .content attribute as the .title attribute of each feed item.

Grab 200 tweets and check we have set the title element

The next thing we’re going to do is identify and count the unique words in the combined wordlist using the Unique block, and then sort the list accord to the number of times each word occurs.

Preliminary parsing of a wordlist

The above pipe fragment also filters the wordlist so that only words containing alphabetic characters are allowed through, as well as words with four or more characters. (The regular expression .{4,} reads: allow any string of four or more ({4,}) characters of any type (.). An expression .{5,7} would say – allow words through with length 5 to 7 characters.)

I’ve also added a short routine that implements a stop list. The regular expression pattern (?i)b(word1|word2|word3)b says: ignoring case ((?i)),try to match any of the words word1, word2, word3. (b denotes word boundary.) Note that in the filter below, some of the words in my stop list are redundant (the ones with three or fewer characters. Remember, we have already filtered the word list to show only words of length four or more characters.)

Stop list

I also added a user input that allows additional stop terms to be added (they should be pipe (|) separated, with no spaces between them). You can find the pipe here.

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