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Metrics that make senseTo start with, we needed to narrow down the metrics to the ones that really make sense and are useful in making Twitter-related decisions. We figured that having the tweet count of a particular Twitter user, say @barackobama for a particular period of time is very useful. It gives a clear idea of how engaging he has been with his followers during that time period. And so is the number of times that other users mention him on Twitter, which gives an idea of how much his followers engage with him. We also wanted users to compare their Twitter activity with friends and competitors. So we decided to bring in a competitive analysis of the tweets, replies and followers for different Twitter handles.
So there we are! After a couple of days of coding, we finally got the dashboard up and running. If you go through the source, you’ll find that most of the code here is to “get” the data, than to create the charts themselves.
Design and development thoughtsComparing your Twitter handle with friends and competitors visually was the main priority while designing FusionTweet. We decided to have a default of 3 handles to compare, and a maximum of 6. We faced an interesting visualization problem when Twitter handles of completely different scales were compared. For example, if you compare @techcrunch to someone that has really low Twitter usage, then the lines in the chart would just be stuck to the ceiling and the floor. For situations exactly like these, we have the Logarithmic Line Chart. So we put in the log line chart to plot the tweets, replies and follower count. While the log scale represents the wide variation in data very easily, not everyone will have the exactitude to read through the scale and will end up misinterpreting the data. Since we want everyone to use the dashboard, not just the scientifically-inclined, we decided to stick to the simple line chart itself. And finally, we had to find a way to show that the drop-down menu with time periods is applicable to only the first 2 charts, not the third one. We tried a variety of solutions, ranging from a drop-down for each of the first 2 charts to having tabs. But none of them were tasteful enough, and we finally added two horizontal lines enclosing the drop-down and the first 2 charts.
[cciel lang=”xml”]connectnulldata=’1′[/cciel] – If a user has not tweeted at all on some day, then the line chart would be totally disconnected for that day. Setting this attribute to 1 ensures that the line dips down to the X-axis, and doesn’t show a disconnect between the data.
Scaling FusionTweetWe spoke to the wonderful guys at Topsy and TwitterCounter, and asked them for higher grade access to their APIs. The current free limit is 10,000 calls in 1 day for Topsy and 100 calls per hour for TwitterCounter, we were sure to cross them once the dashboard goes live. TwitterCounter has increased our limit to 500 counts per hour with some kind words (we’ll bug you soon for more), and Topsy would require us to buy higher grade access, which would give us 1 million calls in a day.
This was our first hand at the omnipresent Twitter. It was a lot of fun developing it, and comparing our follower counts with the rest of the team. Do check out FusionTweet and let us know how you like it.