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Twitter's Real-Time Collective Mood Index

We have a little bit of everything out here in California; once we even had a statewide "California Task Force to Promote Self Esteem..." and other values, which is what sprang to mind upon reading about those two University of Vermont statiticians who consider Twitter a "a hedonimeter," a device that measures emotions like happiness.

Their goal is to establish a NYSE-type index of the national mood in real-time.

So far, in a related study of song lyrics, blogs and speeches, they have been able to determine that teenagers and the elderly are generally miserable, as measured by the frequency of the word "sick" and other negative terms. The pair say it seems people appear to be at their happiest in the 50s and 60s.

The researches say they hope their Twitter mood index will be useful, as the Google Flu Trends has proved to be, except of course in the case of swine flu in Mexico.

So, this is another example of how companies, academics and entrepreneurs are finding new uses for the real-time stream of information flowing over the micro-blogging service. In its monthly message announcing its latest data updates, Compete.com today noted that "the Twitter craze spells success for Twitter tools riding its coat tails."

Twitter itself, however, is seeing its online traffic plateau again, after an eventful June news spike (Iran and MJ). According to Compete, Twitter's web traffic grew only by a modest 1.25 percent in July. The top referral sites were Facebook, which drives 11.44 percent of Twitter's web traffic, Google (9.94), Yahoo (5.08), MySpace (3.11), and Twitpic (2.54).

That means those five sites drive almost a third of Twitter's online visits, thereby generating much of the flow of material the Vermont guys will be using for their mood index.

Related Bnet coverage of tech-based media hedonimeters:
The NY Times Seconds That Emotion
New Media Tools Go Beyond Multimedia

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