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.