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Twitter-Based Study Figures Out Saddest Spots In New York City

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the measure-of-misery dept.

Twitter 57

Nerval's Lobster writes "A new research paper from the New England Complex Systems Institute, titled "Sentiment in New York City" (PDF), attempts to pull off something that would have been impossible—or at least mind-bogglingly difficult and time-consuming—before the invention of online social networks: figure out the block-by-block happiness level of the biggest metropolis in the United States. In order to generate their 'sentiment map' of New York City, the researchers analyzed data from 603,954 Tweets (collected via Twitter's API) organized by census block. 'This method, combined with geotagging provided by users, enables us to gauge public sentiment on extremely fine-grained spatial and temporal scales,' read the paper's abstract. The study took emoticons and word choice into account when deciding whether particular Tweets were positive or negative in sentiment. According to that flood of geotagged Tweets, people are happiest near New York City's public parks, and unhappiest near transportation hubs. Happiness increased closer to Times Square, the declined around Penn Station, the Port Authority, and the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel. People were in a better mood at night and on weekends, and more negative about the world between the hours of 9 A.M. and 12 P.M. None of this is surprising: who wouldn't be happy amidst the greenery of a public park, or borderline-suicidal while stuck in traffic or waiting for a late train? The correlation between happiness and Times Square is almost certainly due to that neighborhood's massive influx of tourists, all of them Tweeting about their vacation. But as with previous public-sentiment studies, using Twitter as a primary data source also introduces some methodology issues: for example, a flood of happy Tweets from tourists could disguise a more subdued and longstanding misery among a neighborhood's residents, many of whom probably aren't tweeting every thirty seconds about a Broadway show or the quality of Guy Fieri's food."

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57 comments

I smell Wonnn-derful Flowers in the Spring (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44638735)

Yessss, thanks to the fabulous innovators at Slashdot and Dice and New England Complex Systems Institute! :) :)

The entire island of Manhattan (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44638739)

Surprisingly, Ground Zero not the saddest place on Earth -- that's reserved for Wall Street.

Re:The entire island of Manhattan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639027)

Actually the saddest place is .. all of NYC
Garbage everywhere, it smells bad, too any people, cars and buildings blocking the view.
Too much expense for what? it sucks.
Too much crime, rules, laws, noise and more..
And the mayor who wishes to be king.. unreal..
Lived there, worked there.
The best day ever was when I left NYC for good.

Re:The entire island of Manhattan (1, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#44639093)

Actually Twitter users are the saddest of all, except Facebook users [go.com] and to the degree those two sets overlap you have a perfect storm of self centered sadness.

Re:The entire island of Manhattan (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about 8 months ago | (#44639429)

The best day ever was when I left NYC for good.

We all feel that way about the day you left.

Re:The entire island of Manhattan (1)

GTRacer (234395) | about 8 months ago | (#44640995)

Hm. Dissenting sentiment here. Granted, my family and I only stayed 4 days in NYC, in a loft overlooking Times Square (awesome!). But over a year on and we still consider that trip to be the pinnacle of our family vacationing, with nearly 20 years of travel on us.

Yes, some of your items are valid concerns but maybe not as much for a tourist. Iunno. We didn't find much in the way of garbage and stink except off of main roads. The noise and bustle were attractive to us, and I personally dig Bloomberg's ambitions. I think he's a bit off but I do understand his motivations.

I have no idea what it'd be like to work in the city, especially if I had to commute in and out every day. That kind of travel time seems like a special Hell better reserved for those to take advantage of others. Not hard-working types.

Re:The entire island of Manhattan (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 8 months ago | (#44639175)

Surprisingly, Ground Zero not the saddest place on Earth -- that's reserved for Wall Street.

Unlikely, given that the only thing that Wall Street likes more than money is cocaine.

Re:The entire island of Manhattan (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 8 months ago | (#44640123)

And we all know that cocaine makes you sad.
That's why it's so addictive.

Not Tweeting. (5, Insightful)

Lairdykinsmcgee (2500904) | about 8 months ago | (#44638801)

The saddest parts of New York City are not where people who own mobile devices and laptops convene. The saddest parts of New York City are where people are wearing trash bags, begging for food and shelter... They are not begging for attention by Tweeting their pretentious frivolity.

Re:Not Tweeting. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44638889)

Sad and unhappy is relative. I bet an alcoholic with no job, no family, and living off the street is much happier just to have bottle of vodka than someone just one block away getting home from work at 9:30pm to their 1+ million dollar condo. Someone in the middle looking at both people would naturally assume the later is happier.

Re:Not Tweeting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44641105)

Sad and unhappy is relative. I bet an alcoholic with no job, no family, and living off the street is much happier just to have bottle of vodka than someone just one block away getting home from work at 9:30pm to their 1+ million dollar condo. Someone in the middle looking at both people would naturally assume the later is happier.

Ah, but still, "I would rather suffer from self pity than starvation" as was once replyed to the worn out "Money don't make you happy" cliche.

Now some real info:
I do know a few addicts (booze and other dugs (and food)) and they are NOT happy when they get drugs, they are relived. Imagine wearing a deep diver suite full of hungry rabid rat after you have suffered the torment for sometime the rats are let out, you do not feel happiness, you feel extreamly strong relief. Happy is when something good happens and you want it to continue or happen again, relief is when something bad stops. BIG difference!

Re:Not Tweeting. (4, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | about 8 months ago | (#44639049)

Yes would be interesting to see wage/wealth heat map over the happy map. Add in gov workers with jobs/pensions for life, rent control areas, crime and other data.

Re:Not Tweeting. (3, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 months ago | (#44639081)

I only lived there for a few years, but I noticed that some of the hot spots on the map in Manhattan were schools and hospitals.

Re:Not Tweeting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44641455)

I live just outside a historic district and it shines brightly on this map. There is definately a wealth correlation to the district, since those houses cost about $1.2m+ vs $700k for similar houses and $150-250k for apartments just outside the district.

Good for mapping political landscape though (5, Interesting)

Camael (1048726) | about 8 months ago | (#44639187)

The saddest parts of New York City are not where people who own mobile devices and laptops convene. The saddest parts of New York City are where people are wearing trash bags, begging for food and shelter... They are not begging for attention by Tweeting their pretentious frivolity.

True. But I wonder how long will it be before the researchers apply the same techniques to analyse block by block the political beliefs of the residents. It may even be hyper accurate if you assume quote reasonably that :-

1. those who tweet about their political beliefs tend to be more passionate about it and are more likely to vote; and
2. those who don't are apathetic to politics and are less likely to vote.

If they can gauge something as subjective as 'happiness', gauging something more definite like the voting predisposition of the residents of an area would appear to be a simpler task.

Re:Good for mapping political landscape though (2)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 8 months ago | (#44639419)

That is a HUGE set of assumptions. You would need to go do some real research to find out if that was remotely valid.

Many people I know don't do social networking because it can have some pretty serious consequences and be used against you. They do vote though.

Re:Good for mapping political landscape though (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 8 months ago | (#44639529)

Many people I know don't do social networking because it can have some pretty serious consequences and be used against you. They do vote though.

Enjoy while it last. The time when voting can have pretty serious consequences and be used against you may be near.

Re:Good for mapping political landscape though (1)

Camael (1048726) | about 8 months ago | (#44650669)

That is a HUGE set of assumptions. You would need to go do some real research to find out if that was remotely valid.

That's fair. Interestingly enough, there is such a study conducted by the Indiana University, Bloomington on the correlation between voting patterns and tweets [ssrn.com] . I'll skip to the findings here:-

Is social media a valid indicator of political behavior? We answer this question using a random sample of 537,231,508 tweets from August 1 to November 1, 2010 and data from 406 competitive U.S. congressional elections provided
by the Federal Election Commission. Our results show that the percentage of Republican-candidate name mentions correlates with the Republican vote margin in the subsequent election. This finding persists even when controlling for incumbency, district partisanship, media coverage of the race, time, and demographic variables such as the district’s racial and gender composition.

Theres also a WashPo article [washingtonpost.com] discussing the same research paper.

So, there is some scientific basis for the assumptions stated in the earlier post.

Re:Good for mapping political landscape though (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 8 months ago | (#44640743)

True. But I wonder how long will it be before the researchers apply the same techniques to analyse block by block the political beliefs of the residents.

You're behind the times. Political campaigns already do that.

Re:Not Tweeting. (0)

steelfood (895457) | about 8 months ago | (#44639331)

Believe it or not, beggars make a lot of money. If they get a good spot or route, they'll make a ton more than most honest living. Think several hundred a day, no taxes. Of course, it's not easy to get or keep a good spot.

The ones who are truly in need don't beg. They just are. Though usually, they're also perfectly happy being.

The druggies and alcoholics who are homeless all got sent to Cali or down south. Winters are not as cold there.

Re:Not Tweeting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639423)

The saddest part of this study is that people actually believe it.

Re:Not Tweeting. (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 8 months ago | (#44640457)

Yeah the difference between a depressed dumpster diving hipster and a depressed dumpster diving hobo is the hobo isn't getting sent a $1K a week by their beverly hill parents to spend on designer faux opshop clothing.
My guess is the hipster is actually pretty pleased with his ridiculous beard, and the hobo just can't afford a nice shave.

Re:Not Tweeting. (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 8 months ago | (#44641715)

That's far from guaranteed. You'd be surprised how miserable people who have everything can be, while some people who have nothing can often laugh at their circumstances. Never judge happiness by material possessions.

False assumption (5, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#44638847)

This assumes that everyone uses Twitter.

It's funny, isn't it? People who are heavy users of Twitter are absolutely convinced that EVERYONE is on Twitter. Because in their tiny world, it's true. It's like when some World of Warcraft nerd starts spewing jargon in front of everyone and nobody knows what's going on...alts, tank, twitchy, whatever.

What's really frightening is how data like this is being taken seriously. Stock markets move based on Twitter.

Re:False assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44638989)

There are enough people using Twitter and capable of using Twitter if they wanted to that you can draw reasonable conclusions from that mass. Those conclusions can be applied to most of the rest of the population and be reasonably accurate. It's not like there would be an obvious discrepancy at JFK or LGA in the happiness level of twitter vs non twitter users. In my opinion, people always on social media or even worse nocializing (see urban dictionary for meaning) in a real social situation are not happy anyway.

Re:False assumption (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#44639143)

There are enough people using Twitter and capable of using Twitter if they wanted to that you can draw reasonable conclusions from that mass

No. All you can draw conclusions about is the people who use twitter.
Learn something about experimental design. A self selected group of narcissistic people do not define the population of NYC or any one else.
Its assertions like yours that perpetuate this nonsense that you can study some easy to get at something hard. Like looking for your dropped
keys under the street light, because its easier to see there.

Further, the fact that any 10 year old can master Twitter (as is indicated by the banality of most twitter posts) has nothing to do with anything. There isn't a shred of evidence that this applies to anyone else except Sad Twitter users, (and as a group they are self centered sad sacks who think someone actually cares about what they had for dinner.

Re:False assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639191)

Ironically, you have determined that all Twitter users are sad, narcissistic and pathetic. What study was that based on? BTW, I've never used twitter or even facebook so I'm not trying to defend myself.

Re:False assumption (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#44639215)

The difference is that is just my opinion, an I don't release a pretensions study and claim it applies to everyone with a mobile pbone.

Re:False assumption (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639321)

So the basis for you thinking this study and they results are complete bullshit is only based on your opinion that Twitter users are drastically different than non Twitter users. You don't have anything to back up your claim they are different, you just "know" they are different and those inherent differences they have in fact totally skews the results.

Thanks for clearing that up.

You seem to know a lot about this. Can you give me an example of an area in their results you think would be rated differently if they used non twitter users or maybe twitter and non twitter users? Should you exclude facebook users to? How about MySpace users, we all know they are/were total losers.

Re:False assumption (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#44639435)

Sorry you are so ignorant of experimental design, but it's no my job to complete your education.
There's so much wrong with your argument that I scarcely know where to begin, so I won't.

Re:False assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639719)

Ad Hominem... nice move.

It's not as complex as you are making it, you said Twitter users are different enough from the general population that the results are obviously skewed. It's that simple.

Its not like they asked 1000 Twitter users if they like Twitter. That WOULD be useless. Imagine if they asked 10000 state lottery players what their favorite color was. The lottery players are made up of a pretty good representation of the general population. The results would be very close to the results if they asked 10000 random people the same question.

Now how you arrived that the twitter people are different and how it skews the results is the actual argument but you are avoiding that.

Re:False assumption (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 8 months ago | (#44639835)

7/10. Took a while to figure out you were trolling, but -1 cause I figured it out eventually and -2 cause AC gave it away.

Re:False assumption (1)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#44645755)

By all the gods, WHY isn't ignorance of this depth painful?

There is an enormous percentage of the population who do not use Twitter, and big chunks of that group are pretty easy to define. Anyone who doesn't have a cell phone with Internet access. Anyone who doesn't have continual Internet access on their tablet/laptop. Anyone who values their privacy. Almost everyone over the age of 50. Anyone who is too busy working/taking care of children/playing to waste the time to maintain a feed. Anyone who tried it and found they didn't like it. Anyone who isn't so narcissistic as to think that people really give a crap about their random brain droppings. Anyone who actually has a life.

Your actual regular Twitter users seem pretty un-representative of the general population to me. I only know one person who tweets more than once a month.

Re:False assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44640367)

Dude, we all just anonymous retards here so it doesn't matter whether we are scientific or not. Including you. But IF we were scientifically thinking persons then the burden of proof would be on the person claiming that there is NO difference. See the difference? The group deviated from the scientific way of research so THEY have the burden of proof to show there is NO difference - nobody else.

Re:False assumption (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#44638995)

This assumes that everyone uses Twitter.

Not necessarily .. if they're doing something equivalent to a poll where they can make predictions they might be able to paint trends.

If they're just saying "wow, there's a really happy person here it must be a happy place", not so much.

As you say, it's Twitter, and it definitely isn't representative of everybody. That doesn't mean that people don't pay attention to it for reasons I've never quite understood.

Bias (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 8 months ago | (#44639643)

Not necessarily .. if they're doing something equivalent to a poll where they can make predictions

To be valid such a poll has to be a random sample of the population. In this case that is simply not true: they are selecting a sample containing only rich twits. Those without the time, inclination or money to buy a suitable device to use twitter are excluded.

Re:Bias (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 8 months ago | (#44640755)

Remember the infamous headline "Dewey Defeats Truman"? How could the Chicago Daily Tribune have gotten it so wrong? Well, one reason was their polls that showed Dewey with an insurmontable lead. Polls that were conducted via telephone, back in the days when not everybody had their own phone. Turns out that people who didn't have telephones (i.e., poor people) voted very heavily for Truman.

Re:False assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639807)

There is implication that Twitter users are representative of the general public. I would not accept that premise without proof.

Re:False assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44641671)

Hi.

All of those Twitter "users" as you like to call them, were me. I designed a bot to make fake tweets all around New York (faking the location data) knowing people would actually be stupid enough to make studies using the data. Thank you, thank you.

Re:False assumption (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44641123)

"twitchy"? PLUUESE! You mean "twink"? Uneducated masses should not express their opinions on important matters!

The third link (3, Insightful)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 8 months ago | (#44639141)

Does that guy really think he's tearing Fieri a new one by incessantly asking nothing but sarcastic questions for two pages of review? Seriously, learn some English writing and criticism techniques if you're going to be a critic for a living.

Re:The third link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639635)

Re:The third link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44652573)

Do you not think the OP recognises what a rhetorical question is?

Is it not clear that his point was the device was overused?

There are other tools in a critics box, are there not?

Why must one limit oneself to what quickly becomes a one trick pony?

Can you not see that by overusing rhetorical questions, you come across as a bit of a child who's just discovered the light switch and is now incessantly flicking it on and off?

Would you like to be thought of as a child, if your livelyhood depended on it?

Re:The third link (1)

slacker001 (951666) | about 8 months ago | (#44647781)

That article was actually very popular when it came out because it's entirely built of questions. If he had just slammed Fieri it wouldn't have gotten near as many views as it did, but because of the way it was written it appeared on sites that it never would have otherwise. It's marketing, not an English journal.

Ask the right question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44639169)

This doesn't answer 'where should I build a new homeless shelter'. But it might be useful deciding what parks need improvement, what 'sad' areas are next to high tourist areas that might need reworking, or maybe show the magnitude of positive opinion generated by community events over time.

POS research (1, Informative)

nicoleb_x (1571029) | about 8 months ago | (#44639349)

I really hope everyone stops reading and reporting arbitrary but easy statistics that don't prove Jack.

Obvious findings (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 8 months ago | (#44639441)

It is nice when science brings us facts that looked obvious to crowd wisdom: nature is good for our moods, work is not. (yes, I know some of us have interesting jobs, but we are minority).

Whoa whoa whoa whoa, wait a second. (0)

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) | about 8 months ago | (#44639833)

2 things,

1) I posted this yesterday afternoon [slashdot.org] , which I fully understand. I shouldn't have expected to be selected. No big deal.

But really?
2) I've tweeted about enjoying Guy Fieri's food, on two [twitter.com] occasions [twitter.com] . It's actually not the worst thing ever: Fuck Pete Wells.

Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44640277)

Shall we extend this just a little bit? Direct information to the police about negative tweets or any Internet traffic. This way we can stop the school shootings before the depression gets worse. We could command some type of SWAT team to the person's house, for example.

Same for the UK? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 8 months ago | (#44640865)

I'd like to colour code the UK in the same way using the "well-being" data found from this XLS file [ons.gov.uk] (look for "Average rating").

Is there any way I can go about this efficiently? The software would need to recognize the locations (Aberdeenshire, Hampshire, Surrey etc.), ask me what column and range for the colour coding I want to use, and colour a map of the UK automatically. Does anyone know if any site (maybe an app from Google?) could do this?

Here's another dataset [independent.co.uk] on UK nationwide happiness. It would be interesting to compare how close these two studies get.

Huh, who would have thought. . . (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 8 months ago | (#44641101)

that the happiest places are near green grass and trees, not concrete and blacktop.

I would never have guessed people would be happiest when they're around some form of nature rather than jammed next to each other, having to hear every word the other person is saying or having to endure their antics.

Shocking.

Why NY? (1)

wegnerr (2510302) | about 8 months ago | (#44641511)

Why would the "New England Complex Systems Institute" choose New York City? Doesn't New England have it's own sad (or angry) place to study?

discount the tourists (1)

vpness (921181) | about 8 months ago | (#44642455)

would be interesting if the research(ers) could remove the tourists. Maybe tourists are identified as folks who spent most of their time tweeting from a zip other than Manhattan (e.g. they tweet most of their time from Scranton, PA, so NYC looks pretty darn cool). Enough of us laypeople blathering on about twitter as a surrogate poling technique: Time for Nate Silver to ride in and call statistical BS on tweeting as relevant means of gauging sentiment. But maybe he's busy creating data for ESPN guys calling the over/under for the opening season NFL games.
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