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Tweets and Retweets

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Last week, William Webberley of Cardiff University, gave a fascinating talk to the Agents and Intelligent Systems Group of the Department of Informatics at King’s on his research looking at retweets on Twitter.   The audience comprised members of our Agents and Intelligent Systems Group and our Centre for Telecommunications Research.

Will  gave an overview of his PhD research from his initial work on retweet behaviours and propagation characteristics through to studies of the properties exhibited by Twitter’s social graph and the effects that the interconnection of users have on message dissemination.  He also outlined methods for identifying interesting content on Twitter and demonstrating its relative strengths and weaknesses, as validated by crowd-sourced assessments using Mechanical Turk.     Part of his work involved the development of a multi-agent computational model, to simulate retweeting behaviours.  The slides for his talk can be found here.

For me, a key question is this:   Interesting tweets typically get retweeted, but are all retweeted tweets interesting?   They may well be interesting to the connected group of people who retweet them, but are they interesting in general?  Indeed, is anything “interesting in general”?  And if the writers, readers, and retweeters of tweets are predominantly software agents, what does that say about interestingness?   Do androids dream of electric sheep?

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