I am, in all fairness, opposed to Twitter. The idea of billions of mundane minutiae facts swarming the internet fills me with a deep despair about the future of society. That said, it does provide a massive resource of interesting data structures for visualisation.
With the world cup on the horizon, the Guardian extended my contract to take on this twitter mashup. Designs were presented showing a central hub around which the most popular twitter tags would appear as circles. Initially I considered rolling my own contact resolver to try and get a bit of extra speed, but figured it’s only a maximum of 30 circles at any time, Box2D would be the weapon of choice.
During the earlier election work, Alastair Dant had developed a nifty set of data classes for handling and re-sampling large amounts of data. It made perfect sense to continue using these so I plumbed those in to the custom twitter back end that the Guardian was providing.
The FA cup final came and went, and using the data collated from that game, we learnt just how spiky and intermittent twitter traffic could be. From this data I spent some days tweaking and playing with the physics system, writing various gravity wells and speed limiters to keep the tweets under control whilst retaining the speed and excitement of the games. I also gave the eventual editors of the interactive a few controls to tweak each game to display differently depending on the ebb and flow of twitter.
The event data is provided by a company called ESA, and although the data is xml, you wouldn’t want to call it structured. Extending the Guardians data feed library, I marshalled the team data and match events into a suitable model, and filled the missing additional information into a Google Doc which would be served to the flash via the Guardians doc proxy.
All that was left to do now was tie up all the view components, push in a couple of bits of eye candy for the transitions, and wire up swfAddress so each match could link directly to it’s replay.
And Presto! – millions of hits and thousands of positive tweets. Ok, it was a bit harder than that, but I’ve written enough about it already.
The interactive got quite a bit of coverage around the internet, it’s easier if you just follow the links…
- Twitter Trackbacks – http://topsy.com/tb/www.guardian.co.uk/football/world-cup-match-replay
- Twitter Media – http://media.twitter.com/672/world-cup-buzz-tweet
- Crunch Gear – http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/06/11/amazing-twitter-world-cup-mash-up-needs-to-be-seen-right-now/
- datavisualization.ch - http://datavisualization.ch/showcases/worldcup-roundup
- Information Aesthetics – http://infosthetics.com/archives/2010/06/replaying_the_twitter_messages_during_a_world_cup_2010_match.html
And not to forget the Guardians own piece about how we made it