Savvy users of social networks are probably well-versed in the ideas that corporate Twitter accounts are often “staffed” by several individuals (often identified by the ^AB convention at the end of a tweet, where AB are the initials of the person wearing the that account hat (^)); they may also know that social media accounts for smaller companies may actually be operated by a PR company or “social media guru” who churns out tweets their behalf via Twitter accounts operated in the company’s name and in support of it’s online marketing activity.
Rooting around the Twitter API looking for something else, I spotted a GET users/contributees API cal, along with a complementary GET users/contributors call that return “an array of users (i.e. Twitter accounts) that the specified user can contribute to”, and the accounts that can contribute to a particular Twitter account respectively.
I didn’t know this functionality existed, so I put out a fishing tweet to see if anyone knew of any accounts running this feature other than the twitterapi account used by way of example in the API documentation. A response from Martin Hawksey (on whom I’m increasingly reliant for helping me keep up and get my head the daily novelties that the web throws up!), suggested it was a feature that has been quietly rolling out to premium users: Twitter Starts Rolling Out Contributors Feature, Salesforce Activated. Via his reading of that post (I think), Martin suggested that a Bing(;-) search for site:twitter.com “via web by” would turn up a few likely candidates, and so it did…
So why’s this interesting? Because given the ID of an account that a company users for corporate tweets, or the ID of a user who also contributes to a corporate account via their own account, we might be able to map out something of the corporate comms network for an organisation operating multiple accounts (maybe a company, but maybe also a government department or local council ,or lobbiest group), or the client list of “social media guru” operating various accounts for different SMEs.
Anyway, here’s quick script for exploring the TWitter contributors/contributees API. The output is a graphml file we can visualise in Gephi.
And here are a couple of views over what it comes up with. Firstly, a map bootstrapped from the @twitterapi account:
And here’s one I built out from HuffingtonPost:
So what do we learn from this? Firstly it’s yet another example of how networks get everywhere. Secondly, it raises the question (for me) of whether there are any cribs in other multi-contributor social network apps (maybe in tweet metadata) that allow us to identify originating authors/users and hence find a way into mapping their contribution networks.
As well as building out from an account name to which users contribute, we can bootstrap a map from a user who is known to contribute to one or more accounts (code not included in Github gist atm).
So for example, here’s a map built out from user @VeeVee:
I guess one of the next questions from a tool building point of view is: is there a more reliable way of getting cribs into possible contributor/contributee networks? Another is: are any other multi-contributor services (on Twitter or other networks, such as Google+) similarly mappable?
PS Just noticed this: Google to drop Google Social API. I also read on a Google blog that the Needlebase screenscraping tool Google acquired as part of the ITA acquisition will be shut down later this year…