Evolution of #manila823 and #manilahostage hashtags on Twitter

Evolution of %23manila823 and %23manilahostage hashtags on Twitter

Like a lot of people today here, I’ve been swept away with the tragedy in Manila involving Hong Kong tourists.

I understood that something was happening on the second time I saw people standing in front of televisions in a consumer electronics store, in the commercial district of Causeway Bay. But I only “got” the news when I went to read my Twitter feed (@cedricsam) and started following confusing reports of reports, each fighting for retweets, and thus, relevance.

Here above is just a simple graph showing the evolution of two hashtags, in number of tweets by two-minute intervals. I had a script prepared in advance, previously used on the reaction of the twittersphere to black rainstorm alerts in Hong Kong.

The story by Bloomberg indicates a “10-hour standoff”, but my data only shows a maximum of 500 tweets (a limitation of the Twitter API).

In the case of #manila823, a popular hashtag for Chinese tweeters, the maximum was attained, meaning that more tweets could potentially be found before 20:00 HKT. A Twitter user based out of Guangzhou, @Doriscafe, seemed to be leading the pack.

For #manilahostage, I retrieved about 300 tweets containing the hashtag, which went past a few times on my English-language Twitter feed.

(The peaks at about 20:45 local time occurred when the gunman was announced dead and when the last hostages were starting to be evacuated from the bus.)

If Twitter data was more searchable in the past (or if we are more systematic in sampling Twitter searches on important events), we could possibly do more in visualising what’s buzzing at any given moment.

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