Social media sure is powerful. It allows people to share thoughts in real time, and has become a tool to amplify small voices that the world has to hear. But the freedom and potency that it offers carry great risks, and this we have to practice with moderation. In fact, during the outbreak of swine flu in 2009, Twitter exacerbated the anxiety beyond the disease’s actual reach.
“Unlike basic Internet search … Twitter seems to have introduced too much noise into the process: As opposed to search requests, which are generally motivated only by a desire to learn more about a given subject, too many Twitter conversations about swine flu seem to be motivated by desires to fit in, do what one’s friends do or simply gain more popularity,” explained one NPR article.
The Internet floodgates have opened due to the influx of tweets–but analyzing them has caused more distraction than actual help. In fact, the uproar about the AH1N1 virus was at its highest when the number of cases were at its lowest, says the computation epidemiology research group at the University of Iowa.
Still, the researchers had hoped that Twitter could not only track the reaction to the epidemic, but the disease itself through contextual information in tweets, apart from search terms. Twitter is potentially an innovative scientific tool for epidemiologists.
In order to use Twitter for real-time disease tracking, they devised a program that will analyze how the Twitter stream fluctuated coinciding with the cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control. There were no human elements during the determination because everything’s done in the cloud, and results show that it fluctuated in relation to actual cases, and was closely related to some facets of the disease such as doctor visits and fever temperature.
The same terms were used in other geographical locations and it turned out that they can skirt the Twitter clamor for actual pointers to the virus. This process is speedier by 2 weeks than the traditional flu tracking means which is going to be a vital advantage in the event of outbreaks.
The research team concluded that while the assessment is promising in measuring disease progress and other auxiliary issues, they pointed out that Twitter have limitations. There are people who don’t use Twitter, and there are places where social media is widely utilized. Twitter’s goings-on is not consistent throughout the week, and it is not by any means a replacement to the traditional means of tracking disease activity.
Google dreams in music technicolor of cloud-based harmonies
On the other hand, Google’s music dream didn’t plummet along with its music store/service last spring. It went on and launched its own cloud-based music locker, and Android boss Andy Rubin today said that they are close to unleashing a music service with help from the 4 music labels. Rubin swore that Google’s upcoming music store “will have a little twist – it will have a little Google in it. It won’t just be selling 99-cent tracks.” However, according to recent reports, they’ve only locked in EMI. Three more to go.
Concerning its previous flop, Rubin justified that “Google is in the very, very early phases of adding consumer products to our portfolio,” he said. “The media industry didn’t see us as that. They saw us a search company.”