Of particular interest to us, however, was the use of the hash tag #lexingtonpolicescanner within Twitter to record the ongoing events those nights. We missed the data on first riot but download the Tweets from the second one (about 11,000 over the course of four hours during the evening of April 2nd and early morning of April 3rd).
We were curious about what the data within the tweets could tell us so we first took a look at what words should up in the 140 characters of all the tweets. We removed the hash tag (#lexingtonpolicescanner) as well as "RT" which stands for retweet and made a wordle cloud out of it. A fairly unsophisticated analysis but it brings up some intriguing results of what was capturing the interest of the portion of the Twitterverse interested in Lexington that night.
Of course it also showed some obvious other words to filter such as Lexington, Kentucky and Twitter. When these common terms were removed, the Wordle cloud zooms more into focus with clear references to "fire" and "couch" and "car" which the combination provide some of the big events of the evening. Why people celebrate by burning furniture remains one of the mysteries of the universe. Other interesting terms include "fireworks", "nude", "street", "fans", "shooting" and "entertainment". We'll leave the rest for you to interpret.
More intriguing (and a big part of this blog) is the geography of these tweets. Using user specified location (available for about 50 percent of all user profiles) we map the location of tweets referencing #lexingtonpolicescanner. See the map below or try out the interactive version (see more information about this at the end).
Distribution of all Tweets with #lexingtonpolicescanner from April 2 to 4, 2012
Interestingly the map showed a relatively similar pattern of interest in Kentucky basketball as did our analysis of NCAA basketball nations from two years ago. The map below shows points in the U.S. where Google Map searches produced the most hits for an array of basketball teams including Kentucky (see the original post for the methodology). While not a perfect match, the comparison of these two user-generated representations of Kentucky Basketball show a concentration centered within the Commonwealth with a dispersion that dissipates according to a fairly standard distance decay function. Very few points further than a few hundred miles beyond Kentucky's borders show up.
NCAA Basketball Nations
Note, this is a experimental/working version so it is still rather rough around the edges. It makes use of the versatile D3 visualization library. Since it incorporates all kind of HTML5 goodies, it works best in Chrome or Safari.