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Visualizing How to Save £100 Billion, LIVE

For the last few weeks, a few of us here have been locked away in the highest of the NM Towers, working away frantically scoping out, designing, prototyping and building 3 real-time visualizations to accompany Channel 4′s pre-budget Dispatches special, How to Save £100 Billion LIVE, which was aired on Monday evening. It’s been a privilege to work on, a highlight of my career even, but no small task by any means!

Just over 3 week’s ago, we were tasked with producing 3 visual representations of the conversation around the show, as it unraveled, in real-time, on Twitter, the goal being to give the audience at home a voice in the proceedings, and access to the collective thoughts and opinions of others watching, making it easy to follow the live TV show and online conversations, simultaneously.

We immediately set about defining how we might clearly and accurately represent the conversation visually, settling on slicing and dicing it from a few key angles: who’s talking, what are they saying, how much are they saying, and where are they saying it, complemented by some bite-sized, easily-digestible statistics, such as number of tweets, tweets per minutes, number of ‘tweeters’ and most authoritative tweeter (hat tip: the awesome Infochimps API).

Teaming up with local data visualization whizz kid, Mr. Ollie Glass, we got to work right away, first prototyping 2 proof of concepts using the Processing environment, and then iteratively testing and re-working until we were (mostly) satisfied. A few last minute deployment and integration issues kept us all on our toes (also, I’m not sure I helped massively by demanding a last minute complete rewrite of 2 out of the 3 visualizations), but after 3 week’s of grueling days and impossibly long nights, I’m incredibly happy with the results (*yay*), both from a technical, and a functional ‘social TV experiment’ perspective! Go team! :)

I will happily follow-up with a technical ‘deep dive’ if anyone shows even the slightest amount of interest (FYI: it involves helicopters, chimpanzees, lots of Sellotape and a jazz guitarist) but for now here’s a quick run-down of the data (visualized in a very neat list):

  • Total tweets: 2,020
  • Total tweeters: 1,017
  • Top tweeter: Sunday Telegraph Business Editor, @ahmedk123
  • Conversation velocity: a whopping 23TPM (Tweets Per Minute)
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3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anna Carlson, Steve Winton. Steve Winton said: Visualizing How to Save £100 Billion, LIVE! [...]

  2. [...] This is the presentation I and Andy Pipes from Channel 4 (now BBC) delivered at the Social Media Marketing conference on the 17th June 2010.  In the initial stage of this project, outlined in this presentation, we seeded the Chop or Not game created by 4iP online, ahead of the budget announcement, trying to build plays of the game.  On the 21st June the game got it’s outing on TV, being featured on the Dispatches special ‘How to save £100 billion live’.  This is where it got interesting.  With our applied technology team at NixonMcInnes, we built some apps that analysed the twitter conversation in real time around the show while it was on.  For more information on this and some pretty pictures of the development of this app see my colleague Steve’s blog post here. [...]

  3. [...] The first outing (or should I say flight?) of Datacopter was for the Channel 4 project detailed in my last post, a live budget debate with an online game integration on Dispatches, How to save £100billion Live.  See Steve’s blog post about building it here. [...]