Tweet, Twitter, Treatment?

Is Twitter more than just another annoying way to irritate people on your profile?  Or can it actually be achieving something productive and useful?  Apparently, according to American researchers, the latter.  In a recent Daily Mail article it was reported that Tweets are now being used to “monitor what illnesses people are suffering from, which medicines they are taking and whether they are treating themselves correctly – or at all.”

Mark Dredze and Michael Paul, computers scientists from John Hopkins University, set about analyzing Tweets.  They looked at a staggering 1.5m of them that were posted between May 2009 and October 2010 on health subjects.  According to Dredze, the main aim of the project was to illicit whether or not these posts could be a helpful public health information source.  They found that they were.  “In some cases,” reported Dredze, “we probably learned some things that even the tweeters’ doctors were not aware of, like which over-the-counter medicines the posters were using to treat their symptoms at home.”

The researchers developed a system that categorized the health-related tweets into subjects such as flu, insomnia, cancer, allergies, etc.  Dredze believes theirs was the first Tweet study to “look at as many health issues as we did.”

The results of Dredze and Paul’s findings will be put together for the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence).


Has Twitter Over-Tweeted?

Holly Willoughby to Birth Online

Twitter is a great social media tool but is it possible that it can go too far? Possibly. Since childbirth is meant to be a private, or at least an intimate experience, it does seem a bit strange that Holly Willoughby will be using the social network to broadcast her birthing experience, due to be viewed by hundreds of thousands of eager onlookers. But it’s not as extreme as it first looks. She’s not actually going to be screening her birth online. It’s just going to be updates posted by her co-presenter on the This Morning show, Philip Schoefield.
Miss Willoughby went into labor two days ago and Schoefield has done his best to keep fans “fully up to speed” on his own Twitter page. Perhaps a little scary is the fact that Willoughby went into hospital just two days ago, which was a month before her due date. She was having contractions last night but was reported to not be in full labor.

The Twitter activity might not be as bad as was initially thought. It seems that it is just her co-presenter Schoefield who is reporting the news. Apparently he has ensured that “barely a contraction goes unreported” to his 675,000 followers. One of his posts late last night read the following: “For everyone asking. News from @hollywills is that there’s no news really. Everyone fine, but very tired, still no new baby though.”

Right now it just looks like it’s all pretty harmless fun and games and Miss Willoughby has given her consent to it all. After all, it was her who announced the pregnancy back in November on Twitter. At least the actual birth won’t be broadcast live on Twitter.

Well, it certainly is one way of getting more Twitter followers for those aiming for big numbers.

Missing Bronx Zoo Cobra Explores NYC

A deadly, twenty-inch long female Egyptian cobra escaped from its exhibit at the Bronx Zoo earlier this week, forcing the zoo to close the Reptile House. Officials insist that the snake is most likely still in the building, as they prefer dark, closed spaces and are uncomfortable if they are exposed. Staffers conduct daily searches in the area.

The Snake’s Game

Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said the snake most likely found a secure hiding spot, like among the pipes of the building. He explained that when it feels safe enough, it will move about, looking for food.

“Right now, it’s the snake’s game,” Breheny said. “At this point, it’s just like fishing; you put the hook in the water and wait. Our best strategy is patience, allowing her time to come out of hiding.” The process, he said, can take anywhere from days to weeks.

Well, She’s Tweeting

Meanwhile, a suspicious Twitter account entitled “BronxZooCobra,” has come into the equation, attracting more then 100,000 followers in two days. The Snake-on-the-Town account features humorous messages from the cobra as it explores New York City.

Some of the more recent Tweets include “City may not sleep, but I’m ready to. Ooh a chimney! I bet you bragged to your friends about having a working fireplace in NYC. Hi roomie.” and “Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!”