Programmer Adam Green can already see the impact of Twitter on the 2012 U.S. presidential primaries and general election. “Having an active base on Twitter may not be a requirement for success,” Green said, “But it will be a huge advantage to anyone who does.” Using the Twitter API, Green collaborated with his son, Zachary, to create a site to visualize tweets, mentions and retweets of potential candidates.
2012twit collects tweets by President Obama and 32 potential Republican contenders. Additionally, the site merges the politicians’ tweets with those that mention any candidate for a giant stream of political chatter. Finally, the Greens display trending terms within the combined streams to show popular topics.
A visually fun and useful feature is the rotating ranking of candidates at the top of the page. It shows the most popular potential Republican candidates by number of followers, recent mentions and recent retweets. “Potential candidates are using Twitter as a giant focus group for testing future campaign messages and getting immediate feedback,” Green said, pointing to some supporters using the site as a barometer.
Zachary Green is responsible for the front end of 2012twit, including the ranking visuals, built in jQuery. His father, who once managed the team that rebuilt and scaled SlashDot, worked with the Twitter API on the back-end. The site also has a highly functional mobile version for browsing most of the features.
The Greens are seeing trends exposed within their site that they say aren’t being covered anywhere else. For example, Adam Green points out that Herman Cain has around 20,000 followers (small-time amongst the candidates), but often ranks high in mentions and retweets.
Green also noticed that Sarah Palin has a high ratio of mentions to retweets. “People love to talk at her and about her, but don’t seem that interested in what she is actually saying,” Green said.
Just as the campaign won’t really get started for a couple months, there’s a lot more planned for 2012twit. Once candidates officially announce, the Greens will remove non-candidates from the site. “We will publish separate profile pages for each candidate that list their own tweets and @mentions, and a wide range of stats for their ranking on Twitter,” Green said. There are also mobile apps and, potentially, a 2012twit API featuring the data behind the Greens’ analysis. As the race heats up, Americans will definitely want to keep their eyes on this site.