Hi I’m Gilad

I love data, analysis and visualization. Chief data scientist at betaworks.

Recent Media Coverage

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been honored to have my work has covered in a number of awesome publications.

Viral Information Flows / MIT Technology Review

Mike Orcutt of MIT’s Technology Review published a fantastic post, Information’s Social Highways, available in this month’s magazine as well as on their website. Mike got in touch with me over the summer. He wanted to highlight various interesting aspects of information dissemination within social networks, including their visual representations. We threw around a number of ideas and agreed that it’d be fantastic to identify a number of interesting information flows that emerged from Twitter, visualize, and highlight similarities and differences in the way their networks had formed.

A quote from the article:

There is no recipe for virality, says Gilad Lotan, head of R&D for a startup called SocialFlow, which aims to help clients from the Economist to Pepsi more effectively capture attention on Twitter. But the deluges of data that viral tweets generate hold potentially valuable insights into how and why certain things spread beyond their author’s network of regular contacts.

The article compared two very different information flows. The first, providing hot information about the Osama Bin Laden operation, was incredibly fast. Within a few minutes, there were over one thousand users reposting the message, along with prominent journalist accounts. In comparison, the second flow is one initiated by my close friend Deb Chachra. In reaction to the London authorities threatening to shut down Twitter during the riots this summer, she posted the following tweet:

Urban rioting existed before SMS/social media. You know what didn’t? Large-scale community cleanups, spontaneously organized within hours.

Her post went viral, but in a very different manner. Over a period of two and a half days, Deb’s tweet saw a sustained growth in the number of folks reposting it. Every few hours, the post would get a boost from someone with a large audience who reposted it, continuing on this way. While in the previous example, the path to an important curator (Brian Stelter) took one minute and not more than one hop, in Deb’s case, it was several hours and 11 hops before the message reached Graham Linehan (@Gilnner) who has a large audience with which the message resonated.

Mike wraps up the article, making the case for what we do at SocialFlow:

Being heard isn’t always easy in an age when anyone can become a broadcaster. But analyzing and visualizing such data helps SocialFlow guide customers about how, when, and what they should tweet to have the best chance of disseminating their messages widely.

News as a Process: how journalism works in the age of Twitter / GigaOm

Mathew Ingram published a piece called ‘News as a Process: how journalism works in the age of Twitter‘, on GigaOm covering our IJOC study – “The Revolutions Were Tweeted: information flows during the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions“. Matthew highlights one of our key findings on homophily within Twitter’s media ecosystem: journalists tend to retweet other journalists, bloggers tend to retweet other bloggers, and so on). Finally, the article links to the visualization I posted on Global Voices, highlighting GV authors who were central figures in disseminating news about the turn of events during the height of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

Network of news dissemination during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions (green nodes are Global Voices authors)

Network of news dissemination during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions (green nodes are Global Voices authors)

Quote from the article:

As we look at the way news and information flows in this new world of social networks, and what Andy Carvin has called “random acts of journalism” by those who may not even see themselves as journalists, it’s easy to get distracted by how chaotic the process seems, and how difficult it is to separate the signal from the noise. But more information is better — even if it requires new skills on the part of journalists when it comes to filtering that information — and journalism, as Jay Rosen has pointed out, tends to get better when more people do it.


Lastly, the Osama Bin Laden Twitter visualization that I worked on earlier in May 2011 was highlighted as one of Visualizing.org’s visualizations of the year. wo00t! For those of you not familiar with Visualizing.org, it is a fantastic community of creative folks with the goal of making data visualization more accessible to the general public. The site hosts hundreds of datasets, and encourages users to create visualizations through challenges which run on the website.

I’m extremely excited and humbled by the range of awesome coverage!

Now – back to work :)

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