Last week, a new study was published tracking word frequencies on the blogosphere, and researchers found that certain words can have earthquake-like effects. The researchers, from the Medical University of Vienna, examined 168 political blogs in the United States and monitored spikes in word frequency. They discovered that some events can trigger influential "reverberations."
MIT's Technology Review reports:
In 2007, when the search engine Technorati stopped counting, over 100 million blogs had appeared on the web. In a little over ten years, blogs have changed the nature of publishing.
So it's no surprise that blogs have become the focus of intense study by scientists hoping to gain some insight into the nature of the creatures that produce them. (A blog, of course, is a web page with entries listed in reverse chronological order, maintained by one or more writers.)
Today, Peter Klimek at the Medical University of Vienna and a couple of buddies say there is a remarkable analogy between the way topics erupt into the blogosphere and how earthquakes rupture the planet.
These guys studied over 160 political blogs published in the US between 1 July 2008 and 3 May 2010. Each day, they counted the number of occurrences of every possible letter triplet ie aaa, aab, aac...zzz. (There are some 26^3=17576 triplets but more than half of these never occur.)
They then looked for the day on which each triplet was most common and listed the words in which they occurred. They then searched their database for occurrences of these words for the 30 days before and after the peak.
Klimek and co say this clearly shows two types of event. The first is a sudden spike in word frequency triggered by a news event such as the nomination of Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate. Because these events are triggered from outside the blogosphere, Klimek and co call them exogenous.
The second was gradual spike in which the discussion within the blogosphere reaches a crescendo and then dies away again. The use of the word inauguration before and after the inauguration of President Obama is an example, which Klimek and co call endogenous because they arise within the blogosphere.
The main finding is that the distribution of event sizes and of fore-and after shocks is remarkably similar to those found by seismologists. "The intensity of fore- and aftershocks follows Omori's law, the distribution of event-sizes is of Gutenberg-Richter type," say Klimek and co.