October 05, 2011, 12:52 PM — Fans of the National Football League have plenty to be excited about so far this year, with surprisingly strong starts by teams such as the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions. But just how excited are fans of these and other NFL teams?
New software from Houston's Rice University (their hometown team -- the Texans -- are off to a 3-1 start!) and Motorola Mobility Applied Research Center can figure that all out using the millions of Tweets sent by fans during games.
The SportSense software essentially uses Twitter subscribers as human sensors, squeezing their game day Tweets through an algorithm that generates charts and graphs that give a snapshot of which games are generating the most excitement and an overview of the peaks and valleys of excitement during any particular game.
The researchers who came up with the cloud-based SportSense say the program can be used by fans to make a quick determination as to which games are the most exciting at any one time, and could give advertisers clues about when and where to hawk their wares. SportSense works during games but can also be used to review excitement levels during past contests.
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"We chose football because touchdowns, interceptions and other events in the game cause a lot of excitement and lead a lot of people to tweet," said SportSense co-creator Lin Zhong, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and of computer science at Rice, in a statement. "We found that a careful examination of the tweets could tell us what was happening in the game. The program can usually tell within 20 seconds when a big play like a touchdown occurs. Often, we see that even before it appears on the scrolling banners on ESPN and other sites."
This past weekend, the most exciting game according to SportSense took place between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, based on its 28-Tweets-per-second results - nine times the activity of the least-Tweeted games between Tennessee and Cleveland, and Miami and San Diego.