Processing Tweets

There’s a great open source tool available for data visualization that has been around for years called Processing (available at  It’s dead-simple to set-up and start working and with some fairly basic programming skills in java or javascript, the results can be immediate and fairly gratifying.

I have an application that I built last year to import and normalize RSS feeds from the like of twitter and, but I had some trouble rolling my own data visualization framework to render the data efficiently.  Enter processing… within a day, I had imported my data and was able to parse, display and animate it with some really simple programming.  Once the basics were in place, I added some code to compare date-times, and some rudimentary logic to highlight tweets about “cat”s and “superman” (fairly common tweeting subject matter for me, and voilà!  My first animated data visualization!My Tweets from 2008 to the Present

Here we see the tweets I’ve made from my personal twitter account from 2008 to the present, with the tweets spaced apart in proportion to the time that elapsed between them.  Tweets about cats are in orange, and the tweets about Superman are in red.  As you can clearly see – I tweet a lot more about cats than Superman.  And the display is so hideous as to be completely unpresentable.  However, the main point for me is that with a great tool and some fairly basic programming, we can get a visualization that is far easier to comprehend and is far more descriptive than a mere list of 900 tweets.

For bonus fun-good-times, Processing also outputs to MOV so that you can see the rendering in real-time!  Like I’ve said before, I’m going to love working with this tool!

Timeline of Tweets (.mov)


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