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where we capture the twitter conversation around the phone hacking scandal

We threw together a quick page for Leaf yesterday to track the Twitter conversation around the phone hacking scandal in real-time. We are still at it as I write, and the Prime Minister is defending his job in Parliament. The video below captures at 8x speed some of the highlights of Rebekah Brooks‘s appearance in front of the Select Committee, as we were tracking around 300 individual terms (with related synonyms) on an endlessly increasing set of hashtags.

To me, the truly fascinating aspect is how the Twitter conversation runs parallel to the TV proceedings and yet, quite often, it divagates, it stalls behind, it runs ahead—in a truly human fashion that no vox pop can ever capture (I should know, I did quite a few back in the days). For example, while Rupert and James Murdoch appeared in front of the committee yesterday and could’ve easily been the main interest, the public was equally busy talking about Rebekah, perhaps in anticipation.

Leaf is a broadcast companion that does not intend to replace the news. Its value is in quickly churning millions of tweets and capturing what really goes through people’s minds, worldwide, as high impact events unfold. Serious issues, and particularly catchy statements like John Yates‘s “I was a postbox”, but just as easily, the pie attack, Rupert Murdoch being “an old/ senile man”, James Murdoch‘s “green tie”, “the lady in pink” (Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch’s wife), Rebekah’s “red hair” and whether the movie of this whole affair should be more of a James Bond or a Harry Potter.

For now, the only movie we have is the capture of selected moments from yesterday’s hearing. We hope to bring more later, and meanwhile you can visualize the real-time data analysis around the phone hacking scandal on our live page.

Later update: We have recorded a second capture, meanwhile, of the conversation earlier today, around the Prime Minister’s Questions—and not only: as always, Twitter folk found their way to carry on conversations about the other players, or hijack the hashtags to promote worthy causes like stopping the famine in Africa. You might spot more topics of interest in the video below, where we sped up the original data visualization to compress a couple of hours of discussion into a few minutes of moving images.

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