Using Twitter for macro-level analysis has been discussed on the blog before:
(i) Sample Selection, Twitter's Public Timeline, TweetScan and Quotably
(ii) Twilert (re-launched this month), Summize Labs, Twitter's acquisition of Summize
(iii) Life Analytics: Sentiment on the United States Economy
(iv) The Google-Index of Social Media, and the apparent superiority of Bing for deciphering real-time breaking trends
So it was interesting to read a recent article in the Irish Times about two students who used Twitter to predict that Joe McElderry would win the recent X-Factor competition... before the results were announced. "Ben McRedmond (17) and Patrick O’Doherty (16), two fifth years from Gonzaga College, Dublin demonstrated the power of their social networking analysis system, We Predict, at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. It was developed over more than five months and is based on storing and studying a growing database of 24.5 million tweets which hold clues about what people are thinking."
A quick search led me to the WePredict website. The information there states that: "WePredict is a showcase of several technologies we have built: a data mining application, capable of mining data from multiple social networks; and a complex suite of analysis tools for analyzing this data...WePredict's large database of over 22 million status updates growing at 20 a second makes it the largest user survey ever done... using the collective intelligence of the whole internet, a mere 1.5 billion people, we can predict the outcomes of elections, talent shows or who will be the christmas #1 and analyze the public reaction to new legislation or medical epidemics."
An exciting endeavour such as this one reminds me of Hal Varian's famous quote that "the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians." A two-minute YouTube clip of Google's Chief Economist is shown below, discussing this very issue.