Social Media Data Mining Across Twitter ScreenName Changes

Well, I guess I should have seen that coming. For research I’m doing into the interaction among online developer communities, I’ve been building a data set of friends and followers of about 40 twitter accounts associated with community sponsors. I’m building my research tools on top of open source scripts published with Mining the Social Web by Matthew Russel.

I’m building the archive in a Redis open source key-value store instead of a more complex MSQL rdms, and I’m capturing and storing the values against keys based on the Twitter screen name. I love the readable nature of the Redis API as opposed to SQL calls, and the set functions in Redis are perfect for the research.

All was well until….

… yesterday when a branding change at Nokia changed their twitter screen name from @forumnokia to @nokiadeveloper. Nokia editor and social media guru Jason Black handled the transition perfectly, coordinating the branding change on their developer site with a change in screen name in their twitter account to preserve the conversations and the nearly 18,000 followers they have built on Twitter. He even used a second account to catch people who have bookmarks associated with the old @forumnokia handle and direct them to the new location.

So the transition worked relatively smoothly for Nokia, but I’ve got some work to do on my tooling and in my data set. Working with screen names makes for wonderfully readable code and data stores, but I need to change my lookup keys and API calls to use the stable userID field that would have handled this transition without a hiccup.

At one time Twitter did not allow users to change screen names, so I suspect the code from which I started is not the only code out there that needs updating.