I recently got my hands on more than 1.3 million tweets, all mentioning bitcoin or creator Satoshi Nakamoto, spanning the entire month of February 2014. My goal was to get a sense of who’s actually interested in bitcoin (enough to tweet about it, at least) and to see how activity on Twitter tracked with big news stories.
Here’s what I found. Click on any image for a larger version.
(Disclaimer: I’m neither a statistician nor a programmer, so I used relatively simple tools for analysis and worked with companies on other aspects. Gnip, which is now part of Twitter, supplied the data. I used Chartio’s cloud-based analytics service for much of the quantitative analysis and some of the visualizations. I used Google Fusion Tables for the Marc Andreessen graphs, Tableau for the analysis of news content and AlchemyAPI analyzed the Mt. Gox tweets for sentiment.)
Who’s tweeting about Bitcoin
All told, 333,144 unique accounts posted messages related to bitcoin. But not all accounts are created equal. Some are clearly spam accounts or other types of bots — thousands had posted between zero and one tweets — while others seemingly constantly churn out the latest Bitcoin rates and new items. Here are the top 10 most-active accounts for February.
|Username||Number of tweets|
Here are the 10 usernames that received the most @ mentions. Not surprisingly, bitcoin news specialist Coindesk takes the cake. Most of these numbers are actually higher (some much higher) because tweets often reference multiple accounts but the data format made it difficult to include those tweets in the count.
|Username||Number of mentions|
Some were one-hit wonders with massively retweeted posts, such as talk show host Conan O’Brien.
Wow. Strippers get angry if you make it rain Bitcoins.—
Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) February 17, 2014
And someone called Bacon Bangkok.
I filtered out one account that’s still active but generated in about an hour more than 4,400 spammy retweets of a post, now removed, about opening a free bitcoin wallet. (That message accounts for the spike in tweets on the evening of Feb. 8, which is shown below.)
Marc Andreessen gets a lot of bang for his buck
I thought it was also worth looking at the most-active verified accounts to get a sense of which (presumably) respected individuals and publications are tweeting the most about bitcoin. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) topped the list in February.
|Username||Number of tweets|
It shouldn’t be surprising that Andreessen gets a lot of mentions — more than 3,600 (including those including other users) — which is impressive compared with his mere 145 tweets. Here’s an interactive graph (and here’s a link to it) showing the vast network he’s created. Small yellow nodes represent tweets mentioning Andreessen and someone else, and blue nodes are the accounts doing the tweeting. Andreessen is the large yellow node, which connects with who has mentioned mentioned him alone and who he has mentioned.
As you can see, though, the network of users to whom Andreessen actually replies or tweets directly is significantly smaller.
Where is bitcoin (possibly) popular
Here are the top Twitter time zones for tweets, which should be taken with a grain of salt, of course, given the number of spam accounts and accounts with either no time zone listed or false time zones. Also, these numbers are for aggregate tweets, not the number of unique accounts tweeting from each time zone. For example, the more than 15,000 tweets from AllThingsBTC account for about 20 percent of tweets from the London time zone.
Breaking it down by users’ specified locations, things look a little different. You’ll notice the myriad ways of saying New York City, for example, and Cryptogeeks representing #Bitcoin #Litecoin #Altcoins.
If you wonder what this looks like visually, here’s a relatively small sample of user locations mapped using Google Fusion Tables. It’s not entirely accurate — Fusion Tables appears to try to place everything even if it’s not a real location — but it gives a sense of how global Bitcoin is.
The Mt. Gox meltdown
While the above charts are high-level info about who’s tweeting, any analysis of bitcoin in February isn’t complete without analyzing the demise of popular — and original — bitcoin exchange service Mt. Gox.
Its death throes are represented in these timelines. The bump on Feb. 7 corresponding to Mt. Gox’s official announcement that it was temporarily suspending bitcoin withdrawals. Feb. 10 is the date Mt. Gox extended its suspension on withdrawals and sent the price of Bitcoin plummeting. The evening of Feb. 24 is when news broke that Mt. Gox had “lost” about 750,00 bitcoins worth about $375 million at the time, and tweets skyrocketed the next morning. Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 28.
Here’s how it looks by the hour. Notice the aforementioned spam spike on Feb. 8.
Not surprisingly, while the media really began picking up on the Mt. Gox meltdown after its late-night announcement on Feb. 6, chatter about withdrawal problems and the imminent demise of Mt. Gox had been growing on Twitter. The roughly $100 decrease in bitcoin value on Mt. Gox in one day on Feb. 5 didn’t help the cause.
On Feb. 4, Swedish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge reported that Mt. Gox had already racked up more than $38 million in unfulfilled withdrawals (i.e., Bitcoins left users’ accounts but never made it to the users).
Overall, sentiment about Mt. Gox seemed to follow the news pretty closely. In the chart below, the blue line represents negative tweets, the yellow line represents positive tweets and the purple line represents all tweets that day about bitcoin. On Feb. 25, negative tweets mentioning Mt. Gox represented more than a quarter of all tweets about bitcoin.
Bring in the journalists
When journalists finally do get wind of a story, their articles tend to spread pretty well. Overall, there were more than 247,000 “unique” URLs shared in February, and they were shared more than 1.02 million times. I analyzed the top 10,705 URLs, which ended up being anything shared at least 12 times. Of those, 1,328 (well less than 1 percent of the total unique URLs) came from — in some way, shape or form — 25 technology and general-purpose news sites that I chose to examine. They were shared 121,931 times, which accounts for about 12 percent of all sharing activity for February.
(A note about URLs, though: It’s difficult to put an exact number on unique URLs because so many are syndicated or shared via RSS, Google or other social sites that alter the URL in some way. I shortened the cells in Excel to 100 characters, which seemed like a good way to catch cells with multiple links and still cut off a good number of single-URL cells before the social tagging kicks in.)
Long story, short: Total shares is a more-accurate measure than unique URLs for assessing the popularity of a publication. Running this same analysis with the top 44,810 URLs, for example, results in a lot more URLs for each publication but minimally higher total shares.
Now watch what happens when we include Coindesk, a news site focused on crypto-currencies. Check out the interactive version of this chart here.
Still, though, news sites are no match for spam messages and links to Bitcoin wallets, exchanges, monitors and other types of non-news sites. The top 15 of all shared URLs were for such sites and accounted for 76,534 total shares. You can examine them here. This article from Wired (well an earlier version, the URL of which appears to have been replaced) was the most-popular news URL, with 1,404 shares..
Ode to Satoshi
And amid all those tweets, I found this. Enough said.