Analyzing Social Media: Graffiti and a Tweet Heard Round the World
I’m sitting with Patrick Giblin in the back of Caffé Calabria in North Park, and he’s talking about Graffiti, analytic software developed by 451 Degrees, the business he founded in 2003 to provide a variety of Internet and media-related products and services.
Among San Diego’s Internet entrepreneurs, Giblin is one of the ancients. He dropped out of the University of San Diego School of Law in 1997, after co-founding The Golfer.com, an Internet-based golf reservation and marketing service. After the dot-com bubble burst, Giblin spent a couple of years as an executive at Entravision Communications (NYSE: EVC), the Spanish language media giant based in Santa Monica, CA, working to develop Internet applications for networks like Univision and Telemundo. By the time he started 451 Degrees, Giblin says he knew he wanted to develop his concept for Graffiti, but consigned his idea to a back-burner while he worked as a strategic consultant for local broadcast media, entertainers like Jamie Foxx, and cable TV companies. Development of the application didn’t begin in earnest until three years ago, when he could devote the necessary time and money.
“For a long time, people thought Twitter commentary was just junk,” Giblin says. “But the day that plane went down on the Hudson, I thought, ‘This is the future. This is how news is going to be created—as truth and not assumption.’”
Giblin is referring to what the New York media dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson,” the U.S. Airways flight that hit a flock of Canada geese within minutes after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport in 2009. A photo of the 155 passengers and crew outside the ditched aircraft, captured by ferryboat passenger Janis Krums, became one of the iconic images of the mesmerizing drama—in part because it went viral on Twitter well before the TV trucks arrived on the scene. (Krums, who runs a nutrition supplement business, gave his permission to use his photo at the top of this story.)
It was a revelation, Giblin says, because he realized that tweets, social media status updates, and the online buzz that envelopes incidents like the emergency landing of Flight 1549 reflect what he views as the Internet’s fundamental purpose—to serve as a new form of communications. “Comments are part of story-telling,” he says, and “by aggregating every ones’ thoughts and comments, you gain true understanding and meaning.”
Under the old media model, Giblin says the news was like a … Next Page »