Twitter's effectiveness in breaking news and providing timely updates for major worldwide events isn't in question at this point, but some of the company's engineers have been working on quantifying and visualizing that data and have just shared some insights from their work on the Twitter engineering blog. Much of the research was focused on the concept of "churn" — in this case, how quickly popular trending topics or search queries would "turn over" and be replaced. When looking at all search queries from October 2011, the research team found that 17 percent of the top 1,000 search queries from one hour had dropped out of the top 1,000 during the next hour; they also found that 13 percent of the top 1,000 search queries "churn over" when looked at from a daily view.
They also took a look at the rather dramatic frequency in which terms can spike — this didn't come as a major surprise, but Twitter users can quickly flock around a topic and push it to high frequency rates. Again using October 2011 data, search queries for "Steve Jobs" on the date of his death jumped to 15 percent of the query stream, up from a "negligible fraction." The researchers were also able to pull together a heatmap comparing Twitter posting frequency across four locations by time of day and year — one finding was that out of four cities analyzed (New York, Istanbul, Toyko, and São Paulo), Toyko had by far the least Twitter activity during daytime hours (10am - 6pm). These findings are just part of a larger research study that was put together — with the amount of activity on Twitter these days, there's an endless supply of data to pour through.