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May 20, 2014

Tool for Twitter tells you what the world is feeling

Developers hope app can be used to alleviate mental illness.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Spasms of emotion on Twitter can now be monitored in real-time, after research firm CSIRO and mental health group the Black Dog Institute developed a tool to test the mood of the social network.

Open for public use for a short time, We Feel allows users to break down tweets by continent, region and gender, with emotions grouped into fear, anger, sadness, love, joy and surprise.

Helen Christensen, director at the Black Dog Institute, said: "Should the real-time data gained using this incredible tool prove accurate, we will have the unique opportunity to monitor the emotional state of people across different geographical areas and ultimately predict when and where potentially life-saving services are required."

We Feel scans tweets to determine the mood of Twitter users, seeking 600 words linked to various emotions and referencing the data to social, economic and environmental factors to see if meaningful links can be found.

We Feel lets you monitor the mood of Twitter in real-time.

"The power of this information cannot be underestimated," Christensen said. "Currently, mental health researchers and associated public health programs use population data that can be over five years old."

The Black Dog Institute claims to have already detected an emotional spike on Twitter, prompted by reaction to this year’s Australian federal budget, the first since Liberal Tony Abbott was elected the country’s prime minister last September.

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The tool, which analyses 32,000 tweets per minute, relies on Amazon’s big data platform Kinesis, an asset considered invaluable by Cecile Paris, a research leader at CSIRO. "Without this we wouldn’t have been able to process the tweets in real time," she said.

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