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A Twitter Account for Your Transit Mood

A Twitter account is broadcasting its findings about the mood of transit riders in Boston, in real time.
March 14, 2019, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Yesterday, I spent a total of about 20 minutes (unofficial tally) waiting on the Metro 201 bus in Los Angeles waiting to turn left at unprotected left turns while cars clogged intersections and cut in front of the bus in the line to turn.

I did another quick, unofficial tally, and estimated that I had spent 10,000 hours on buses waiting to turn left—10,000 hours of deliberate practice being Malcolm Gladwell's theoretical threshold for world-class skill (a theory that has since been debunked).

Needless to say, I wasn't in a good mood.

This morning I felt a little better, knowing that someone out there understands the pain (and joy, of course) of transit users.

"A new Twitter account called @MBTA_Mood, which has no affiliation with the MBTA, has been analyzing the overall mentality of some MBTA riders based solely on their tweets, and then regurgitating the information back to the general public on social media," reports Steve Annear.

So, for example, yesterday at 9 am, about the same time I would eventually be waiting for the 201 to turn left at 6th and Vermont in Los Angeles from a duration of time easily longer than five minutes, the account tweeted: "There was a fall in rider mood over the past hour. Analyzed 68 tweets, with 52.41% feeling Sadness. #MBTA #MBTAMOOD."

The creator of the Twitter account wishes to stay anonymous, but the tool used to generate the mood analytics is not: the IBM Watson Tone Analyzer, "which uses linguistic analysis to detect emotion in text and 'predict whether they are happy, sad, confident, and more,' according to IBM’s website."

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Published on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in The Boston Globe
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