Crisis Twitter — Darryl Woodford, 12 March 2013
Some quick thoughts on Tweets around the Brisbane Gunman

The Brisbane Gunman

Last week saw a gunman on Queen Street Mall, in the Brisbane CBD. Whilst a small scale event on the international stage, it did provide an example of an incident impacting upon a small community, for a short period of time. Brisbane’s main shopping area, the Queen Street Mall, was shut down for a period of time whilst police confronted  a gunman. No members of the public were injured, whilst the gunman was eventually shot by police with rubber bullets, arrested and taken to hospital. The entire event lasted just over an hour.


Who am I?

I have recently joined the Media Ecologies project as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. My academic background is primarily within ‘game studies’, and particularly the study of Virtual Worlds. I have also written about the gambling industry, and my recently submitted PhD thesis incorporates both of these, considering how community driven regulation of the type established in the offshore gambling industry could be applied more broadly to Virtual Worlds, but also platforms including social networking sites.  Whilst I have a number of ongoing projects that would fall under the Mapping Online Publics remit, you can expect to see content about video, sports/gambling and the gaming industry going forward, as well as some quick analyses such as this on current events. More generic content on my other research interests can also be found at my blog.


There are some unfortunate holes in our dataset, which provides an important caveat. These holes were caused by overloading of the yourTwapperKeeper install by another project (on which more soon), and so the below should be read with that in mind. Essentially, these caused the steps on the volume graph, and it is impossible to predict what may have been lost during that time. We also, as is typical of YTK, missed the very beginning of the dataset, and the usual caveats re: the twitter API apply.

Tweet Volume:


As noted, the steps in the above indicate holes in the data, but the Twitter conversation followed a fairly predictable form, a gentle incline as people started to hear about what was happening, a sharp spike as the news hit the mainstream, and a long tail.

The Network:



The majority of the mainstream conversation centred on the accounts of broadcasters and newspapers, such as @couriermail, @9newsbrisbane, @7newsbrisbane, @abcnews and @newscomauhq, who were live tweeting developments. Whilst people were retweeting these accounts, and tweeting to them,  there was little outreach to the community or re-tweeting of community photos by the news organisations. There was also little evidence of community based news sources during this incident, with most participants retweeting only a handful of tweets; instead, there was widespread diffusion amongst users.

Some Metrics:

Across 2045 users in the data set, and 2765 tweets, 42 users tweeted 5 or more times. Almost 45% of the total tweet volume was retweets, which rose to over 69% amongst the 42 highest tweeters. Again, this rose to 58.8% amongst the most frequent tweeters. 32% of the tweets were classified as original content, and 23% as genuine @replies, however both of these figures must be read in the context of the spam accounts identified below, which alone accounted for just over 10% of the total data set.

38.6% of the total tweets contained a URL. Of the total 1142 URL’s shared, the top 4 (122, 114, 57 and 55) referred users to stories on the Courier Mail,, and Brisbane Times websites respectively, whilst the fifth was to the YouTube based live streaming of ABC News 24. Yahoo! News Australia came in sixth (34), and 2dayfm ninth (22), whilst the remaining three top 10 URL’s (30, 26 and 21) were to Twitter hosted photographs of the gunman, on the accounts of Sunriseon7, the Courier Mail and Yahoo 7 News respectively.

Spam Accounts

And one final observation. By far the most frequently occurring tweet, some 344 instances (of 2765 total tweets) , was this:

From checking a number of these tweets, this appears to be a bot reporting news, with real usernames at the beginning and end, presumably in some attempt to increase traffic to the specified accounts.

About the Author

Darryl Woodford

Darryl Woodford is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation, based at Queensland University of Technology. His research includes works on the video game and gambling industries.

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