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#AreYouHappy? Twitter study suggests Ottawa has Canada's happiest tweeters (…sorry, Edmonton)

"Ottawa and Montreal have the happiest tweeters in Canada, according to recent research from the University of Ottawa.

“We listened to tweet messages in six main Canadian metropolitan cities, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, and we tried to analyze the tweets based on the happiness factor,” said U of O Prof. Abdulmotaleb El Saddik, the project’s leader.

“The citizens of Ottawa . . . have a stable or constant happiness factor relative to other cities throughout the day and week.”

El Saddik and fellow researchers gathered a cache of 132,181 tweets from the six cities between Dec. 4 and Dec. 10, analyzing each tweet.

“We have been working on emotional analysis for awhile, and there are a couple of studies of psychologies that explain what wording should be included when you have happiness, examples of it would be: #Happy #Blessed #FeelingGood,” El Saddik explains.

By using Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API) search tool, El Saddik and his colleagues were not only able to track happiness levels but detect emerging trends that may affect a city’s happiness over long periods of time.

“When we compare Edmonton to the other five metropolitan cities, we find that Edmonton has the least happy tweets. It’s too early . . . to conclude the reasoning, but one of the aspects that we can think of is the falling oil prices during the period where we did the study, and where people were afraid about their job. So this could be one explanation,” El Saddik said.

El Saddik’s research also shows that a large event occurring in a city can drastically change the mood of the its inhabitants, making explicit reference to a recent NHL game where the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks.

The research showed that on that night Montrealers were on average 69 per cent happier than the losing Vancouverites.

However, El Saddik explains that using Twitter as an indicator of metropolitan happiness levels is most useful to the public when it enters the political sphere.

“If we can see which cities under which circumstances are happy or less happy, than we can try to understand our citizens a bit better and hopefully our mayor and politicians will serve their needs in a different way.”

By using Twitter to gage the public’s happiness levels regarding various political issues or discussions, politicians could analyze the “real-time” public response to their actions and weigh their levels of popularity and relevance, the researcher said.

“Through analysis of tweets we can get the same analytical survey results as when we do a survey interviewing 500 persons on the street,” said El Saddik.

“It could be the future of conducting survey.”"

Source: Nicholas Galipeau, Ottawa Citizen. December 20, 2014.