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Strategies for combining Twitter users geo-location methods

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Twitter has become a major player in the social media scene with over half billion users and over 500 million tweets published daily. With this abundant data, researchers saw the opportunity to explore this data for monitoring events and tracking epidemics. In this type of application, knowing the location of the user is essential. However, most of the information about location self-reported by users is difficult to process, and barely 1% of all published tweets are geolocated. Hence, user location inference is often performed by analyzing public available information from the user profile and his tweets. In this work, we evaluate and compare 16 approaches for user location inference based on different information sources that include interaction networks and text from tweets. We show that methods working with the user friendship network obtain higher values of accuracy and recall when compared to the other methods. From these results, we verify the agreement of pairs of methods regarding the predicted location and the users they cover. We find out that most methods disagree in their inferences while covering different sets of users. These results open up an opportunity to combine different methods in order to improve location accuracy and user recall. We propose four methods for combining the outputs of the evaluated methods. Two of them, one based on a weighting vote scheme (GAVe) and another based on a meta decision tree cover at least 98% of the users in the dataset, while location 75% of them within a distance of 100 km from their real location.

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This work was partially funded by CAPES, CNPq and FAPEMIG, all Brazilian Research Agencies. The authors would like to thank David Jurgens for providing the source codes for the four network-based methods.

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Correspondence to Gisele L. Pappa.

Appendix A: Example of a meta-decision tree

Appendix A: Example of a meta-decision tree

Figure 7 shows an example of a simplified meta-decision tree obtained when training one of the folds of the cross-validation procedure. Notice that the trees are not necessarily small, and we found trees with up to 41 nodes.

Fig. 7
figure 7

Meta-decision tree generated for one of the data folds of the cross-validation procedure

The root of the tree in Fig. 7 uses the average log probability returned by the temporal partitions when classifying the user tweets using Naive Bayes (NB). If this value is smaller or equal to -0.01, and if the result returned by the exact match method in the self-declared location field was correct, the exact match is used as the method to predict the location of the user. Otherwise, if the exact match did not return the correct location, the left branch of the tree is followed, verifying again the average log probability returned by the temporal partitions when classifying the user tweets using Naive Bayes (NB). If it is greater than -2.06, Naive Bayes in the tweets is chosen as the final classifier to predict the location of the user. If that is not the case, then the average log probability returned by the temporal partitions when classifying the user tweets using logistic regression (LR) is checked, and decides whether to use this method or to go for FindMe in the mentions network. The same logic is followed when reading the left branch of the tree from the root.

Note that, in this tree, more emphasis was given to the text of the tweets. This might be related to the fact that the predictions made by these methods return higher degrees of confidence, and hence are preferred over network methods. Apart from the text methods, the mentions network with FindMe also appears among the tree choices for classifiers.

However, it is important to point out that this model is not unique, and many other trees with different combinations of methods can be generated, depending on the data fold given as input, which affects the calculation of the accuracy of the methods (see Eq. 2) and consequently changes the order the ordinary attributes appear in the tree.

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Ribeiro, S., Pappa, G.L. Strategies for combining Twitter users geo-location methods. Geoinformatica 22, 563–587 (2018).

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