The Twitter friends tool has just been improved to retrieve the time zone of users. This is actually more useful than it first might sound.
If you’ve looked at Twitter profiles before, you’ve probably noticed that users can, and sometimes do, enter anything they like as their location.
Looking at @ScraperWiki‘s followers, we can see from a small snippet of users that this can sometimes give us messy data:
...Denver. & Beyond Hyper Island | Stockholm London Manchester Niteroi, Brazil Somerset There's a wine blog too ..... London / Berkshire...
People may enter the same location in a number of ways, and may provide data that isn’t even a location.
Locations from time zones
If we look at users’ time zones, Twitter only allows users to pick from a certain number of well-defined time zones. (There’s 141 in total; I’ve collated the entire set here.) The data this returns is much neater and we’d expect that this typically reflects the user’s home location:
...Abu Dhabi Adelaide Alaska Almaty America/Toronto Amsterdam...
We find far fewer unique time zone data entries than unique location data for @ScraperWiki’s followers: there are 1586 different location entries, but just 106 time zones. If we wanted to discover which countries or regions our users are likely to be, the time zone data would be far simpler to work with.
Furthermore, time zone data can give us insight into the location of Twitter users who don’t specify their location if they’ve selected a time zone.
For ScraperWiki’s followers, we found 670 of them had an empty location and around the same number had an empty time zone. But, far fewer user accounts (only 255) have both of these fields empty. So, in some cases, we could have a good guess at the location for users who we couldn’t previously from the data the tool was providing.
We’re always working to improve the Twitter tools! If you have ideas for features you’d like to see, let us know!