AT&T Turns to Twitter for Tracking Spotty Service

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If your AT&T phone drops a call or connects to the web more slowly than normal, complaining about it on Twitter might actually help.

AT&T researcher Jia Wang has published a paper (PDF file) outlining how her company scours Twitter for certain “mobile related words such as phone, mobile, 3G, edge, etc.” paired with certain “performance related words such as slow, drop, intermittent, doesn’t work, etc.”

Twitter provides an API (application programming interface) that software developers can use to tap into publicly available data on the site. AT&T was able to use the API to leverage Twitter’s search function, timestamps, authors, and location information to map pockets where users complained about spotty service.

The results were compared with customer tickets from calls to AT&T’s tech support line logged in the same geographic areas, and showed that Twitter users generally complain about dropped calls and slow data speeds far more often than callers to AT&T’s support line.

The study also found “that tweets typically appear more rapidly in response to network problems than customer tickets” and “significant spikes in the number of tweets appear to indicate short term performance impairments which are not reported in our current list of major network incidents.”

The end result? The paper contends that the findings “indicate that Twitter is an attractive, complementary source for monitoring service performance and its impact on user experience.” So don’t feel like an A-hole for complaining about shoddy cell phone coverage on Twitter. You’re actually helping.

[via MIT]

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