Cronycle Insights


Get to the heart of a story with curated information and intelligence on over 50,000 topics.

By Sid Venkataramakrishnan, Cronycle

It’s becoming increasingly clear that stories aren’t just found in the content of tweets. Instead, it’s the connections between accounts, and how communities form around topics of interest, that are key to understanding the bigger picture. From examining political polarisation amongst voters and politicians, to seeing how geography or language shape online debates; understanding the ties between users is vital. Given the need to scrape the data and put it into an intelligible form, it can prove an impediment to journalists on tight deadlines.

Cronycle offers its Insights as an answer to this problem. These put the Twitter conversation on a given topic into a usable, searchable form, allowing journalists to find stories amidst the noise. In addition to a dashboard of data (which can be sorted to focus on specific users, locations, or topics), Insights offer top tables on a number of different metrics, as well as information visualisation which makes telling stories about connections easy.


Cronycle’s Gephi Graphs offer a clear visualisation of complex data for readers. Cronycle produces two Gephi Graphs in its reports. The first looks just at retweets, whilst the second considers mentions (the sum of Twitter activity, including likes and comments), offering an easy way to find accounts at the centre of the conversation.

Colour-coding reflects different clusters on the graph, allowing you to easily see the transformation of discussion on Twitter into what we call ‘flocks’. These are groups which emerge rapidly around key themes, allowing for small but well-connected accounts to have a real impact on the discussion. In our GDPR case study, our top flock came around journalist Laura Kayali (@LauKaya), in spite of her relatively low follower count compared to accounts like the British Information Commissioner’s Office (@ICOnews).

Flocks are very much time-bound things, growing and dissipating as the story changes and new angles dominate the news. Rather than simply turning to accounts with large numbers of followers, journalists can use flocks to connect with potential new thought-leaders as they emerge.


Cronycle’s dashboard (an example which can be found here) shows key Twitter data, including trending terms, the locations of where tweets are coming from, and a list of users involved in the conversation on the topic. 

When nothing is selected, you get a chance to see the broad picture of the data selected, including the biggest hashtags (by retweets or reach), the most frequently used hashtags, and who the biggest users are in the data set by measures like reach and connectivity.

For more precise digging, users can select any cell in the dashboard and it changes to show only the information related to it. You can use this feature to focus on a single location, to draw out an unusual hashtag, or study accounts based on political affiliation.

Further dashboard features are explained below.


As described above, flocks offer a real-time perspective on the most important users on Twitter for a given topic over a given period of time. The table on the dashboard lets journalists filter the rest of the page for each flock. You can use them to contrast national responses to pressing global issues such as data security or climate change, or see how different countries and cities stack up in the Twitter discussion. 

Topic Lists and Influencers

Cronycle takes the themes discussed in hashtags and trending terms, and places them into a framework of topics. The top table lists topics in terms of the raw count of users discussing them, allowing you to see their total importance on Twitter. By contrast, the normalised topic list contextualises that count with the relative size of that topic, adding relevance to the topic at hand. 

As can be seen in the above example, whilst cybersecurity is the second largest topic being discussed in this cluster in terms of the total Twitter users, web 2.0 is more important when it comes to GDPR in particular.

Once you choose on of the topic’s leading the discussion, you can search for it in the bar at the top right of the dashboard. Select it, and you gain access to an automated feed of articles on the topic. Cronycle also provides a list of potential sources in the form of leading influencers and key sites, supporting expert interviews.

You can also focus on the Twitter conversations driving the topic. Rather than simply providing a full list of tweets, Cronycle only shows content relevant to the topic. Keep up with the latest discussion in real-time, without all the cat memes.

Trending Terms

Get an insight into the keywords driving conversations. Whilst topics and hashtags offer a macro-level approach to what is being discussed, the trending terms offer greater granularity in terms of the precise language surrounding the topic. This can be useful when looking along linguistic terms, or for seeing how different groups talk about the same topic. Like everything on the dashboard, trending terms can be selected, giving journalists access to a clear look at who is saying what, where.

Reach versus Rank

Compare how accounts stack up in terms of maximum page rank and maximum reach of the tweets (larger circles represent a greater numbers of followers). Reach versus rank is another ideal way to spot who is having a bigger say on an issue than their follower count might lead one to suspect. 

Top Connectors and Top Brokers

The power of networks (digital and social) are what fundamentally make platforms like Twitter so different from the mass media of old. Citizen journalists, and other smaller users, can play a vital role in the news process. 

Page rank, which reflects the amount of incoming links in terms of engagement, remains an important metric when looking at the big players for a given topic. At the same time, it’s increasingly clear that high follower count and engagement does not necessarily mean an account was central to the conversation. That’s why Cronycle also uses measures of how well users connect which each other. Top Connectors and Top Brokers are two different measures of betweenness centrality - how central accounts are to the functioning of a flock. Although they can be major accounts with large numbers of followers, that’s by no means always the case: regardless of size, top connectors are vital to how a topic grows and changes over time.

Most Talked About

A final tab worth talking about is, aptly named, ‘most talked about’. Here, you can compare a ratio of an account’s mentions with the maximum number of retweets they receive. Like Reach versus Rank, this looks beyond the most obvious users, allowing journalists to uncover small accounts that manage to get heard the most in spite of their size. 


Want an example of how these features can be used by journalists to make great, data driven stories? Read our last report on the GDPR here

You can also find Cronycle’s John Swain discussion of climate change conversation on Twitter here. It gives additional information on how Insights work, as well as some great examples of how big data analytics offers new opportunities to understand the communities in debate today (see above graph).

We also have an archive of older insights available here, showing the breadth of topics, which can be accessed this way.

Insights: A tool for collaboration

We’re very excited to have a tool which we believe can offer some real utility to journalists, by simplifying Twitter scraping and providing a searchable output. If you have a suggestion for an upcoming topic or have a project to pitch, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Explore Insights here.