Human behaviour is highly individual by nature, yet statistical structures are emerging which seem to govern the actions of human beings collectively. Here we search for universal statistical laws dictating the timing of human actions in communication decisions. We focus on the distribution of the time interval between messages in human broadcast communication, as documented in Twitter, and study a collection of over 160,000 tweets for three user categories: personal (controlled by one person), managed (typically PR agency controlled) and bot-controlled (automated system). To test our hypothesis, we investigate whether it is possible to differentiate between user types based on tweet timing behaviour, independently of the content in messages. For this purpose, we developed a system to process a large amount of tweets for reality mining and implemented two simple probabilistic inference algorithms: 1. a naive Bayes classifier, which distinguishes between two and three account categories with classification performance of 84.6% and 75.8%, respectively and 2. a prediction algorithm to estimate the time of a user's next tweet with an . Our results show that we can reliably distinguish between the three user categories as well as predict the distribution of a user's inter-message time with reasonable accuracy. More importantly, we identify a characteristic power-law decrease in the tail of inter-message time distribution by human users which is different from that obtained for managed and automated accounts. This result is evidence of a universal law that permeates the timing of human decisions in broadcast communication and extends the findings of several previous studies of peer-to-peer communication.
Via Andrea Naranjo