word burst
n. A rapid rise in both the frequency with which a word is used in a particular context, and the rate at which the word‘s usage increases over time.
word burstiness n.

Example Citation:
At a recent conference, Professor Kleinberg conjectured that word bursts could be used to track what people were discussing in personal Weblogs. Daypop, a search engine focused on news sites and Weblogs, quickly added a list of top word bursts (www.daypop.com/burst). By comparing this list with Daypop's Top 40 links, one finds topics that are popular but may not depend on a link to a specific site. For example, news articles about the recent suicide of the French chef Bernard Loiseau did not make the list of top links, but his death was a high-ranking topic on the burst list.
—Pamela LiCalzi O'Connell, "Online diary," The New York Times, March 13, 2003

Earliest Citation:
Searching for sudden "bursts" in the usage of particular words could be used to rapidly identify new trends and sort information more efficiently, says a US computer scientist.

Jon Kleinberg, at Cornell University in New York, has developed computer algorithms that identify bursts of word use in documents.

While other popular search techniques simply count the number of words or phrases in documents, Kleinberg's approach also takes into account the rate at which the word usage increases.

Kleinberg suggests that the method could be applied to weblogs to track new social trends. For example, identifying word bursts in the hundreds of thousands of personal diaries now on the web could help advertisers quickly spot an emerging craze.
—Will Knight, "Word 'bursts' may reveal online trends," New Scientist, February 19, 2003


Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., has developed a method for a computer to find the topics that dominate a discussion at a particular time by scanning large collections of documents for sudden, rapid bursts of words. ...

He devised a search algorithm that looks for "burstiness," measuring not just the number of times words appear, but the rate of increase in those numbers over time. Programs based on his algorithm can scan text that varies with time and flag the most "bursty" words.
—"Buzzwords of history, revealed by computer scans, indicate new ways of searching the Web," Cornell News, February 18, 2003

The "Professor Kleinberg" mentioned in the example citation is Jon Kleinberg, a computer science prof at Cornell University. He has come up with a computer technique that analyzes text over time to detect how often individual words are used and the rate at which word usage increases over time. He presented his results at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Denver on Feb. 18, in a talk unpromisingly titled "Web Structure and the Design of Search Algorithms."

Professor Kleinberg demonstrated his technique by applying it to all of the U.S. Presidential State of the Union Addresses, from 1790 to 2002. He found that the bursty words reflected the concerns and events of the times. For example, in the early 1800s, among the words exhibiting the highest burstiness were militia, British, enemy, and Spain. In the 1930s, the bursty words were depression, banks, relief, and recovery, while the 40s coughed up wartime, democracy, fighting, Japanese, and production (but, surprisingly, not German or Germany). Among the many bursty words in the 1990s are families, crime, medicare, challenge, 21st, and century. You can see the full list here:


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