Bayesian classification is an algorithm which allows us to categorize documents probabilistically. I recently started playing with Twitter data and realized there was no Ruby gem which would allow me to build a spam detector for tweets. The classifier gem just works on a set of text by figuring out which words appear in a category but a tweet is much more complicated than that. A tweet looks like this:

{:text=>"Firesale prices, too! RT @nirajc: Time to change your Facebook password. Hacker selling 1.5m accounts.",
:truncated=>false, :created_at=>"Fri Apr 23 18:26:51 +0000 2010", :coordinates=>nil, :geo=>nil, :favorited=>false,
:source=>"TweetDeck",  :place=>nil, :contributors=>nil,
:user=>{:verified=>false, :profile_text_color=>"666666", :friends_count=>226, :created_at=>"Wed Oct 08 07:15:23 +0000 2008",
:profile_link_color=>"2FC2EF", :favourites_count=>12, :description=>"All the news that's fit to tweet (and most that isn't)",
:lang=>"en", :profile_sidebar_fill_color=>"252429", :location=>"Brooklyn, NY", :following=>nil, :notifications=>nil,
:time_zone=>"Eastern Time (US & Canada)", :statuses_count=>981, :profile_sidebar_border_color=>"181A1E",
:profile_background_image_url=>"", :protected=>false,
:contributors_enabled=>false, :url=>"", :screen_name=>"carlfranzen", :name=>"Carl Franzen",
:profile_background_tile=>false, :profile_background_color=>"1A1B1F", :id=>16645918, :geo_enabled=>false,
:utc_offset=>-18000, :followers_count=>174}, :id=>12717456105}

As you can see, a tweet is just a hash of variables. So which variables are a better indicator of spam? I don't know and chances are you don't either. But if we create a corpus of ham tweets and a corpus of spam tweets, we can train a Bayesian classifier with the two datasets and it will figure out which variable values are seen often in spam and which in ham.

Some variables don't work, statistically speaking:

There are additional things we could do to improve our spam detector:

I wrote bayes_motel based on my research this last weekend. Give it a try and send a pull request if you make changes you'd like to see. The test suite gives more detail about the API and has a few thousand tweets to use as sample data. Happy coding!

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