The morning after the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics last June on their way to LeBron James’ first NBA title, Rick Gehman woke up, turned on his computer, and checked his Twitter feed. The tweets read, “Can you believe this Heat game?” and, especially, contained chatter about a “great shot by LeBron.” Gehman had no idea what moment they were talking about, since he went to bed before the game was over.
“I watched 'SportsCenter,' trying to figure out the play [to see if it was] a dagger shot. That’s how far I took it,” he says, recalling how frustrated he felt.
But what if there was a way to add the real-time scores to those mysterious tweets so when you read them, you’d know exactly what moment the tweets referred to? That’s what inspired the 24-year-old to create Cibos, an app that’s nearly ready for release.
Cibos (which he says means “feed” in Latin) puts a stamp on tweets about events marking the teams playing, the quarter/inning/period and the time, giving readers the context they need if they’re not watching a game. The technology behind it? An algorithm that started with Gehman poring over endless strings of tweets.
“I have read tens of thousands of tweets to figure out what people say when they’re talking,” he says. “It’s helpful with hashtags.”
Since Gehman’s life is spent working with sports and social media -- the King of Prussia, Pa., native runs the Facebook and Twitter feeds for Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center -- he was aware not everyone uses a hashtag. So he looked for patterns, like users writing “LeBron” and how much that corresponded to a game played by the Heat. Nearly a year later, the algorithm is 99.6 percent accurate. Nothing would make him happier than to continue to get that stat as close to 100 percent as possible.
There’s another function Gehman and his two partners added to Cibos: Say you’re at your child’s birthday party and trying your best to avoid hearing the score of a game because you’d chosen instead to record it your DVR. The app will use the same algorithm to pull tweets about the contest from your timeline so you won’t see them in advance of watching. Though he says the app will focus on sports when it’s launched, he can see a future in which it has uses for TV shows and movies as a digital spoiler alert.
It won’t, however, stop you from overhearing random strangers in your local Starbucks ruining the past two episodes of "Game of Thrones" sitting on your queue. But at least you’ll know exactly what “OHHHHHH!!! WHAT A SHOT!!! #weareallwitnesses #lebron” meant.