“WE ARE NOT A CULT”: Analysing the lifestyle of Dogspotting through data

Everything kind of sucks everywhere at the moment. One thing that doesn’t suck is the Facebook group called ‘Dogspotting‘. In Dogspotting members post pictures of dogs they’ve seen in the street, and other players rate them with points, these points are accrued all in the hope of winning ‘The Big Prize’. The rules are strictly enforced by a team of dedicated admins, knowing that they are under the scrutiny of not only the dogspotting people’s court but also the hacks at the dogspotting gossip and gab magazine.

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It’s silly but it’s the best kind of silly. Also its extremely popular, the group has almost a quarter of a million members and its still growing. I thought I’d take a look at how and when people spot dogs, partly to help me on the way to win The Big Prize and partly just for fun, so I took every single dogspotting post from the groups inception to now: 229,971 posts scraped using this code by github user minimaxir.

What I’ve got: every single dogspot ever made

What I’m going to do with it: See what when and why people spot dogs to win the Big Prize

How many members?!

245,998 members, 229,971 posts, how did we get to this point? The first post ever made was in February 2008 and would almost certainly be deleted if posted today:

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Between this point and 2014, only 172 things were posted in the group and they were all fairly confused. However, the graph of dogspotting posts per week took a dramatic turn in 2014.


Late in 2014 there seems to be a very sharp spike in usage which I would genuinely be very interested in the explanation by, in just a month the moderators managed to get more posts per week than they did in the whole 6 years previous.

There is another jump in early 2016, where the amount of posts per week doubled over the course of a week or two. This seems to be the nature of social media fads, they spike and trough and basically are very unpredictable. This will be due to simple things like being featured on another site and also by more complicated stuff like a change in the Facebook timeline algorithm which could change the visibility of the group to potential members. When I originally scraped this data I wanted to try and predict how dogspotting might grow into the future, but this spiky and wild growth makes it such that I don’t have the time or expertise to tackle and actually believe the answers.

When do people post?

Here’s something cool, we can work out when the weekend starts and end using the post distribution of dogspotting.


The general hourly trend of posts is one we’d expect, when people are sleeping they’re not generally in a position to go out and take picture of dogs and also while they’re at work. That’s why we see that between the times of noon-5pm the weekend days (yellow and black) have significantly more posts than the weekdays. We also can see something cool in the really early hours – saturday and sunday have significantly more posts between the times of midnight-3am than any other day. I’d say this is largely due to drunkspots, either people walking home after a night out seeing a dog or house party dogs. What kind of a loser would spend their time at a house party taking pictures of dogs..

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Huh. Anyway, lets get back to the graph – I’ve got an issue I want to talk about. People think of the weekend as saturday and sunday. In my opinion, that’s wrong – the real weekend starts when you get back from work on a friday and ends when you start organising your lunch for monday. Friday evening is more weekendy than Sunday evening. This dogspotting data proves it.



I’ve put a dotted line on the graph at 7pm to point out what I’m saying. At that point on a friday people are doing weekend stuff like going out and seeing dogs, whereas on sunday they’re at home dreading the week ahead and not posting dogs. You can see this as sunday follows almost exactly the same distribution of posts as monday-thursday from 7pm onwards, and friday begins to look a lot like saturday. This is the only point in the whole set of graphs where there seems to be any statistically significant crossover between the days so I’m going to take this as proof that the weekend is friday 7pm to sunday 7pm.

Doggo and Pupper

One thing that is quite noticeable about the dogspotting group is that they’ve developed their own language to talk about dogs: doggo, pupper, cloud, bork, etc.

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‘Doggo’ and ‘pupper’ are the ones that seem to have taken a hold the most in the group. I took the set of posts and found the ones which contain certain words, some specific to dogspotting and I threw ‘pug’ in there to be the control case as that shouldn’t have changed too much.

As I suspected, doggo and pupper really took off over the past few months. One cool thing is that the usage of doggo and pupper are very highly correlated with one another, which is explained by the fact that they’re generally used in similar contexts and by similar crowds. I was interested in why doggo and pupper took off at that time. KnowYourMeme claims that the first use of ‘pupper’ was in Good Night Pupper, an image macro which promises you a good night’s sleep if you comment “sleep tight puppers”.


They also claim that the first recorded usage of this is May 30th 2015. If we mark this on the graph, we can see that it is consistent with the growth:


where the dotted line is the reported inception of this phrase.
Interestingly enough though, if you go through the posts you will see that the earliest recorded use of the word pupper in Dogspotting was 29 days earlier.

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Dogspotting leads, it doesn’t follow.

The Big (popularity) Prize

OK last one now. I’m already up to a thousand words writing about pictures of dogs on the internet. The purpose of Dogspotting is to gain points to win ‘the big prize’, you get points based on creative bonuses that people give to you, for example if we were talking about that motorbike one above, you could comment “+1 bad to the doggie bone” and the person who took the picture would get an extra point.

I don’t have the computing power or time to work out how many points people have, however what  I can do is work out what distribution of likes people have to see how likely it is that little old me could get the Grand popularity Prize.

To see this I took every single person who ever posted in dogspotting and worked out how many likes they got, I then plotted a log histogram to see how those likes are distributed:



In brief, what this is telling us is that the vast majority of dogspotting users have a few hundred or less likes in total, but there are some absolute power users who have a big old amount of likes. For me to be in with a shot I would have to post 87 times as many dogs as I have done so far.

Anyway, 1255 words into a post about a Facebook group I think I’m about done.  I’m sticking in a comment box for any theories about the rise and fall of Dogspotting’s stock, suggestions for other ways to look at this dataset or just for you to anonymously call me names!



someone pointed out that i could have included the word “floof”, so here is!


4 thoughts on ““WE ARE NOT A CULT”: Analysing the lifestyle of Dogspotting through data

  1. Bethany says:

    This is the best thing I have ever read and you are truly my favorite human being for writing this

  2. Ben says:

    I’m happy to read your thoughts about these puppers so long as no-one chucks ’em in the loch

  3. Amy Laskin says:

    I think your algorithm for calculating your odds of winning may be off. A post can only have one creative point, no matter how many likes it gets. The vast majority of points get only 2 points: one for the basic spot, and one creative point. Of course there are high-scorers (multi-dog spots, dogs in the wild, etc.), but they are rare. So the biggest factor in your odds of winning would be sheer volume of posts per spotter. If you can calculate that, you’ll have a much better idea of how many more dogs you need to spot to win.

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