Visualizing networks based on communication

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The March/April issue ofTechnology Review has an interesting piece on visualizing social networks (via Matt Hurst). All of the examples would make appropriately geeky wall charts or desktop backgrounds, but the one that caught my eye is the one that adds color to a social network chart to illustrate comment activity.

The layout is typical social network analysis—hubs and spokes. But the Comment Flow visualization, created by Dietmar Offenhuber and Judith Donath at the MIT Media Lab, is based on communication:

Offenhuber and Donath created these images by tracking where and how often users left comments for other users; connections are based on these patterns, rather than on whether people have named each other as "friends." As the time since the last communication grows, the visual connection begins to fade.
You'll want to go through the whole article. In addition to an application idea for the Comment Flow visualization, the article has examples of visualizations based on blog links, Twitter, social networks in the enterprise and viral marketing.

Nice of 'em to point out some of the researchers working on this stuff, isn't it?

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The March/April issue of MIT Tech Review has an interesting article, “Between Friends: Sites Like Facebook Are Proving The Value of the Social Graph” (nods to Nathan Gilliatt and Matthew Hurst -whose work is cited- for breaking this on their blogs).

Overall, this article provides some great examples of how sociograms - social network graphs - can be used to illustrate the structure of social media networks. It shows how network analysis can be used to predict how efficient a viral marketing effort will diffuse through two different types of networks. As shown in the following image, sparse, loosely structured types of networks may be poor candidates for viral strategies (recall the recent discussion about diffusion and small world networks?)...

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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