Wednesday, December 24, 2008

visualizing friend networks

Sebastian Van Sande has developed Visualizera tool that allows you to explore your Facebook social network graphically. This is the "Visualization" of my Facebook account.

It's great as I can see friends connected to other friends and also the ones who are only connected to me. The tool allows for filtering your network by gender and relationship status.

However I'm confused as to the length of the connecting lines. What do different line lengths represent? Some of my close friends appear close to me on the map, and others far away. Does the program determine who is close and who is further away through a friends activity?

It would be even more useful if short lines represented close friends and vic-versa. This way, we would be able to visualize not only our map of friends, but also the various levels of relationships between each other. 

Imagine if we were able to connect our maps with each others! If everyone on Facebook did this then I would inevitably be connected to, say, Barrack Obama (presumably through 6 corresponding people considering the "6 degrees of separation" theory to be accurate).

Wouldn't it be great to see a whole world networked graphically using a social networking site?

As a visualization tool, Van Sande has created an interactive application that communicates a complex network greatly. As with the underground maps, credit is given to those who achieve simplistic communication of labyrinth-like infrastructures.

However in comparison to Nexus by Ivan Kozik (Below), Visualizer is lacking as both an interactive and informative tool for the search for information within a complex infrastructure. 

Nexus is another friend grapher for Facebook. It calculates friend similarity by parsing profiles, and highlights links between friends who share interests and groups. The visualization resembles a costilation and looks far more striking than Visualizer. 

And the method of retrieving information is far more straight forward. Another great example of a "walk up and use system."

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