Circles vs Community Detection
One take on the story so far:
– Facebook supports symmetrical follows and allows you to see connections between your Facebook friends;
– Twitter supports asymmetric follows and allows you to see pretty much everyones’ friend and follower connections;
– Google+ supports asymmetric follows
Facebook and Twitter both support lists but hardly anyone uses them. Google+ encourages you to put people into addressable circles (i.e. lists).
If you can grab a copy of connections between folk in your social network, you can run social network statistics that will partition out different social groupings:
If you’re familiar with the interests of people in a particular cluster, you can label them (there are also ways you might try to do this automagically).
This is a great feature, and something I could imagine being supported to some extent in Gephi, for example, by allowing the user to create a node attribute where the values represent label mappings from different modularity clusters (or more simply by allowing a user to add a label to each modularity class?).
The SuperFriends app also stands in contrast to the Google+ approach. I’d class SuperFriends as gardening, whereas he Google+ approach is more one of planning. The Google+ approach encourages you to think you’re in control of different parts of your network and makes your life really complicated (which circle do I put this person in; do I need a new circle for this?); the SuperFriends approach helps you realise how complicated (or not) your social circle is. In terms of filters, the Google+ approach encourages you to add your own, whereas the SuperFriends approach helps you identify setting that emerges out of network properties.
Given that in many respects Google is an AI/machine learning company, it’s odd that they’re getting the user to define circle/set membership; maybe it’d be too creepy if they automatically suggested groups? Maybe there’s too much scope for error if you don’t deliberately place people into a group yourself (and instead trust an algorithm to do it?)
Superfriends helps uncover structure, Google+ forces you to make all sorts of choices and decisions every time you “follow” another person. Google+ makes you define tags and categories to label people up front; SuperFriends identifies clusters that might be covered by an obvious tag.
Looking at my delicous bookmarks, I have almost as many tags a bookmarks… But if I ran some sort of grouping analysis, (not sure what?!) maybe natural clusters – and natural tags – would emerge as a result?
Maybe I need to read Everything is Miscellaneous again…?
PS if you want to run a more hands on analysis of your Facebook network, try this: Getting Started With The Gephi Network Visualisation App – My Facebook Network, Part I
PPS here’s another Facebook app that identifies clusters: http://www.fellows-exp.com/ h/t @jacomyal
PPPS @danmcquillan also tweeted that LinkedIn InMaps do a similar clustering job on LinkedIn connections. They do indeed; and they use Gephi. I wonder if they’ve released the code that handles things from the point at which a social network graph data is prpvided to the rendering of the map?