Viz to Nothing… Forum Structure

As a “shot to nothing”, it being that snooker time of year. A minimal netwrok visualisation of some of the #octel forum activity, which has a structure of: forum(-forum)-topic-reply. Replies can be threaded in a topic, in which case the replies have the same parent but also carry an incremental “menu_order” attribute that gives the accession order of the reply within that thread (I think?).

A post_type attribute identifies whether an entry is a forum, topic or reply.

I grabbed three columns of data defining an edge list – parentID, postID, post_type (forum, topic or reply), and threw the data into Gephi. Different layout types bring out different structural elements, but I just wanted something quick and dirty to look at the data in “unthreaded” form to see how we might make use of the thread/menu_order data.

Here’s an example – the whole structure (not very compellingly laid out, it has to be said):

forums, topics, posts

We can also filter by edge type to get a hint of the actual structure, for example, the forum structure (i.e. how forums and subforums (child forums) relate to each other):

forum filter

Or the topic structure (how topics relate to forums):

topic filter

Or the reply structure (how replies fall into topics):

reply filter

Note that this is the one we need to work on, in respect of finessing the data to allow us to see the hierarchical nature of the thread structure within a topic.

Anyway, as I said, a shot to nothing, and something to ponder representation wise as I walk the dog…;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...