This is a visualization of my own Facebook network that I made using the (free) software Gephi and the Facebook application netvizz. Each node in the network is one of my Facebook friends, and two friends are connected to one another if they are Facebook friends with each other. The size of the node corresponds to the “degree” of the node, which means how many connections it has. In this case, that means how many of my Facebook friends that person is Facebook friends with. (Note: I deleted the names from the nodes to protect my Facebook friends’ privacy).
The colors of the nodes indicate communities of friends found using a clustering algorithm based on the “modularity” of the network. Basically what the algorithm does is try to group the nodes into communities with lots of connections within each community and not too many connection between the communities. Even though the algorithm doesn’t know anything about my friends, other than the web of connections (it doesn’t even know they’re people), it does a good job of picking identifying groups of my friends that belong to the same communities in real life. For example the purple cluster in the upper right are people I know from graduate school, the little green cluster in the lower right are people from the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems. The big bunch in the middle are people I know from high school, with the people from the band (or band groupies) in green on the right side. My wife is the purple node that bridges the gap between my graduate school friends and my huh school friends.
We did this as an exercise in the Social Dynamics and Networks course that I teach at Kellogg. If you want to see how you can map your network, you can find instructions on my Kellogg website here.
There is a great story on the Atlantic’s website about a fake quotation that exploded on Facebook and Twitter after Osama Bin Laden’s death. The quote, wrongly attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. is:
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”
The author of the article, Megan McArdle, traces the origins of the wrongly attributed quote to a facebook post from a 24 year old Penn State graduate student (check out the article for the fascinating story). This brings up some interesting issues about rumors and social media. An open question regarding information and the web, is whether technologies like social media and the Internet in general increase or decrease the prevalence of false information. On the one hand, the “wisdom of the crowd” might be able to pick out the truth from falsehoods. True statements will be repeated and spread, while false statements will be recognized by a great enough number of people to squelch them. On the other hand, we know that systems like this with strong positive feedbacks can converge to suboptimal solutions. If you think of retweeting some piece of information as like casting a vote that it is true, we might expect information cascades of the sort described theoretically by Bikhchandani et al.. In this case, two things seem to have happened. Initially, there was a sort of information cascade that led to the spread of the quote. Then it wasn’t the wisdom of the crowds that led to the squelching of the rumor, but the efforts of knowledgable individuals tracing the quotation back to the initial post. What the Internet provided was a way to uncover the roots of the false information for those willing to take the time to look.
Facebook hopes to leverage its more than 600 million members and “ability to tap directly into the communications and activities of networks of friends” to cut into the business of successful coupon websites like Groupon and Living Social.
Read more here.