Jul 21, 2008

Twitter Maps

When choosing a map, which do you prefer — pretty or useful?

In an ideal world I would take pretty useful, but forced to choose between the two I'll take useful.

Here are two social graphs taken from my Twitter following data.

The first map, by TweetWheel, is pretty, has nice colors, a simple and elegant interface, and a nice circular layout.

But what does it really tell me? What knowledge do I gain by looking at it?

The second map, by InFlow, is not as sexy, uses less color, and produces some complex emergent patterns.

Yet, this second map gives me more information -- it shows me emergent patterns in the data [both graphs use the same following data]. Using arrowheads, the InFlow map shows me who is following whom within the community. This network layout shows the emergent communities of interest found in the data. It tells me I am not just following one theme here.

Both maps have my node and my link data excluded for ease of readability. From the second map I see that I have chosen to follow people in three emergent groups [the gray nodes are just satellites of the purple group].

By looking at who is in the group I can easily label them. The top group [ClevOH] are my colleagues in various economic development projects in Cleveland and NE Ohio. The middle group I labeled the Digerati. This is a dense group with most members following most others within the group. I see many redundant links here -- I could stop following several of these folks and probably not miss much -- since they are mostly following each other and probably aware of the same information. This group has a few satellites -- they connect to only one or two nodes in the group and therefore are not full members.

The bottom group is well connected to the Digerati, but they do have a clustering of their own. These are well known consultants in Knowledge Management, Social Networks, Organization Development and Management. Once the satellites on the right see this diagram, they may choose to follow the blue nodes on the bottom since they have much in common. Twitter networks evolve from people watching how others are connected, and then exploring the unknown person's tweets to see if they are worth following.

After viewing the last map, I have a new connecting strategy for myself on Twitter.

  • need more diversity of info/topics/knowledge to monitor
  • less Digerati, remove several redundant nodes
  • more Consultants, more interaction with peers and elites in the consulting world
  • few more local folks, but this cluster is pretty good
  • look for conversations around electronic music, my hobby
  • weave a cluster around social network analysis
  • maybe add a little bit of randomness?

The first map is very easy and fun. The second map requires more work... but you get out what you put in!

What does your Twitter social graph tell you?


Edward Vielmetti said...

Thanks for the map Valdis, very helpful.

What it tells me is that there's some probable cluster in NW Ohio that could be a bridge between my Ann Arbor cluster and your Cleveland cluster - so I'll be on the lookout for people of interest in Toledo.

(amused to be digerati)

Dave Pollard said...

Fascinating stuff, Valdis. My "gravitational community" has 8 sub-communities: artists, business/health/tech, communication/learning, community makers, environmentalists, philosophers/spiritualists, SecondLifers, storytellers. All 8 are roughly the same size. Some of them are well-connected to each other, while others have no connection to each other at all (except for me). Its map would look, I suspect, like a lopsided octagon. But what's interesting is how many more cross-connections have emerged since I started twittering!

Valdis Krebs said...

Ed, I've worked with a group at Univ of Toledo who is helping to weave and grow a greenhouse cluster. Some of the businesses in the cluster are in SE Michigan.

Valdis Krebs said...

Dave, you are bridging structural holes!

Sure would be interesting if we could look at your map 6-12 months ago and then point out the links you helped establish. I plan to do an occasional mapping to see how my twitter map changes over time.

Dave Pollard said...

love to see the Ann Arbor cluster, Edward; I think you and Vaguery are the only people I know there, but I may be missing some ... friend of mine moving there for fall studies in Enviro Sciences and doesn't know anyone

Dave Pollard said...

Valdis: My networks have formed partly thru the blog, partly twitter, partly GMail/GTalk IM network, and partly Second Life. Woven together much more and faster since twitter.

Valdis Krebs said...

Dave, no LinkedIN nor Facebook ???


Nurture Girl said...

I would love to see the frequency of postings reflected in the map too. I think of my network as overlapping communities of purpose...can't wait to try out my own to find out what it tells me. Twitter, currently, for me, is a space of serendipity. It might be interesting to have the data and be a bit more strategic.

Vanessa Williams said...

Yes, that interactive graph *would* be very interesting if it had *my* twitter graph in it. But that doesn't seem to be possible. Or... am I missing something?

Valdis Krebs said...

Vanessa, I am getting feedback from others to see if they also find this interesting useful. So, no you can't map your Twitter graph currently, but maybe soon if I get some time, funding, and assistance.

Burak Arikan said...

Very useful study. Inspired by this work, I mapped my Twitter Graph over a 3 week time. And found interesting clusters emerge.


Marc said...

Would be really interesting to be able to see my Twitter network in there as well (and maybe one for Facebook). Perhaps see if there isn't a programmer out there willing to implement.

By the way, is there the ability to color code the arrows to make directional following status more clear?

Thanks as always for the insight and work.


Larry said...

I created a map that does similar, but has a more geographic skew to it. Using Google Maps and Twitter, the map plots the people your follow, the people who follow you (optional, password needed).
Check it out on http://bit.ly/mmt

Valdis Krebs said...

It might be an interesting app, BUT...

Warning on previous comment -- they are asking for your Twitter Name AND Password! Be careful!!!

Larry said...

Aggreed with Valdis about password.
I would say that until twitter has another alternative for authentication, lots of 3rd party applications ask for twitter password.

The password is optional, you just get a much better looking map with the people that follow you and the mutual follows.
I do not store your password in any way. It is only used to retrieve your information to map.

PP Martin said...

Tweetwheel is available to all Twitterers. Like Vanessa William, I would also be interested if you also develop a similarly "available to all Twitters" version of your network sofware ;)