Jul 13 2012
I’m always on the lookout for how technology changes “being together” — especially how it can change the sense of a group and of our “place” in a group. For that, NodeXL and Twitter have real possibilities.
On Saturday, July 14, I’m going to host a session at the Community Leadership Summit to play with these tools in a real life situation. Please come and play! To illustrate what I mean, I’m going to use an example from the CHIFOO meeting the other night. But the idea is to collect data at 4:00 pm during the coffee break and talk about it at 4:15 in Saturday’s last session.
NodeXL lets you pull all the tweets that use a hashtag and information about the relationships between all the Twitter accounts. Then it calculates a bunch of statistics and generates some pretty pictures, like this one. You can see lots of more massive and probably more interesting graphs on NodeXL Graph Gallery where Marc Smith and others share their graphs and the datasets they come from and the parameters that were used to create them. The point about this graph is that you might be able to find yourself in it.
Marc and the other designers are sociologists, so basically they are looking at groups from the outside. (I’m building on a good paper they wrote about “EventGraphs”, as well as other references that Marc gave me here, and here, and here.) I always assume we look at groups from the inside, whether we know it or not: that’s the place for community development, facilitation, technology stewardship, and all the rest.
I find that NodeXL usually gathers more data than I can get my head around. Lots of interesting statistics about you and everybody else. For example at the CHIFOO meeting, @JohnWeiss was the speaker and his score for “Betweenness Centrality” was the highest, even though others tweet more than him or have more followers. And you can compare lots of little Social Network graphs — what your (Twitter) graph looks like in comparison with everyone else’s. (At least everyone else who’s using the hashtag at the moment.)
NodeXL also contains a lot of data that you can look at in other ways. For example, I took all the user tags from everyone in the dataset and put it in Wordle. I was expecting to see words like “design,” “experience,” “UX,” predominate, but this is what I got. The Wordle reminds me that even though CHIFOO is generally a really brainy and geeky group, we participate in its meetings because it’s in Portland and we get Human contact and we figure out who to follow.
Anyway, I can get lost in a dataset like the one that NodeXL generates. There’s always a tricky question of when you’re “done.” (I learned from John W. Tukey that there is no formula for that. Only gut.) It depends on what you want. What I want is to know what a Social Network tool like NodeXL can help us:
- Figure out who’s left out of the conversation and how we might bring them in
- Figure out who has something important to say and give them more prominence
- Figure out who’s making noise and how to filter them out
- Figure out how to make Twitter and other tools really support and extend face-to-face interaction.
- Profound questions like “Where do I fit?” “Who else is around me and how are they connected to me and to each other?” and, “Can I make things better?”
The NodeXL developers want to make it sooo easy to generate a Social Network Graph that we do it as a matter of course. And so we learn to look in the mirror. But I think the only way to learn to look in a mirror is to do it. Hope to see you on Saturday — in the mirror and face-to-face! And I hope to share the data from that conference and report back on what people say.
Here’s the dataset: cls12-sat-pm.
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