Lately I’ve been interested in
learning how to analyze social
networks to find new sources
and the connections that exist
Unfortunately, I don’t know
much about social networking
analysis. So I decided to start
teaching myself some basics.
Why do this? Because you may
not realize you have a goldmine
of new sources among the
sources you already know
For example, read Kieran Healy’s
Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere.
By cross-referencing data of colonial
Bostonians and their memberships
to clubs, he showed how the British
could have found Paul Revere
without knowing he even existed.
Granted, they were looking for
traitors, but you could apply the
same idea to finding sources.
I thought I’d start by experimenting with my own Facebook account, which currently has
just under 1,800 friends. I’m sure a lot of these folks know each other, but do they fall into
distinct groups? Do any of them serve as “bridge builders” between them?
To do this, I used two tools:
Netvizz and Gephi.
Netvizz is a Facebook app that
looks at all of your FB friends
and checks to see if any of
them are friends with each
other. It then saves the results
in a file that can be imported
into the open-source network
analysis tool which is known as
Gephi. You can find it at
After a bit of tinkering, I came up with this map.
Here it is with all of my
friend’s names. 1,785
people with more than
between each other.
And it turns
of the main
At the top of the map, a cluster of my high school friends. Given they’re generally
disconnected from my professional life, they appear as their own distinct community.
Follow the threads on the right side of the cluster…
…and those threads lead
to another cluster
representing my family.
Since most of my relatives
also aren’t connected
with my professional
networks, either, they
appear as an isolated
cluster. The big exception
to this is my brother
Eric, who is social media
editor at the Associated
Press. By the nature of his
work, he happens to
connect to my Facebook
friends that are journalists
Below my brother is a large number of bloggers, many of whom are active in Global
Voices Online, an international blogging network founded by Ethan Zuckerman and
Rebecca MacKinnon. They founded the group at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and a
number of those people end up connecting to people I know working on a range of
Internet policy issues.
As we shift to the right, some of those people involved in Internet policy become tied
specifically to Washington DC. People such as Shireen Mitchell, Shana Glickfield and Jill
Foster were all involved in DC Media Makers, a group of Internet enthusiasts I helped
launch in 2006. To the right, the interconnections start shifting to pink…
…and this group represents some of the first video bloggers on the Internet, including
Steve Garfield, CC Chapman, Chuck Olson, Amanda Congdon and Kenyatta Cheese.
Steve formed the original Media Makers group in Boston in 2004.
A close-up of the video bloggers. Andrew Baron co-founded the early video blog
Rocketboom – which also featured Steve Garfield and others on the previous page -
while Dina Kaplan, Mike Hudack and Charles Hope launched Blip.TV. Bre Pettis, also an
early contributor to Rocketboom, went on to co-found MakerBot.
Below and to the left of the video bloggers are various people who have been Internet
leaders for many years, including JD Lasica, Howard Rheingold and Steve Case. I refer
to them as “bridge builders,” because their networks overlap multiple networks on my
map. They also include Internet pioneers Craig Newmark of Craig’s List and Susan
Mernit of Oakland Local. Also note Bonnie Bracey Sutton and Kevin Dando near the
Bonnie was among the first educators I connected with online in the mid-90s when my
work focused on education technology. This cluster represents many people involved
in that work, including Kathy Schrock, David Warlick, Steve Hargadon and Sylvia
These folks also have numerous connections with Kevin Dando. He’s worked at PBS for
many years, and helped connect me to many people in the broader PBS
family, including Kristin Calhoun, Amanda Hirsch and Tim Olson. Not surprisingly, these
folks also connect strongly with public radio….
…which brings us to the densest section of the map, representing NPR. Even here
you can see certain clusters. Doug Mitchell ran our internship program for many
years and is well connected across all of public media; the people in orange near the
bottom center represent much of NPR’s product development team over the years.
Continuing clockwise up the map are more NPR people, especially those connected with
our newsroom. Some on-air personalities such as Scott Simon, Audie Cornish, Adam
Davidson and Andrea Seabrook are well connected across the map. David Folkenflik, our
media reporter, has strong ties with other journalists I know outside of NPR.
As we reach the upper edge of the NPR newsroom we see staff from our foreign desk –
especially those involved in our Mideast coverage. Deb Amos appears as the most
connected among my Facebook friends at the desk, but reporters Kelly McEvers, Lulu Garcia
Navarro and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson all stand out. Follow their threads upwards….
…and their connections
lead up to Leila
correspondent in Cairo.
She’s the newest
member of NPR’s
Mideast team, but she’s
spent many years
reporting from across
the region. Which is why
she serves as a major
bridge to our last
My Facebook friends who have been involved in the Arab Spring. Some, like Sultan al
Qassemi, Ahmed al Omran and Jenan Moussa, are journalists. They have many
connections among activists in the Arab World. So does Jillian York, who was
previously editor of Global Voices.
Those are just some
of the highlights I
was able to find in
less than an hour.
Digging deeper into
the data, no doubt
I’ll find even more
connections I didn’t
existed, or people
who are better
connected than I
Along with applying
this to other
individuals and groups
on Facebook, I hope to
do the same on
Twitter: people I
lists, collections of
people who @ reply
and RT each other in a
given place or on a
specific topic. The