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Ideas anyone? [Jan. 25th, 2003|12:00 pm]
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[charles]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

Using a free graphing library, I threw together a quick and dirty program for visualising your friends neighbourhood. It screen-scrapes userinfo pages to grab lists of friends, and their friends, and then draws them. It's very much a one-hour prototype right now, I wanted to see how it'd look before investing any real time on things like interface or navigation.

I got this far into the prototype, and sort of lost faith because the whole thing is just too dense to get any real information out of. I could make it a little more readable by changing the colour/opacity/z-order of the nodes based on how well-linked they are, but I have a feeling I need something more before this can be a worthwhile toy.

It's fun, though.

Any ideas on how the data could be better visualised? I thought at first that hiding "unimportant" nodes would help, but the outliers (nodes with a single link to them) are the only things that prevent the graph from totally collapsing in on itself. It's not the edges that are the problem, it's the big, honking mess in the middle.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: charles
2003-01-26 05:38 pm (UTC)
There's no way to tell from the userinfo page which is a community and which is a regular user. The screen-scraper doesn't return any "friends" when it scrapes a community page, though.

As far as I'm aware (which isn't very far since I haven't looked at the source), the graphing code works by making nodes repulse each other, and the connecting lines try to drag the nodes closer together. The graph stabilises around those two forces. So people who share a lot of friends will end up clumped together.

I don't think there's much point to the graph if you can't see the names. Maybe only directly label "important" nodes (ones with lots of links), and have less important nodes labeled by tool-tip...

I'll release the source in a couple of days.
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