Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reaction: Balancing Systematic and Flexible Exploration of Social Networks

                Social networks provide a backbone for communication in the modern age, with user groups centered on everything from universities and entertainment to terrorism and country specific entities. With the proliferation of communication techniques comes a desire and need to explore the dynamics of such complicated systems. With that in mind, this paper describes a system, called SocialAction, which is designed to help facilitate the discovery of new information within the profligately expansive networks.

                SocialAction provides this capability through the use of rankings. The rankings of a network are used to categorize and describe the nodes of the network. By filtering these rankings, it is possible to limit the amount of visual information and help provide a more succinct description of a network query. Additionally, scatter plots can be used to filter two ranks, and aggregate rankings, which categorize subgroups within a network, can isolate partially connected components within a network to help limit the amount of information to process. The software also has the ability to filter using network links with varying types in order to define these same types of smaller subgroups.

                I find that this technique could prove useful, but they do not fully articulate why SocialAction is not a YASNAT, nor does the paper match the title; how have they balanced systematic and flexible exploration as compared to the other analytic tools out there? I think the most important aspect of this paper is that it shows the versatility of such a technique, specifically, its apparent extensibility. As social networking analytics tools become more sophisticated, it will become important to integrate multiple techniques to allow stronger identification of semi-isolated subgroups, and I think that SocialAction is one of the tools that should be integrated into these tools, but as an isolated tool, it seems limited.