Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reaction: Balancing Systematic and Flexible Exploration of Social Networks

First of all, it's good to note the date of the paper, 2006. This is late enough to include Facebook (founded in 2004) and LinkedIn (launched in 2003), but perhaps not Twitter (launched in 2006). The first example is of a terrorism network, and these services were not mentioned in the article, it seems plausible that the authors would've known about them and been able to consider them.

Also, SocialAction, the social network analysis tool that the authors are promoting, still exists (here), but it's not immediately clear how well-mantained it is. Also, I'd like to do some research later to see if any other tools have surpassed its usefulness.

In any case, the paper seems to be applying our usual interaction requirements for the visual information seeking mantra to social network analysis: overview, zooming, filtering, and, to some extent, details on demand are all mentioned. Perhaps that is not surprising since Ben Shneiderman is one of the authors.

At the outset, it seems like the authors are taking a tool that displays a graph, an ordered list, and uses some coloring, and passing it off as the greatest thing in social network analysis since the colored monitor. It does seem like a great solution, but considering that I did something like this on my own for a custom database that my company was creating (including colors), it's hard to imagine that something like this didn't emerge sooner.