Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reaction: Balancing Systematic and Flexible Exploration of Social Networks

     The SocialAction tool developed by Perer and Schneiderman appears to be a very advanced tool to help analyze social networks. The ability to analyze and change the view in real time should be very beneficial to researchers as well as the ability to obscure and clarify 'nodes' based on user specified attributes.
    One of the more interesting aspects of the project is the fact they worked alongside sociologists during the development of the tool. It would be interesting to hear more about this (details that could probably fill an entire paper). I would have been interested to know how the researchers influenced the tool and what surprised the developers the most about the cooperative development. Kudos to them for working with potential users of the system during development.
    The only real questions I had after reading the paper were "Are there any types of social networks that SocialAction is not suited for?" and "Are there any types of queries about a social network that SocialAction would not be very helpful with (or would be too cumbersome to use)?".
    The only concern with the tool is how easy it is to display lots of interconnected nodes. The paper seems to solve this by filtering the data by some attribute (year for example), but what if this is not feasible?