Friday, August 24, 2007

More Examples of the "Next Generation?"

MapQuest -> Google Maps
communities -> social networks
postal address -> geocode
network backbone -> data and services backbone
website hosting -> web services hosting

3rd Generation Web
personal web sites -> blogging -> personal publishing

Tim O'Reilly's 2005 report "What is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for Next Generation Software" introduced me to the subject of Web 2.0 (almost a year after it was written). In this article he showed the results of a brainstorming session where members of O'Reilly Media and MediaLive International paired examples of (then) current generation with the next generation.

I think there are a few flaws in the logic that extends from the original list of pairs. For example, Google ending up buying DoubleClick in April of this year for $1.3B U.S. DoubleClick was obviously alive and kicking and the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was not the result of any generational (read paradigm) shift, but rather one hell of a business deal. And I'm not sure declaring evite "out" and upcoming "in" is either right or fair. Evite has a great brand and they do a good job of promoting and coordinating an event. They could easily choose to open up their data and services and compete on other portal features like localized listings (that's what you get when you make everyone's data public). And guests still like getting a nice invitation. It's just not paper. MapQuest, on the other hand clearly doesn't get want users want from a map services. Usability is poor and it looks more like they are in the business of promoting offers. Meanwhile Google invested in mapping, invigorating it into the mainstream and always innovating into ever more seamless application of their service.

As a matter of reference I have copied the original list of pairs here:

In our initial brainstorming, we formulated our sense of Web 2.0 by example:

Web 1.0
Web 2.0
DoubleClick --> Google AdSense
Ofoto --> Flickr
Akamai --> BitTorrent --> Napster
Britannica Online --> Wikipedia
personal websites --> blogging
evite --> and EVDB
domain name speculation --> search engine optimization
page views --> cost per click
screen scraping --> web services
publishing --> participation
content management systems --> wikis
directories (taxonomy) --> tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness --> syndication
End Quote

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Observations in Social Network Visualization

My network with a faded back graph:

My network with a hidden back graph:

My network with labels hidden:

My network with labels and edges hidden:

My network with the back graph in high contrast:

Least relevant connection in my network?

One of the outlying nodes is a case of mistaken identity, i.e. the wrong user was added to a friend's network and neither of us know this person. The other outlying node is not a person, but a group. The group is not really used by anyone.

Monday, August 20, 2007

social-network-portability on Google Groups

There is a fantastic discussion going on over at social-network-portability group. The group was started by Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon who published "Thoughts on the Social Graph" on Fitzpatrick's web site, August 18, 2007. In a nutshell, Fitzpatrick and Recordon seek to establish the meta graph-of-graphs for social networking as a "community asset" (i.e., not owned by anyone and in the public domain). They put it to the group to figure out how to do that (although Fitzpatrick has already started with a prototype).

The most active topic is "On Centralisation vs De-Centralisation," including separate threads. But there are clear sub-themes running as well: identity, privacy, property, and language protocol. I detected a coincidental cross-current of the property issue on Tim O'Reilly's blog today. But it seems to me that the "Thoughts..." starts with the assumption that cooperating parties are going to do the right things - "assumes" not "takes for granted." At least, it is assumed that this thing is going to be developed one way or the other and the key is to seize the moral high ground by taking charge of the discussion of how, exactly.

Social Network Portability is "A Good Thing."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Experiences and Observations in Network Visualization

I built a web app called g.licious that uses graph layouts to visualize relationships in data. I built the tool mainly to test our graphing package in Bridgeworks together with AJAX and web services. Visualization of relationships using graphs is certainly not new. In fact, there has been plenty of criticism of this approach. Indeed, the criticism is not without basis. Regardless, people keep doing it. The reason we keep doing it is because the approach itself is quite sound. Results happen. How people choose to use graph viz is another story. So what is it that makes good graph viz and bad graph viz? Well, I have to say that I can't pretend to know even a tiny fraction of what Jeffrey Heer and Stuart Card know. They defined graph viz. They've studied it more than anyone I know of and that's how I learned. Still, I think my experience has taught me a few things that are worth recording. In the spirit of visualization, I thought I'd start with a few observations from g.licious.

Starting with the is my network:
The graph layout is called Radial Tree. Radial Tree is a prototypical "degrees of separation" view shown as concentric circles about a center point of interest. Here I'm in the middle ("prestidigital"). The first circle of names around me are the friends in my immediate network. They are connected to me by the green lines. Beyond that are friends of my friends. They are connected by blue lines. The gray lines are called the "back graph." It shows which of my friends and friends' friends know each other. My networks has some quirks. At least one person has two identities. Another name was added as a case of mistaken identity. (Those are topics for another discussion.) This view shows my extended network in one place. It shows me relationships among my friends. That's somewhat useful and interesting. It's more than the network view provides. But that kind of value added is a nice-to-have, not a must-have. The real value of a view like this comes when I use it as a foundation on which to add layers of information, when I use it to ask questions. Here is my network with "traffic":

In this view nodes representing my friends are sized according to how many links I have sent them using the for: tag. But then...why do I really care to see where traffic in my network is going? Well, this view answers the question "how much?" So maybe I and my are placeholders for distributor and supplier, producer and consumer, seller and buyer, caller and callee. Conveniently, one of the keys to success with this view happens to be the fact that I have a small network. What happens when I have a HUGE network? Hold that thought. Suffice it to say now that what's important isn't necessarily how much I can see at once, but rather what I can know based on what I see. Navigability through levels of detail is also important. But for now, I want to keep it simple. There's a lot I can learn, pro and con, from this tiny little set of relationships.

This view of my network shows communities of interest:

At the bottom half of the view are researchers and librarians I know that work in the same library. At the top, those who are closest to me are in fact office colleagues, two co-founders of my company, my wife, and one of my closest friends. That seems to say something important. (The graph layout is called a Force-Directed Graph. The general idea is that the edges act like springs.) Now, the thing with this bit of knowledge about my graph is that it seems hard to generalize beyond a specific set of circumstances that occur here. The reason I know how to interpret his view is because it's my network. People in my network might also know how to read it. But what if the relationship is not people?

Here is a view of my tags:

Now, this isn't the greatest view in the world, but I have to keep mind a few things: 1) I made it in a hurry, 2) the picture is really a screen capture of an interactive 3D visualization that is easily manipulated with a mouse, keyboard, or clever software, and most importantly 3) there are plenty of people that can easily identify clusters of keywords that belong together. WSP+music+band+setlist+Virginia locates the setlists from Widespread Panic concerts I attended (in my home state). The dates 2006 and 2007 describe "when" and each points to the show I saw here that year. points directly to information about Department of Defense policies and procedures for getting software certified on .mil networks. There are several other clear relationships in the larger spline to the right. there's a lot to consider here and I'm getting tired. More later... The images here aren't great because they are small. I tried to link to my Picasa web albums. Ironically that didn't work in Blogger (both are owned by Google...again, another story). So here's a direct link.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Third time may not be the charm

This is technically the third blog I've created. The first was my Slashdot Journal. I'm not really sure why I stopped writing there. It's not the best interface and you can't feed it. Then I liked what my friend Todd Wickersty was doing with some of his sites using Word Press. So installed a XAMPP and WordPress on my laptop and wrote a few things in there. Word Press is great (and so is XAMPP). I intended to continue there but never got around to moving to a more accessible infrastructure via some hosted site. So here I am at blogger.