Visualizing Your Facebook Network of Friends

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I recently saw a few friends using the Friend Wheel application on Facebook, I was suddenly captivated by the concept of seeing my FB friends as a network. This is a natural thing for a computer weenie and CIS major. It’s a very geeky interest. However, it is amusing to make discoveries about which of your friends are the most connected, and to whom.

The Friend Wheel is pretty, but I did not find that it gave me enough information. Once you get it loaded with your friends (just type “friend wheel” into the search box in the upper right corner of your Facebook page and you’ll go directly to it), you will see an interactive screen that looks something like this:The Facebook Friend Wheel application display
The cool thing is that you can move your mouse around to any name and the connections to that name will light up. It’s fun and pretty, but It didn’t ring my bell.

The next one that I found that was easy to use is Social Graph. You can find it by typing “social graph” into the search box. Once you start the application and allow it to access your friends, you’ll get some interesting network graphs. This is mine, zoomed out far enough so that you can see the entire network:Facebook Social Graph application - all of my friends

It’s immediately clear that there are some outliers that have no connections to anybody but me, or possibly one or two other outliers. This tells you nothing about your relationship to the friend, but it does tell you that you could bring this friend into the big “connectedness ball” in the middle by suggesting the friend’s name to many of your other friends within the ball.

As you zoom in on the graph, you’ll see the profile image of your friends in each node. You can point to a node with your mouse and see highlighted the connections of that friend to all of your other mutual friends. For instance, here is the “Eunice cluster” consisting of my wife, Eunice, and her connections to my friends:

Facebook Social Graph application - the "Eunice cluster"

Moving my mouse to my son, Hans, I can instantly see all connections to any friends that we share:Facebook Social Graph application - the "Hans cluster"

Social Graph does another interesting trick. Apparently, if it finds a particularly dense cluster of tightly interconnected friends, it colours the “mob” (my word for it) pink. Here I can clearly see Eunie’s family, mostly nieces and nephews all in a big pink blob:Facebook Social Graph application - the "Eunice's family cluster" 'mob' shows by pink

If you want to try this one, there are some fun things to do. The first is to just watch it build your web. I have only 193 friends at present, a few of which I will probably “X” because they never really use FB or we have nothing to say to each other. (These graphs are all useful for “weeding” your friend garden.) The other thing that is fun to do is to try grabbing one of the friend nodes and moving it to another place on the graph. The whole graph will go momentarily jumpy and quickly the node will return to its correct position. There is a great deal of computation going on here. I’d love to see what a graph with 1,000 friends would do, though I would hate to have 1,000 FB friends.

Here is another interesting network graphing application for Facebook. It’s called TouchGraph – just search for it as described above. You have to install this one, but it’s easy-peasy to do. Here is how my Firefox page appears with the application running:

The Touchgraph application for FacebookAs you can see, if you click to enlarge, I’ve highlighted Australia and I am shown all of my friends with an Australian IP address.

Here I have mouse-clicked Eunice and I can see the connections to our mutual friends:

The Touchgraph application for Facebook - the "Eunice cluster"I found several other applications by Googling for “facebook network visualizations”. The ones above are those that I feel are the easiest, most useful, and the most fun to play with.

Visualising your FB friends as a network and seeing these kinds of details could allow you to hand-craft a group of friends that let you use FB the way that you  want to use it, rather than depending on the friend “suggestions” that so often lead to unproductive or even undesirable connections.

Have fun!

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Quizzes for Numbskulls

Posted in Humor, Rants and Rages on August 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you don’t use Facebook and you don’t think that I’m funny, then move along folks, there’s nothing to see here.

If you are a Facebook user, you probably fall into one of four categories:

1. You think quizzes are cool and you take every one that comes along.
2. You don’t care much about quizzes, but they don’t bother you. You might do one if it seems fun.
3. You dislike quizzes, do not take them on principle, and would dearly love to never see one again.
4. You despise them with a furious passion and have discovered how to heartlessly bludgeon them into submission. (That’s me!) *

First, a little background on Facebook quizzes. This is the goon who started the plague – patient zero – Thaddius Fuddsucker. You may notice the striking resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman. They are distant cousins. Thad started writing Facebook quizzes after his hospital recuperation from injuries sustained in a bar fight. He went back to his trailer and cried on the lap of his thirteen year-old bride until he had the inspiration to write the first and most famous of the Facebook quizzes, What Kind of BadA** Are You?  (Note my clever use of ** to obscure the word a**.)  The rest is history, folks.

A typical quiz writer

Note that Thad is a little squinty from brain damage and his left ear is a prosthetic.

My first and only foray into the underbelly of Facebook was when I took the quintessential What Kind of BadA** Are You?  quiz myself. I was delighted to find that I was Barrack Obama! I decided never to do another quiz, since the outcome could never be as good.

So, now we know that type of people who produce these scatological tidbits,  but who consumes them? Huh?

Well, I did a scientific survey of all of humankind to determine those who are most likely to succumb to the temptation to narcissistically force down other peoples’ throats information such as, what colour am I, what kind of underwear would I be, or if I were a root vegetable, what variety would I be? This turns out to be the grade between morons and idiots, commonly known as imbeciles:

Scientific chart showing the most likely group to take quizzes

This is, of course, right up my alley, so to speak. I come from a long line of inbred trailer-trash. Two of my close family, in fact, are feeble minded imbeciles and take Facebook quizzes at every opportunity. I’ve pointed them out here in a candid snap taken after a recent drunken brawl following a family discussion of the implications of the correlation between phases of the moon and the number of containers that fall off of ships. We’re going to have to choose our topics with more prudence. That one generated a lot of heat:

The two quiz takers in the Messersmith family

As you can see, we are all a little agitated. There was still a lot of hooting going on.

I know that someone is going to ask, so I’m the one behind my sister, Agnes, staring fixedly at a horse fly which landed on the lampshade. Honestly, it was the most beautiful thing that I ever laid eyes upon.

While we’re at it, I’d like to congratulate Uncle Fred on his recent diploma in Applied Sewerage Science from the Indianapolis Junior Technical Institution for The Twelve Fingered.

Now, of course, I can’t let this go before I tell you the quizzes that I would like to see. I don’t want to take them, I just want to see how many fuzzy numbskulls out there do.

(1) If you were a pair 501 jeans, how many buttons would you have on your fly?

(2) If Genghis Khan called you a sissy boo-boo nuggi-nuggi, who would you tell him to go and make love to?

(3) If you were a pair of pliers, what would you want to squeeze most?

(4) If your pyjamas were on fire, who would you most like to put them out?

(5) If you were a heartless dictator with the blood of millions on your hands, which one would you be?

and (my personal favourite)

(6) If Albert Einstein pooh-poohed you for believing in quantum entanglement, saying it was hogwash and represented “spooky action at a distance”, where, exactly, would you punch him?

Happily, not all of my family is so backward and stuffy. The younger generation is open-minded, politically aware, free-spirited, and each has a consciousness which has been expanded to the approximate size of Tasmania. They are “The Young Ones” and we love them all.

My politically active nieces and nephews

They are far too stoned to take quizzes.

Could this be a good  thing?

* Find the Facebook One-Click Quiz Blocker on the web and try it. You’ll see each quiz ONCE. Then you bludgeon it to death with one click of the mouse (powerful stuff!) and you will never see that quiz again.

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Posted in On Tthe Road, Opinions on May 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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Anybody out there but me remember the Five Man Electrical Band? I doubt it. It was 1972 and I was flinging Hueys around in the sky while this Canadian rock band was singing:

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Here’s a YouTube clip from the Mike Bullard Show of the group performing Absolutely Right and Signs. We were buried deep in the anti-Vietnam War avalanche (that’s why I was in the National Guard flying Hueys). The sentiment of Signs burned in my head adding psychedelic flames to the anti-establishment bonfire that was already giving my rebellious nature a fever. Those were interesting times. Anybody out there feeling that way today? I doubt it. There’s a new war raging, new injustices, new infringements on natural liberties and freedoms. Who’s marching now?

Well, you can remove the man from the hippies, but you can’t remove the hippie from the man. Sorry about that. Our son was born in 1969. Does that tell you anything?

But, today’s signs are funny, not serious. On to the first of MadDog’s Amusing Signs of Hamilton:

Custom fitted off-the-rack suits?  I don't think so.
Do you detect an ambiguity here? Eunie says that it means that they will take a sort of tent-shaped suit off the rack and then alter it to fit you. Okay, maybe. I say that they are trying to tell you that no matter what size you are, they already have a suit on the rack that will fit you. Amazing, eh? Simple maths indicate that I’m probably wrong. I hate it that she’s right all the time! I never get to win one.

Could Hamilton be the only city in the world where farmers have their very own library?

The farmers have a special library in Hamilton

This next one is a little hard to read. Let me help you interpret it because there is a bit of in-built ambiguity. Originally, it said (literally) FIGHT WITH THE CANADIAN FORCES. The pictures make it reasonably clear that one is supposed to fight along with them rather than start a fight against them. But, wait! Some fellow anarchist (My Facebook Profile list my political affiliation as anarchist.) has wittily modified the message. It now reads FIGHT IMPERIALISM! RESIST (THE) CANADIAN FORCES.

Hamiltonians Against Imperialism
As a once American (I still have the passport, but probably don’t deserve it.), this seems to me a silly idea. To Americans, Canadians are a source of gentle, warm amusement and . . . yes, admiration. How could anyone become seriously at odds with Canada. The idea is insufferable. To the defacer of this sign I say, “You’re smoking way too much weed, man.”

This next one blew my mind. Could this be REAL? I got a little dizzy. It was as if I had been suddenly warped into an alternate universe where you could hop over to the Kidney Depot (there’s one in every mall) and get whatever you need to fix you up. Did the plane pass through a wormhole over the mid-Pacific and I’m only now noticing the subtle differences?

Get your new kidney here
Alas, no. I’m not so lucky. When, as if in a dream, I got back to the hotel room and began examining the poster, I found the URL Ahh, now all is clear. The web site features a creepily realistic naked guy (sorry, no naughty bits) who moves in semi-robotic manner and talks to you. He’s got a big zipper down his torso. You can unzip him if you’re into slasher movies.

I didn’t sign up. It’s not because I don’t support the principle. It’s just that I plan to die in Papua New Guinea (not soon, knock on wood). I don’t think that it would be practical to haul my rotting 126 year-old corpse back to Canada to spoon out some decrepit bit that might supply one additional nanosecond of misery to another hapless soul.

Stay tuned for more Hamiltonian surrealism over the next few weeks.

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