Fun with networks

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social networks, and in particular, have been thinking about the fact that among a certain demographic (liberal, educated, obsessed with pop culture from a particular era) there’s a pantheon of geeky idols. When you see (below) the sort of people, bands, movies and shows that I’m talking about, my bet is that you’d be able to fill in the rest of the table nearly identically. I was most curious about who connects to who, and how we all seem obsessed with many of the same people.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good, simple-to-install and free network visualization software out there, so I decided to write my own. A few notes:

  1. You need to have visual python installed on your computer
  2. To run the program, simply use: python [inputfile]
    where the inputfile has an ordered list of people, the coordinates on which they are to appear, and their “weight” as geek celebs. It also lists the interconnects.

  3. While running, you can execute the following commands:
    • ‘+’ – Allows you to make a new node (if you which to cancel, press tab)
    • Click and Drag from one node to another makes a connection
    • ‘-‘ – Destroys a connection
    • Click on a connection or a node allows you to edit the name (press enter when done)
    • Rightarrow increases the weight of a node or the strength of a connection
    • Leftarrow decreases the weight of a node or the strength of a connection
    • ‘p’ – prints the current configuration of your network to standard out. You can use this to make an input file, or if you simply pipe the code to a file, it will be made automatically.

    It’s pretty cool. It will dynamically re-adjust itself to space the nodes such that their geometric separation is related to the number of degrees (and strength of those degrees) separating them.

    And now, on to the pantheon! (link takes you to the input file for my current list):

    This is also good for making other networks. For example, I made a very nice network of how I know my close friends, but I’m quite disinclined to post it here.

    Have fun! And if there’s someone you think should be in the pantheon, let me know.


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4 Responses to Fun with networks

  1. Caden says:

    An article of Malcom Gladwell’s was included in an anthology of articles, “The New Kings of Non-Fiction,” edited by Ira Glass. An article by Dan Savage was also included.

    • dave says:

      I think Gladwell himself may have appeared on TAL. But you take my point about the pantheon, don’t you? Surely I’ve missed some important nodes.

  2. Travis Hoppe says:

    Notwithstanding the inherent joy of reinventing the wheel – you should be aware of the amazing GraphViz package:

    And some useful python bindings:

    It is not quite what you’ve posted, as it is not interactive, but the networks created are publication quality.

    • dave says:

      Oh, but it’s not just re-inventing the wheel. The cool thing is that I get to make my network dynamically. Does your precious graphviz do that?

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