Marc Smith NodeXL Talk Sep 22 @ Purdue

I have an interest in Social Media Analytics, so I went to a talk by co-founder of Social Media Research Foundation Marc Smith titled: Charting Collections of Connections in Social Media: Creating Maps and Measures with NodeXL. Some takeaways and thoughts I get:
1. Marc mentioned that Usenet is still growing at a pace of 11% per year. I was wondering why, because it seems nobody around me here use it anymore. Maybe it’s growing more outside of US, I know in mainland China and Taiwan, BBS is still very popular, especially in higher education institutions. In a later Social Media class, Dr. V also mentioned that Usenet is still widely used in certain groups of people who started with it. So I think maybe the body of a new generation who is born with Google+ will grow larger in the future, but then the old generation will still maintain on Facebook (at least before this generation die away), so Facebook don’t need to worry and panic now, maybe it should take some strategies to prepare for the new grown-ups 10 or 20 years later. Some of the thought here is inspired by this blog post by Dr.V.
 
2. Marc talks about one of the reasons for developing social media monitoring tools. When we see a large group of crowd on the street physically, we can actually see some patterns of the crowd. For example, they have formed various sub-groups, talking in different languages, and wearing different clothes. However, the shape of the crowd on the web is totally hidden. “The interface of social media is remarkably anti-social”. The nicely and neatly organized lists make everybody’s tweets and profiles the same format, thus break the shape of the crowd. So we want to take closer look at the content to see the patterns and shape of the crowd. To deal with large amount of data created by the crowd, we need social media monitoring tools with great computational ability. Here comes NodeXL–and MS Excel add-in that could help social scientists investigate the shape of the crowd with 0 line of programming.
 
3. Another interesting topic he talked is about strong and weak ties. Internet has increased the number of relationships we maintain in a great deal, however, most of them are weak ties. Strong ties need dedication of time and effort to maintain, and we only have limited time and attention. So are these weak ties useless? No. They matter a great deal! We usually share almost the same information with our strong ties,because we are very close to each other. Our weak ties are people who can bring new information, new possibilities, and job opportunities. Think about your own situation, if everybody you know knows everybody else you know, your job is not secure, because you are a redundancy, you can not bring new information to these people.
 
4. Marc showed a graph made with NodeXL about the connections among users who recented twitted “Purdue” when queried on Sep 16 2011.
20110916-NodeXL-Twitter-Purdue Composite
A larger version of the image is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marc_smith/6155750905/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Based on my understanding of Marc’s opinion, some of the in-between users in the middle green and light green areas are more important than the ones who are in the largest networks (the two big “hairballs”), because these in-between users connect the scattered people with the two big networks. Without them, these scattered people will lose the connections. Also sometimes, the big balls probably are created by famous patrons who don’t really belong to the group. I cannot remember the term Marc use to call them.
 
5. Another interesting graph Marc showed is:
2010 - September - 5 - NodeXL - Twitter - GOP
This is about people’s political opinions about GOP. Red represents GOP supporters, and blue represents critics. The in-between dot is political.com. This pattern has only been found in the US, not in other countries. So America is by far the most polarized country in terms of political opinions. This is an interesting finding that proves America is exceptional somehow.
 
Reflection about Tweeting the talk live:
I got a mission via Twitter from Dr. V at the beginning of the talk to tweet the talk live. I saw other people do so before but never done it myself. It’s quite interesting and intense and overall beatifically to me and maybe to whom read my tweets and this blog.

I felt super busy because I have to listen, tweet, and write my own notes at the same time. Later I abandoned my own notes because I couldn’t write notes and tweet at the same time. Today when I write this blog, I have to go back to my tweets rather than my notes to help memorize what was going on there yesterday.

One good thing about tweeting compared with taking notes myself is that I am responsible to make comprehensible sentences for my twitter audience, while taking notes I can use misspelling words, symbols and incomplete sentences. Some of the misspelling, symbols, and incomplete sentences never got corrected after I took them.

One drawback of making responsible sentences is that I have to think while couldn’t pay attention to listen. There are some words I don’t know how to spell exactly and I have to go to look it up. For example, Marc talked about the number of relationships chimpanzee could maintain vs. human could do. I couldn’t remember how to spell “Chimpanzee“, and couldn’t find it in a short time, I only find gorilla in my dictionary. I know gorilla and chimpanzee are different but I couldn’t remember what is the difference in the Chinese words, so I didn’t input the right Chinese word for chimpanzee, so I cannot find how to spell chimpanzee. I gave up to tweet this finally, and wrote a misspelling word in my own notes, but it took me a while.

Although this kind of things took some attention, but overall tweeting makes me pay more attention to the talk, because I am responsible to tweet as accurate as I could to my twitter audience. If I were not tweeting I probably would think about what I should have for dinner and daydreaming some other stuff that could take even more attention than looking for how to spell Chimpanzee. Overall, I think tweeting while listening and write a blog post about it is the most beneficial method to get the most out of a talk that you are interested in.