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Nexus: cool friend graph visualization app [Apr. 24th, 2008|08:34 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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Information overload.

That's probably the most annoying problem with the web today. A lot of the people doing web services startups who I talk to are trying to solve some variant of this problem. Personally, I think filtering and visualization together offer the best way to tackle it.

That's why I like Nexus, a facebook app that lets you visualize your friend graph. Here's the graph of links between my friends. The annotations are of course mine. (The default mode is the radial mode, which looks way cooler but in my opinion is less useful.) The javascript interface gives you far more nifty information than just looking at the graph, but you need to go play with it to get the idea.

Filtering and visualization are really two sides of the same coin. For instance, once I put the labels on these clusters, it immediately struck me as an excellent way to create friend lists. When you have several hundred friends, manually splitting them into work/family etc. is a daunting task and the vast majority of users never bother. With a nexus-like interface, you could let the user draw freehand curves around the different clusters to use as a starting point for grouping friends into categories. (There is a straight line that almost perfectly separates my college friends from my grad school friends, for example.)

Unfortunately, facebook doesn't allow applications to edit the user's friends list for them, so this feature cannot be implemented for now. I'm thinking of maybe porting nexus to livejournal. Do you think having a tool to create friend lists is a useful feature for lj users?

People apparently hate facebook applications so much that random people in coffee shops who notice me wearing a facebook shirt feel impelled to let me know how they feel about it. I suspect most of these people have never spent five minutes exploring the actually useful applications out there instead of crap like superpoke.

[User Picture]From: arvindn
2008-04-25 05:32 am (UTC)
you made that? very nice.

you have some really good concepts. like using size and shape as information channels. but i wouldn't say your algorithms are very efficient. (no offense, i'm sure it was a lot of effort; but you can do it a lot better once you've studied the theory.)

the source isn't available is it?
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[User Picture]From: mcfnord
2008-04-25 01:47 pm (UTC)
i've focused on cool rather than efficient. i've studied some of the theory. i haven't released the source. these have been in production for four or five years. there will be a second act. again, i don't understand how facebook is allowing the code you linked to, because officially they don't let you leverage someone else's data unless they've opted into your app. Marnanel recently confirmed this. i also kinda hate facebook cuz i hate advertising, but it is a widely adopted platform. i think i'll be staying here.
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