Starting to graph teh social networks

Pattern of reposting of a post on the Qian Yunhui incident

My boss, Dr. King-wa Fu, wrote code in the R programming language using graph analysis programs (see Fruchterman-Reingold) and generated the graph seen here. This graph retraces the reposting of a particular post on the Qian Yunhui incident/murder in late December 2010 (see one of the reposts, original was deleted — required login).

The red is for female reposters, and the blue is for male ones. We traced the reposting pattern using the references to previous users contained in the reposting text (in Sina, the original post is preserved in its entirety and cannot be modified). While not terribly interesting in terms of colouring (we kept the more interesting ones for more official publications), the graph does help visualise how posts are shared on a social network like Sina Weibo.

(We dream one day that such graph can be generated in real-time and that you could zoom in and out. I’ve seen rather similar products in a previous life when I was working in bioinformatics and playing with 3-D modelling tools and complex molecular model databases.)

On a different topic, with data not published here, we clearly saw that celebrities — people with many followers — play a certain role in driving contents sharing. Many users read those celebrities’ weibo and in turn repost to their networks.

Hopefully, we’ll have more of these to share in the next few weeks…

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