Andrew Guyton's Blog

Update (10/19/2009): Nexus has closed down! :( “We shut it down because we no longer have time to maintain or operate it. We’re working on a lot of new things, but they’re unrelated to Nexus.” The source code is posted on their notice at http://apps.facebook.com/_nexus_/ if you want to give it a try.

nexus logoThink about the people you consider to be your friends. Chances are, some of them know each other, right? If you tried to write down how they were connected to each other, you’d get a form of “The Chart” from The L Word. You can probably guess that it’d be split up into a few groups; your high school friends would be separate from your college friends; if you’re in a greek organization, those friends would be clustered; if you did an out-of-state internship, those friends might be off by themselves, possibly because nobody loves them.

Chances are you may have seen an application that does something like this for you. It’s certainly not a difficult problem to imagine, given our propensity to visualize things. My personal favorite, by far, social graph application is the facebook app Nexus.

Why do I like it so much? First of all, let’s look at what it doesn’t do:

  • It doesn’t spam your friends with wall posts
  • It doesn’t spam your friends with notifications
  • It doesn’t spam you with emails
  • It’s not a quiz app
  • It doesn’t use java

After that little list, I bet you’re surprised that it’s a facebook application, right? It simply reads in your friends and how they’re connected and renders them as a spring graph and allows you to easily and logically navigate this graph. The only downside is that the graphs are somewhat computationally intensive (read: time-consuming) to generate, so it could take several minutes to generate yours. The time to generate the graph scales in proportion to the number of friends you have and presumably the connectedness of your friends.

If you want to see my graph to get a taste, it’s right here for your viewing pleasure, no installation or login required. Some patterns for you to analyze: I have a high school cluster and a college cluster; most of my convention friends (Dragon*Con and MomoCon) are somehow linked to people I know from Georgia Tech. Even my friends from FIRST are somewhat precariously linked back to my Georgia Tech network.

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