1. Introduction

"A social network is an online community that allows people, through a built-up profile, to meet, communicate, keep in touch, share pictures and videos with other community members with whom a connection is shared." (ENISA 2008)

Social networking is one of the many ideas that has changed the way people interact with each other. It is an online structure made up of individuals or organizations connected through a common platform. Social networking though more frequent and popular online can be extended in to real life situations and discussions, the idea being starting a network online and then interact in the real world or vice-versa. It can be used or started by anyone irrespective of any boundaries including the geographic boundaries, any person from any part of the world can be a part of a social network. It can be used by young people to find new friends, by big organizations to expand their business, by graduates trying to find jobs, by doctors to share information or by people to simply discuss issues. The topics may be varied and can be of any kind depending on the idea that the members on the network have. Anyone who wishes to take part in a social network must first become a member of the network.

Social networking though started with the websites on a PC or a laptop have expanded into more portable devices like a palmtop or a cell phone with the help of embedded systems. The way social networking is used is large and there are many forms of it. There are tools associated with a social network that allow users to have more options as to how to interact with each other. Some of the most popular forms and tools of a social network are Online Communities, Blogs, Personal Websites. Wikis, Bookmarks and Folksonomies, Photos and Videos. Each of the above mentioned forms and tools have their own unique way of interaction and also have some similarities in the way they are structured.

Social networking websites can be broadly categorized in six types.

1. Online Community

Online community is a virtual space which allows people from different walks of life to get together and interact with each other. It is a very powerful yet simple mode of communication and interaction. Online communities can be used by any individual or organization in order to expand their network or just have a casual discussion. The tools available make the online communities more interactive and exciting to work on. Examples of popular online communities include Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

2. Bookmarks and Folksonomies

Folksonomy dedicates to categorize the weblog articles. Folksonomies attempt in establishing a convenient medium to share/publish content, and assign keywords or tags to them for future referencing. It is a way of annotating and organizing resources with the use of tags which provides a way for its users to attribute meaning to the content of the information available. The article provides a framework for the study of folksonomy, tagging and social tagging websites. We will also see about few web services who uses Folksonomy However, with the quick increase in the amount of information being published and the number of users categorizing it, an information overload is generated, whose quality cannot be assured. Example of social bookmarking includes Delicious.

3. Photos and videos sharing websites

These sites enable users to share photos and videos with others (privately or publicly). Some websites are dedicated to providing the services (snapfish, YouTube) and some integrate these as essential features (Facebook). Advancement in technology allows users to upload images to websites directly from their mobile phone or other devices. Users can rate and add comments to the content. Most of the websites provide these services free of cost. Flickr and YouTube are example of popular websites for image and video sharing respectively.

4. Blogs

"A weblog is defined as a web page with minimum to no outside editing, providing on-line observations, cyclically modernized and existing in invalidate sequential order, with hyperlinks to other online sources. Blogs can function as personal diaries, technical advice columns, sports chat, celebrity gossip, political commentary, or all of the above." (VSMS 2010)

5. Wikis

"The term 'wiki' is derived from the Hawaiian phrase, wiki-wiki, which means quick. A wiki is a website containing a collection of web pages that can be edited by visitors to the site. It allows users to easily create and edit the web contents collaboratively. In essence, a wiki is a simplification of the process of creating HTML web pages in combination with a system that records each individual change that occurs over time, so that at any time a page can be forced to revert to any of its previous states." (VSMS 2010)

6. Personal Websites

"Personal web site or web pages are World Wide Web pages created by an individual to publish or keep content of a personal issue instead of on behalf of organizations. The usage of Personal web pages are often merely for entertainment purposes or passing information to the viewers." (VSMS 2010)

METHODOLOGIES IN ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL DATA

Principles of Social networking are not limited to computing field. Many researchers have been conducted on social networks in past hundred years because it relates to variety of phenomena in various disciplines (Long Pan 2007). Social network data is logically different and more complicated than traditional data. Hence, specialize methods are applied in analysis and research of social networks.

Data Gathering

There are two basic approaches for gathering social networking data: elicitation and registration (Nooy 2005). Elicitation basically focuses on traditional method of acquiring data from questionnaire/survey. Data gathered by this approach may be inaccurate and subjective. The cost involved is usually high due to more effort involved. On the other hand, registration is more cost effective and efficient way of gathering data. Data acquisition is automatic from huge social networking databases. Electronic data is collected very fast by the software, and it can provide reliable data for further processing.

Data representation

Social data is generally represented with help of Matrices and graphs. A basic social network is represented with help of nodes (or actors) and relationship (or edges). As a social network can be very large, it can have numerous nodes. Manipulating data with such large number of nodes is very difficult. Hence, metrics are usually used for calculating indexes describing data and graphs are used for visualizing patterns (Hanneman & Riddle 2005).

Graphs

A graph representing social networks typically consists of points and edges. These kinds of graphs are commonly known as "socio-grams". Figure 1 represent a simple graph depicting four actors related to each other.

Types of Graphs

A graph can be “directed” or “Bonded”. A directed graph represents a relationship from one node to another. The vice-versa relationship may not be true. A graph in this case is represented by arrows to make relationship more clear. In bonded graphs both entities share same kind of relationship with each other. The actors are connected with a simple line segment in this case.

A simplex relationship in entities is shown by single edges between nodes. However, in real world more than one kind of relationship is possible between two entities. To illustrate this in graphs we can use multiple lines. This kind of relationship is known as multiplex relationship.

social_graphs.png

Figure (1): A simple bonded graph

Matrices

Matrices are useful in analyse patterns when viewing information visually is very difficult. Matrices can be considered as tabular representation of data. The data is arranged in rows and columns. The most common form of representing social data is square matrices having number of rows and columns equal to number of nodes.

metric.png

Figure (2): Social data in form of Matrix

After collection of data, there are many tools available in the market which aid in visualizing social structure. Examples of such software include AutoMap, CFinder, NetDraw and many more.

The tag cloud below can be used to navigate the website. The keywords relate to the pages which contain information about them.

16 May 2010 22:03.

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