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Facebook intern Paul Butler has made a courageous attempt in revealing the electronic social connections worldwide. Turns out we do not need geographers to help us decide where to draw country borders, some clever social scientists with Facebook data should do.

Instead of taking the whole (secret?) Facebook social graph consisting of about 500 million people, the data is based on a sample of "about ten million pairs" of friends, which is combined with their home location. From this information, Paul was able to calculate the relative strength between pairs of cities, which was then normalized by their relative distance. By drawing lines between these pairs on top of each other, and fine-tuning their brightness, a map of visually distinguishable countries and continents naturally appeared. In fact, the map might not be that different from a view on the Earth at night, one commenter at Mashable remarked.

"After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships."

Thnkx Yarone . Also on Mashable and Gizmodo.




This is a really interesting map. Not just from the point of view of who is connected with who, but the fact that very little of Africa and only parts of South America is lit up tells us a little more. It would be interesting to see this overlaid with a map of connections to the, they would be very similar I imagine.

Tue 14 Dec 2010 at 10:36 PM

I created a derivative work from this, plotting population density against this dataset. See the result here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/57029495@N05/5261467662/#/

Wed 15 Dec 2010 at 5:32 AM

@tagetz: Really interesting follow-up! I find the original a striking image, but ultimately inconsequent as in sum the connection lines offer no particularly interesting additional information, thus are degraded to decorative elements. What sticks out, are, in fact, the geo-densities.

Wed 15 Dec 2010 at 8:09 PM

Very interesting to see some connections between countries: for example how France is well connected to french-speaking former colonies in Africa and the strong ties between Australia and New Zealand.

Thu 16 Dec 2010 at 3:43 PM

As Moritz correctly states, densities show up much brighter than the actual linkages, and on longer distances (Australia-Europe) or with intervening bright spots (Latin America-Spain-rest of Europe) it's impossible to see which lines are connected to where. I was interested for example in seeing connections between Greece and Melbourne, or in distinguishing Brazil-Portugal connections from other Latin American-Spain connections, but that's not easy this way.

Thu 16 Dec 2010 at 9:35 PM

I guess Canada wasn't online at the time? =/

Fri 04 Feb 2011 at 4:42 AM
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