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August 19 2011

Visualization of the Week: The SXSW Panel Picker

It's that time of year again: The public can now weigh in on the panels that have been proposed for South by Southwest (SXSW). Through September 2, SXSW is seeking input on proposals via its Panel Picker voting system. This often translates into a lot of tweets and posts where proposers ask followers to give their panels the thumbs up.

And while these social signals are one way to work through the thousands of proposals, Matt Biddulph has created another. On Google+ this week, Biddulph posted a visualization of the proposals, based in part on the tags associated with the submissions.

SXSW panel picker visualization
Screenshot from Matt Biddulph's SXSW 2012 panel topics visualization. Click to see the full interactive version.

Biddulph said he's working on a blog post about what he calls "social object graphs" — that is, visualizations and analyses based on "social objects" rather than specifically "people." When he looked at the SXSW Panel Picker, he realized the tagging system would be interesting in this light. These tags, noted Biddulph on Google+, "can be used to make a co-occurrence graph."

Biddulph continued:

My tool of choice once I have such a graph is Gephi, the "Photoshop of graphs." It can perform statistical analysis, filtering and algorithmic layout, and that's what I did to produce this SXSW viz. The nodes are sized by how "important" they are to the network. Commonly co-occurring nodes cluster close to each other, leading to a nice readable layout — if two nodes are far away, they are unrelated (e.g. UX and developer talks opposed to social media and marketing talks).

Found a great visualization? Tell us about it

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring visualizations. We're always looking for leads, so please drop a line if there's a visualization you think we should know about.

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More Visualizations:

March 25 2011

Four short links: 25 March 2011

  1. Bruce Sterling at SxSW (YouTube) -- call to arms for "passionate virtuosity". (via Mike Brown)
  2. Developer Support Handbook -- Pamela Fox's collected wisdom from years of doing devrel at Google.
  3. Wikipedia Beautifier -- Chrome plugin that makes Wikipedia easier on the eyes.
  4. -- an open science community. Comment on, recommend and submit papers. Get up-to-date on a research topic. Follow a journal or an author. science.I/O is in beta and is currently focused on Computer Science.

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March 12 2011

SXSW 2011: Can Facebook photos be used commercially?

Social network grilled over whether businesses and advertisers could co-opt 'Flickr's worth of photos uploaded every month'

Much of the focus of this discussion was inevitably focused on Facebook's photos product manager, Sam Odio, who disappointingly played the "not my remit' card when asked the most interested and pertinent questions about Facebook's use of users' photos, including facial recognition and how images might be co-opted by advertisers.

• Facebook sees "a Flickr's worth of photos uploaded every month", said Odio. But it's worth considering the different values of those two services: Flickr includes some high-quality, well edited photography, while Facebook focuses on storytelling over quality. It doesn't matter, said Odio, if that first photo of your newborn nephew is blurry: it's the social context behind the photo.

• Odio fielded a question by one delegate about how businesses and advertisers might start appropriating photos for commercial use. "We're not in the business of selling ads through people's photos and we want to prevent businesses having free rein over users," he said. "But businesses are users," pushed the delegate. Odio said Facebook would want the people in the photos to be telling the story – which means advertising would be there but more subtly, and directed by users.

• As for ownership of photos, Odio said that comes down to the need to build the API in such a way that it can access your friends' photos. If each of those users retained ownership, that would become very complicated. "There are worries we are going to use photos in advertising but it doesn't really benefit us that much given how sensitive the subject is."

Yan-David Erlick, a serial entrepreneur who founded, predicted that social photos will become even more integrated with our lives through different sorts of tagging. "Timelines between items will mean that over time, these entities are not viewed as individual pieces of media but will have contextual attributes tying them to other pieces."

• Odio explained how after struggling to keep his startup photo site Divvyshot going in 2009, ploughing in all his own savings, he got a random email one Sunday night. It was from Blake Ross, who later turned out to be co-creator of Firefox, at an address at Facebook. "He said 'Sam – your site looks interesting. You should come here.' I was living with six developers at the time and they were all looking over my shoulder to figure out if the email was fake or not." It was, and Facebook acquired Divvyshot in April 2010.

• Feature requests aren't always the best way to develop a product. Odio said nobody asked for Instagram, which just raised $7m in funding, but now it is taking off. Facebook's engineers also have a monthly hackathon where they can work on whatever they like; that doesn't determine product direction but features such as drag-and-drop organisation have come out of that.

• On facial recognition, all Odio would say is that Facebook "hasn't been able to move quickly on it given how sensitive it is", which does seem to imply it would have liked to do plenty if it could have got away with it.

• Odio said a startup should make the product extremely simple; he had got distracted when trying to add too many features and functions. "Focus on one thing and do it extremely well. In early days the product needs to be explained to users in 10 seconds or less."

• One delegate said he was concerned that Facebook is becoming such an important repository for his life, and that photos are the most easily accessible part of that archive compared to status updates or messages. Erlich described the web being used as an external memory for us all, from photos to phone numbers; this ties in with Clay Shirky's idea of cognitive surplus – if machines can take over the mechanical parts of our brain function, what can we do with the space and energy that frees up? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 10 2011

Who is the champion of SXSW?

We have reviewed every SXSW twitter post from 2009, 2010 and 2011 to identify the show's biggest influencers.

This year, as in past years, Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) is the champion of champions for SXSW. For three years running, he's been the top influencer on PeopleBrowsr's SXSW Interest Graph. The king of connectedness has the most friends on Twitter discussing SXSW — a reigning title that resonates with his social media identity.

SXSW influential individuals year after year

SXSW influential companies year after year

Why Chris Brogan?

Chris has the highest number of followers who are interested in SXSW. His followers are having conversations about SXSW and often tweet SXSW mentions and news. Chris is an influencer for SXSW because he has a high number of engaged connections who are interested in this topic. He is a brand champion for SXSW because of his potential influence in the SXSW interest-based community.

We identify champions as people who have the most followers tweeting a topic of interest. The same analysis can be done for champions within locations or communities. Community champions are those people who have the most number of friends within a particular community who are talking about a particular topic.

We analyzed the list of all SXSW mentions to find the central influence connectors. Our goal was to discover how influencers discussing SXSW are connected to each other and which influencers are the most interconnected among the group. We checked every connection, frequency of conversation and engagement, and compared each person to everyone else in the list. This process was repeated for individuals in the global SXSW conversation, as well as the top communities to create a connections graph based on interest.

Chris is connected to the highest number of people in the SXSW champion community who are also discussing SXSW topics. His messages reach the highest number of people who are interested in SXSW.

What does he say?

We were interested in the content of Chris' messages and did human sentiment analysis to gather further insights into his influence. Chris' tweets mainly focus on awareness and capturing attention, reviewing emerging tech and startups, and big picture ideas. Chris is a positive tweeter — even his negative comments have a nice tone.

Here's another one of his tweets...

Most of his interaction on Twitter is with other tech influencers, social media experts and marketers who also have high follower counts and close connections. Chris is a highly influential trust agent in social media. He's a prolific tweeter, personal, approachable and actively engaged in conversations.

And he is not attending SXSW this year ...

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Other champions

Perhaps next year we'll have a new reigning head of the Twitterverse. Here are a few other top champions we analyzed, including Liz Strauss, Robert Scoble, and Kevin Rose. Through human sentiment analysis we found no surprises — the traits that these champions have in common is that they retweet, share messages, respond in real-time and provide useful information on topics that are interesting to their followers.

As a champion, Liz Strauss uses Twitter to both broadcast and engage in conversation. She often retweets others and is mostly neutral — though her tone is authoritative and her style is honest. She has a lot of mentions about public speaking and she posts recommendations to help others improve in this area of expertise. Her tweets about SXSW focus on finding ways to maximize her conference time — and she has frequent conversations with other Twitter champions.

Robert Scoble is another veteran of SXSW, and it was no surprise that he'd be a top champion for the festivities. His 160,000+ followers are interested in technology news and social media. He mainly uses Twitter as a medium to engage with other geeks — he's active in @replies and takes the time to respond to people, regardless of their influence or follower count. He also seems to be sharing more than broadcasting. He has a fondness for startups and promotes and reviews new products often. Scoble has been tweeting a lot about SXSW this year yet his relative influence ranking was at its max in 2009.

Kevin Rose has more than 1.2 million followers. Reviewing his tweets with human sentiment analysis, we found that his positivity is off the charts. He's very conversational with the developer community and encouraging to people who are launching products/ideas. He loves to thank the community and to get involved. Though he rarely retweets, he replies to others frequently. He's also a dedicated sports fan and tweets a lot about food.

Rose will be a champion for many startups and will be at SXSW this year.

How we found these champions

We created SXSW Brand Champion Scorecards for 2011,
from global mentions of SXSW and invite you to walk the interest graph to see the connections of additional champions and the communities they influence.

The Brand Champion Scorecards and the Interest Graph are integrated with

Twitter has made it possible for people to openly make friends with others who have like-minded interests — regardless of first-degree personal connections. We follow people who are interested in the things we're interested in, and in many ways we are what we tweet.

We'd love to connect with you in Austin. Tweet me or @PriscillaScala or @Jen_Charlton and meet the team in person. We'll be tweeting throughout and following all of our SXSW champions.


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