Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Archive for April, 2007

Data Visualization: Mapping the Digg Community

Part of the purpose of any social web site is to build a network of friends. Using the recently released Digg API, I created a map of Digg users and how they’re connected to each other.

The Map [Link]

On the map, users are organized by the length of time they have had accounts on Digg. The oldest accounts are at the center and accounts created in the last few months are around the edges. The map only includes users who utilize Digg’s friendship feature.


I’m known for making an argument that data visualization can be very useful. Charts and graphs, while they may be aesthetically pleasing, can point out trends and habits on a broad scale that would probably be missed using typical statistical analysis.

However, I’ll be the first to say that the Digg friendship map I created has very little value as a practical analysis tool. It’s an idea I’ve had in my head for a few months, and finally got around to building it. I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be neat.

Making it fun and neat

The map itself, as a JPG image, may already appeal to people with an interest in data visualization. However, if I’m going to make something fun and neat, I’m going to try to appeal to more people than just data visualization enthusiasts.

When I rendered the image, I stored the coordinates for every user in a database. This allows me to go back afterwards and query the database for a specific user and retrieve that data point. I created a simple Flash interface where people can type in their (or others’) digg user names to find out where they are on the map.

Check it out!

SXSW Bowling Technique

This is a video of me bowling at SXSW 2007 in Austin, TX. The video shows step-by-step the technique I’ve developed (though, I use that term loosely). First, you extend the ball forward, in front of you. Next, you lift it over your head. Then, you bring it behind you. At the release, you spin your arm around the ball (I recommend ‘palming’ the ball — don’t use the thumb hole). You should try to land the ball near the left edge of the lane, aiming at the right gutter. This will give it a more dramatic effect as it curves at the edge of the gutter and comes back to strike the pins. The most important part, though, is a good victory dance! Even if you don’t get a strike! (just don’t fall down..)

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