What network scientists do when they’re bored

Or maybe it’s just me when I’m bored, I haven’t blogged in a while, and the wife is working late. Inspired by this tweet about the distribution of colors in the L.L. Bean Home Fall 2014 catalog, I took it upon myself to analyze the network of color-product relationships.

A color is linked to another color if you can buy a product in both colors. For example, because 240-Thread Count Cotton Satteen Bedding is available in both “Lakeside” and “Pale Moss” these two colors are linked together on the network.

color_network_lccYou can find a copy of the graph file here.



The Beneficence of Mobs: A Facebook Apologia

Last week, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) published a study that conducted a large-scale experiment on Facebook. The authors of the study included an industry researcher from Facebook as well as academics at the University of California, San Francisco and Cornell University. The study employed an experimental design that reduced the amount of positive or negative emotional content in 689,000 Facebook users’ news feeds to test whether emotions are contagious. The study has since spawned a substantial controversy about the methods used, extent of its regulation by academic institutions’ review board, the nature of participants’ informed consent, the ethics of the research design itself, and the need for more explicit opt-in procedures.

Continue reading The Beneficence of Mobs: A Facebook Apologia

Data-Driven Dreams

What makes misinformation spread? It’s a topic of vital importance with empirical scholarship going back to 1940s on how wartime rumors spread. Rumors, gossip, and misinformation are pernicious for many reasons, but they can reflect deeply-held desires or are reasonably plausible, which makes them hard to stay ahead of or rebut. I have an interest in the spread of misinformation in social media and have published some preliminary research on the topic. So it was fascinating for me to witness misinformation spread like wildfire through my own academic community as it speaks to our data-driven anxieties and dreams.

Continue reading Data-Driven Dreams