Inferring and Visualizing Social Networks on IRC

Posted 22 Jan 2004 at 23:09 UTC by jibbler Share This

By using an IRC bot to monitor the activity in an IRC channel, it is possible to infer a social network that connects the users in the channel. Visualizing these social networks is not only interesting, but has a variety of potential applications.

IRC has millions of users from all over the planet. It is arguably the most open chat system, making it great for general discussion and collaborating with other developers.

While you are happily chatting away, do you ever think of the channel as being more analogous to a real room than it first appears? Using simple heuristics that make use of this analogy, it is possible to infer and create visualizations of the social networks.

Looking at these diagrams rapidly reveals "who knows who" and how strong those relationships are. Some possible applications of the inferred social network are:

  • Integrating the system with an existing IRC client. This would be a pretty neat feature. As the system is implemented using the PircBot Java IRC Bot API, it could even be turned into its own IRC client rather easily.

  • Spam filtering on IRC. Did you ever think this was possible? Maybe it is when you have an inferred social network of a channel. Users who are far from you in the social network, or are not connected at all, are more likely to send messages that you would deem to be irrelevant.

  • The social network can also be analysed to obtain approximate levels of trust between pairs of users.

  • Similar principles can also be used to generate drawings of channel similiarity networks. These are useful for discovering new channels which you are likely to be interested in, by virtue of the fact that they share a common set of users.

I love correlation, posted 23 Jan 2004 at 03:15 UTC by apenwarr » (Master)

Man, I love correlating things! This particular experiment is a bit boring because it isn't "big brother" enough. Forget *one* IRC channel; get yourself a full IRC feed and watch the global conversation among thousands of people. Now *that* would be a cool diagram.

Of course, there are other ways to do this too; tracking email, newsgroups, blogs, pgp keys, and advogato certifications, for example. This irc method is nice because irc is *already* public and therefore makes it easy; it's not perfect because most people don't use IRC.

Who needs privacy anyway?

(this is cool), posted 23 Jan 2004 at 09:08 UTC by voltron » (Journeyer)

Your reply needs a body. Go back and try again.

using Free resources, posted 23 Jan 2004 at 13:05 UTC by vinsci » (Master)

So, you use Freenode -the IRC network for Free software development- as your experimental testbed, then post on Advogato, but don't really share our values?



"This software is free for personal, educational and non-commercial use only. A license is available for commercial use. An unlimited license is also available, allowing you to distribute this software as part of your own applications and to modify the source code as you see fit. Please contact me directly if you require a license."

Otherwise, please pick a license here, and join us.

Apologies, posted 1 Feb 2004 at 19:20 UTC by jibbler » (Master)

PieSpy is available under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

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