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I’ve been getting more interested in data visualization lately (as you might have picked up by some of my recent posts). I do not have the technical skills required for really insightful, visually impressive work at this point. Thankfully, Nate at FlowingData pointed me in the direction of IBM’s Many Eyes project, which allows you to upload your own data set and create custom views of the data using their pre-fab visualizations.

To get my feet wet I decided to create a visualization of my network using data from LinkedIn.  I currently have ~350 connections and decided to visualize the frequency with which particular companies and organizations were observed among those connections.  So here is what the first cut looks like:

Clicking on the visualization will allow you to interact with it, selecting companies to see what percentage of the data they account for.

Looking at the data a few patterns quickly emerge:

  • My current employer (Gerson Lehrman Group) accounts for the highest share of contacts (20%)
  • My current and previous employer (Kroll) together account for 33% of my contacts. This is not surprising, as it seems intuitive that a) you tend to connect with people that you have either met in person or have conducted some kind of business with (even if only by phone), and your most frequent touch points during the course of a day will be with people you work with.
  • My network is very much long tail. Over 54% of the companies in my network have less than 3 people I know working for them; over 40% include only 1 connection (see graph below).  Again, I would suspect this is similar for most networks.

  • The other thing to note is that this is only a sample of my actual contacts.  This only represents those people I have connected with on LinkedIn–it doesn’t include Facebook, Twitter, or for that matter anyone I know professional/personally who is not on a social networking site.  Now, there is some overlap with Facebook (and a much smaller amount with Twitter), but I would say I am only connected to ~50% of my Facebook friends on LinkedIn.

What I don’t have–and what I’d like to see–is an industry breakdown (LinkedIn doesn’t provide that data on their exports).  Now, you can see the top 4 of 5 through your account on LinkedIn, but I’d rather have the full data to play with.  I would also like to see the date I added someone as a contact.  I think some interesting patterns would emerge in terms of firm, industry, and date of connection.  Additionally, I would be interested in how tightly connected my network is–meaning, how many of my connections are directly connected.  I would imagine the two employers would naturally be tightly bundled, but it would be interesting to see how many other connections share a link.  Again, this is data that LinkedIn doesn’t export.