The Social Media Research Foundation and the Guardian’s Facebook Timeline app

Visualizing the Future: The Social Media Research Foundation

If we are approaching the age of Big Data, then it is imperative that companies, schools, governments and people alike learn to make sense of and see patterns in vast amounts of data. To that effect, the Social Media Research Foundation is here to save the day.

With an aim to create “open tools, generate and host open data, and support open scholarship” about social media, the organization is poised to dissect the mountains of data that are updated continually online.

The foundation is truly a collaborative effort by researchers from an array of institutions including Microsoft Research, Morningside Analytics and many universities including our very own University of Georgia.



The organization’s biggest project to date is NodeXL, a free, open network discovery and exploration add-on for Excel.  Using this familiar spreadsheet format, NodeXL offers companies and social media researchers a way to collect, analyze and visualize complex social networks in an easy way.

Visualization is the key to understanding how and what we communicate via social networks.  Take, for example, the Bill Gates Foundation.

Marc Smith, one of many researchers involved with the foundation, visually graphed the social networks of the Bill Gates Foundation using NodeXL and, according to a article, found that their network is a “fairly insular and uncommunicative group of people.”  Gates serves as a broadcaster, but does not encourage the community to actively connect with each other.

Without the use of visualization, this trend may not have become apparent.  NodeXL hosts a gallery of hundreds of social media visualizations that have been submitted by users.  The gallery graphs everything from the connections among Twitter users who recently tweeted the #knightfdn or Knight News Challenge to a graphic representation of an individual’s Facebook connections.

The visualization add-on has mostly been used to graph Twitter hashtags or connections, but the tool has the potential to offer companies a chance to find patterns of use and trends among Facebook users

In short, the Social Media Research Foundation’s NodeXL add-on can help companies in their search to prove that they really understand their customers.

Want to learn more? Visit to learn more about the foundation or to view the open gallery.

The Guardian’s Facebook Timeline App


Since Facebook first launched its Facebook Timeline app component, more than 3000 apps have been created to take advantage of frictionless sharing. In the media world, several apps have resulted in a large increase of user traffic, mostly by users that are traditionally hard for traditional media outlets like The Guardian to reach.


That being said, The Guardian’s new Facebook Timeline app is a step in the right direction. The app has been installed over 5 million times with more than half of its users under the age of 24.

Like many other media outlets, The Guardian Facebook Timeline app is a social reader.  With a few clicks allowing The Guardian app to access your Facebook data, the app allows you to read The Guardian’s content and seamlessly share what you’ve read with your friends. As soon as you’ve clicked on an article, that article is then posted to your news feed or ticker and your friends get a glimpse at your news reading habits.  You can also, thereby, see what your friends have been reading at

The launch of this Facebook Timeline app has meant a monumental increase in traffic for The Guardian UK.  According to an article on, The Guardian recently reached a new record of unique visitors to its website, and 30 percent of those visitors were attributed to Facebook referrals.  That’s up from 2 percent just six months ago, prior to the launch of the Facebook Timeline app.

While an increase in traffic is good for The Guardian, besides recommendations from friends and time saved from sharing articles that you’ve read and liked, the app could also offer content that is personalized. The Guardian is poised to show readers that they really get them by tailoring recommended content to a person’s interests, saving the user precious time in finding content that’s relevant to them.

Want to know more about the power of The Guardian’s new Facebook Timeline app? Visit

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