Untangling the Hairballs of Multi-Centered, Small-World Online Social Media Networks

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Small-world graphs have characteristically low average distance and thus cause force-directed methods to generate drawings that look like hairballs. This is by design as the inherent objective of these methods is a globally uniform edge length or, more generally, accurate distance representation. The problem arises, for instance, with graphs of high density or high conductance, or in the presence of high-degree vertices, all of which tend to pull vertices together and thus result in clutter overspreading variation in local density. We here propose a method specifically for a class of small-world graphs that are typical for online social networks. The method is based on a spanning subgraph that is sparse but connected and consists of strong ties holding together communities. To identify these ties we propose a novel criterion for structural embeddedness. It is based on a weighted accumulation of triangles in quadrangles and can be determined efficiently. An evaluation on empirical and generated networks indicates that our approach improves upon previous methods using other edge indices. Although primarily designed to achieve more informative drawings, our spanning subgraph may also serve as a sparsifier that trims a small-world graph prior to the application of a clustering algorithm.

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ISO 690NOCAJ, Arlind, Mark ORTMANN, Ulrik BRANDES, 2015. Untangling the Hairballs of Multi-Centered, Small-World Online Social Media Networks. In: Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications : JGAA. 2015, 19(2), pp. 595-618. eISSN 1526-1719. Available under: doi: 10.7155/jgaa.00370
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@article{Nocaj2015Untan-32889,
  year={2015},
  doi={10.7155/jgaa.00370},
  title={Untangling the Hairballs of Multi-Centered, Small-World Online Social Media Networks},
  number={2},
  volume={19},
  journal={Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications : JGAA},
  pages={595--618},
  author={Nocaj, Arlind and Ortmann, Mark and Brandes, Ulrik}
}
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