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Network Science Made Simple: SNA for Pie Chart Makers

Marc Smith (Connected Action Consulting Group)
Data Science
Ballroom AB
Average rating: **...
(2.67, 3 ratings)

Networks are everywhere, particularly in social media. Understanding networks can quickly reveal the key people, groups, and topics that matter most. But the tools to collect, analyze, visualize, and gain insights into connected structures have remained complex. Now the free and open NodeXL application makes network analysis tasks as easy as making a pie chart. The Network Overview Discovery and Exploration add-in for Excel (2007, 2010, 2013) extends the familiar spreadsheet, enabling users to easily access networks from a range of data sources including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, email, message boards, Wikis, blogs, and other repositories of connections. With simple automation tools, NodeXL users can calculate a range of network metrics, create a visualization, and generate a report highlighting key people, groups, and top URLs, hashtags, words and word pairs used in the discussion network. Network maps have revealed many of the hidden structures of social media, defining the major differences in the shapes and structures created as people link to one another.

Photo of Marc Smith

Marc Smith

Chief Social Scientist, Connected Action Consulting Group

Dr. Marc A. Smith
Chief Social Scientist
Connected Action Consulting Group

Marc Smith is a sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer mediated interaction. He founded and managed the Community Technologies Group at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington and led the development of social media reporting and analysis tools for Telligent Systems. Smith leads the Connected Action consulting group and lives and works in Silicon Valley, California.

Smith is the co-editor with Peter Kollock of Communities in Cyberspace (Routledge), a collection of essays exploring the ways identity; interaction and social order develop in online groups. He is co-author, along with Ben Shneiderman and Derek Hansen of a book Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL (Morgan-Kaufmann) about applying social network visualizations and metrics to collections of connections found in social media.

Smith’s research focuses on computer-mediated collective action: the ways group dynamics change when they take place in and through social cyberspaces. Many “groups” in cyberspace produce public goods and organize themselves in the form of a commons (for related papers see: Smith’s goal is to visualize these social cyberspaces, mapping and measuring their structure, dynamics and life cycles. At Microsoft, he developed the “Netscan” web application and data mining engine that allows researchers studying Usenet newsgroups and related repositories of threaded conversations to get reports on the rates of posting, posters, crossposting, thread length and frequency distributions of activity. Smith applied this work to the development of a generalized community analysis platform for Telligent, providing a web based system for groups of all sizes to discuss and publish their material to the web and analyze the emergent trends that result. He contributes to the open and free NodeXL project ( that adds social network analysis features to the familiar Excel spreadsheet. A tutorial on social network analysis is evolving into a book and is freely available ( NodeXL enables social network analysis of email, twitter, flickr, and other network data sets.
The Connected Action consulting group ( applies social science methods in general and social network analysis techniques in particular to enterprise and internet social media usage. SNA analysis of data from message boards, blogs, wikis, friend networks, and shared file systems can reveal insights into organizations and processes. Community managers can gain actionable insights into the volumes of community content created in their social media repositories. Mobile social software applications can visualize patterns of association that are otherwise invisible.

Smith received a B.S. in International Area Studies from Drexel University in Philadelphia in 1988, an M.Phil. in social theory from Cambridge University in 1990, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA in 2001. He is an affiliate faculty at the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington and the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland.