What does the communication pattern of 500 million Facebook users look like? Intern Paul Butler from Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team hit upon some interesting geographical data he wasn’t expecting. Starting with a blank image, Butler used a sample of 10 million users from Facebook’s data warehouse and used the powerful R project to plot each user’s location by longitude and latitude. He then added the locations of each user’s friends and connected them with various weighted arcs of light based on the distance between friends and the quantity of other relationships between others from the same city-to-city connection. As he performed what he called his ‘sanity test’ a rough outline of the globe was apparent. Countries and political borders popped into view… but more interestingly, the world of social connections and borders was visible.
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