These striking maps of Reddit activity paint a picture of the online news site and its vast audience of readers, "redditors," and the subreddits they inhabit.
They were created by computer science and engineering Ph.D. candidate Randal Olson, who spent months coming up with a method to visualize the "front page of the internet" as if it were a map.
Olson's first map visualizes the busiest, most-connected subreddits, which share repeat users. The red areas depict more concentrated areas of users, and the blue dots represent less popular communities.
And a story unfolds as a result — Reddit has meta-communities that are arranged geographically, like solar systems in a galaxy.
This second chart gives all the different communities — "hipsters," "sports fans," and "pop culture bods" — in varying colors, so you can see which communities are neighbors and which live far away from one another with few connections.
Olson used the exploration platform Gephi to produce the colors, which were chosen arbitrarily. He explained they had to be recycled a a few times because of the number of communities represented.
He says the importance of color in the clustered version is to denote the "boundaries" of the cluster compared to other local clusters.
Olson adds: "You'll notice, for example, that the porn cluster and music cluster have the same color, even though they're not related — as denoted by how far away they are from each other in the spatial domain."
And after zooming in on the map, we can see each condensed community up close. For example, this is the hub of gamers — from StarCraft fans to the players of Battlefield.
There's also a "porn cluster." The dots combine to appear as though they are stars in the night sky.
Olson believes his maps show the "hidden structure" of Reddit, portraying what we're really interested in.
And by analyzing retweets, comments, Facebook likes, and all the other ways people communicate online, Olson wants to map every social network using specific data. Look how detached this community is: It's the extremely isolated "My Little Pony Island."
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