We like mapping. We like visualization. We like social media.
Mash them all up and you have a recipe for success.
This is what Randall Monroe of xkcd has done, turning social networks and communities into countries and continents with geographical landmass equivalent to their online activity.
The xkcd map updates his famous 2007 map so that raw membership and traffic is no longer the measured metric. Instead, it’s actual activity gathered during Spring and Summer of 2010.
As the map notes:
Communities rise and fall, and total membership numbers are no longer a good measure of a community’s current size and health. This updated map uses size to represent total social activity in a community – that is, how much talking, playing, sharing, or other socializing happens there. This meant some comparing of apples and oranges, but I did my best and tried to be consistent.
Estimates are based on the best numbers I could find, but involved a great deal of guesswork, statistical inference, random sampling, nonrandom sampling, a 20,000-cell spreadsheet, emailing, cajoling, tea-leaf reading, goat sacrifices, and gut instinct. (i.e. making things up.)
Sources of data include Google and Bing, Wikipedia, Alexa, Big-Boards.com, StumbleUpon, WordPress, Akismet, every website statistics page I could find, press releases, news articles, and individual site employees. Thanks in particular to folks at last.fm, LiveJournal, Reddit, and the New York Times, as well as sysadmins at a number of sites who shared statistics on condition of anonymity.
Some of my favorite areas include the “Sea of Opinions,” “Spamblog Straits,” and the “Bay of Flame” which, of course, is bordered by a region of conservative and liberal blogs.