April 26, 2011

Tweets in space


As publishers of books and a blog, we’re well aware of the necessity of adapting to the social media landscape. While we don’t ask all of our authors to start blogs or Facebook pages, for those whose material might migrate naturally to the medium we’ll suggest it. If they don’t tweet and aren’t reflexively opposed to it, we’ll recommend they open a Twitter account and start tweeting away. Or a Tumblr. And from time to time, we do a little navel gazing and ask, “what kind of impact does Moby Lives have?” Like everybody else, we want to know who’s reading us, who’s tweeting our articles, why one tweet from a certain person has more impact than if a post is linked to by another reputable blog, and on and on.

Once you start to ask these questions you venture into extremely complex and abstract territory. It’s a numbers question (a challenge for book people to be sure), but it’s also a question about relationships between certain types of twitterers, bloggers, and everyone else on the internet. You may congregate in one fairly well defined area online but have tangential relationships with folks outside this area. The same goes with everyone you’re connected to and everyone they’re connected to. Tracking the viral from where a spark ignites and later explodes demonstrates just how vast the social network ecosystem really is. And it can be a real clusterfuck.

Thankfully, those of us who require a visual model to understand these types of complicated phenomena can stop banging our heads against the wall. Yes, modern design is here to save the day. Some computer whizzes working on this problem for the New York Times have come up with an incredibly elegant and visually stimulating way of modeling this type of data in 3D called “Project Cascade.” Via a post by Suzanne Lebarre on the Fast Company design blog FastCoDesign.com, we found the following video demonstration of Project Cascade in action. The video follows the viral life of several Times’ stories, including a column by Paul Krugman from last August titled “America Goes Dark” about the lack of government investment in our time of fiscal crises turning the clock back on innovation. Enjoy.