In SIN '09: Proc. International Symposium on Social Intelligence and Networking. IEEE Computer Society Press.
Social Network Analysis (SNA) has evolved as a
popular, standard method for modeling meaningful, often hidden
structural relationships in communities. Existing SNA tools often
involve extensive pre-processing or intensive programming skills
that can challenge practitioners and students alike. NodeXL, an
open-source template for Microsoft Excel, integrates a library of
common network metrics and graph layout algorithms within the
familiar spreadsheet format, offering a potentially low-barrierto-
entry framework for teaching and learning SNA. We present
the preliminary findings of 2 user studies of 21 graduate students
who engaged in SNA using NodeXL. The majority of students,
while information professionals, had little technical background
or experience with SNA techniques. Six of the participants had
more technical backgrounds and were chosen specifically for
their experience with graph drawing and information visualization.
Our primary objectives were (1) to evaluate NodeXL
as an SNA tool for a broad base of users and (2) to explore
methods for teaching SNA. Our complementary dual case-study
format demonstrates the usability of NodeXL for a diverse set
of users, and significantly, the power of a tightly integrated
metrics/visualization tool to spark insight and facilitate sensemaking
for students of SNA.