Strata Gems: Explore and visualize graphs with Gephi

Powerful open source graph manipulation

We’re publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday’s Gem: Five data blogs you should read.

Strata 2011If you need to explore your data as a graph, then Gephi is a great place to start. An open source project, Gephi is the ideal tool for exploring data and analyzing networks.

Gephi is available for Windows, Linux and OS X. You can get started by downloading and installing Gephi, and playing with one of the example data sets.

Gephi is a sophisticated tool. A “Photoshop for data”, it offers a rich palette of features, including those specialized for social network analysis.

Gephi screenshot

Graphs can be loaded and created using many common graph file formats, and explored interactively. Hierarchical graphs such as social networks can be clustered in order to extract meaning. Gephi’s layout algorithms automatically give shape to a graph to help exploration, and you can tinker with the colors and layout parameters to improve communication and appearance.

Following the Photoshop metaphor, one of the most powerful aspects of Gephi is that it is extensible through plugins. Though the plugin ecosystem is just getting started, existing plugins let you export a graph for publication on the web and experiment with additional layouts. The AlchemyAPI plugin uses natural language processing to identify real world entities from graph data, and shows the promise of connecting Gephi to web services.

Earlier this year, DJ Patil from LinkedIn brought Gephi-generated graphs of LinkedIn social networks to O’Reilly’s Foo Camp. Aside from importing the data, very little manipulation was needed inside Gephi. In this video he explains the social networks of several participants.

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