LinkedIn InMaps

I’m a sucker for elegant data visualization tools so when I saw LinkedIn InMaps in January it was love at first sight. InMaps is a LinkedIn Labs visualization experiment that allows users to view their entire network in a consolidated, color-coded map. For example, below you will find my entire LinkedIn network (1,090 contacts as of October 7, 2011).

LinkedIn InMap for Marshall StantonAs you can see there are essentially three clouds of connections that comprise my network. Not coincidentally, at varying times during my career I’ve worked for three companies with between 5,000 and 35,000 employees (Exodus Communications, The Nielsen Company, and Kaplan) – as is shown in the image below. One interesting observation was the three mini-clouds contained within The Nielsen Company cloud. Nielsen with roughly 35,000 employees has several well-defined operating businesses (i.e., consumer, media, mobile, etc.) and several well-defined functional groups (i.e., client service, operations, technology, etc.). In this case, the three clouds highlight the latter situation with the larger two groups composed of operations and technology personnel and the smaller, darker group being made up of client service associates.

LinkedIn InMap for Marshall StantonIf you zoom into map, you can look at each node (i.e., individual connection) and some of the more prolific LinkedIn users in your network become readily apparent. Perhaps of more interest are the “bridge connections” who connect with other people in your network beyond a single well-defined cloud. The image below highlights some of these connections as well as a few “super connectors” in my network.

LinkedIn InMap for Marshall StantonThere are a handful of well-defined “super connectors” in my Kaplan and Nielsen clouds and one in my Exodus cloud. These individuals are not only prolific LinkedIn users but they also know most of the people I know from these companies. Almost directly below me you will see an individual (Kris Fernandez-Everett) I worked with at Nielsen and then who joined me at Kaplan, so she’s clearly an extremely well-defined “bridge connection” although you can see 100-200 more that comprise the loosely-defined secondary cloud(s) surrounding the center of the map and spanning between some of the more well-defined clouds (i.e., primary clouds).

Another relatively interesting node is the one represented by my wife (Carolyn Stanton, née Boehm). Her location on the map indicates connections with people in my network who I met/added between the time I met my wife (2002) and the time when we had our first child (2005) – after which our time to socialize with my co-workers declined precipitously. While she knows many of the people I met after 2005 (i.e., anyone from Nielsen or Kaplan) we’ve shifted the bulk of our social interactions – the avenue in which she would get to know people from my work – to families who have children in my daughter’s classes and those connections are typically made on Facebook.

Overall LinkedIn InMaps is an elegant visualization widget that can help you identify connections between groups that you probably did not realize existed. However, it isn’t going to provide you with robust (or any) quantitative information about your network, so you’ll need to “eyeball it” to realize the value. If it achieves nothing else, you can write a rambling commentary about it and post it to your blog.

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