The Null Device
Pete Warden, a programmer and amateur researcher, has analysed the data from public Facebook profiles, including the relative locations of pairs of friends and people's names and fan pages, and used this to divide the US into seven relatively self-contained clusters, which he terms "Stayathomia" (i.e., the northeast to midwest), "Dixie" (the old South), "Greater Texas" (encompassing Oklahoma and Arkansas), "Mormonia" (no prizes for guessing where that is), the "Nomadic West" (places like Idaho, Oregon and Arizona, where people's connections span wide areas), Socalistan (i.e., most of California and parts of Nevada) and Pacifica (essentially Seattle). The clusters were derived from performing cluster analysis on the social graph, and not imposed on the data a priori.
Warden posts various findings he gained from crunching the data on these clusters:
Probably the least surprising of the groupings, the Old South is known for its strong and shared culture, and the pattern of ties I see backs that up. Like Stayathomia, Dixie towns tend to have links mostly to other nearby cities rather than spanning the country. Atlanta is definitely the hub of the network, showing up in the top 5 list of almost every town in the region. Southern Florida is an exception to the cluster, with a lot of connections to the East Coast, presumably sun-seeking refugees. God is almost always in the top spot on the fan pages, and for some reason Ashley shows up as a popular name here, but almost nowhere else in the country.
(Greater Texas:)God shows up, but always comes in below the Dallas Cowboys for Texas proper, and other local sports teams outside the state. I've noticed a few interesting name hotspots, like Alexandria, LA boasting Ahmed and Mohamed as #2 and #3 on their top 10 names, and Laredo with Juan, Jose, Carlos and Luis as its four most popular.
(Mormonia:) It won't be any surprise to see that LDS-related pages like Thomas S. Monson, Gordon B. Hinckley and The Book of Mormon are at the top of the charts. I didn't expect to see Twilight showing up quite so much though, I have no idea what to make of that!Mormons like their vampires sparkly and pro-abstinence; who would have guessed?
(Socalistan:) Keeping up with the stereotypes, God hardly makes an appearance on the fan pages, but sports aren't that popular either. Michael Jackson is a particular favorite, and San Francisco puts Barack Obama in the top spot.Warden also has this tool for browsing aggregate profiles of countries based on their residents' public Facebook profiles.
Google have just announced their latest bite at the social-software cherry: it's called Google Buzz, is integrated into Gmail (with mobile web-based clients for iPhones and Android phones), and, from the video on the site, appears to be a way of sharing status updates, with optional embedded images, videos or links, to your Gmail contact list; it seems much like Facebook's Publisher, in other words. There seems to be a location-based component, with the mobile clients inferring where you are and optionally sharing that information, and also the ability to see posts from people located geographically nearby. Buzz seems to attempt to identify the actual building or establishment one is in, which could lead to Foursquare-like location-based functionality. It also has some means of interacting with other sites, such as Twitter and Flickr (though, obviously, not Facebook).
Buzz is rolling out to Gmail users over the next few days (much in the way that the new Facebook layout took the best part of a week to reach everybody), but from the video and blog announcements, it looks quite nicely designed. Of course, Google haven't had a huge amount of luck with social platforms yet (there was Orkut, which was somewhat of an odd fit for the rest of Google's line, and the OpenSocial/Friend Connect APIs, whose lunch Facebook Connect seems to have eaten), and it remains to be seen whether this time will be any different.