How Can We Map Our Social World? Introducing OpenHeatMap.

Pete Warden is the founder of OpenHeatMap and a former Apple software engineer. Pete loves gathering, analyzing and visualizing all the lovely big data sets that are emerging. You can follow him on Twitter or via his blog. Social Times interviewed Pete in June about how he almost got sued by Facebook.

I’m Pete Warden and I’m obsessed with visualizing the world’s relationships. I’ve previously built graphs of Twitter conversation networks and split up the US by Facebook friendships, but it drove me crazy having to build a custom piece of software for every new map. I couldn’t find a tool out there that let me build the visualizations I wanted, so I created OpenHeatMap. It’s an open-source project to allow anyone with a spreadsheet to create an interactive, shareable online map.

I’m always excited to see other people using it, but I’ve been having a blast turning my own crazy ideas for visualizations into reality, so I want to share a few of my favorites.

Jocks versus geeks?

Here’s a comparison of where MySpace and Twitter users live. What leaps out at me is how urban Twitter is in comparison. Maybe this is just because MySpace has been around longer, but it confirms the stereotype of Twitterers as yuppie/preppie/geekie urban overachievers. The data for MySpace came from InfoChimps and I sampled around 3 million Twitter user’s locations myself.

What about you?

Where are all your Facebook friends living? Where did they grow up? You can see I’ve ended up with an odd arrangement of connections scattered across the globe that reflects my transatlantic exodus. What story does yours show?

Build your own maps

Do you have a story you want to tell? Maps are a really compelling way to communicate complex information, and if you have a spreadsheet OpenHeatMap will help you build your own. Here’s a quick video guide showing how journalists and others can get started: