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Sigma.js export plugin for Gephi

Dear tater tots,

It is with utmost joy, enlightened rapture, and a bar of celebratory Belgian chocolate in my hand that I write this post today. For the past ten days, and the following eleven weeks I have banished myself to a quaint little Dutch canal town called Leiden to get a taste of ‘international mobility’ and ‘internationalization’, of which the academic world is so very fond. Now, I don’t mind peeking over hedges and borders once in a while, as long as the curtains remain drawn in crucial places. This way, I found out that my ivy was growing into my next-door neighbor’s bathroom, who had left for prison a couple of years before and forgot to close the window on his way out. Not knowing what he was charged for, I rather didn’t take any risks and removed all traces of this floral intrusion immediately. On another occasion, while coming home from work on a not so particularly hot and humid day, I happened to look into a living room a couple of doors away, to find its owner spread out on the couch in front of the window, with nothing wrapped around his chunky frame but a mucky pair of undies, a grimy tank top even Onslow would shy away from, one hand clasped around a XL can of beer, the other lazily scratching his balls, giving me a disgusting grin when he noticed my intrusive glance. Would it kill to get a pair of G-Stars for once?!

Anywho, I must admit I was a bit reluctant to come here. You see, I’m a bit picky when it comes to certain culinary standards, in particular relating to cacao-infused products. So you can imagine my euphoria when I discovered true Belgian chocolate when buying groceries the other day. But this post is not about the indescribable feeling of heavenly bliss one experiences when discovering one’s favorite treat in the snack section. No, the joy, enlightenment, rapture and bar of celebratory Belgian chocolate referred to in my first sentence are all related to a discovery I made just a couple of days ago, a discovery that changed the course of my own measly part of history and will hopefully do the same to yours.

Exporting network graphs? With Gephi plugin: sigma.js

For some time now, I have been struggling with the insanely frustrating fact that after having generated a network and writing a flourishing piece of prose about it, either for the blog here, of for a paper of some sorts, all I could do was take lousy static screenshots and smack them between the lines. Which is really impractical, because these networks are often huge and bulky and tangled, and to get a feel for them, you need to be able to play around with them.

As some of you may have noticed, a call went out on the networks network mailing list last week addressing this spreading-the-network-love issue. I immediately shouted out my exasperation, and got a little nudge from our very first spaghetti-os interviewee, pointing me in the direction of the Gephi plugin sigma.js, a JavaScript library that helps display networks online. Java-who? Did anyone say coffee? I’m guessing I already lost most of you munchkins by now, and I didn’t fare any better either. I was willing to give it a go, like any new software shizzle they throw at me these days. And even though the website advertises Gephi plugin sigma.js as ‘from beginners to advanced users’, my gut feeling almost instantly warned me that this was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over my head. I know squat about HTML, CSS, MySQL, PHP, XML, whatever abbreviation rocks your nation (for all I know, they all stand for the same); heck, I couldn’t even get the required files installed (note to all you brainy code lovers out there: network enthusiast ≠ computer scientist; some of us need tutorials for dummies!). I started drowning in despair again.

Gephi plugin Sigma.js: download and install

But God created network spaghetti monsters for a reason, and along with that reason he created the Oxford Internet Institute. In the Gephi plugin marketplace, surrounded by a halo of holy networky light, you can spot their most life-altering creation: the Gephi plugin sigma.js. What does this wonderful little marvel do? With a simple tap of a button, it transforms the network you produced in Gephi, in all its vibrant colors and tangles, into series of files and folders that you save to your computer in a location of your very own choosing in a folder called ‘network’ (so imaginative!), after which you can upload this folder to your webserver and ta-da! Bye bye dazzling but useless visualization and hello multifunctional network hunk: you can now play around all you want. You can zoom in and out to scan the network. When passing over a node, its ego network is highlighted; click on it, and you get an overview of its attributes, centrality measures, component ID, and connections. You can add a legend to indicate what the nodes and edges stand for, a short and a detailed description, even your own logo if you have one! No kidding, I’m in ❤❤❤luuurve❤❤❤!

Gephi plugin Sigma.js: example

Let me show you what all the fuss is about. Remember the Harry Potter network from the post about modularity classes? This is the screenshot I posted back then:

gephi plugin sigma.js modularity

Ok, so this is not the most unreadable network out there, agreed. But still, it’s boring. It just sits there. Now go check out the same network, exported from Gephi with the help of our new best friends at OII. I rest my case. All I’ve got left to say for now is: OII peeps, gracias. Muchas muchas muchas.


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