help me! this is my hot mess in teaching social networks
Question for readers who teach networks: What software should I use for low tech undergrads? So far, I am having some real challenges…
I have an undergrad class where the first major assignment is to download one’s Facebook network and analyze it. I have been using NetVizz, an app inside Facebook, to extract network data. But it suddenly disappeared! One solution is to use the Facebook importer in NodeXL. That works but… Windows 8 is highly allergic to NodeXL. And lots of people have Windows 8 and they have endless installation problems. And the Java version is an issue. Even when it does work, NodeXL gets stuck downloading data from some student accounts. No explanation. It just does.
Then one can try Gephi, which is a whole ball of wax. The issue with Gephi is that it is highly sensitive to OS version. Luckily, there are fixes but they often involve Mac esoterica (e.g., Apple support does weird things in Safari, but not Chrome). Even then, students have all kinds of unexplained Gephi problems (e.g., the visualization pane simply doesn’t work on some Macs).
I need people to download a spreadsheet of data (e.g., centrality scores for people in your network) and not just pictures, so the Wolfram App and others are of limited value. Also, Wolfram seems to stall on some machines (including a Mac I have at home). I tried installing UCINET on Windows 8 as an end run… but had installation problems.
Here are my requirements. I need software that:
- Can be easily used by low-math undergrads
- Low cost/free
- Is very stable in terms of Windows 7, 8 and various Mac OS versions.
- If possible, a way to import Facebook data, and produce spreadsheets of data.
The last time two times I did this course, NetVizz, Gephi and UCINET did the trick. But there is a new generation of operating systems and the usual software hasn’t been upgraded and thoroughly tested. In previous years, I might have only or two students who couldn’t get network software running. This semester, it is a third of the class. Argh.
Any advice is welcome.