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Facebook intern graphs the scope of the business, connections

|Dec 14|magazine5 min read

Ever wonder what your interns are doing for you and your business? If it’s anything like Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering intern Paul Butler, then he or she is most likely working on showing the spread and significance of your brand and its worth. Butler created a Facebook social graph that shows the locations of friendships around the world by correlating the longitude and latitude of 10 million friend pairs. He used the sample to mark the current cities of the friend pairs to show the magnitude of Facebook reaching out to the whole world.

The visualization shows that the U.S. has the highest concentration of Facebook friendships and Africa has the lowest. In a Facebook note, Butler writes: 

“When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them….

“At that point, I began exploring it in R, an open-source statistics environment. As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates. To my relief, what I saw was roughly an outline of the world. Next I erased the dots and plotted lines between the points. After a few minutes of rendering, a big white blob appeared in the center of the map. Some of the outer edges of the blob vaguely resembled the continents, but it was clear that I had too much data to get interesting results just by drawing lines. I thought that making the lines semi-transparent would do the trick, but I quickly realized that my graphing environment couldn't handle enough shades of color for it to work the way I wanted.”

Not only is the social graph a visually pleasing image, but it shows the impact that Facebook really has when it comes to connecting friends, family, businesses, and beyond, across borders, oceans and political issues. If Butler doesn’t get hired on by the Facebook engineer team, we’re pretty sure he’ll make his mark with another promising corporation.