PieSpy: Modelling IRC interactions

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 11/10/2009 - 18:41

As some of you know, yesterday we started the two weeks of activities for the Fifth On-line Encounter of Free Education, Culture and Software. This year, the main topic for the conference is social networks, but not in the twitter-facebook sense — Social networks as ways of understanding and modelling human-to-human interactions. Of course, there is interest from many attendees in using and taking advantage of said social network systems (and others), but the topic is far broader.

One of the core tools of EDUSOL, and the only tool that is constantly active through our two weeks of activity, is IRC — Which is somewhat of a challenge, as we receive some not-tech-savvy users from all over the world. The first year or two we asked everybody to connect via an IRC client (and we had even decided that it would be a technological filter — We thought we would not cater for people without the technical skills to install and use IRC). Life proved us wrong, and we ended up using two web-to-IRC gateways: One of them, via an instance of CGI:IRC, and the other one via a third-party service, Mibbit.

Now, the core mind behind EDUSOL is Alejandro Miranda, Pooka; I am not really into education (it is a very interesting topic but far from what I am good at). Pooka has been invovled in on-line communities analysis for several years already, since we worked together at FES Iztacala. For a long time he wanted to graph the interactions at EDUSOL, which was obviously possible given it was all centered on three tools (IRC for live chat, Drupal for generic information and Moodle for the talks and workshops' material — This has changed this year, as we are giving much more weight to Drupal and taking it off Moodle), and so last year he was finally able to generate a «EDUSOL 2008 conference photo (warning: 2MB image, 4311x3352px), where each person's avatar appears where most of his interactions were. This photo was (unfortunately) achieved using non-free software, but is very much looking at!

Now, this year Pooka stumbled upon a great tool, PieSpy (available in Debian — package piespy). Piespy generates very interesting interaction graph for IRC channels, as you can see here:

Piespy is a bot that sits in the IRC channel logging everything that any given user "says" directly to another one, and graphs it. Not much to say here, only that it generates a very good (and practically real-time) view of what happens on the channel. For this particular channel, and during EDUSOL, you can see here the latest IRC snapshots.

Very fun to see - and somewhat addictive how it morphs across time :)

EDUSOL 2008 - Conference photo1.97 MB
Current (Monday+Tuesday) interaction graph for our IRC channel39.89 KB
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Nadezhda's picture

:) Cómo me hubiera gustado


Cómo me hubiera gustado tener a la mano el bicho de PieSpy hace unos 10 años, en mis épocas de verdadera adicción al IRC.

gwolf's picture

Es adictivo, muy adictivo...

...A cada rato estoy re-cargando la página para ver cómo se ha reconfigurado la relación ;-)