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Mapping Our Social Networks

LinkedIn has a neat tool called InMaps that I just learned is being retired soon.  With click of a button, it creates an interactive visual map of all your LinkedIn connections.  It assigns them colors based on their similarities to each other, and you can to label those colored clusters based on the similarities you see.


Back when I first started using LinkedIn, I was pretty gung-ho about making connections. I currently have 2,147 LinkedIn connections, so my LinkedIn map is a little dense with people and the connections between them.  Interestingly, my current InMap is more densely concentrated than it was a couple of years ago when I first generated my InMap. There are fewer individuals and nodes that seem distanced from the others.

LinkedInMap-KeyIt’s a little hard to see who some of the other nodes are that seem to connect multiple sectors, but I could get a sense of who the most connected people are by the size of their dot.  Diana Whitney, Matt Leighninger, Thomas Valenti, Larry Schooler, Beth Offenbacker, Jon Ramer, Nancy White, Margaret Herrmann, and Libby and Len Traubman stand out to me as highly connected in LinkedIn.

One of the nice features InMaps offers is that it allows you to label your own clusters. If you click around all of the orange or blue dots on your map, it becomes clear that the people assigned to that color have something in common.  The image to the right shows how I chose to label my colored clusters.

My connections on LinkedIn, in large part, are NCDD’s connections. Reflecting on Albert-László Barabási’s Linked (a book on the power of networks), I feel pretty encouraged by the denseness and variety of my network map. In Barabási’s chapter “Hubs and Connectors,” he writes:

“Indeed, with links to an unusually large number of nodes, hubs create short paths between any two nodes in the system. Consequently, while the average separation between two randomly selected people on Earth is six, the distance between anybody and a connector is often only one or two.”

I’m curious about what other NCDDers’ InMaps look like, and how you would label your own clusters.  To create your own InMap (before it’s too late!), go to http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/ (you’ll have to enter your LinkedIn password). Once it has generated your map and you’ve added your labels, click Share and then add the web address of your map in the comments below so others can take a look. The link to your shareable map will look something like mine:


Also – I’m very curious about what network mapping tools have worked best for NCDDers?  Mapping my own LinkedIn contacts or Facebook contacts is interesting, but NCDD is starting to map the organizations, collaboration, and capacity in our field.  What tools would you suggest we learn more about as we embark on this important task?  Are there any tools you’ve found particularly useful?  What tools have disappointed you?

Sandy Heierbacher on FacebookSandy Heierbacher on LinkedinSandy Heierbacher on Twitter
Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Adrian Segar says:

    Here’s my map, Sandy:


    As someone strongly embedded in the meetings industry, I’m working to popularize and demystify group process at conferences and events. I strongly support your initiative to work with and bring into closer contact NCDD and other networks (like the International Association of Facilitators, International Communications Association, Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Management Association, etc.)

    There is so much overlap and potential consequent mutual advantage in shepherding such organizations and their members closer. For various reasons, the meetings industry has been slow to embrace the rich variety of collaborative and consensual process available, and I believe that traditional meetings have much to gain from appropriate adoption of these relatively new and/or unknown ways to bring people together.

    • I find your map very interesting, Adrian, because it’s apparent that you are really bridging sectors that have little connection to each other currently. I wonder… if you are successful in bringing these sectors into closer alignment and building relationships between them, if you would be able to actually see that shift visually over time (if the InMaps program weren’t being discontinued, that is!).

      Also, let’s talk sometime about connecting the NCDD community with the meeting professionals community — I would love to work with you to help make that happen!

      • Adrian Segar says:

        That’s a good observation, Sandy. Yes, I’m in touch with communities that have little overlap yet share common problems—a connector profile. It would indeed be interesting to see if these groups got closer over time, though I suspect I’ve not had much impact to date.

        I think the route to bringing NCDD and the meetings industry closer is primarily through independent meeting planners. Perhaps I can introduce you to programs in the meetings industry that can give NCDD a platform to share what you do. So yes, let’s talk some time!

  2. Hi Sandy, great exercise.

    My InMap is at http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/share/Jerry_Michalski/66140352696904031224571358799137537825

    I’m not clear what the lessons are from the big ball o twine, though 🙂

    I’m a big fan of mapping people and ideas, though. Here’s Visualizing Social Networks in my online Brain: https://webbrain.com/u/16O1

    • Yours is extremely densely packed, Jerry! So interesting to see these differences. Did you notice anything when looking at your version (which shows names), like who the connectors or nodes seem to be?

      • I have to work to find them, but the connectors make sense. People like Teddy Zmrhal, Peter vander Auwera and others.

        I’m confused about whether the dot color coding is for the regions of the map or the dots by people’s names. Or are the region colors averaging the dots they contain?

      • Just noticed you set one of your categories as “Everythingland” — love that, Jerry!

  3. David Plouffe says:

    Hi Sandy and NCDD

    My InMap is at

    Thank you for reminding me of this tool. My is really dense on my place of work (City of Calgary) It see 3 pockets at work, service, people and citizen building. The other areas are in Heritage/Cultural Planning which is what I did befor moving into Engagement.

    My D&D, Public Participation and facilitation connections are lacking in Linkined but i feel i connect with this world through other means Twitter, FB, network coffees etc. (I do need to expand my connection outside of work)

    • That’s an interesting point, David. If you connect with a particular sector using a totally different media, it certainly would be lacking from you LinkedIn map. I tend to connect with people who are involved in online engagement via Twitter, for instance, and not so much on LinkedIn at all.

  4. Hey Sandy:

    Thanks for reminding me of this tool and for alerting us that it’s going away. My link is at: http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/share/Susan_Stuart_Clark/258664672373213979830882986389664455954

    You are the biggest node on my map! It’s a helpful way to see the clusters — although I’ve built the connections over the years so some sections are more active or relevant now than others. On your map, is “public participation” how you label folks working with local government?

    Thanks again — this is a fun way to “prime the pump” for NCDD’s larger mapping project,

    Susan Stuart Clark

    • Yes, Susan — “public participation” would cover local government folks and those who work primarily with government. There’s lots of overlap, but the lighter orange seemed to cover people with that type of focus.

  5. David Plouffe says:

    Hello – (my second try to post my map)

    Here is my map


    My connections are heavily weighted to the people I know within the place that I work (City of Calgary. They are broken into three areas — service, citizen and people building. The looser connections come from my cultural/heritage planning career. Where I started to my interest in civic engagement and public participation.

    My lack of formal D&D connection probably comes from that I connect with these people not through Linkedin.

  6. KC Burgess Yakemovic says:

    You may find this analysis site useful: http://www.wolframalpha.com/

    They have a social networking report for Facebook and are developing a Linked In report.

  7. Roshan Bliss says:

    This was a neat little tool to use, thanks for the recommendation! My map is here: http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/share/Roshan_M._Bliss/181491155540765635992387000873465040850

    I don’t think it worked very well. Or at least, it needed more colors. The map tool separated people who I met through my graduate university into three, almost four, different colors/spaces while it lumped together three very different parts of my networks under the same color, though they were in different spaces. Still, an interesting little experiment.

  8. My map is at http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/share/Courtney_Breese/115828422422657091451349785769588543723
    Admittedly I don’t have a very large number of contacts, with a good number (the entire left side of the map) being contacts from college, friends and family. But the right side shows my professional contacts, and there are two categories – unsurprisingly, conflict resolution and dialogue & deliberation. If I had more contacts and more concentrated on professional connections, it would be interesting to see the sub groups within these two very broad categories.

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