Mapping My Social Networks: Facebook, LinkedIn

Following on from my post on Immersion, the Gmail metadata mapping tool, I learnt of two other tools that map Facebook and LinkedIn metadata (i.e. your social graph). David Glance mentioned them in his article in the Conversation about the power of metadata ('Your social networks and the secret story of metadata').  

This is what my Facebook social graph looks like:  

What's cool about this network mapping is that, because people share a lot of information about themselves on Facebook and the tool knows who my friends-of-friends are, you can see one level deeper and find sub-networks within my broader social graph. Many of these are high school and university based sub-networks but some are also immediate-family groupings. 

The social graph that's probably cooler (and certainly prettier) is this one from LinkedIn Maps: 

This shows you that I'm connected to four major networks, one each for my two universities (LUMS and MBS) and one each for the two places I've worked at the longest here in Melbourne (Melbourne Water and Jetstar). 

And even though Jetstar and Melbourne Water are in completely different industries the kind of work I did (and am still doing) in both jobs is similar so the crossover space between their two clouds is where all my suppliers, vendors, and industry contacts are. 

One thing I've noted while doing all this mapping is the size of my network on each platform:  

  • Gmail contacts: 478 
  • LinkedIn connections: 505 
  • Facebook friends: 505 
  • Twitter followers: 776 

That's reasonably consistent and certainly above average for each of those social networks. I suppose that's a good thing. 


Immersion: Mapping My Email Networks

I've spent the last few days playing around with Immersion, a fabulous email network mapping project from MIT's Media Lab.  The project's creators describe this as "a people centric view of your email life" and what the tool basically does is create a network map of all your Gmail emails using the From, To, Cc, and Timestamp fields. 

Who Have I Been Emailing? 

You can can learn a lot from these maps. For example, here is what my email network looks like from April 2004 to July 2013. (I do actually have email from 1999 onwards in my Gmail account but, for whatever reason, Immersion only mapped my email from 2004 onwards. )


The person I emailed the most during this period was Nadia. After that, the network of people I emailed the most was my family. Obviously Nadia is also heavily connected via email to my family network. She is also connected with our Melbourne friends network and, to a smaller extent, my MBS (MBA) and LUMS (BSc) classmate networks.

The two other networks of people I emailed the most were my work colleagues at MBS and my other freelance jobs. 

Digging a Little Deeper

That's a high-level view but you can also divide this 2004 to 2013 date range into three distinct periods in my life.

The first is from 2004 to 2006, which is when I was living in Islamabad just before I came to Melbourne to do my MBA:  

Nadia and my family are obviously the largest nodes and network of nodes here, too. Aside from that, my LUMS classmates, my music projects (Corduroy and the F-10 1/2 project), and my other projects (earthquake relief) all have identifiable email networks of their own.

A couple on specific nodes are also interesting. Mosharraf, one of my seniors from LUMS and also a work colleague, is a connector of networks. And, on the upper right hand side, you can see my email correspondence with MBS starting to play a bigger role. 

The next period, from 2006 to 2008, is while I was doing my MBA at MBS: 

Here my MBS classmates network is a huge part of my emailing. That network also overlaps with the MBS staff network - from my emails to and from the Careers Centre team and my work colleagues from when I worked at MBS for a few months before graduating.  

Emails to my LUMS classmates have dropped of quite a bit, though I was still emailing Amanullah quite regularly. 

Finally, here is what my network looked like after I completed my MBA, that is from 2008 onwards:

Now a new network has popped up: my Melbourne friends outside of MBS. And, thanks to Facebook, I don't email my LUMS or MBS classmates as much as I used to.

That's really cool, isn't it? :) 

Summary Stats

Immersion also gives you a summary of your email stats, including who your top 'collaborators' are (and, if you want, you can also drill down further into your connections with each of these collaborators).

These are my overall stats and the stats for my two top collaborators: 

Yes, that's 20,879 emails with 194 collaborators over 9.3 years :)

My most active email sending years were 2007-2008, which was when I was doing my MBA. My most active email receiving years were 2010-2012 and I think those were because of Nadia, my family, my Melbourne friends, and various mailing lists. 

The group of people I email has stabilized over the last few years so the number of new collaborators I've been adding has dropped considerably. That's also because my Melbourne Water and Jetstar work emails aren't in Gmail so they're not counted here. 

Finally, the two people I collaborate most with are Nadia and my older sister Asha. I like that I've sent Nadia over a thousand emails, of which about two-thirds were sent just to her. Meanwhile I've sent Asha only 515 emails. Of those 137 were sent just to her, which makes sense because she's part of that big family network. 

So there you have it - my life in email.  

If you use Gmail you should check Immersion out yourself. It's fun to use and you can learn a lot about yourself and your email networks in the process. 

Ten Years of the LUMS Music Society

In early 1999, while I was a senior at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), we were planning for the annual student variety show called ‘So?’. Now the ‘So?’ is organized jointly by the all the student clubs who want to participate and, being president of Alpha Hour, I was a part of that year’s organizing committee. [I also co-wrote ‘Zahoor: A Musical’ – Dr. Zahoor being our Associate Dean at the time – that some of my classmate and I performed there but that’s another story.]

A lot of the performances at the ‘So?’ were musical ones. Indeed, we started the show with a song from Jahanzeb and Adil Sherwani, had lots of Ali Hamza in the middle, and even ended the night with the hugely popular cover of The Strings’ ‘Sar Kiye Ye Pahar’ as performed by Saad Ansari, Sameer Anees, Jahanzeb Sherwani, and Adil Sherwani.

It was around this time that we all realized that LUMS needed an official music society and so we encouraged the musicians who had performed at the ‘So?’ to start one. That’s what Saad, Jahanzeb, and Ali Hamza did and thus the LUMS Music Society was born.

Fast-Forward to the Present

The Music Society has come a long way since then: They now have their own fully-equipped recording studio (as opposed to the single room next to the gym that we started out with) and they organize all sorts of musical events, some of which you can check out on their YouTube Channel. Also visit their Facebook Group page for event listings, photographs, and discussions.

This year they’re celebrating their ten-year anniversary with a music conference on 9 May and a big concert featuring the likes of Noori, eP, Laal, and Aunty Disco Project on the 10th. They’ll also be launching their official website at that time.

10th Anniversary of the LUMS Music Society

My Association with the Music Society

I owe a lot to the LUMS Music Society because it was through them that I learnt how to play the drums and it was at their launch concert (called ‘The Jig’) in early 2000 that I first performed in front of an audience as a drummer. I even have a recording of the very first song I played at that concert (‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries) with Mehreen on vocals, Vex on bass, and Saad on lead. Yes, it’s terrible of me but I’ve forgotten who was on rhythm guitar.

Even though the actual performance of that song is mostly a blur, I remember that I started out too fast and was mimed to slow down by Jahanzeb who was sitting in the audience. I also made one major error – a hand-spaz miss-hit on the snare drum – that, not only did no one there notice, you can’t even hear it on the audio recording so it obviously wasn’t as big a mistake as I thought it was. I performed in two more songs during that show – Pink Floyd and Alanis Morissette covers, no less – the latter of which was on the bongos which were also new to me at the time.

A few months later, I performed at their first proper, on-stage concert (called ‘It’) in the central courtyard. This time I was on the drums (‘Dosti’ by Nazia and Zoheb), tambourine (‘Smooth’ by Santana and Rob Thomas), and bongos (‘Those Were the Days’ by Mary Hopkin). Later in the year I travelled from Islamabad to Lahore to specifically attend their first big concert (called ‘The Show’) which featured a professional sound system and hired musical instruments. They could afford all this now that they were officially sponsored by LUMS. I last checked-in on them in 2003 when I went to guest lecture at LUMS and they’d already grown quite a bit. Now, of course, they’re the largest club at the University.

In spite of all that, my strongest memory of the Music Society is still that of me, Ali Hamza and Saad packed into a hot, stuffy jam room as we rehearsed a rock version of Nazia and Zoheb’s ‘Dosti’. I used to have a recording of that performance as well but I seem to have lost it along the way, which is sad. That was the first time I came up with my own drum beat to a song (yes, we really changed it around from the original) and I remember being proud of myself for that because I’d grown quite a bit as a musician over those few months.

To Conclude

It’s been ten years since I graduated from LUMS and ten years since the Music Society was formed. Unfortunately, I’ll be missing both my reunion and the 10th anniversary concert because I’m going to be in Australia during both events. That sucks, I know, but I will be there in spirit. And, at the very least, I do get to blog about it and encourage other people to be there on my behalf. Here’s hoping some of you manage to do so.

Two Web Milestones for Me

I can now officially say that I have been blogging for two years because on 24 April 2007 I published my first post on this blog. Woo hoo!

On the other hand, today I went and deleted my old GeoCities website because Yahoo! is closing that service down by the end of the year. Here is what the home page of that site used to look like:

Ye Olde Homepage

I created this site on the free GeoCities web hosting service back in 1999 when I graduated from LUMS and realized that I would no longer be able to host my personal site on the LUMS ACM Chapter’s Student Sever (which, by the way, I was the administrator of). I’d had a site on the Student Server since 1997.

Want to Take a Look?

You can see archived copies of my very oldest websites thanks to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine:

Make sure you check out my Ameel’s Page o’ Links page from February 1997. Yep, that’s what the web was like back then. I still maintain that page, by the way, except it’s now called Ye Olde Page o’ Links :)

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

1997 was also when I became head of TeamWeb, the group of students responsible for maintaining the official LUMS website. There were many first for me in that year: my first job interview, my first professional website management job, my first website re-design project, and the first time I installed and started administering a UNIX server. Good times.

The late 90s, meanwhile, was a time of change with regards to how websites were designed and laid out. For example, when I started managing the LUMS website, the web design ethos was textured backgrounds and not too much colour. By the time I left, however, it was fill colours and information categorized into tables. Ah, the good old days of the web.

Back to the Topic

I stopped maintaining my GeoCities site when Nadia and I got the domain in 2004. And now my old site – which was a very important part of my life on the web – is gone for good. Well, except that it’s still archived in the WayBack Machine.

But still, the shutting down of GeoCities will mark the end of the free website hosting era that began with sites like Angelfire and Geocities. These days, of course, the free web hosting sites of choice are blogging sites like Blogger and in conjunction with media hosting sites like Flickr and YouTube. Times change, eh?

Leaving GeoCities behind, though, I now move into my third year of blogging, my fifth year of running, my thirteenth year on the Internet, and my twenty-fifth year of using computers.

How time flies.

New Edition of LUMS NEWSnet Published

The March 2009 edition of LUMS’s external newsletter, NEWSnet, was published recently and you can read all of it online. This edition covers about nine months worth of news and events and makes a good read.

Terrible Usability

What’s weird about it, though, is the format it’s been published in: it’s all image files. Basically, instead of taking the time to make a proper website for the newsletter or even make a PDF file out of it, they’ve converted each page of the newsletter into an image which they’ve then sliced into smaller images for faster transfer over the Internet. (Note: making image slices for online publishing is pretty standard for intricately designed websites but is highly unusual for publishing newsletters online.)

Publishing the newsletter in this way makes life a lot simpler for them because (a) making image slices is really easy and (b) the newsletter’s original design, formatting, fonts, photographs, page numbering, etc. are all preserved without them having to make any extra effort. However this is a silly way to publish a newsletter online. Why?

Well, first, the image-only format takes up too much bandwidth and is slow to transfer over the Internet (no matter how many slices you make, transferring HTML code is still quicker). Second, though it’s nice to be looking at a well-formatted page, you are basically stuck with whatever font size they’ve decided to publish the newsletter in (in this case, 9pm Tahoma). Third, reading text as text is much easier than reading text that’s an image. For example:

Text as Text: Text as Image:
Jahanzeb Sherwani is Pakistan’s first developer (and LUMS alumnus) whose application has been accepted into Apple’s iPhone App Store. Jaadu is a groundbreaking application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that lets you control your computer from wherever you ware in the world. page_01_10

Finally, to nitpick a little: I hate the fact that you can’t click to zoom-in on any of the photos they’ve published and the newsletter’s masthead is far too large for an online publication.

The Options They Had

The thing is, I understand why LUMS would do something like this because the online version of NEWSnet is probably not a priority for them. Indeed, they most likely wanted to make as little extra effort as possible in converting the print version to a format they could publish online.

That said, they actually had three choices for that print-to-online conversion:

First, they could have made a proper website for the newsletter. This, however, would have required a bit of work on their part because they would have had to design the site layout, create a template, and then copy all the text and images into it.

Second, they could have made a PDF version of the newsletter and made it available for download. PDFs are the Internet-standard way of publishing newsletters online because they preserve your design, layout, fonts, page numbering, and so on. They are also much better from a usability standpoint because readers can zoom in and out to adjust the print size and, if the text within them is rendered as text, they are also much easier to read.

Finally, they could have done what they did: convert the pages into images and publish those online. This, while the second-easier option for them (making the PDF is easier), is the least user friendly option for readers (or, in this case, site visitors).

Why, then, did they do it this way? I’m not sure. Image files certainly look better than a simple link to a PDF file from the LUMS homepage. And they could have been trying to cater to their six site visitors who don’t have PDF file reading software installed on their computers or in their browsers. Regardless, their choice of publishing the newsletter in this manner is, in opinion at least, a bit of a cop-out. And though I understand why they did it, the reasons for doing it aren’t very convincing to me.

Some Good Things

Among the things they did do right, however, is the fact that the newsletter’s content is both short and very interesting. Also the design and layout of the newsletter itself is quite good. So, even though it’s a pain to read, I have actually skimmed through bits of the newsletter to see what’s going on in the world of LUMS.

Umar Saif & Distributed Web Caching in Pakistan

One of my seniors from undergrad alma mater, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), is working on a project that implements a distributed web caching system in order to increase download speeds in developing countries.

Mason Inman explains in an article in the MIT Technology Review:
Internet access is growing steadily in developing nations, but limited infrastructure means that at times connections can still be painfully slow. A major bottleneck for these countries is the need to force a lot of traffic through international links, which typically have relatively low bandwidth.

Now computer scientists in Pakistan are building a system to boost download speeds in the developing world by letting people effectively share their bandwidth. Software chops up popular pages and media files, allowing users to grab them from each other, building a grassroots Internet cache.

Sounds like a good system (the article goes into detail about how it works) and here's hoping it's a great success.

Feature on Asim Butt & His Art

Raza Rumi recently wrote a good feature on one my LUMS BSc classmates Asim Butt on the 'All Things Pakistan' blog:
What distinguishes Asim Butt from his generation and perhaps the preceding generations of artists is the sheer originality of his vision and an iconoclasm that is neither trumpeted nor made visible until the subtext of his lines is closely studied.

More on Asim:

Film Club in Lahore

During my undergrad I became president of Alpha Hour -- LUMS' extracurricular club that showed movies, invited guest speakers to campus, and arranged discussion groups on interesting topics.

While I was president, though, it ended up being more of a film club than anything else. Every Friday evening, then, I'd borrow the video projector, book the school's largest auditorium, and screen a couple of films. We'd show all kinds of stuff and, by the time I handed the club over to my juniors, it had become pretty popular.

The movie screening formula that I used also worked nicely: I'd show a popular movie or cartoon first (usually a comedy, romantic comedy, or action movie), take a half hour break, and then show a more serious movie (usually a drama, artsy movie, or cult classic). The first session usually filled the 370-seat auditorium, especially when we showed films like Titanic or Star Wars: Episode I. The second session, meanwhile, was targeted mostly to film buffs and/or hostel residents (I was both). I remember in particular our second-show screening of Apocalypse Now because, by the end of the movie, there were only eight people in the room :)

Coming to the point of this blog post: Having run a film club in the past, it made me really happy, then, when a friend e-mailed to tell me about the Punjnad Film Club that has recently started in Lahore ("alpha hour - all jumped up on volunteer adrenaline", he wrote). We have a number of cinemas in Lahore but all of them focus on mainstream movies (mostly blockbusters) and PFC is a breath of fresh air for people who want to watch other kinds of movies as well. Here's hoping they're wildly successful.

Good Times: Trekking and Playing Music

UPDATE: The site has been taken offline so the photos embedded and linked-to from this blog post are no longer available. I am trying to find other versions to put here instead...but don't hold your breath. [Ameel; 25 August 2009]

A couple of friends recently posted some photographs of treks that I've been on and gigs that I've participated in over the past decade and it got me feeling all nostalgic. Since those photos were posted on Facebook, I figured I'd post some of them here while linking to other, public ones as well.

Trekking in the Karakorams

First off are some trekking photos. I did a lot of trekking and travelling while I was in college -- there's nothing quite like travelling with lots of friends while on a tight budget -- and most of those treks are nicely documented on (which I helped develop, by the way). Here are photos from my three favourite treks.

My first real trek was to Fairy Meadows, which is a camp on the north side of Nagna Parbat. You can find many photos from that trip on but this one is my favourites (click for a larger version):

Saad, Amir, Ameel, and Yasir at Fairy Meadows

This was taken bright and early on the second day of our trek. Alefia, who'd been feeling really cold and had woken up a couple of hours earlier, got tired of our laziness and came to wake us up. You can't quite see me in there but I'm the hint of a face in the darkness of the tent. Yasir wrote an article about this trip and even he mentions this photo :)

Our second trip was to one of the Rakaposhi base camps and, for this one, both Yasir and I wrote articles -- though mine is more of diary-type recounting of events which, when I read now, I'm itching to edit! I like two photos from this trek. This one is of me, Saqib (one of the two friends whose posting in Facebook prompted me to write this), and Alefia with the Rakaposhi peaks in the background:

Ameel, Saqib, Alefia

And this one, which shows the ridge we had to climb across to get to our camp:

Crossing the Ridge

The path across this ridge was broken in four places and that photo is of one of the easiest crossings! You can find the rest of the Rakaposhi photos on as well.

My third trip was to the Deosai Plains, which is one of the highest plateaus in the world. There are lots of really good photos from this trek but this one of Hasan as he positions his tripod to take a photo is my favourite:

Hasan Karrar on Deosai

Deosai really is a stunning place and I urge you to take a look at the rest of the photos as well.

Playing Music

Moving away from trekking: Back in 2005 a bunch of us in Islamabad got together and performed a couple of really fun gigs at Civil Junction.

What was possibly more fun than the gigs themselves were the jam sessions that we had at my house in the weeks leading up to the events. Sheharyar posted some of the photos from those sessions on Facebook and here are a couple.

This one is of me and Nadia -- we did most of the drumming and "percussing" for the band and, no, Nadia isn't normally surrounded by a motion blur:

Nadia and Ameel drumming for the F-10 1/2 Acoustic Band

The second one is a wider shot of the room -- the drawing room of our old house in Islamabad -- which had awesome acoustics. Sheharyar is the one with the guitar and mic:

F-10 1/2 Acoustic Band - Jam Session

Ah, good times. Here's to many, many more in the future...


Here I am, working in my Negotiations take-home exam when what I would really rather be doing is protesting alongside my friends, family, and fellow activists in Islamabad.

They protested, over a thousand-strong, at Aabpara Chowk yesterday. After the usual games with the police, things turned a little ugly when the police started targeting female protestors. The crowd retaliated and there was a scuffle but, fortunately, things didn't get very much out of hand. You can read about it in the eyewitness account on the Emergency Times blog. You can also find photos from the protest there.

Meanwhile, LUMS has been surrounded by police who have barricaded the front entrance and are checking everyone who goes in or out. All that in an attempt to keep students from attending the Student Action Committee protest meeting at the Press Club in Lahore.

And in the usual, funny twist of events that occurs in situations such as these, the police issued FIRs [1] against LUMS students and faculty members, most of which are quite funny (again) as reported by the Emergency Times.

And while all this is going on back home, I am here working out strategies for collaborative negotiation.


[1] FIR = First Investigation Report. Basically, the first step in a police investigation since this officially opens a police investigation.

Blogs About Pakistan

With the situation in Pakistan being what it is, Pakistani blogs are becoming increasingly important both to people living in Pakistan and to those of us who are stuck outside. I've already written about a couple of these blogs. This here is a more comprehensive roundup of those two and some more useful blogs. Thanks in particular to Aman from bringing some of these to my notice.

First off we have four student blogs:

  • LUMS Blog: Written by LUMS alumni about things concerning Pakistan and LUMS. I haven't contributed to this blog yet but this is the one that I'm associated with.

  • FAST Rising: The excellent FAST-NU resistance blog.

  • The Emergency Times: An independent student initiative that provides updates on the emergency situation and publishes a newsletter by the same name.

  • ALE Xpressed!: This is a personal blog that doesn't "report" on events but approaches them from a personal perspective.

Then we have the two I talked about earlier:

  • All Things Pakistan ( The intention of this blog is to "talk about [Pakistan's] problems constructively and to celebrate enthusiastically that which deserves to be celebrated". It's not a news blog, but an excellent views blog.

  • Watan Dost: This is both a news and opinion blog but is particularly good for news about Pakistan from all perspectives and from many, many sources.

And finally, we have the Metroblogging sites (the first two have more coverage than the third):

Oh, another useful thing to do is to create a Google Alert with the search phrase "Pakistan" that sends you a daily e-mail with all news, blog, web, and video entries posted about Pakistan over the previous 24 hours. You can, of course, narrow your search term down to "Pakistan emergency" or something.


A few more resources have come my way:

LUMS Professors Arrested

Two faculty members from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), from where I did my undergrad, were arrested as part of the government's crackdown on whoever "opposes" them. They were attending a meeting at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) when the police came a-knockin' an' arrestin'.

Here's a PDF of the press release issued by LUMS (482kB PDF). The arrests are also the main story on the HRCP's website today.