Flexible sampling large-scale social networks by self-adjustable random walk

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

6 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-365
Journal / PublicationPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Online published26 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


Online social networks (OSNs) have become an increasingly attractive gold mine for academic and commercial researchers. However, research on OSNs faces a number of difficult challenges. One bottleneck lies in the massive quantity and often unavailability of OSN population data. Sampling perhaps becomes the only feasible solution to the problems. How to draw samples that can represent the underlying OSNs has remained a formidable task because of a number of conceptual and methodological reasons. Especially, most of the empirically-driven studies on network sampling are confined to simulated data or sub-graph data, which are fundamentally different from real and complete-graph OSNs. In the current study, we propose a flexible sampling method, called Self-Adjustable Random Walk (SARW), and test it against with the population data of a real large-scale OSN. We evaluate the strengths of the sampling method in comparison with four prevailing methods, including uniform, breadth-first search (BFS), random walk (RW), and revised RW (i.e., MHRW) sampling. We try to mix both induced-edge and external-edge information of sampled nodes together in the same sampling process. Our results show that the SARW sampling method has been able to generate unbiased samples of OSNs with maximal precision and minimal cost. The study is helpful for the practice of OSN research by providing a highly needed sampling tools, for the methodological development of large-scale network sampling by comparative evaluations of existing sampling methods, and for the theoretical understanding of human networks by highlighting discrepancies and contradictions between existing knowledge/assumptions of large-scale real OSN data.

Research Area(s)

  • External-edge, Network sampling, Online social networks, Random walk