Ever wondered who influences the influencers? Developer Pierre-Jean Camillieri did, so he put together a tool, called Game of Angels, that scrapes public Twitter and Angel List interactions to map inbound and outbound connections between technology investors, journalists and a third demographic he’s dubbed ‘influencers’ (e.g. analysts). The idea being to foreground the (human) networks that conspire, accidentally or otherwise, to inflate the profile of certain tech products.
“A couple of recent stories got me really intrigued,” he tells TechCrunch. “Secret, Yo, and most recently Meerkat/Periscope. I thought the level of momentum and traction generated by these apps in no time was ‘unbelievable’. When you look into it, at how these phenomena start and get amplified, there is a small group of people that’s making a huge difference. I wanted to try and understand the inner workings.”
It’s fair to say that livestreaming app Meerkat inflated over a hot SXSW week in Austin, before almost as quickly deflating as Twitter-owned Periscope blew up in its place. As with politics, a week can be a very long time in tech.
To better understand such hype bubbles/cycles, Camillieri’s experiment analyses Angel List activity and Twitter timelines of his chosen tech targets gathering up any mentions, who they are answering to, whose Tweets they favorite and so on — or “any signal that’s pointing to another person” as he puts it.
“If person A replies to person B, or A favorites B’s tweets, or A mentions B etc, I am assuming that A ‘pays attention’ to what B is saying. So B belongs to A’s ‘inbound’ map of influence. In the same example, since A listens to B, A belongs to B’s ‘outbound” map of influence,” he explains.
The tool then shows two interaction visualizations per person in the network — clicking on an individual’s photo toggles between an inbound and outbound map for them, displaying who they are speaking or listening to. The premise being to help entrepreneurs unearth well-connected angels/VCs within the tech-sphere.
It’s similar to a feature like twtrland’s network conversations view (here showing people who talk to Dave McClure, for instance) but less noisy, given it’s restricted to people Camillieri considers tech influencers (although that also makes it more limited in scope). Plus the mind-map structure also plots relative influence within each person’s network, represented as the distance between an individual and each of their connections.
He concedes the tool is currently skewed towards U.S.-based/Silicon Valley investors, so it loses relevancy when it comes to mapping wider geographical influence networks, such as the European tech scene. Still, it’s a visually appealing way to satisfy your curiosity about who in Valley power circles is digitally hobnobbing with who.
Camillieri, who when not hacking together mind maps is also working on a pocket concierge startup called Timista, reckons there’s potential for turning Game of Angels into something more powerful to help facilitate communication between entrepreneurs and investors. “I got so much feedback and interesting ideas that I am going to allocate some time to this project,” he says. “From what I have gathered the current version has already helped people discover important angels.”
What his experiment perhaps most powerfully conveys is how digital communications that in one context may feel quasi private — such as when you @reply someone else directly on Twitter — are absolutely not. Such data is ripe for harvesting, combining, repackaging and presenting in a new context. Such as the one above, which foregrounds quasi-private communications and connections, making online relationships far more explicit. Still, everyone in these concentric tech influence circles knew that already.