There are different ways to learn from the nodes in a network map, ranging from understanding why the node appears in the map, to what the node represents, to data displayed in the node, to the location in the network structure that the node occupies. Continue reading to learn more about these different ways to interpret node information, or to see a list of the different map types and the nodes they contain, click here.
1. Network Status
A node's network status refers to why a given node appears in the network that is being viewed. Example 1 below is a representation of the network of the company "ActiveGrid." ActiveGrid is therefore the "Target Node" in this network, and can be identified as such because it is noticeably larger in size than the other company nodes as well as its thicker border. Read more below
2. Symbolic Representation
A node's shape and color can be identified using the legend to determine exactly what type of node is being represented. Read more below
3. Displayed Attributes
Nodes can display information within their boundaries describing the attributes of each node individually. In Example 1, each node displays its own name. This information is explicitly displayed. The user has the option to include or exclude which attributes he would like to see. In future examples we will examine other maps with more information displayed within the nodes. Read more below
4. Network Structure
Interpretation on a higher level can be performed to learn more about a node by examining its position in the structure of a network. Read more below
Map 2.1 - ActiveGrid; Company and Investor Map
Target (Independent) Nodes
Every network created by LinkSViewer is created around one or more Target Nodes. A Target Node, also called an Independent Node, is the node whose network is being represented. Example 1 shown above is the network for a company called ActiveGrid. ActiveGrid is the only the Target Node in the network, but it is possible for a map to have multiple Target Nodes. All of the other nodes in Example 1 are only there because of their connection to ActiveGrid. Hummer Winblad is a large investor with over 60 investments, but none of those other investments appear in this map because it is not a map of Hummer Winblad's network; it is a map of ActiveGrid's network. This is why Target Nodes are considered to be Independent. Their presence in the network does not depend on their connection to any other node.
Any node in a network that is not a Target Node is present because it is connected to the Target Node(s). In Example 1, every node except the node for ActiveGrid is an Independent Node. If a Target Node is removed from a network, all of its Dependent Nodes would disappear as well. If ActiveGrid were removed, all of the other nodes would disappear as well. However, if Hummer Winblad were removed, the other nodes in Example 1 would remain because they are not dependent on Hummer Winblad.
Example 2 (below) shows a network map with two Target Nodes; one for the company ActiveGrid and one for the investor Allegis Capital. ActiveGrid and Allegis are now both enlarged with thickened borders. The addition of a second Target Node leads to the inclusion of more Dependent Nodes. Every node in Example 2 that was not in Example 1 is a node that is solely dependent on Allegis Capital.
Map 2.2 - ActiveGrid & Allegis; Company and Investor Map
In summary, Target Nodes are Independent, and the network is formed around them and the structure of their connections. All other nodes are Dependent Nodes, present in the network only because of their connections to the Target Nodes.
Nodes can have different colors and shapes which help you to understand what they represent. There are three classes of nodes that represent Companies (rectangles), Investors (ovals), and People (eggs).
Image 2.3 - Node Shape and Color
Investor Nodes come in three different colors which help to identify the investor as either a Corporate Investor, a Venture Capital Investor, or an Individual Investor. It is important to remember that Individual Investors and People nodes differ because of the nature of their connections to the Company Nodes. Individual Investor Nodes have invested capital, while People Nodes serve on the company's Board or Management Team. So even though both types of nodes represent individuals, the oval represents them as investors rather than individuals involved in company operations.
Company Nodes have three different colors representing the company as Public (green), Private (blue), or Acquired (purple). Each of these colors come in two shades, the darker of which indicates that the company is Active, and the lighter shade indicates that the company is Inactive. Active companies are still in existence and functioning, but Inactive companies are not.
People Nodes have only one possible color (pink). The node can represent a company's Board Member or a member of a company's Management Team, but because a person can be both a Board Member and Management Team member in a single network map, the differentiation must be made in the link between the nodes, rather than in the nodes themselves.
Nodes can explicitly convey information about themselves through the inclusion of data within the nodes themselves. In LinkSViewer you can manipulate what information you want to display in the nodes depending upon what is important to you. In Examples 1, 2 and 3 (above) only the names of the nodes are displayed. However, it is possible to display more information in the nodes, as in Example 4 - Node Content (pictured below).
Image 2.4 - Node Content
Example 4 shows the maximum amount of information that can be displayed in each of the three types of nodes. The gray colored nodes on top represent generic node representations with actual examples taken from LinkSViewer maps in color beneath them.
Investor nodes contain a maximum of two pieces of information: 1) the name of the investor, and 2) the number of investments that the investor has made. In the example the investor is named Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, and it has made 61 investments.
Company nodes can contain the most information displayed within the node, including: 1) the name of the company, 2) the number of investors in the company, 3) the number of rounds of capital that the company has raised, and 4) the total amount of capital that the company has raised in all of its rounds (in US dollars).
People nodes can contain two pieces of information: 1) the name of the individual, and 2) the number of companies with which they are affiliated. In the example, the person is named "Irwin Gross," and he has either been on the board of, or been a management team member of 4 different companies.
The most complex way to learn from the nodes is by way of their location in the network. It is a matter of interpretation that will be discussed more later on in the tutorial. How do they contribute to the structure of the network? This type of interpretation has as much to do with the links as it does with the nodes. In Example 5 below you can see the combined map for the companies ActiveGrid and NetCell.
Image 2.5 - ActiveGrid & NetCell; Company and Investor Map
Here is an example of a question which allows for some basic interpretation of the structure of this network: Which investors do you think are most important in this map?
Granite Ventures has 6 links (indicating that it has invested into 6 companies in this network), Allegis has 4, and Worldview Technology and TI Venture both have 3. These are the four most connected investors in the network. By that standard alone Granite Ventures would be considered one of the most important, but if you examine the network further you will see that it is only connected to companies on the NetCell side of the network. By contrast, Allegis connects the two sides of the network to each other, so even though it has less links, it plays an important role in forming the structure of the network.
Of course, the question "Which node is most important" is a very complicated question to ask, but it serves as an introduction to the importance of the structure of the networks, and the complexity of the interpretations that can be performed on the network maps. Statistics and measures can also be included in these analyses, and with practice a great deal of information can be extracted just by examining the different views of an investment network.