Build your own social network laboratory with Social Lab: A tool for research in social media
Social networking has surpassed e-mail and instant messaging as the dominant form of online communication (Meeker, Devitt, & Wu, 2010). Currently, all large social networks are proprietary, making it difficult to impossible for researchers to make changes to such networks for the purpose of study design and access to user-generated data from the networks. To address this issue, the authors have developed and present Social Lab, an Internet-based free and open-source social network software system available from http://www.sociallab.es. Having full availability of navigation and communication data in Social Lab allows researchers to investigate behavior in social media on an individual and group level. Automated artificial users (“bots”) are available to the researcher to simulate and stimulate social networking situations. These bots respond dynamically to situations as they unfold. The bots can easily be configured with scripts and can be used to experimentally manipulate social networking situations in Social Lab. Examples for setting up, configuring, and using Social Lab as a tool for research in social media are provided.