Hang-outs could help predict your friends on social networking sites, say University of Cambridge researchers.
Their surprise finding is that going to the same gym or school or working in the same office can be more likely to bring people together than having the same friends. That may seem obvious but it has important implications for websites like Facebook or LinkedIn.
To date, most social networking sites have relied upon the "friend-of-a-friend" approach to guess which people may have connections with one another.ut Salvatore Scellato, Anastasios Noulas and Cecilia Mascolo, of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, have a new approach that not only looks at friends of friends, but also the places people visit - with weightings given to different places such as airports and gymnasiums.
To test their theory, they used data from four months at a relatively small but fast-growing website called Gowalla to see how social connections grew in that time.
"We discovered that about 30 per cent of all new social links appear among users that check-in to the same places. Thus, these 'place friends' represent disconnected users becoming direct connections," the Daily Mail quoted Scellato as saying.
"By combining place friends with friends-of-friends, we can make the prediction space about 15 times smaller and yet, cover 66 per cent of new social ties.
"It turns out that the properties of the places we interact can determine how likely we are to develop social ties. Offices, gyms and schools are more likely to aid development rather than other places such as football stadiums or airports. In those places, it's highly unlikely people will develop a social connection.
"Our results show it's possible to improve the performance of link prediction systems on location-based services that can be employed to keep the users of social networks interested and engaged with that particular website," Scellato added.