Tuesday, May 14, 2013

According to Graph Search: 36 Hours in Portland, Oregon

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: The Portland Japanese Garden Facebook page; Powell's Books Facebook page; Ray's Ragtime Facebook page; LaurelThirst Public House Facebook page; Jesse Cornett via Facebook; Deke Dickerson via Facebook.

I wrote this piece as part of an experiment to see how much I can learn about a city primarily using Facebook Graph Search. I chose Portland because I have never been there, have only a vague idea of what the city is like, and have few Facebook "friends" who post about it.

The goals of this piece are twofold: to produce an act of journalism in the style of the New York Times's 36 Hours series on weekend trips and to evaluate hypotheses about the viability of Facebook Graph Search for journalistic purposes. I wrote this article using leads obtained solely information from using Facebook. I used Google Maps for validating locations and for clustering sighseeing of nearby locations. After each activity, I have a brief note on how I discovered it.

Some questions to think about while reading this piece are as follows. How might my social network be biasing the article? How might the population of active Facebook users be biasing the article? How are these biases different from the usual biases of journalists? What information is missing if we look only on Facebook? For comparison, you may be interested in reading the New York Times's version of 36 Hours in Portland, Oregon.


4 p.m.
Start your weekend at Powell’s City of Books, a popular book store, coffee shop, and tourist attraction liked by 17,204 Facebook users. Over 66,740 Facebook users checked into this book store and 374 are currently "talking about" this "bibliophile's dream." Portland resident John Stephenson says, “I know some folks that should live here simply for this one store.” According to Nicole Bell of Oregon City, “Everything and Anything to read is right at your Fingertips.” Portland State student and National Guard member Bobby N Marci claims this is her favorite place on earth. Those who "like" Powell's also "like" the author Haruki Murakami and advice columnist Dear Sugar from the online literary magazine The Rumpus.

I discovered this by searching "Shopping & Retail places in Portland, Oregon."

7 p.m.
Grab a burger and a beer at the Deschutes Brewery, a Pearl District destination liked by 2,954 Facebook users and visited by 33, 392 users that combines Northwest culture with a Scottish Pub feel. Deschutes has 18 taps featuring, in addition to the mainstays, seasonal and experimental beers developed and brewed on site by Ben Kehs. Vancouver, Washington resident Steven Venetta says this is his "favorite place to go out to eat/drink in Portland." For food, Venetta recommends the elk burger; for beer, he recommends Abyss, Hop Trip, and Green Lakes. Facebook user Charles Replogle raves about the gluten-free menu and reports that there is a "TASTY" gluten-free microbrew on tap.

I discovered this by searching "Restaurants in Portland, Oregon."

10 p.m.
Go for drinks and karaoke Alibi Tiki lounge, liked by 2,109 Facebook users and visited by 14,402 users. According to Los Angeles musician Deke Dickerson, Alibi is a "national landmark" frequented by "young hipsters" that "retains enough local flavor to be the real deal." Locals and tourists alike seem to be enthusiastic about the karaoake and the tiki aspects of this lounge. Cornelius, Oregon resident Geoffrey Waggoner recommends the "Luau Pork Sammich," calling it “orgasmic.” Regulars like to post on the Facebook page when they plan to go for, in the words of Portland resident Jessica Boyd, "sexy singing times."

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon."


10 a.m.
Spend a leisurely few hours at the Portland Saturday Market, liked by 68,158 Facebook users and visited by 53,966 users. In operation since 1974, it is our nation's largest continually operating outdoor arts and crafts market. At the artist's booths, you can not only meet the artists but witness the creation of one-of-a-kind pieces. You can pick up breakfast and lunch from the exotic food offerings while enjoying the live music. Facebook fans rave about everything from the food to the live clothing to how the market is a “great place to take pics.” According to several Facebook fans, this is the one destination they do not miss during visits to Portland. But be careful: Matthew Futrell of South Carolina cautions against “beggars and cigarette bums.”

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon."

2 p.m.
Take a relaxing hour or two to enjoy a stroll through the beautiful hills of the Portland Japanese Garden, liked by 14,776 Facebook users and visited by 25,893 users. The garden has been proclaimed the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. Facebook fans like the "peace" and "perspective" that a walk through the garden provides. Those who like the garden are quite enthusiastic about recommending it to others. Federal Way, Washington resident Lance Ferrell says, "I would make a special trip to Portland just to see this."

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon."

4 p.m.
Grab a snack at Voodoo Donut, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant liked by over 107,000 Facebook users and visited by 141,100. According to US News and Travel, Voodoo is among America's best donuts. Alaska resident Lori Campbell high recommends the maple bacon donut, saying she hand carried it all the way back to Anchorage, Alaska. Brandon Krenzler of Pendleton, Oregon says, "You'll not find doughnuts like this anywhere else" and calls Voodoo a "Keep Portland Weird classic."

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon."

5 p.m.
Take a stroll along the Portland Waterfront and surrounding areas. Watch people play with their dogs in the Waterfront Park, walk by the Portland City Hall, and make your way to Pioneer Courthouse Square, liked by 8.248 Facebook users and visited by 50,512. In this city park there are shops, there is food, and there are people. There are public movie showings. This next month, Weezer is coming for a free concert. According to photographer and Independence, Oregon resident Ryan Zeigler, this is the "REAL center" of Portland.

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon."

8 p.m.
 Rest your feet at Portland's historic non-profit Hollywood Theatre, liked by 5,199 Facebook users and visited by 1,348. According to the Facebook page, it was built in 1926 and has "beer, wine, pizza, and the best popcorn in Portland." It has hosted vaudeville shows, silent films with live orchestration, and more. Facebook fans are enthusiastic about the theater's "personality," its popcorn, and its film selection. Vix Standen of Kingston upon Thames writes, "the hollywood is the best cinema in the entire universe. the staff are beautiful, the 'corn is delicious, the seats are super comfy and, most importantly, the film selection is always rad."

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon."

11 p.m.
Check out local live music at the LaurelThirst Public House, liked by 2,241 Facebook users and visited by 4,463. According to Ben Waterhouse in the 2011 WWeek bar guide, "The leaders of the city's bluegrass, folk, old-time, gypsy jazz and Americana scenes, plus various combinations thereof, can be found every night at this entirely kickass bar. I've never seen a bad show here." According to bar's Facebook page, there is live music every day and twice a day Wednesday through Sunday.

I discovered this by searching "Night clubs in Portland, Oregon."


11 a.m.
Have brunch at Tasty n Sons, liked by 4,236 Facebook users and visited by 20,327. Tasty serves "Toro Bravo style brunch" with a menu that changes based on seasonal variations, local farmers' produce, and the kitchen crew's inspiration. Patrons are excited about, among other things, the bacon-wrapped dates, cauliflower, and lamb sausage. Carl Brochu of Renton, Washington recommends the bloody Mary. Anna Va writes that Tasty served her the "best and most memorable food I've ever had."

I discovered this by searching "Restaurants in Portland, Oregon."

1 p.m.
Relax in Wilamette Park. When you are ready, try stand-up paddle-boarding on the Wilamette River, renting boards at Gorge Performance.

I discovered this by searching "Photos taken in Portland, Oregon" and then trying searches involving "Wilamette."

4 p.m.
Get a cup of coffee at the Coffeehouse Northwest, liked by 567 Facebook users and visited by 1,153. Portland resident Jon Powell admires the “little patterns in the mocha,” saying it is “like a dream.” Portland residents Leah Flores and Michael Jensen say this is their favorite coffee shop in Portland. Nicholas Walton of Corvallis, Oregon comments on the "beautiful space" and "beautiful equipment." Shem Ishler of Minneapolis, Minnesota says the coffee is “the way it was meant to be."

I discovered this by searching "Coffee shops in Portland, Oregon."

5 p.m.
Go vintage shopping at Ray’s Ragtime, a vintage shop featured on LA Frock Star. According to the Facebok page photos, the store features clothing across the decades, jewelry, masks, books, dolls, and other collectible items. Portland resident Victoria Taylor says that this is “one of her favorite all-time stores.”

I discovered this by searching “Photos taken in Portland, Oregon.” 

Have fun! And in case you are curious, I reflect on this experiment using Facebook Graph Search in this post, Facebook Graph Search as a Journalistic Tool.

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