Uncovering local hierarchical overlapping communities at scale

Panagiotis Liakos, Alexandros Ntoulas, Alex Delis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Real-life systems involving interacting objects are typically modeled as graphs and can often grow very large in size. Revealing the community structure of such systems is crucial in helping us better understand their complex nature. However, the ever-increasing size of real-world graphs and our evolving perception of what a community is, make the task of community detection very challenging. A critical relevant challenge is the discovery of the possibly overlapping communities of a given node in a billion-node graph. This problem is very common in modern large social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. In this work, we propose a scalable local community detection approach to efficiently unfold the communities of individual target nodes in a given network. Our goal is to reveal the clusters formed around nodes (e.g., users) by leveraging the relations within all different contexts these nodes participate in. Our approach, termed Local Dispersion-aware Link Communities or LDLC, considers the similarity of pairs of links in the graph as well as the extent of their participation in multiple contexts. Then, we determine the order in which we should group the pairs of links so that we form meaningful hierarchical communities. We are not affected by constraints existing in previous techniques such as the need for several seed nodes or the need to collapse multiple overlapping communities to a single community. Our experimental evaluation using ground-truth communities for a wide range of large real-world networks shows that our LDLC algorithm significantly outperforms state-of-the-art methods on both accuracy and efficiency. Moreover, we show that LDLC uncovers very effectively the hierarchical structure of overlapping communities by producing detailed dendrograms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2940450
JournalIEEE Transactions on Big Data
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2015


  • Community detection
  • Complex networks
  • Dispersion
  • Hierarchical communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Information Systems and Management


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