On Estimating the Average Degree

Anirban Dasgupta
Ravi Kumar
23rd International World Wide Web Conference, WWW '14, ACM(2014) (to appear)
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Networks are characterized by nodes and edges. While there has been a spate of recent work on estimating the number of nodes in a network, the edge-estimation question appears to be largely unaddressed. In this work we consider the problem of estimating the average degree of a large network using efficient random sampling, where the number of nodes is not known to the algorithm. We propose a new estimator for this problem that relies on access to edge samples under a prescribed distribution. Next, we show how to efficiently realize this ideal estimator in a random walk setting. Our estimator has a natural and simple implementation using random walks; we bound its performance in terms of the mixing time of the underlying graph. We then show that our estimators are both provably and practically better than many natural estimators for the problem. Our work contrasts with existing theoretical work on estimating average degree, which assume a uniform random sample of nodes is available and the number of nodes is known.