%HTMLlat1; %HTMLsymbol; %HTMLspecial; ]> Misunderstanding Social Networks
Roland van Ipen­burg
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Misun­der­stand­ing So­cial Net­works

Mon­day 18 Au­gust 2008 03:09

Spend­ing some time us­ing so­cial net­work­ing sites like LinkedIn, Xing and Hyves I no­ticed some users try­ing to get to the core of a net­work. Like there is some hi­er­ar­chy in­volved and so­cial net­work­ing is about get­ting to the one per­son at the top, or be­com­ing the one per­son at the top. But there is no hi­er­ar­chy and there is no top (and no vi­su­al­iza­tion tool in LinkedIn that shows that). It's easy to mis­take LinkedIn's 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade con­nec­tions for a lay­ered or­ga­ni­za­tion with you on top, but you are the only one see­ing it that way. In­flu­ence doesn't flow that way ei­ther, there is not one source that pro­vides knowl­edge and trends to oth­er nodes and thus there is no point in be­ing close to the source to have an ad­van­tage. The so­cial net­work is like a traf­fic flow in which you can't un­der­stand the con­ges­tion of the flow by just look­ing at the in­di­vid­ual ve­hi­cles, es­pe­cial­ly if you're one of the ve­hi­cles your­self. You can't find the cause of a traf­fic jam by ask­ing all in­di­vid­ual dri­vers in­volved if they caused the jam, be­cause it takes com­plex in­ter­ac­tion be­tween a group of sev­er­al dri­vers to cause it. In the same way there is no sin­gle node in a so­cial net­work that caus­es waves of in­flu­ence in the net­work. It will be a group of nodes, or the net­work as a whole that gen­er­ates waves of in­flu­ences. So­cial net­work­ing isn't about cut­ting out the mid­dle­man to get clos­er to a source, the mid­dle­man is part of the source.


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