My favorite blog so far is Slashdot, News for Nerds. Stuff that matters. It’s like a newsletter for geeks but both the topics and the discussions are supplied by the audience. Today they had an article about a topic I just recently talked about, online networks like Friendster and Orkut. Here’s the Slashdot discussion, Detecting Patterns in Complex Social Networks. The article referred to in the original post is rather sparse, but some of the follow up comments in the discussion have links to some very interesting networking sites. The networking sites have studies that even pull in mathematical theories, globalization, and international trade, as well as other topics. You can get a graduate degree in networking. I wonder who actually hires you if you end up with a degree in networking. Do you end up in economics, strategy, international relations? Any of the above?
The book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell talked about how new trends spread like epidemics. I don’t have the book in front of me but he talked about three types of people that spread a new trend or idea. Only one of these types of people has large numbers of contacts. This type of person with the contacts has a huge network and spans between groups – they are responsible for a trend spreading. (One of the other types of people was the expert – people trust their judgement.)
One of the articles referred to in the Slashdot discussion says that one of the things researchers study is the clumps. I believe the author of the The Tipping Point would have argued that it’s the ties between clumps that are interesting. They are what holds the larger network together. There are also probably experts and focal points within each network but the network wouldn’t spread to groups with other interests without the connectors.