***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
> There are some who take a "network centric" view of networks, but there
> is huge research in ego networks, or how the networks appear to an
> individual inside of them.
I read everything I could get my hands on about ego networks in the course
of writing our book -- Borgatti, Everett, Hanneman, Burt, et al. But
"huge"? Google turns up less than 10,000 results on the phrase "ego
network", and very, very few of those are actual research papers, rather
than just brief mentions or definitions, and much of that is extremely
But... to clarify my original point, even the research on ego networks is
research on ego networks in aggregate. By that, I mean that it is the study
of the ego networks of large numbers of people, attempting to quantify their
ego networks in some way, then draw conclusions from the quantitative
What I'm talking about is the personal, subjective viewpoint of the
individual, and a look at their practices as part of their daily lives. An
experiential point of view, rather than an external analytical one.
> There are many papers and other work about how diversity of
> social networks influences success in this area. Wayne Baker, Andrew
> Hargadon and many more. Since solo businesses do not have proximity
> determined by management, they need to be MORE aware of social networks.
We quote Baker extensively in our book -- I'll have to look up Hargadon.
Don -- I'm NOT saying they don't need to be aware of social network
concepts. We have an extensive section in our book explaining the basics of
social networks, another on structural holes, and so on.
That doesn't mean it's practical for the solo businessperson to go perform a
social network analysis of the various groups in which he participates.
> You seem to be arguing that it is easier to sell simple, one dimensional
> platitudes in the form of stories to the people who want to do the least.
No, I'm arguing that there are more factors to a good solution than
correctness. Cost, return on investment, acceptable levels of risk,
speed/timing, political considerations and other human factors -- all are
part of the business decision process. And sometimes, the simpler solution
is better precisely because it's simpler, even if it's not completely
It is often cheaper to be wrong and correct it than to make sure you're
right the first time. The computer software industry operates on this
principle. If they didn't it's unlikely they'd ever get a product out the
This is often a sticking point for scientists, who will want to do it
correctly, regardless of the budgetary and time constraints.
I respect that. We need people who think like that. But there will always be
a tension between that and the other constraints of business.
> It really seems like you are totally unfamiliar with the idea of
I'll try not to take that personally, Don, but I think that's an unfair
statement. I admittedly have far less academic and research experience in
this area than most of the people on this list. But I have far more than the
vast majority of businesspeople or the general public. I routinely read this
list and any papers that come up in my Google alerts about social networks.
I have read many of the major books on the topic.
Don't tell me I'm ignorant -- just correct me. :-)
> Humans constantly make errors about causation...You can claim that so and
> so did such and such on MySpace and that because of it his business got
> better, but how are we to know that is the real and only reason?
We don't. But to the person sitting there thinking, "How can I market my
business on MySpace?", all that matters is that it probably makes the odds
better than what they're doing now. Like you said -- it's so hard to
determine causation in a social setting. Can formal SNA do it 100%? Or does
it simply bump up the statistical significance a bit?
The person who reads the story, gets an idea how they can apply it to their
situation, takes action on it, and sees results... doesn't care.
> If something worked one year, why would we assume it would work the next?
Why would you assume it wouldn't? You don't know it's going to work --
again, it's impossible to deterministically predict outcomes precisely in a
human network. So what you do is you try it again, but observing as you do,
looking for indications of unexpected results, then adjusting your actions
based on new input.
> What is a "thought leader" except the opinion of someone who uses the
> word? Your argument is a tautology. Though leaders are people who are
> called thought leaders. Were there to be a process such as you describe
> and a measurable network effect that was identified as "thought leader"
> and the two corresponded, that would be interesting, because it would
> HINT that their might be some relation between cognition and network
Point taken. What I was suggesting was that the results of the two methods
would a) likely be similar, and b) there would be no way to verify either
result against some abstract "truth". The real answer to the question, from
the businessperson's perspective, is once you contact those 100 people and
engage them, what's the ROI on your marketing efforts?
BTW, I think that what you suggest would be really, really fascinating, and
if anyone here is ever interested in undertaking that research, I'd love to
be a part of it.
> You sent me your book and I commented on it early on. I have told you
> then and I will tell you now that I think that you take a narrow,
> instrumental view of networks. Your goal is to sell things and to
> expand the base of contacts a person has to sell more things. There is
> nothing wrong with that, but there is a whole lot more to networks and
> knowledge of networks than that.
Unquestionably. And thank you for your input on our book. The subtitle of
our book is "opening doors and closing deals online", so I don't think
there's any pretense in what our purpose was. What started this conversation
was Moses' question about why businesspeople look at phenomena like MySpace
and identify social networks with that. I was attempting to offer a business
perspective on the answer to that. And the business view of networks is
generally going to be instrumental/utilitarian.
One minor clarification... while "selling things" is certainly one possible
instrumental use of networks, there are many others, which our book covers
as well: finding a job, hiring employees, finding strategic partners,
achieving your personal and career goals, etc.
> There are lots of things businesspeople can do that work at levels below
> the analytic.
And this is where the academic/research community can get more recognition
for your work from the business community.
So where's the blog, where are the articles in mainstream business
magazines, etc., talking about this stuff? This list is an echo chamber.
Take advantage of the network bridges into the business community, into
these social networking sites, etc.
> Sorry if I am being brutal, Scott.
Only once, briefly -- the rest is all constructive dialogue.
> I also think that network thinking and the things we are learning can
> greatly help both businesses and individuals and I hate to see attempts to
> take a small subset reduced to the lowest common denominator presented as
> all there is for practical purposes.
Well, it certainly wasn't my intent to do that. I'm here because I'm
fascinated by the topic, and I've been reading and thinking along these
lines for about seven years. If I personally thought this were all
irrelevant, I wouldn't be on this list, I wouldn't be engaging in this
dialogue, and we wouldn't have devoted a chapter of our book to it.
What I hope comes of this is perhaps a better understanding of the business
perspective on the topic, which may lead people here to new lines of
thinking about what research even gets done, what kind of findings to look
for, how to publish and disseminate those findings, and how to help business
implement real-world solutions based on those findings.
Again, my virtual door is wide open. If anyone has a working paper and would
like to get a business perspective on it, send it my way.
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.