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SOCNET  August 2007

SOCNET August 2007

Subject:

Bill Richards Remembered

From:

George Barnett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

George Barnett <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 28 Aug 2007 13:05:45 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (135 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

William D. Richards Jr. (1948-2007)

 

Bill Richards was the eldest son of a Detroit fireman.  He had two younger
brothers and a sister.  Bill was educated at the University of Detroit High
School, a Jesuit school.  He received his undergraduate education from
Michigan State University (Art Major, Communication Minor, one-time Math
Major).  

 

At MSU he wrote his first network analysis program, NETWOW and that evolved
into his decision to pursue graduate study at Stanford.  The story goes that
Bill was wondering the corridors of Kedzie Hall and saw some Communication
graduate students rearranging literally thousands of cardboard rows and
columns of an adjacency matrix by hand and said that it could be done by a
computer.  After laughing at Bill, he went off and wrote the program.
People stopped laughing.

 

NETWOW evolved into NEGOPY during his first summer back visiting MSU during
which time he lived in Jim Danowski's attic and worked daily with him on the
program. They spent hours at the MSU computer center with boxes of punch
cards and the mainframe, using a working name Pogo for the program because
Bill was fond of the character in the BC comic strip. Bill liked Jim's
suggested permanent name for the program, Negopy, an abbreviation of
Negative Entropy, which means information and structure, and adopted it.
That fall, he moved in with George Barnett, where Bill patiently taught him
network analysis.  Bill developed a reputation for hosting great parties
(beer tasting with precise experimental designs and psychophysical measures)
and cooking odd dishes (curried tuna).



At Stanford, Bill was a somewhat mythic figure in the department, based on
his development of the Negopy network analysis program.  At the time, the
program ran only on CDC computers (because of the bit-shifting involved in
handling large matrices in those days).  So researchers around the world who
wanted to run their data through Negopy would send the data to him, who
would then take it to the one public-access CDC office in Palo Alto, run the
data cards through, wait for the printout, fix any problems, submit the job
again, wait for the results, and, if everything went well, take back a stack
of wide green-line computer printout to Stanford for interpretation and
summary.

 

After Stanford, Bill joined the faculty at Simon Fraser University in
Vancouver.  Bill suffered from some severe physical limitations, but never
talked about it, never complained, and never let them slow him down.  He
loved driving his German-built Mercury Capri.  Despite his physical motion
limitations he enjoyed the manual shift transmission. Visits to Bill were
legendary.  Ron Rice recounts one trip to Vancouver.

 

While I was there, we visited the Columbia River and got some absolutely
fresh salmon and he grilled it in his backyard.  He mentioned to me that
there was a commercial ship from Russia docked in the harbor - one of the
first ever to dock in Vancouver harbor - and that we should go visit it.
Once there, he boldly went right up the gangplank to see if we could visit
some of the sailors.  We found several crammed into one room, drinking vodka
to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of the sailors.  Bill invited all four
of them to his house to continue the celebration.  There he grilled some
food, gave them a gift bag of beer, home-grown zucchini, and the latest
Playboy magazine.  I believe they gave us a bottle of vodka and a package of
very tasty halva. They were of course exceptionally grateful as well as
amazed at the hospitality and generosity of their host.  They were perhaps
most amazed that a single male could own such a large house and lead such an
apparently abundant life.

 

Bill's impact on the field of Communication cannot be overstated.  Bill had
a great influence on one of his mentors, Everett Rogers, whose research on
diffusion grew to include the analysis of social networks. NEGOPY made
possible the study of large communication networks.  In fact, within the
field NEGOPY and network analysis were synonymous.  In the early nineties,
Jim Danowski and I received a review that said, "All the authors did was
apply NEGOPY." We used a variety of network procedures but not NEGOPY,
because we only had 13 nodes, far too few for Bill's program.

 

Over the years, Bill would attend Social Networks conferences, continue
developing utilities for Negopy, extensions to attribute data in his
MultiNet program, and then, with Andrew Seary, other network programs such
as versions of p*.  He also made contributions to topics such as
correspondence between reported and observed network data, qualitative
approaches to network analysis, and chaos theory and networks.  Recently, he
had edited Connections, managed INSNA membership, and became INSNA
President, and was very happy to have organized the INSNA conferences in
Vancouver.

 

Bill was very creative and an outstanding craftsman, building furniture of
his own designs. While on sabbatical in 1990, he lived with me in Buffalo,
where he designed and built a futon frame and corrected my plans for my
children's clubhouse.  


He was also very involved with photography.  Jim Danowski had him make
enlargements of a set of photos he took of the coastal scenes during his
first year at Stanford.  Jim says, "They were the best photos I had every
seen in terms of their conceptualization, composition, colors."  

 

Bill loved gardening, his houseplants, all sorts of music and the arts and
especially his Cairn Terrier, Duffy.  He was a great friend that will be
missed by us all.

complied from emails from Ron Rice, Jim Danowski and George Barnett

 

Professor  George A. Barnett, Ph.D.
Department of Communication
University at Buffalo (SUNY)
Buffalo, NY 14260-1060
(716)645-2141 ext. 1179
(716)645-2086 fax 

 

_____________________________________________________________________
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