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A provocative question, in response to one piece of your post quoted
below: to what extent do you believe that your "experienced
participant" is in fact using a form of SNA (intuitive and
heuristically based, to be sure) in order to answer the specified

I think that it's quite likely that SNA researchers could have
something to learn about what kinds of analyses are the most useful,
in practice, to perform in order to answer questions like "who are the
thought leaders in this context"?  But it seems to me that your expert
user is still functioning as an independent observer--one with a good
deal more domain knowledge that a randomly selected SNA researcher,
certainly, but an independent observer nevertheless (unless part of
their methodology actually involves exchanging information to other
participants).  Further, while some techniques that such a user might
use might be harder to implement and duplicate than others, it's by no
means clear that they can't be automated at all.  (Is it worth the
trouble to do so?  Different question.  :> )

As a side note, one thing that the "number-crunching" approach can get
you is that it can identify large-scale phenomena (especially diffuse
phenomena) that can be very hard for a single human investigator to
identify, simply because of the amount of information involved.


Joshua O'Madadhain

On 10/9/06, Scott Allen <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> There are inherit limitations to being an independent observer.  There are
> some things that you can learn by doing that you can never learn by
> watching.  You can learn to do things intuitively as a participant that
> takes an independent observer a huge amount of time and analysis, only to
> arrive at much the same result.
> For example, let's take the matter of identifying thought leaders in a large
> community, such as MySpace.  If you can get the data from MySpace, you could
> throw a very large dataset of permanent links and communication events
> (private messages, reading a profile, posting a bulletin, etc.), and after
> some heavy number-crunching, you could create a map of the relationships and
> identify the thought leaders and the supernodes.
> Or, you could go to an experienced participant who knows what they're doing
> and say, "Identify all the thought leaders and supernodes on such-and-such a
> topic," and within a couple of hours, they could have you a pretty good
> first swipe at it, and within a day, probably have much the same list of
> people the SNA produced.

   Joshua O'Madadhain: Information Scientist, Musician, Philosopher-At-Tall
It's that moment of dawning comprehension that I live for.  -- Bill Watterson
 My opinions are too rational and insightful to be those of any organization.

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