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Hi All,

I appreciate Ian’s kind words, but my paper on the subject is still in development (owing mostly to some simulations that are taking awhile to complete). As he suggests, I have my doubts about tie strength and think we’d do better to use a different system that captures the latency of tie usage (i.e., average time between activations), the capacity of the tie (i.e., how much stuff you can cram down it), and its redundancy. My conception is closely tied to Aral and Van Alsytne’s (2011) work, but I don’t completely agree with them. Those of you at the Hamburg Sunbelt may have seen me discuss this in my session. In any event, the paper is still rough, but if you email me I’m willing to give advance looks at everything but the simulation results.

But definitely look for the complete publication once it’s out! ;)


On 8/14/13 8:26 PM, "Ian McCulloh" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

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I am disappointed that Matt Brashears has not commented on the tie strength issue.  I like his theories on tie strength so much I published it in my book.

Matt argues that there are several components to the strength of a tie, for example intimacy and frequency of contact.  He illustrates this with the example of an old friend (high intimacy, low frequency), a spouse (high intimacy, high frequency), a co-worker (low intimacy, high frequency), and a stranger (low intimacy, low frequency).  The tie strength is a diagonal line where the spouse quadrant is the strong tie and the stranger quadrant is a weak tie.  Strong ties often require more effort and resources to maintain and cultivate.  A person utilizes different dimensions of strength depending upon the nature of the need.  For example, if you need to borrow a few dollars for lunch, you won't ask an old friend in a different town.  You'd ask a co-worker.  If you were faced with a personal tragedy, you may not rely on a co-worker, but would call an old friend.

Look for Matt's paper when he publishes it.

As for John Maloney's point, I think the main idea was that there are people using SNA for pretty important things (military targeting, criminal investigations, etc) that don't really know what they are talking about.  Regardless of the specific point (tie strength, centrality, etc), I think he is totally right.  Perhaps we are at the point as an academic field, where we should consider certifications.  Should there be some kind of certification process for practitioners?  We require certification for teachers, lawyers, medical doctors, even hair stylists.  If people in government are going to use SNA for military targeting and criminal investigation, I think it would be a good idea to certify them to make sure they know what they are doing.


On Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 5:11 PM, John McCreery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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I just downloaded your dissertation and read the introduction. You have me hooked. Both as an advertising copywriter and as a veteran of several volunteer organizations mired in old divisions and quarrels, I responded instantly to your title "Ghosts of Organization Past." The introduction has drawn me in. Yes, yes, yes....I find my head nodding yes over and over again as I read.

You point to another important aspect of real world social networks that distinguish them from the mathematical models we construct based on random graphs that mirror free market assumptions. I am tempted to call it innocence. We chatter on about homophily and brokerage, for example, without considering the social debris, old quarrels, grudges, unhealed wounds, etc., that affect how ties are may or may not be activated and, perhaps more important, how they will be activated—in warm support, chilly alliance, bitter factionalism or vendetta.  Not saying the models are wrong. The math works really well. What it has to do with the messiness of real life and real politics? That is an interesting question, indeed.


On Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 5:01 AM, Dan Ryan <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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I wrote about broken ties and such as "social organizational junk" and urban communities as "organizational junk yards" in my "Ghosts of Organization Past" ( -- currently under review) -- idea being that organizations and networks don't really go away when they die.  Instead they degrade over time, but have the potential for "re-animation" when new resources appear and can be either obstacles or opportunities to new organizing/intervention efforts.  A related concept of the down-side of connection was "network noise" that happens when perturbations meander across networks (when bad planning on your part becomes and an emergency for me, whether I like it or not).

Dan Ryan <>
Kathryn P. Hannam Associate Professor, teaching in sociology and public policy
Mills College <> , Oakland, CA. <>

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Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Cornell University

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