Friday, September 30, 2011

Some of my best friends are economists, but...

Here's the email I got with this link.

"Very interesting set of papers on social networks with Matt Jackson as collaborator. Includes experiments estimating social learning models on networks, econometrics of sampled networks, and network data from +70 villages in India.  Economists have discovered that social relationships matter!  I wish they would cite other disciplines…."

And there are very few network maps that non-economists can understand.  Nevertheless, still very interesting, especially for those of you who study India

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Tunisian and Egyptian Youth Hacked the Arab Spring

Amazingly detailed piece on both online and offline strategies and tactics. This will be studied by resistance organizations worldwide.

The Trade Creating Effects of Business and Social Networks. (Combes, Lafourcade, and Mayer. 2003)

Anyone interested in international trade, this is a country case study which shows that the trade creating effects of business and social networks turn out to be an important theoretical and emprical determinat of international transactions.

Using Social Networks to Predict the Future

Check this out:

This is a link to a video about a gentleman named Bruce Bueno de Mesquita who has used mathematical models to successfully predict future political events often in great detail. As part of his methodology, he maps out who the key players in a decision are, how they influence each other, and what their positions are. It occurred to me that SNA might also have some applications to the business of predicting future political decisions. There is clearly a lot of power in SNA that can unlock data about how people are connected to each other, who they talk to the most, and how strong the ties are between people that are important factors in how decisions are made within an organization. I assume that such predictive models could also be taken to the level, which would be modeling how a organization's decision might change if certain people in the organization are convinced to change their positions. This could be invaluable data for lobbyists, diplomats, activist investors, politicians, business people, and many others trying to improve the chances of a more amenable outcome based on their own interests.

- Ravi

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Making Social Networks More Powerful: Votizen

One really interesting (to me, anyway) new company in the social network space is a venture called Votizen. From the company's website:
Votizen is an online network of real voters who have expressed their commitment to be engaged citizens. A free service, Votizen allows its members — Votizens — to claim their voter profile, learn about issues and elections, and take collective action with other committed voters through social media. Backed by the original investors in Facebook and Twitter, Votizen is an independent company and is not affiliated with any political party, candidate or special interest group.
The basic idea is that a user signs up with their real name and the site links them to (a) their social network (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and their voter file (the state-maintained record of where registered voters live, which elections they have voted in, etc.). Being attached to the voter file gives the individual a lot more credibility in the eyes of politicians - instead of reading (or, more likely, probably not bothering to read) a tweet from crazystacy123, the politician knows that this is actually a constituent of his that is trying to get his attention. Users can do some online organizing, create petitions, connect with representatives, etc. The project is still in Beta testing.

The idea has a lot of power, but I think it could be pushed much farther to allow for even more robust forms of interaction. Connecting users with other voters in their district who care about the same issues and helping to facilitate offline interaction to supplement online interaction are a couple of ideas that spring to mind quickly...

New Military Networking News Site Launches Platform

“Unlike Facebook, we are focused solely on military topics or those things that have an interest to the military people around the world,” said U.S. Air Force Sergeant Adam Mulholland, who created the site.

WEBWIRE – Sunday, September 18, 2011
For the past decade, social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and more have captivated the lives of civilians nationwide, but thanks to the development of a new social networking site, there’s now one devoted only to the military: Milpages.
“Unlike Facebook, we are focused solely on military news or those things that have an interest to the military people around the world,” said U.S. Air Force Sergeant Adam Mulholland, who created the site. “This means, everything from opinions on what the military is doing today, coupons and savings, international military reaching across to nations around the world, or just random conversation.”
Mulholland added that the goal of the first ever social networking site devoted only to military topics is to bring people together that have a common interest.
The launching of the social networking site could prove to have perfect timing. The site also contains a stream-lined military forum, and private areas for groups.
According to a recent study conducted by eMarketer Digital Intelligence Group, which researches and provides analysis on digital marketing and media, social networking amongst military personnel has more than tripled in the past five years.
In fact, this year alone, the study said, 63.7 percent of US military internet users will use social networks on a regular basis.
“Our site is targeted directly at military or supporters of, which is unique in the sense that it is being done on a social basis,” Mulholland explained. “We are different because the site is not a commercial multi-million dollar company running it like It’s created by actual military members.”
The military sergeant noted that users are allowed to become writers, similar to the Huffington Post’s format, but “it’s very social like Facebook.”
Chief Ronald Magee, who recently retired from the U.S. Navy in Virginia Beach, said he’s excited to know that there is a place devoted only to military topics.
“I’m a fan of Facebook, but the problem is that after being in the military for so long and then returning to civilian life, it’s kind of hard to keep that connection with the military that you once had,” Magee said. “A site like this allows military people like me to meet and share military stories with one another. I will definitely join.”
That’s exactly what its creators want.
If you are a son of a soldier, or a wife of a Seaman, Mulholland said, then please join us.
“We want to hear your thoughts,” he said. “If you belong to an organization that relates to the military then come in and become a part of the community. We want all people to feel welcome to the site.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Collective Impact - The Power of Partnerships

"Nothing will work, but everything might." - Clay Shirky

Collective Impact is an approach to solving social problems that stresses pooling together the energies and resources of multiple nonprofit, public and private players to address pressing social problems.

Let's take the issue of the dropout rate at a community high school, for example. A student may drop out of high school for any number of reasons, many of which have their roots in things that occurred long before they even started high school. Adopting that perspective, the job of reducing the community's dropout rate is not only the responsibility of the high school and after school programs for teens; it's also the responsibility of parents and city officials and elementary programs, etc. The most effective way to combat the problem then is to:
  • Get everyone with a stake in the outcome at the same "table"
  • Establish a common vision of what they're trying to achieve
  • Adopt a shared set of measurable goals
  • Pursue evidence-based actions toward achieving those goals
Easy to do? No way. But it's happening. More details in the linked story above.

Monday, September 26, 2011

SNA and Development

In a class with Professor Hausmann at HKS this morning, he discussed the use of networks to map a country's "products," or the goods it produces. The lecture was really interesting, and a copy of an article he published with Cesar Hidalgo can be found here on Professor Hidalgo's website:

"The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations"
CA Hidalgo, B Klinger, A-L Barabasi, R Hausmann.
Science (2007) 317: 482-487

Happy to share the slide deck from class if anyone's interested.

-Dan Tavana

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Network Analysis in the field of International Relation

This is an interesting article on the incorporation of Network Analysis in the field of international relations and some of the benefits (allowing for new and different analysis on the concept of power) and challenges (obtaining complete and accurate data sets) of doing so.

Network Analysis for International Relations
Emilie M. Hafner-Burton,Miles Kahler and Alexander H. Montgomery (2009).

International Organization,
Volume 63
, Issue 03, July 2009 pp 559-592

Social Network Analysis in the Obama Administration

There is a very interesting article (which is a little dated) from the early days of the Obama Administration in 2009. The author, Jessica Lipnack, created an organizational chart for the Executive Branch. Of note is the fact that then Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, had 23 direct reports where as Cabinet Level officials had direct access to the President. Also, the organizational structure was adapted from the Bush Administration as President Obama elected to have two Chief of Staffs, Jim Messina (operations) and Mona Stephen (policy). It would be interesting to explore how the organizational chart, and relatedly, how the decision making in the Obama White House has changed with Bill Daley as Chief of Staff.


A cursory insight to the international tourism network

A brief introduction to a network study of the growing international tourism industry based on the World Tourism Organization. It looks at network density in different countries and similarities between the int'l tourism network and economic / transportation networks as opposed to social networks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wired Magazine: How Special Ops Copied al-Qaida to Kill It

A fascinating article in Wired about the rise and fall of Gen. McChrystal's network approach for Special Forces. A lot of the vocabulary and concepts that we've been learning in class appear in the article.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making buying decisions using SNA

Valdis Krebs on how to use SNA to choose a book to read about the financial crisis. A brilliant example of thoughtfulness, creativity, and SNA.

Interesting article in WSJ on the leverage that social media can offer.

Equaluity - Share your ideas

Think Equal is an initiative by the World Bank that got my attention. Not only because of my interest in womens' rights issues but also because of the way the cause was communicated. Think Equal was twitted, facebooked and youtubed whilst urging people to re-twit or re-post the relevant links.

The effectiveness of social media marketing can be monitored and measured at any time. Though what cannot be predicted is how many people will actually engage to promote a campaign or a cause by using their own personal internet space as a medium, especially since the number of social media users increases rapidly.

Think Equal was a campaign cascaded within the networks of millions of social media users on an international level. Individuals contributed to the initiative with a single click.

If nothing else, the engagement of people to raise awareness of an issue that falls withing their interests such as women rights is indeed remarkable and should be further exploited.

The potential of social media is yet to be further explored...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Military networks in Greece

This is a controversial article questioning the potential of a military coup in Greece, published in September. The reason I chose to share it, is because in my point of view, it is actually describing the impact of specific social networks and aims to predict the possibility of a military coup in Greece based on the current political scene of the country, the role of the EU and the political shift in the Mediterranean region.

To begin with, the author identifies a rebellious trend spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East which was basically initiated by groups of people who share a common goal: to overthrow the political regimes they have been living under. Even though the ties between the respective social networks might not be direct, reciprocal or strong; social media served as a linking platform across countries and lead more people to join the networks and become involved in the protests wave.  All networks of such nature were activated by a similar cause and they were connected to one another via networking tools - social media. Even though these groups may not be directly connected or centrally governed, they form an overall-network of their own across countries.

On a second level, even though the current political situation in Greece is not an authoritarian regime, similarly rebellious social networks have been formed on a civilian level to pursue their inalienable rights before a corrupt democratic government. Thus the article journalist is questioning what would the outcome be, if the army actually took over power in Greece - a scenario which is not improbable in a theoretical framework, especially when taking into account the situation in the neighboring states. On this note, it is obvious that there is a connection pattern between the way networks function towards an objective and what might occur in similar situations. Such behavioral pattern could be possibly interpreted based on evidence provided by the relation between social networks analysis and historical facts.

Moreover, different social network groups are illustrated as interacting parties within and without the structure of the overall network of Greeks. These are for instance bureaucrats, politicians, military, people or the network of Germany and the EU. The author has experienced that the social network of bureaucrats would strike as a means to express their interests as they have recently done on a frequent basis. In regards to the Greek army, the author has no current events to refer to, other than the Junta back in the 70's. Consequently, historical evidence and regional behavior of military networks lead him to assume that a coup might not be so unlikely.

It would indeed be interesting to back this article up with a network analysis and prove whether the coup probability is a valid one or not. To do so, we would have to focus on the military network itself. An SNA would allow to identify who could be the potential leaders of a military coup within the Greek army and what are the connection ties between them. According to the density of the relationships it would be concluded whether this network would be strong enough to drive a coup.

To carry out this hypothetical task, it would be necessary to establish what are the attributes defining the people working for the Greek military. Those would be:

Military experience:
-Military unit
-Military rank
-Number of years in the position
-Number of years in the military
-Previous office - if in the military

Other work experience:
-Work experience before the military
-Public sector
-Private sector
-Number of years in the last position

-High school
-Some college
-College graduate
-Master degree

-Marital status
-Number of Children

Besides defining the group attributes, it would be essential to address the existing network connections:

Communication between unit leaders:
-Never communicated
-Occasionally communicated ( once a month )
-Frequently communicated ( once a week)
-Daily communication

Communication among and between units:
-Communicate only with people within my unit
-Communicate with people from one or two units
-Communicate with people from more than three units

Lastly, information about their political beliefs and perception to the government would be essential to establish the probability of a coup against the governement.

Political Beliefs:

Government perception:

Obviously some of this information (i.e political beliefs and government perception) would be hard to gather as people would be reluctant to share this kind of information. But If we assume that these data could be collected and analyzed, the following steps would take place:

1) Check the density of the relationship between unit leaders as well as their relationship ties with their own units. Establish the level of betweenness and closeness accordingly.
2) Analyze the profile of the unit leaders based on attributes and identify common areas such as political beliefs, ranking, years in the army, education level or their marital status.
3)  Establish who are the military officials with high ego networks and are well and strongly connected within and beyond their units. Those could be important players and could lead an initiative, despite the lack of high ranking position in the military hierarchy. 
4) Identify which are there strong ties or where there is no connection at all within a unit or between units. Spot which are the most connected units internally and which are the units who are most connected with another unit or more than one unit.

These data would assist the process of drawing valid conclusions. For example, the possibility of a coup would be limited if there were numerous organizational holes within or between units as it would not facilitate the circumstances for people to unite for one cause. As such if one unit decided to arbitrarily take over, there would be a higher chance that the other leaders would oppose. On the other hand if the connections where proven to be very strong and close, then the leaders would be more likely to consent and proceed together.

In addition, education and previous work experience according to the sector would assist in establishing whether these individuals have expanded networks that could be utilized differently. For instance, a military officer with a high eigenvector would be more likely to have had a similar network in a previously held position with a different organization, and thus the support network would be much greater.

Such an analysis could be further expanded and focus on the interacting networks beyond the military and the Greek borders. What if we could predict the future of the relationship between Greece and Germany or Greece and the EU based on social networks analysis? The EU, as depicted in the article, is a broad social network which links distinctive social networks which sometimes share different or even conflicting interests on the same matters. The interaction of these major social networks directly impact and influence the reaction of smaller networks respectively on each side. Social networks in a society - regardless of its broadness - are interdependent and must be perceived and analyzed as such in order to withdraw valid conclusions on the topic examined.  It is evident that social networks exist in every aspect of life and their analysis is indeed essential to understand today's international relations.

Social Networks and Scholarship

Fascinating piece on how SNs in scholarship are affecting research and collaboration amongst academics and beyond.  Makes Herb Simon's 1971 quote on "a wealth of information yields a poverty of attention" even more relevant today.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Useful Facebook Pages, Groups, and Apps (will grow over time) My page on Internet-era resistance movements.  Please feel free to post relevant items of interest  The best page for Social Network Analysis examples and tips.This is an open group  Ditto above, but for Political Networks.  A closed group, but you can see the pages.  If you want to join, ask me.  Want to get your FB data so that you can load it directly into Ucinet and do analysis on it?  This app does that.  It creates a DL (text) file that you can load in through the Ucinet text editor. Try to do it yourself, and/or I can help.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Visualized: A school day as data

Hi Everyone,
I thought this was pretty cool -
Researchers managed to track social interactions between children in a school in France throughout one day. From the article: "Reconfigured as pulsing network maps and flows of color are the universal experiences of middle school: the between-class rush, playground cliques, snatched hallway conversation and the fifth-graders who are too cool for everyone else."


Welcome Students in "Social Networks in Organizations " Class at The Fletcher School

Welcome class.  This blog is for you to use as you wish, but it is primarily for you to post links to articles, blogs, videos, etc. of interest to your own research into the use of Social Network Analysis in your various fields.  This post will eventually turn into an article about how you see the applicability of SNA in your studies or those of others in the field.

You can also use it to share your work on the SNA assignments from class.  Students in Germany have found it useful to post questions they have, results they've found, etc.  All it takes is a few of you to start the snowball.

Remember that this blog is public.