06 September 2010

Commercial analysis of social networks

The Economist describes how patterns of interaction across networks are analysed by companies seeking to find out who are the influencers within networks, i.e. who needs to be retained as a customer, in order to retain their cohort:
"People at the top of the office or social pecking order often receive quick callbacks, do not worry about calling other people late at night and tend to get more calls at times when social events are most often organised, such as Friday afternoons."

It sounds distasteful. The Economist goes on to explain the benefits: similar analyses can be used to track influencers within organisations, both corporate and criminal (it's claimed that network analysis resulted in the capture of Sadam Hussein) and, more speculatively, within unfamiliar cultures:
"... according to Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She is developing a societal model of Sudan with a team of about 40 researchers. Foreign aid workers and diplomats frequently stumble in Sudan because they fail to work out which tribal and political leaders they should work with, and how."

Maybe less distasteful, if it's reliable. But one can't help wondering about the potential for false positives.

[via Mindhacks]

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