Short Summaries
(email pdf file)

by Jian-Ming Lee

Books

Barabasi, A.L. (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. Cambridge, Perseus. Short Summary

Dawson, R. (2003) Living Networks. New Jersey, Prentice Hall. Short Summary

Scott, J. (1991). Social network analysis: A handbook. Newbury Park, CA, Sage Publications. Short Summary

Watts, D.J. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York, Norton. Short Summary

Articles

Practitioner

Cross, R., Borgatti, S., & Parker, A. (2002). Making invisible work visible: Using social network analysis to support human networks. California Management Review, 44(2), 25-46. Short Summary

Cross, R., & Prusak, L. (2002). The people that make organizations stop - or go. Harvard Business Review, 80(6), 104-112. Short Summary

Hargadon, A. (1998). Firms as knowledge brokers Lessons in pursuing continuous innovation. California Management Review, 40(3), 209-227. Short Summary

Krackhardt, D., & Hanson, J. (1993). Informal networks The company behind the chart. Harvard Business Review, July-August, 104-111. Short Summary

Academic

Borgatti, S., & Cross, R. (2003). A relational view of information seeking and learning in social networks. Management Science, 49, 432-445. Short Summary

Morrison, E. (2002). Newcomers' relationships The role of social network ties during socialization. Academy of Management Journal, 45(6), 1149-1160. Short Summary

Sparrowe, R., Liden, R., Wayne, S., & Kraimer, M. (2001). Social networks and the performance of individuals and groups. Academy of Management Journal, 44(2), 316-325. Short Summary

Tichy, N., Tushman, M., & Fombrum, C. (1979). Social network analysis for organizations. Academy of Management Review, 4, 507-519. Short Summary

Social Networking Websites

Orkut Short Summary

LinkedIn Short Summary

Friendster Short Summary

Zaibatsu Short Summary

Tribe.net Short Summary

PeopleAggregator Short Summary

Social Network Analysis and Visualization Websites

NetVis Short Summary

KrackPlot Short Summary

aiSee Short Summary

IKNOW Short Summary

InFlow Short Summary

NetMiner Short Summary

Visone Short Summary

Books

Linked: The New Science of Networks

Linked: The New Science of Networks is a relatively basic level book that is a good introduction to the basic concepts within social network analysis and also the applications of the theory. The author covers the topics in a narrative manner, using many examples or real-world situations that have basis in some aspect of social networks and their properties. Overall, the work covers many topics, which I will mention below.

The author starts out with a discussion of how events in our world that seem completely random at first may actually be connected in some way. Then the concept of ‘six degrees of separation’ is brought up as an interesting observation about global society. He then discusses the ‘small worlds’ concept to describe clustering in society and continues on with a discussion of hubs and connections within networks. The next few chapters deal with some things we can learn from network analysis, such as the fact that components within networks should be weighted based on some attribute in order to get the best approximation possible. An explanation for why high profile nodes gather even more attention is discussed and the book moves on to explaining the weaknesses inherent within networks. He continues on to discuss the properties of some things that are ‘viral’ and why these tend to spread through networks so quickly. The internet is presented as somewhat of an incredible network that has many desirable attributes that allow it to thrive no matter what. He breaks down the internet into many different sections that are transparent to the normal user. In the end, the author basically goes on to relate everything to networks and explain how our entire world is a series of networks.

Living Networks

Given the nature of our society and the nature of social networks to exist everywhere, it was only a matter of time before social network analysis would be applied to business. This book, Living Networks, aims to reveal how the properties of social networks can help businesses to expand and flourish in the modern economy. It seems to deal mainly with ways of leading companies in the modern business world and only provides the very basics of social network theory within its pages.

Living Networks is broken down into four sections, each with several chapters. The first one deals with how society and business are being affected by enhanced connectivity as well as how emerging technologies will further modify the traditional business sphere. The second section gives advice on how companies should transition and change to take advantage of new connectivity. He also discusses the changes in ideas regarding intellectual property and methods that companies should be looking at to improve their presence. The third section covers strategies that individuals and companies can use to improve their positions. Finally, the last section gives general predictions about the future of business and the role of networks within business.

Social Network Analysis: A Handbook

Overall, Social Network Analysis: A Handbook by John Scott is an excellent primer on the field of social network analysis. It is now in its second iteration, published in 2000. The book is divided into a series of sections and individual chapters, each dealing with individual topics in this field. There are a total of eight chapters. The first section is merely an introduction to the rest of the book. The next chapter covers, in a short and concise format, the development and history of social network analysis. Basically, this is a relatively young field with the modern form only thirty years old. Chapter three goes on to discuss the issues that come up when one is trying to select what type of relations to study and also the issues of social network boundaries, along with sampling. Chapter four discusses the basic mathematics behind the theory and introduces more models to extend the basic sociograms.

The ‘centrality’ within these social networks is then reviewed and analyzed in Chapter five. After that, the next section deals with the analysis of the subgroups present within each network. Chapter seven explains how to generalize actions of people in certain positions within a social network. Finally, there is a discussion of the use of multidimensional scaling to go from sociograms to better maps and displays of the social networks, which allows superior understanding of the relationships. These chapters also provide concrete examples of how the concepts can be applied in the analysis of corporate and community social networks. Clearly, this is a must-read for anyone interested in social networks.

Six Degrees: The Science of the Connected Age

In many ways, Six Degrees: The Science of the Connected Age is quite similar to the introductory handbook. It is a relatively simple and basic primer for people who are interested in learning more about the rationality and reasoning behind social network analysis. The overall theme of this volume is to present the theories and basic concepts of social network analysis while presented in the context of his personal journey into this field.

He starts off with the background information about why social network analysis is important. We are living in an increasingly connected world where actions of seemingly random people can drastically affect the lives of the rest of the group. Because of emergent properties like this, it is important to have a better understanding of human networks. After this, we have the standard 'history-of' section, which provides a lot of groundwork and basic theory. He discusses the 'small-world problem,' which is that people often seem to be connected rather closely, but this is not really logical. After this, the theory is expanded to larger networks and issues with scaling are discussed. Watts continues with a discussion on searching within networks and epidemics and failures within networks. Chapter 7 talks about group decisions and how the influence of a comparatively small number of individuals within a large group can sway the rest of the group. Continuing on, he talks about how these behaviors are threshold-based and can be predicted with mathematical modeling. Finally, he ends with a chapter on recovering from disasters within networks.

Articles

Practitioner

Marking Invisible Work Visible: Using Social Network Analysis to Support Strategic Collaboration

Informal networks within organizations have become more important recently in this atmosphere of restructuring within large corporations as a way to improve productivity. This paper is a discussion of how social network analysis can help organizations to know when and how to restructure. Surveys are suggested as the best way to obtain information that one can use to build the social network maps. The paper continues on to discuss how you can use social network analysis to figure out how to best promote collaboration among groups within the organization. The collaboration is viewed as both across functional and hierarchical boundaries. The last thing that the paper discusses is how to assess structural changes within networks within the organization after restructuring. It discusses how organizations can ensure their productivity stays high.

The People Who Make Organizations Go-or Stop

This article deals with the informal networks that are a part of every large company. Organization of the article is along the lines of different categories of participants in the social networks. Central connectors, who link people in their own network with others within that network, are discussed first. Boundary spanners are people who manage to connect their own informal network with other networks within the company, even if that is not part of their job. Information brokers are those who keep the various subgroups within a network together and connected. The last group is the one of peripheral specialists, who are people that informal networks turn to for specialized expertise. At the end, the article suggests that companies can use social network analysis to encourage employees to expand their own networks.

Firms as Knowledge Brokers: Lessons in Pursuing Continuous Innovation

This article discusses how some firms are knowledge brokers in that they don’t actually produce anything themselves, but are more in the business of spreading information to those who need it. This allows for high amounts of innovation when used correctly. It continues on to discuss how to ensure innovation through knowledge brokering. A key idea to gain access to many industries and fields and then to develop as much knowledge within those fields as possible. In addition, it is important to discover hidden connections between knowledge pools. Finally, continually improve everything as much as possible.

Informal Networks: The Company Behind the Chart

As the title suggests, this paper deals with how informal networks within companies affect how the companies perform. There are three types of networks that are discussed within. Advice networks show the important people within organizations whom others depend on to get things done. Trust networks help reveal which people share delicate information and which people will back what sides in crisis situations. Communication networks show which employees discuss work-related matters with other employees. The paper discusses each type of network in turn and discusses how to reveal these structures and what the implications of these networks are for companies.

Academic

A Relational View of Information Seeking and Learning in Social Networks

This article deals with how information is sought and how people learn through their social networks. The idea is that the probability of someone seeking information from another person is a function of several variables. The hypotheses are tested and the results are as follows. Knowledge of what the other person’s expertise areas are is important to the whether someone asks that person for knowledge. Along with this, how positively the seeker views the skills of the other person he or she wants to query is important in determining whether he or she asks for information. In addition, access to the person is an important factor.

Newcomers’ Relationships: The Role of Social Network Ties During Socialization

This article discusses how newcomers to organizations develop and their social networks within the company. Newcomers’ social network development is important for companies as it affects their performance and loyalty to the company as a whole. The article starts out with some assumptions and proceeds to test and validate them for the most part. Newcomers with large informational networks that are low density will have a better ‘big picture’ view of the company whereas those with small networks that are high density will be better at their specific functions. In addition, newcomers with small networks of close friends within the organization will be more comfortable and loyal to the organization. This expands to the postulate that newcomers with high status and wide ranging friendship networks will be more loyal.

Social Networks and the Performance of Individuals and Groups

This article discusses how social networks and their attributes affect the productivity of individuals and groups. Four hypotheses were advanced and then a study was performed to measure how accurate the hypotheses were. The first two thoughts are that centrality within a work group’s advice network will improve individual performance and centrality in a hindrance network will hamper individual performance. In addition, group performance is positively related to the density of a work group’s advice network. Centralization of a work group’s advice network adversely affects the performance of the group as a whole. Finally, higher density in a work group’s hindrance network leads to lower productivity

Social Network Analysis for Organizations

This article is an introduction to social network analysis and argues for its use within analyzing organizations. It starts off with a very brief background of social network analysis history and characteristics that are often analyzed. It then continues on to how one applies network analysis. Various methods of collecting data are presented, each with strengths and weaknesses. Analysis of data by computers is recommended as larger networks are very difficult and costly to do by human computation. Finally, the paper concludes with an example analysis of two different companies and their internal networks.

Social Networking Websites

Orkut

Orkut is another site that attempts to form social networks online. What is interesting, however, is that one can not join this service unless an existing member of Orkut invites him or her. In this way, the social network is supposedly much tighter and more cohesive than websites that allow anyone to join. However, this also poses a problem as it means that the social network grows more slowly and may be biased toward a certain clique so to speak. The size of the network is really an issue as there are currently less than 200,000 people in Orkut. This is far less than many networks that I am a part of. Other than the membership difference, the site seems to be just like any other, with options to add friends and send messages to people.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network made up entirely of business professionals. It is not really about social interactions. It is designed mostly for networking between people within the same industry or across industries. As a result of this focus, this network seems to be much smaller than most of the social networks. In addition, the method of contact is more difficult and formal than social network websites. The interface is also superior in organization to most other sites I have seen.

Friendster

Friendster is one of the original social networks, but it is still currently in its ‘beta’ stage. The site seems to have extensive outages and is somewhat unreliable in its service. It is also a great deal slower than many other sites. This could be a result of the fact that Friendster has a huge network that numbers in the millions. There seem to be scalability issues that have not been addressed. The interface is pretty good, but the slow server response and dropped connections often ruin the experience. Overall, this site was one of the first and definitely one of the better ones.

Zaibatsu

Zaibatsu is a relative newcomer to the social network website scene. It seeks to differentiate itself by providing many varying services to its members. It is a social network that also offers professional network services. In addition to this, it is more proactive in that users can sign up for bulletin and 'e-letters' about things they are interested in. The main feature of this site is its blog service. To highlight the blogs, Zaibatsu maintains a list of popular blogs. Overall, this is an interesting concept that is more involved for both the user and Zaibatsu.

Tribe.net

The format of Tribe.net is quite similar to Friendster. Tribe.net is also a social network site that allows people to join and form friend networks online. The website looks very similar to Friendster, but has better performance and the interface is somewhat cleaner. In terms of clientele, Tribe.net seems to be composed mostly of people in their twenties and thirties. The site also maintains a list of events that users can post up, but the listings are still quite sparse. This could be a result of the fact that the social network of Tribe.net is still relatively small at this time. Overall, there is nothing to differentiate this site from others.

PeopleAggregator

PeopleAggregator is a brand new site that supports a social network. There are currently no services available other than registration as far as I can tell. Users can upload images and the main page is just a collection of random user’s submitted photographs. The sorting options are still weak, but PeopleAggregator specifically states that it is still under construction so this will probably change. For now, this is still a lightweight, fledgling site that offers nothing over its competitors.

Social Network Analysis and Visualization Websites

Netvis

Netvis is an academically and business oriented social network visualization and network analysis interface that is accessed through its website. Because of this, it is fully compatible across platforms and only requires a capable browser to run it. Netvis is a powerful tool that can perform both network analysis and network visualization. The plots that are generated can be two dimensional and three dimensional. This is better than most other software out there. It is also quite simple to use and the interface is very clean and streamlined. The software also accepts a reasonable number of input file types. In addition to this, the site is free for academic purposes. In short, this site is a must-see for anyone interested in social network analysis.

KrackPlot

KrackPlot is a DOS-based program that does social network visualization. It is academically oriented and can produce a variety of graphs. In addition, the software can save these graphs in several different image formats. The interface is less clean than some newer programs and the graphs are also less smooth compared to more modern software. However, they still manage to get the job done. This program actually charges licensing fees for its use. It is still worth looking into as a somewhat lightweight network visualization program.

aiSee

AiSee is a website that offers network visualization in a nice software package. There are versions for both Windows and Mac operating systems. It is business oriented and produces a variety of graphs and visualization styles. The user can choose what type of visualization he or she wants and the software automatically regenerates the graph. The graphs can be very large and are quite detailed. In addition, the software can import information from a large number of file formats. The graphs can be saved in several image formats. The software must be licensed and there are varying prices for different users. Overall, this software is notable for its very detailed graphs.

IKNOW

IKNOW is a web-based solution that does both network visualization and network analysis. The software is both academically and business oriented. There is a free version that can be obtained and used for non-commercial purposes. There are quite a few graphing options, with the graphs being relatively detailed. However, the program is unable to create certain types of graphical network representations. It is, however, quite user friendly. A downside of the program is that it cannot save the graphs that it produces as images. This could be a problem as it requires that a new graph be generated whenever one needs to see the representation.

InFlow

InFlow is a software program that is able to perform both social network analysis and network graph generation. The focus of the software is mainly toward helping business organizations come to grips with the internal networks within the organizations. The software is windows based and has seen several iterations already. It is safe to say that the software is relatively mature. The software is designed to highlight important things in the graphs that are generated and is catered to companies looking to harness the power of or control the social networks within their organizations.

NetMiner

NetMiner software does both social network analysis and network graphing. The program is offered in two versions. There is a free web-based version that is very basic and limited in the size of the networks it can generate. The Windows version is much more powerful and full featured. The full version must be purchased with a variety of licensing fees for different users. The software is capable of generating a wide variety of very complex graphs and of analyzing the network that is generated. NetMiner might be the most comprehensive solution available for social network analysis and network visualization right now.

Visone

Visone provides both social network analysis and network graphing. It is available on windows, linux and solaris platforms. The software is free and is still currently in beta form. The focus is mainly on academic organizations and academic uses of social network analysis for research. The software is currently only capable of generating two dimensional graphs, but a new release has been slated for Summer 2004 which is expected to be a major overhaul of the software. Currently, this software is still really basic and it would be worth looking at other solutions as well.