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« To The Twitterverse and Beyond: A Taxonomy of Twitter Tools from Brian Solis | Main | 8 Nonprofit CEOs Who Tweet »


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Ruby Sinreich

Great write-up, Beth. I've used some of the mapping and analysis tools on social networks. I tend to like the software options because it makes it easy to visually show patterns by tweaking colors, shapes, line weights, etc.

Let me know (IM?) if you want to talk about it further. I love the way you ask questions and make me think of things in new ways.

Nathaniel James

Sometimes I think that people promoting and considering using SNA research methods for organizational development get overly fascinated with or hung up on the "mapping" and visualization components of SNA. One can only learn so much looking at a visualization, but it seems their aesthetic appeal is the major draw to the practice.

Actual social network analysts derive far more value from analyzing network metrics, such as centrality, cohesion, and degree. Some of these metrics provide information about the entire system being studied, some of them can show how the network attributes of individuals are distributed through the system. Many of these metrics represent different aspects of influence and power. One gets a sense of the structure from the visualization, but comes close to actually learning about that structure from the numbers, the metrics.

As for applications in management or organizational development, these metrics can provide important information about problems such as individuals who have unintentionally become bottlenecks or people whose departure would have serious consequences for the structure of flows in the network.

This is to answer one of your questions re: low-tech, paper SNA vs data-driven tools. Paper is great if you want to lead a workshop to "get people thinking" about networks. If you want to really get close to knowing something about any particular network, data and computation are essential.

Some resources on network metrics:

By the way, your post is a really great article that I am going to file away for purposes of introducing SNA.

If you're interested, I have been stashing SNA resources on delicious for about 3 years now:

Valdis Krebs

Interesting! Tweets of where we are geographically, work in a similar way to network maps that show where we are relationally. Both provide opportunities for meeting/connecting that were not obvious before.
- "Oh, I didn't know you were on this flight, let's meet/sit together"
- "Oh, I didn't know you were connected to X, can you introduce me?"

Beth Kanter

Valdis, thanks for your comment and pointing me to some excellent resources.

On Twitter, a colleague Marty Kearns said:

"I am not sure if you answered all those open questions on network analysis if it would get you anything in an advocacy context."

Makes me wonder about the best application and context for a SNA.

What are your thoughts?

Joitske Hulsebosch

Hi Beth, I have the same thing as you, have been relucted to dive into SNA.. I will follow you as you seem to speed up :)

Did you know this page on the km4dev wiki about SNA?

Jon Husband

The network is the "structure" upon which the community dances and self-organizes... builds network as it needs it.

Our agreements are our structures ?

Jon Husband

Hey, Beth ... per your email request.

I've written about the theme "our agreements are our structures" here and there for about the last 5 years. Remember TA .. (generality alert) well, old-school hierarchical org'ns are pretty much parent-child structures and dynamics, no ? Dave Weinberger once said "if conversations are between nominal equals, well, you never really have a conversation with your boss" (yes, well he IS a philosopher, after all ;-)

Moving on to networks, esp. networks of purpose .. seems reasonably clear to me that much of the P2p-ish dynamics we are experiencing are pretty much adult-adult, a la TA.

Extrapolating from that, my friend Chris Corrigan caught a piece I wrote last August titled "In Networks, Our Agreements With Each Other Will Be Our Structures", and added some thoughts, here:

Jon Husband

Here's the original blog post:

In Networks, Our Agreements With Each Other Will Be Our Structures

Eva Schiffer

Beth, I like the way that you explore all different avenues of SNA, high and low tech etc. With Net-Map I am on the low tech, pen-and-paper side of things and one thing that I like about drawing networks of actors with them, is that you can immediately ask the "why" and "how" questions as you see something interesting emerging on the paper. For example, we drew a network map about reporting and interventions concerning avian influenza in an African country and asked right there: So where are the corruption hot-spots and why?

Also, in our governance work, we often deal with networks where some of the actors are individuals, some organisations or parts of organisations. Strictly speaking it doesn't make sense to calculate quantitative network indicators for these situations, but still, mapping them is a great tool for getting a better understanding of how things work and where the problems are.

In our experience it is often very instructive to map both formal and informal links and to assess the influence (as perceived by interviewees) and goals of actors. This gives the network maps further depth and helps everyone to think strategically about their networks.

Jon Husband

I'd love to have the capability to colour-code the connections I have with people in my networks with respect to (say) four levels of trust (eg. implicitly, pretty much, beginning to, and not sure / new) within some element / component of the technical protocols that carry the information (you know, the FriendConnect kind of technical stuff whereby apps and services "know" your address book or connections).

That way, over time maps and visual representations of networks might well be more useful in terms of being able to identify trusted territory, trusted space, lands wherein one might enter and not need to be quite so wary, or in the flip sense, know that they will be held to account for what they say and do.

I know the carefulness about trusted connections and space already exists through peoples' care with introductions and via the various ways of checking other people out, but in terms of the technical / explicitness aspect of SNA, my guess is that some kind of capability like that would be quite useful ?

Brandy Aven

Interesting discussion of social networks! I would also like to point you to an excel template that allows you to do sna in excel. I teach social networking and I find that it is much easier for people learning about the method. - its free and can import your twitter network through excel ribbon.


@ BRANDY AVEN - Excellent template.Thanks for posting such a useful information to us…

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