Social: Bigger Than We Think

Former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, make...Image via Wikipedia
The Economist: Mining Social Networks: Untangling The Social Web: From retailing to counterterrorism, the ability to analyse social connections is proving increasingly useful ..... 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. Influential customers also reveal their clout by making long calls, while the calls they receive are generally short. ...... Companies can spot these influencers, and work out all sorts of other things about their customers, by crunching vast quantities of calling data with sophisticated “network analysis” software. ..... Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest mobile operator, which handles over 3 billion calls a day ..... there are more than 100 programs for network analysis, also known as link analysis or predictive analysis ...... Bharti Airtel employs only about 100 analysts to keep tabs on its 135m subscribers. ....... broadening data mining to include analysis of social networks makes new things possible. ..... In some companies, e-mails are analysed automatically to help bosses manage their workers. Employees who are often asked for advice may be good candidates for promotion ...... If a person discusses a particular Department of Defence payment with an individual not officially linked to the deal, SRA’s software may notice it. ...... Richmond’s police have started monitoring Facebook, MySpace and Twitter messages to determine where the rowdiest festivities will be. On big party nights, the department now saves about $15,000 on overtime pay, because officers are deployed to areas that the software deems ripe for criminal activity. ..... turns out that the key terrorists in a group are often not the leaders, but rather seemingly low-level people, such as drivers and guides, who keep addresses and phone numbers memorised. Such people tend to stand out in network models because of their high level of connectedness ...... The capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was due in large part to the mapping of the social networks of his former chauffeurs ...... Called SOMA Terror Organization Portal, it analyses a wide range of information about politics, business and society in Lebanon to predict, with surprising accuracy, rocket attacks by the country’s Hizbullah militia on Israel. ....... An authoritarian government, for instance, may have difficulties slowing the spread of a new idea in a certain medium—say, internet chatter about a book that explains how corruption undermines job creation. ..... diplomatic services are mapping the “tipping point” when ideas go mainstream in spite of government repression. ..... Riots, bloody elections and crackdowns, among other things, can be forecast with improving accuracy by crunching data on food production, unemployment, drug busts, home evictions and slum growth detected in satellite images. ..... In relatively closed countries, like Egypt, rapid shifts in social networks can trigger upheaval ......

Perhaps. But I never underestimated the importance of social. Individuals are like cells. When many cells get together, organs are forms. Cell behavior does not predict organ behavior. Organs are a whole new level of reality. Organs have to be studied as organs. I scribbled along those lines in the early 1990s.

The difference is now software is making collection and analysis of pertinent data possible. Now it is actually possible to connect the dots, and bring results to use, to make concrete impacts. Social is increasingly becoming science. One of my frustrations during college years was that social was not science. Social was like physics before Newton. There was just too much muss.

When you come across a big thing, the inevitable question is what is next? What is the next big thing after social? Social will stay big. But perhaps the individual might get more attention down the line.

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