Thursday, September 10, 2009

Social Network Participation

Two Network Models

Scientific journals describe two types of social networks:
Random networks have an even distribution of connections between nodes across the network.
Node or Scale-free network connections are distributed on a power scale, where the majority of connections are accounted for by a small percentage of nodes.

The scale-free network most closely resembles networks like the internet or the way epidemics spread. Also worth noting is that the stability of scale-free networks suffers little when random connections are lost.

Power Law of Participation
Ross Mayfield created an infographic that outlines the ways in which users engage web 2.0 social networks. His website does a much better job of explaining the different roles users can play, but the main point is that social networks that most closely resemble the natural scale-free network model are ones that allow users to contribute on a wide scale, from reading a wikipedia entry (consumer) to editing it (creator).

This results in two kinds of intelligence: The collective, or emergent, intelligence that has resulted from algorithms aggregating thousands or millions of user input, like landmarks on google earth, and the collaborative intelligence of small groups of personally connected individuals that exercise a form of leadership over these networks, editing content, moderating, and examining the patterns in the network to predict where it's going.

Why People Participate
Christina Wodtke suggests that individuals contribute to social networks because the feedback they receive is high up on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. People project themselves onto their forum usernames, Facebook profiles and SecondLife avatars and thrive off the sense of friendship, belonging, and self-esteem from the indirect recognition they recieve vicariously through these online identies.

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