Friday, November 21, 2008

Geographic networks

Geography (or spatial arrangement) of nodes is often an important factor in network dynamics. Though it is straightforward to map geographical information by itself, mapping that information simultaneously with network data is quite a challenge.

In collaboration with Holly Massett and her team at the National Cancer Institute, I have been tackling the geographic + network mapping problem head on. Holly and I recently presented some of our results, and she graciously gave me permission to share them.

What happens when we draw a network map with geographically located nodes? We get a map with lines on it:
The geography is plainly apparent, but the network structure is all but invisible. That's a shame, because the network structure hidden above is actually quite striking when you redraw the above network using traditional network layout techniques:
Now we can clearly see that there is one node that bridges between two distinct clusters.

As a simple first step toward integrating these two important views of the above collaboration network, I created this slide show, which morphs back and forth between pure geography and pure network information, showing the interaction of the two along the way (RSS readers must view my actual blog to see this):

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2008 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Working the math in your favor

Last week I was part of a panel discussion about technology and business. Forty or fifty accomplished businesswomen attended--I was the only man in the room. In hindsight, this was a perfect opportunity for me to focus on Bion's three pillars of group behavior (or at least the first of those three pillars, having the mating partner ratio so heavily in my favor); however, I confess I occasionally let my thoughts drift from that #1 priority and instead contemplated the diverse perspectives on technology represented in in the room.

The audience was predominantly business-savvy and ranged from the tech-curious to the tech-confused. It was not the most receptive setting for preaching a Taoist bliss of ignorance, but that's what I pitched, with lines like "the best technology is whatever you're using now"; "reading email when you receive it lowers your IQ more than chronic pot-smoking"; and "technology is implemented to benefit its creators, not its users, so look for technology where the users and the creators are the same."

The room was filled with questions about LinkedIn and Twitter. I realized that LinkedIn has taken hold of a much wider business audience than it had when I last disparaged it on these pages 2-3 years ago. Sensible successful business people speak with complete earnestness about the 500,000 people in their LinkedIn network, and I am speechless.

I have some hope. My LinkedIn network has 2,850,200 people, including 16,927 new connections in just the last 4 days. Before I leverage all of them, however, I sense that LinkedIn is giving me an opportunity to update this old joke:

A museum guide leads a group of tourists through a dinosaur exhibit. Stopping at an impressively scary skeleton baring its fossilized teeth, he says, "This T-Rex is 70 million and 3 years old." One of the tourists responds, "Wow! How do they figure that out so precisely?" The guide responds, "Well, when I started working here, this skeleton was 70 million years old, and that was 3 years ago."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2008 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.