A conversation with Valdis Krebs about social network analysis

For this week’s ITConversations show, introduced by special guest introducer Lynne Windley, I got together with Valdis Krebs, who’s been mapping and analyzing social networks since Mark Zuckerberg was in diapers.

I can’t remember how I first got to know Valdis, but this snippet from a 2004 interview — for an InfoWorld cover story on enterprise social software — gives you a sense of what he does and how he thinks:

IW: Social network analysis can reveal that highly connected people are more valuable than the org chart or salary plan suggests. Is this becoming a factor?

VK: Yes. I did a project with an investment bank, and they took into account who was most valuable in getting a deal done, and factored that into the bonus. I’ve had execs inside and outside IBM saying, “If this data is true, then I’m not paying the people who bubbled up to the top what they’re worth.”

IW: Does it cut the other way, too?

VK: We wouldn’t take a job that we knew would lead to a resource action.

IW: Resource action?

VK: Layoff.

Now that everybody in Silicon Valley has become an armchair social network analyst with an opinion about the nature and uses of the “social graph” I thought it’d be useful to check in with Valdis for a long-range perspective on current trends. Bottom line: He thinks social networks that you have to explicitly join are artificial and ungraphable. But we agreed that these first-generation online social networks are fostering a culture of self-disclosure, and that they may lead to a second generation of more naturalistic systems: bottom-up, ad-hoc, peer-to-peer.

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