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How fast can you play Social Chocolate?

Oliver shares with Maeve

So you have social graphs and networks aced?

So you understand social graphs and social networks?  If you do, please check this and educate me and together we can pass our knowledge on to others.

If not, I’ve set up an A/B test for you here.  I can guarantee that by the time you have played Social Chocolate, read the short tutorial, and played Social Chocolate a second time that you will radically improve your ability to influence your network.

Play Social Chocolate

To test your initial knowledge of social graphs, play Social Chocolate.  Your goal is to complete 12 quests, or levels, and be given the key to the secret wall.

It’s hard.  You have to persist.  And of course, note your start and finish times!  You want to beat your time next time you play!

Tutorial in social graphs

Even after playing Social Chocolate a few times, I was still struggling with a few quests.  So I looked up the theory.

Connections of a node, vertex, or person in a social graph or network

The number of connections to any node or vertex or person is a measure of popularity.

We all understand that.  How many followers do we have on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter?

Closeness of a node, vertex, or person in a social graph or network

Mathematicians calculate our closeness in a network as the shortest path to reach everyone

The person with the lowest closeness can reach everyone the quickest.  If they put out a message , it will reach everyone in the shortest route.

Obviously, if the routes are short, there is not only a time & cost saving.  The network is also less prone to failure and messages are less prone to distortion.

Interestingly, closeness is not equal to connections and the reason is that social networks are not homogenous in shape or density.

Someone with a high profile is connected with part of the network – but may have distant ties to other important parts of the network.  A big fish in a small pond phenomenon.

Closeness means a short path to a lot of people not just having a lot of first degree connections.  Think 150x150x150 not 450 x 50 x 15 x 10.

Betweenness in a social graph

A person has a high betweenness rating links two otherwise unconnected groups.  Simply, if you take the person away, two people would no longer be able to reach each other.

Betweenness ratings are actually calculated, like the closeness rating, to reflect the shortest paths in the network.  We have a high betweenness rating if a lot of people reach each other in the shortest way through us.

A person who is not particular “popular” within a group may be a valuable connection to a world over the group’s natural horizon.

The question to ask is whom do we connect who could not reach each other without us.

Eigenvector of a node, vertex, or person in a social graph or network

The eigenvector that most of us is familiar with is Google Pagerank.  An eigenvector sums up not only the number of our links but the quality of the links to us.

A web page has a high page rank if other highly ranked pages connect to it.

Likely closeness, eigenvector isn’t everything.  Betweenness adds unique value and tells us about the edge and the potential of our network.

Which role do you play in your network and which role do you prefer?  Close knit, between or eigenvector connecting to powerful players?

Clustering or cliqueness in social graphs and networks

And of course, we have cliques.  We know cliques from high school because they are unwelcoming and dismissive of outsiders.

What we don’t always grasp as teenagers is that cliques are redundant.  If Jane tells everything to Mary and to Elizabeth, and they do the same, one of the three girls is actually redundant.  As teenagers, we understand this vulnerability to exclusion and intuit why cliques are such bitchy groups.  Now we know why in mathematical terms.

We need to note the cliques in our network but why belong to a group with redundant connections?  The network is putting a lot of effort into duplication where they could be spreading out and connecting.

Most of us are still scared of being rejected by a clique but they only matter if they are very well connected to other people too.  While that is possible on paper, it is less possible in real life where time is a real constraint.  Because cliques are closed to other members, they can often be lost without damaging the network as a whole  Contrast this with the damage of losing the mediation value of someon with “betweenness”  or the contagion value of someone with “closeness”.

Taking action with knowledge about your social graph

When you draw your social graph on paper, you are probably concerned with the most obvious feature – how many connections do I have?

What you also want to know is

  • What is the shortest path to everyone in the network?  Who is contagious?
  • Who connects to whom through me, and who connects me to others? What is my mediation value and who are the mediators in this group?
  • Where are the cliques and are they useful cliques or neurotically redundant?
  • Where is the shortest path between powerful players?  It is quite possible that a relatively “unclose” or “unbetween” player connects two powerful players!

Test B: Replay Social Chocolate

Now replay Social Chocolate.

Even allowing for your earlier experience of the game, are you playing it any better?  Are you more thoughtful and controlled?

I did the whole game in 7 minutes this time. How about you?


And comments for me?  How can we improve the tutorial so that people develop an thoughtful approach to their social graph?


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Olney, United Kingdom on the internet

Olney Snow Feb 2 2009 Flower Shop pikniked
Image by joolney via Flickr

Have you built a community site before?

I’m working on a project at the moment building a community site for the town of Olney, in the UK, where I live. I’m building it on Ning, which is a read-write platform, like Facebook.

This platform, like so many others, is basically free to use and can also be make completely private so you can use it like an intranet.

There are three interdependent parts to this project

  • People
  • Site
  • Internet presence

Olney’s intriguing art gallery, IceTwice, championed the site from the outset and have contributed hugely to its vibrancy.  On the day of our Pancake Race, they illustrated the proper use of a social network beautifully by offering a discount on recipe books should a customer bring in a receipt for a pancake.

The site itself can be time consuming to maintain.  There are members to greet.  Warnings that Olney may be flooded by the River Ouse to put up and take down.  And the rich format of Ning to be explored.

And we need to build up our internet presence.  Yesterday, I was disconcerted to see that chatter about our site, Olney100, had displaced the site from the number one position when we search for Olney100.  Obviously something I don’t quite understand about SEO and prompting an important decision. Stick with the Olney100 or try to capture the keyword Olney?

So in a month, I’ve suddenly become pretty efficient about Flickr where I am joolney and in partner YouTube where I use the account name joolneyuk. I’ve linked up a Delicious account for Olney100 to the site.  I’ve learned a fair bit of CSS and HTML.  I read up Traffic Estimations and Analyse Keywords with aplomb.

And I’ve met a lot of people who’ve rapidly made the site their own integrating it with their blogs, their Twitter accounts, fundraising, and inevitably Facebook.

Will the community site help Olney to flourish?

The ultimate question though, is whether the site helps Olney to flourish and prosper.  We should be able to do more, faster, and more profitably.

Reviews please!

Would love any comments.  You can read the site and if you want to leave a comment, you can login into the guest account using the email olney100 at gmail dot com with password olney100!

Love to see you there.

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