Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Social Capital?

My last post was titled Social Capital in the Blogosphere and dealt with the experiments we are conducting into the social capital found in blog networks. When you saw the title, some of you probably wondered social capital...what's that? I do not claim to be an expert on social capital, but I have a fair idea of what it is and how it is useful. Interpretations vary, but our idea of social capital has been motivated by that of Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone who came and spoke here at BYU last year.

In many realms who you know may matter just as what you know. The value represented by these connections in a social network is known as the social capital of that network. In our work, we compute the social capital of a blog network by using a mathematical formula that takes into account both the actual and potential bonding (connectons with similar people) and bridging (connections with dissimilar people) of blog networks. A more detailed description of this formula can be found in this paper. Matt also recently posted about other ways of measuring social capital. His findings can be found here and here. The social capital of a network can then be used to determine how much value furthering connections in that social network would have. In our example, it would tell you whether or not you should attempt to establish a place in a certain blog network. Thanks for your comments, hopefully this gives you a good intro to social capital in the context we are using it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Social Capital in the Blogosphere

For the past year, Matt and I (Nate) have been conducting research into the social capital that can be found online in blog networks. Why should you care? Well, first off, you're reading a blog so you must have some interest in the overall blogging community. But more importantly, blogs are being used to establish the identity of people, places and products. In today's online age, the potential of blogs is tremendous. Here's a quick summary of our research.

What: Analysis has been done on the explicit connections (links, comments, friend lists) between blogs. Little work has been done regarding the implicit connections (interests, hobbies, location) that exist between blog authors. We are conducting research into methods of using both explicit and implicit connections in social network analysis.

How: We have retrieved a large archive of blog content for use in our research. An explicit social network of the content is created from the hyper links found in the blog content. Using topic extraction methods such as Latent Dirichlet Allocation, a network of implicit connections is constructed. Overlaying the implicit network on the explicit network allows for potential and actual connections or social capital to be identified. A example graphical representation of one of these networks, which we created using Cytoscape, is found below.

Why: Information about actual social communities, and the implicit similarities that exist between them, can be used to recommend potentially valuable actions that could be taken. For example, a politician could contact influential blogs and attempt to convince them to lead a grassroots campaign for his candidacy. A doctor could use social network analysis to identify and coordinate with colleagues in order to help patients with rare diseases. Companies could approach blogs that are found in the center of their customer market about participating in usability testing or marketing campaigns. Conducting social network analysis on blogging communities has valuable potential in many domains.

You can learn more of the details about our research here at our lab wiki.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What is the Data Mining Lab?

The Data Mining Lab is a research lab hosted by the Computer Science Department at Brigham Young University. We research methods for extracting valuable knowledge from data. Data mining can be applied to a wide range of business and scientific problems. Almost everyone gathers data, and we go about finding ways to make that data useful.

Current areas of research include The purpose of this blog is to establish connections and further our collaboration with others who share our same interests. We will be publishing information that we have gained from our research, and invite others to share their insights here as well. Feel free to contact us by posting comments or by email. More contact information can be found at our lab website located at