Emergent Communities of Interest

When making private purchases on the WWW individuals form invisible communities -- unbeknownst to themselves. The behavior of individuals over time reveals some interesting patterns that can be visualized.

What patterns emerge around your favorite book? We choose a book to examine -- The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen. It shows up as the red node in our network above. What communities of interest are reading this book? What else are they reading? Which books are most influential in this community? Our network visualization helps us answer these questions.

Books purchased by the same person at a major web bookseller comprise the network data. This data goes into our network mapping software, InFlow, to find the emergent patterns and visualize the data. A gray link appears between two related books -- Customers who bought this book also bought.... Four communities emerge based on purchasing patterns -- each cluster is a unique color and enclosed in a frame for easier viewing. The gray nodes seem to span two or more clusters without belonging to any. Community themes include...

  • green nodes: dotcom fever
  • magenta nodes: new economy
  • yellow nodes: book promotion
  • blue nodes: business change and strategy

Once the network is mapped, we measure it to evaluate network positions and patterns. Which books measured as most influential in the community of Buzz readers? The most influential book in this network is Leading the Revolution. It is prominent not just for its many connections, but where those connections lead to -- the network measures include both direct and indirect links. Other influential books in this emergent community include Unleashing the Ideavirus, 10 Second Internet Manager, Tipping Point, and Promote Like a Pro.

Software and Training in social network analysis are available from the author.

Copyright © 2002, Valdis Krebs

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