Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Measuring Social Capital (Weekly Update)

During this week, I have been reading and thinking more about how to measure social capital. In the literature, there is no agreed upon definition of social capital nor is there any agreed upon method for measuring it. Therefore, proximal indicators are used to measure some believably related contributor to social capital.

For instance, Putnam has used the density of voluntary organizations (VOs) in a community to measure social capital. So, in this case, the density of VOs is a proximal indicator for social capital.

Nan Lin uses the number of connections an individual has weighted by the importance of the person.

Social Capital Survey Reading:
Social Capital: One or Many? by Martin Paldam (Economist)
Social Capital Survey by Tristan Claridge (in particular, see measurement)

Topic Tool

Today, I put together a web page topic tool by using the web service that Nathan Davis made available. The tool takes in one or more web pages (i.e., a list of URLs) and then extracts the topics given the text on the web pages. The topics, or more accurately, the most likely topic components are extracted using an algorithm called Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA).

One potential use is for quickly generating blogger profiles to be used for implicit affinity networks. You can try it out at:


Nathan uses his web service to make the query expansion service for Google searches called GooEgg.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Social Capital Measurement

There are countless methods for measuring social capital. Below is a list of papers, studies, and resources that discuss some of these techniques:
It is clear that there are many ways to measure social capital. The techniques vary from discipline to discipline and researcher to researcher, whether it be Putnam or Burt, sociology or political science, the approaches tend to be different. Is there a chance for standardizing the definition? (Update: see more recent post for more on this)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

DML Research Collaboration

In effort to collaborate and refine our research at a faster pace, it might be fun to (1) blog about our research ideas each week and then (2) visit each lab member's blog to comment on what they have written to encourage good ideas and weed out the bad.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weekly Update

The tasks that I was involved (and some thoughts) during this week include the following:

Outlined a preliminary schedule and brainstormed for the "Making a Blog Big" project with Nathan Purser

Read more about Structural Holes and Network Closure, including:
  • Ronald Burt's Structural Holes versus Network Closure (PDF). Notes:
    • Some more quickly become prominent; some enjoy higher incomes; some lead more important projects; the interests of some are better served than interests of others. Better connected people enjoy higher returns. (These are some things that we could use to validate our social capital metrics.)
    • The Social Capital Metaphor is "people that are better connected do better", whereas the Human Capital Metaphor is "people who do better are more able individuals; they are more intelligent; more attractive; more articulate; more skilled."
    • A generic research finding in sociology and social psychology is that information circulates more within than between groups
    • Social capital can be argued to exist in structural holes (bridging) and network closures (bonding). However, the studies he performs and shows indicate that structural holes are the source of social capital.
    • Networks of densely interconnected contacts are systematically associated with substandard performance (bonding); networks that span structural holes are associated with creativity and innovation, positive evaluations, early promotions, high compensation and profits (bridging).
    • There remains an important role for closure. It can be critical to realizing the value buried in structural holes.
    • The mechanisms remain distinct. Closure describes how dense or hierarchical networks lower the risk associated with transaction and trust, which can be associated with performance. The hole argument describes how structural holes are opportunities to add value with brokerage across the holes, which is associated with performance.
  • Bruce Hoppe's blog post, Reputation and Trust (aka "Network Closure")
    • Uses a good personal example of Network Closure
    • I commented, "Virtual communities, no doubt, have an impact on real communities. However, I would argue that Putnam's work stands as does Burt's. The main issue seems to be that social capital is challenging to define precisely. Are there any agreed upon mathematical definitions of social capital? (It seems that there is still too much ambiguity.)"
Reading that I like to get to:
Found some other interesting resources, along the way:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Top Social Networking and Blogging Sites

Nielsen Online released the top Social Networking sites (ranked by unique audience), as follows:MySpace still leads the pack this year, yet Facebook grew at an astounding rate of 72%, proving to be the "hottest" of the Top 5.

Top Blogging sites were as follows, as of December 2007:Google backed Blogger continues to have and add the most unique audience.

For more information, try this or either of these related reports.

Finding an Important Problem

There seems to be infinitely many problems in the world. The trick is finding one that is sufficiently interesting to focus a dissertation on. The hope is that it has the following qualities:
  • Should impact a diverse audience (more than just the geeks in the computer lab)
  • Should be scientific yet have a host of business applications
  • Would be nice if it were related, at least in part, to my previous work
  • To be continued...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Generating Research

As I am amidst the decision of what to focus my PhD work on, my thoughts take me back to a talk given nearly a year ago by Dan Olsen. In this presentation he mentioned the following steps for generating research:
  1. Find an important problem
  2. Generate lots of ideas
  3. Filter them down
  4. Make them real
This week I'd like to work on the step 1 and find an important problem in the realm of data mining and likely social networks. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Let It Live

This is a little presentation that I gave to the DML today.