Personally I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. So it was scary to me to read the title of a recent Fast Company article, “Is the Tipping Point Toast?”
The article has prompted numerous authors and observers to weigh in on the topic in the blogosphere:
- Social Media Top 5: RIP Influencers
- Influencer Influenza?
- Book Review: Six Degrees
- Debating the Influencer model: Fast Company debates the “Un-Tipping Point”
- Stephen Denny: Tipping Points and the Psychology of Influence
- Rather Than Target “A-Listers” Talk To “The Usual Susceptibles”
- The Hyping Point
- So Who Will Spread The Word That There Aren’t Influentials?
- Influentials On The Web Are People With The Power To Link
- Forget the A-List After All
- Is The Tipping Point Wrong?
- Influencers not so influential, trends out of our control
- The Debate Continues: What Is Influence?
- Pure Viral Marketing – A Pipe Dream?
With all the buzz, I just had to see if I could get in front of Duncan Watts, the scientist who stirred things up in the Fast Company piece written by Clive Thompson. Currently on sabbatical from Columbia University and working for Yahoo, Watts does a great job explaining a very complicated and intricate research project that he and his partner Peter Dodds conducted called Challenging the Influentials Hypothesis. Pay special attention to what he says, not only about his research but about social networks in general.
The general goal of my research is to better understand the structure and dynamics of social interaction. To that end I am interested in a number of related topics, including the structure and evolution of social networks, the origins and consequences of social influence, and the nature of distributed “social” search. My approach to research is problem-driven and interdisciplinary, drawing on insights and methods from sociology, psychology, and economics, as well as from physics and computer science. I am also interested in exploring the potential of electronic communications data, such as email, as well as online communities and web-based experiments, to resolve some of the measurement difficulties associated with studying human interactions and social dynamics.
D. J. Watts. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. (Norton, New York, 2003).
D.J. Watts. Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks Between Order and Randomness (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1999).
M. J. Salganik, P. S. Dodds, and D. J. Watts. Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market. Science, 311, 854-856 (2006).
G. Kossinets and D. J. Watts. Empirical Analysis of Evolving Social Networks. Science, 311, 88-90 (2006).
D. J. Watts. The “new” science of networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 243-270 (2004).
P. S. Dodds, R. Muhamad, and D. J. Watts. An experimental study of search in global social networks. Science, 301, 827-829 (2003).
D. J. Watts, P. S. Dodds, and M. E. J. Newman. Identity and search in social networks. Science, 296, 1302-1305 (2002).
D. J. Watts. A simple model of global cascades on random networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 99, 5766-5771 (2002).
D. J. Watts. Networks, dynamics and the small world phenomenon, American Journal of Sociology, 105(2):493-527 (1999).
D. J. Watts and S. H. Strogatz. Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks, Nature, 393:440-442 (1998).