Influencers Shminfluencers – a podcast with Duncan Watts

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:

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.

Influencers Shminfluencers – a podcast with Duncan Watts

About Duncan

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.

Selected Publications


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).

3 comments to Influencers Shminfluencers – a podcast with Duncan Watts

  • Lisa Anderson

    Wow! Fantastic interview; so informative! (and that accent’s pretty dreamy, too…)

    I have witnessed the power of the social network, having authored a (personal) blog which gained huge popularity through a catchy title/URL and, of course, my spectacular personality which came through in my writing. Heh.

    Now that I am blogging for business purposes my writing is more focused and my interest in readers has shifted, but the way it works is really still the same.

    I loved what he said about the shifting of the popularity of songs, and how people influence each other’s opinions! This is seriously cool…

  • Paul Dunay


    I assume you are not talking about my NY accent 😉

    Anyway thanks for commenting – If you think his research on the popularity of songs was cool – you should read his approach.

    He used 2 control groups and allowed one to have no insights into what others were voting on – and the ranking was as diverse as the members of the group. The second was a group that could see what others were voting on (think Facebook here) and the popularity of the hotter items spiked, which to me gives credence to the social network marketing

  • robinegg12

    Very interesting podcast, Paul. Thanks!

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