Social Network Analysis

Noel Guinane nudged me by e-mail to take a look at his riff on Social Network Analysis which is itself worth a read but it also relates to a bit of a battle about the value of networked approached to work that I am watching on the actKM discussion list at the moment.

My own view on the subject? There is little doubt that business is conducted on the basis of relationship and many of us are having fun exploring how the web enables and makes apparent relationship.

Apart from relatively few instances people can't do their jobs without talking to each other and as soon as they do, especially online, then the patterns of their activity become interesting.

The trouble is that as soon as you become too conscious of this, at best, you start to screw the motivation for relationship and at worst you start to game it.

Also SNA tools create the same false sense of order that org charts used to and organisations will inevitably hijack them for nefarious purposes - a bit like they did communities.

The real process of forming relationships is much more subtle and unpredictable and for this reason blogs are still, for me, the best social networking tool. They have a purpose other than networking that sustains the activity but through permalinks, trackbacks, comments and RSS feeds we make visible relationships between both people and ideas in ways that if unleashed into organisations will have an impact way beyond the cosy language of social network analysis.

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