Saturday, March 22, 2008

Social Network Analysis Class by Salvatore Parise

Finally had my last elective course started today at 9am in such a sunshine Saturday morning...The course is Knowledge Management taught by Prof. Salvatore Parise. KM is nothing sexy and actually bit misleading here. Sal's class is more about social network analysis. Much more sexy, is it? Sal had taken my point to rename it to Social Network Analysis and upgrade to be a 3-credit class for next semester.

This class has a surprisingly "large" class, about 24 people or so. We will have two face-to-face classes and three online classes. It's really a hand-on class. In the first class today, we learned the Ucinet software developed by Borgatti, Everett, and Freeman.

It's an amazing software that can generate maps to display connected nodes. The line and the arrows between nodes can tell a lot of stories such as which person is most critical for informal communication in an organization and who could be a bottleneck to hurt the collaboration efficiency etc. You can basically design a survey to collect data by asking questions such as:

- Whom I will talk to when I try to learn X topic?
- For Y topic, who had contacted me for information?

The most exciting thing, however, is from the potential it can analyze income/outcoming links of any social network such as blog/comments and friend profies on Myspace. Not sure had Google try to display banner ad with highest price on myspace user who has most friend connection? Same thing can be applied at Facebook.

I am also wondering, since people with more connection may be more, at least perceived, trustworthy. Thus, will online advertising companies take this into account? This also reminds me the recent Y!combinator startup XOBNI that using software to analyze your inbox email to tell you what new email you should process first etc based on your interaction pattern with the sender.

At last, here is the key part of our syllabus:

Course Objective
Many organizations are now interested in capturing, distributing and applying the knowledge of their employees for business benefit. These practices--often supported with technology and called "knowledge management"---are a good idea, but firms also need to improve the fundamental knowledge work strategies and processes where knowledge is generate and used. In this course we will discuss the current state of the knowledge management movement. We will also discuss emerging issues in the management of knowledge and of knowledge work, including understanding social networks and communities of practice, managing the organizations in which knowledge and knowledge workers are the most important assets, and measuring the impacts of knowledge management investments to individuals, groups, and the organization as a whole.

My objective for this course is to get you excited about knowledge management (KM), to acquaint you with some of the key issues around the topic, and to get you to think about your own jobs and organizations in knowledge management terms. The course will consist of lecture material, discussion of real-world case studies, and interactive group exercises. Another objective is to introduce you to some KM tools and practices, such as social network analysis, that you may be able to incorporate into your own organizations. The course is not enough education for you to become a full-fledged knowledge manager, but it could provide a good foundation for more study if that is your goal.

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