Network externalities and Facebook

May 26, 2009 at 5:38 am

| Gabriel |

GNXP had an interesting post a few days ago graphing per capita use of Facebook at the state level and shows that there’s a steep gradient the further you get from Harvard (patient zero). The post argues that this is all about network externalities. I pretty much agree but I have a few thoughts and caveats.

The method assumes that the (underlying) social network is basically a lattice. If there really is anything to the stereotype of coastal yuppies seeing everything between LA and the Boston-DC corridor as “flyover country” then the underlying social network has a lot of random graph elements and there’s no reason to assume that California should be more socially distant from Boston than Indiana. On the other hand, Facebook isn’t necessarily the kind of thing that could spread by a random graph element. If you adopt Facebook because a critical mass of your friends do then it will spread much more rapidly through cliques and strong ties than through random graph elements because even if you’re exposed to it through the random graph that’s only one exposure. Something like this probably takes the multiple exposures you only really get with triadic closure so random elements will be useless for this kind of diffusion.

Speaking of vapid “social media”:

Police Slog Through 40,000 Insipid Party Pics To Find Cause Of Dorm Fire

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Data.gov Contour graphs in Stata


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