As widespread communication via organizational intranets and especially the internet develops, we need to go beyond understanding and supporting single users and small groups to the computer-supported social networks that flourish in the workplace and virtual communities.
Social networks and social network analysis [SNA] have been studied for decades. Social network analysis is the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations, computers or other information/knowledge processing entities. The nodes in the network are the people and groups while the links show relationships or flows between the nodes. SNA provides both a visual and a mathematical analysis of human relationships.
Some of this research has made its way into popular culture, such as the notion of "six degrees of separation." This is the premise that there are no more than five intermediates between any two people on earth.
In moving to computer based relationships however, we can now search e-mail folders, CRM databases and instant messaging logs to determine peoples likes, dislikes, expertise, or to discover friends-of-friends. This leads to one of the more obvious applications of social networking - social tools and social software to help find other people with whom we would like to work, share knowledge with, sell to, date or engage with for a host of other reasons.
Social tools/sofware inlclude:
- Social Network Analysis Tools and Expert Locators such as Tacit and Metasight.
- Social Networking Platforms such as Ryze, LinkedIn or Spoke.
- Weblogs and Wikis
- Instant Messaging and Presence