05 January 2008

Point of Contention

Is The Tipping Point's central tenet--that "'social epidemics' are 'driven by the efforts of a handful of exceptional people'"--correct? Some networks theorists writing in Journal of Consumer Research don't think so.

I won't start my "Network Flows" class until the end of the month, but I think these guys' central point makes sense:

Dodds compares the spread of ideas to the spread of a forest fire. When a fire turns into a conflagration, no one says that it was because the spark that began it was so potent. 'If it had been raining,' Dodds says, 'that same match wouldn't have had an effect.' Instead, a fire takes off because of the properties of the larger forest environment: the dryness, the density, the wind, the temperature.
In other words, they're claiming that it's better to find a way to reach "a critical mass of easily influenced individuals" rather than a few "exceptional people".

This is disappointing news, if you ask me. I'd rather hear about trends from well spoken experts than a gang of easily influenced chumps.

In other news, it turns out I'm not the only one who watches video on his lunch break. Then again, I'm in grad school, so I do plenty of non-lunch-hour video watching as well. You try sitting at a desk 12-14 hours a day debugging code without a few Power Thirst breaks. Unacceptable!

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