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Unformatted text preview: How to search a social network Lada A. Adamic email@example.com Eytan Adar firstname.lastname@example.org HP Labs, 1501 Page Mill Road Palo Alto, CA 94301 Abstract We address the question of how participants in a small world experiment are able to find short paths in a social network using only local information about their immediate contacts. We simulate such experiments on a network of actual email contacts within an organization as well as on a student social networking website. On the e-mail network we find that small world search strategies using a contacts position in physical space or in an organizational hierarchy relative to the target can effectively be used to locate most individuals. However, we find that in the online student network, where the data is incomplete and hierarchical structures are not well defined, local search strategies are less effective. We compare our findings to recent theoretical hypotheses about underlying social structure that would enable these simple search strategies to succeed and discuss the implications to social software design. 1 Introduction Many tasks, ranging from collaboration within and between organizations, pursuit of hobbies, or forming romantic relationships, depend on finding the right people to partner with. Sometimes it is advantageous to seek an introduction through ones con- tacts, who could recommend one to the desired target. Finding such paths through a network of acquaintances is something people naturally do, for example, when looking for a job. How people are actually able to this, while using only local information about the network, is a problem we address by analyzing real-world social networks. This analysis examines whether social networks are structured in a way to allow ef- fective local search. In answering this question we have obtained insights that may be applicable to new commercial services, such as LinkedIn, Friendster, and Spoke 1 , that have recently sprung up to help people network. Social networking services gather information on users social contacts, construct a large interconnected social network, and reveal to users how they are connected to others in the network. The premise of these businesses is that individuals might be 1 http://www.linkedin.com/ , http://www.friendster.com , http://www.spokesoftware.com 1 2 How to search in a small world only a few steps removed from a desirable business or social partner, but not realize it. The services allow their users to get to know ones friends of friends and hence expand their own social circle. On a smaller scale, the Club Nexus online community, which we describe later on in this paper, sought to help students at Stanford University organize activities and find others with common interests through their social network....
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- Fall '09