Analyzing the Social Web

Jennifer Golbeck

Published by

Morgan Kaufmann

ISBN

978-0-12-405531-5

RRP

£30.99

Reviewed by

Stewart Marshall MBCS

Score

9 out of 10

Analysis of the social networks present within the web has become a major tool in the armoury of marketers, politicians, charity fundraisers, social scientists and others interested in exploiting the relationships within, or the information to be gleaned from them. It is as networks - or, to mathematicians, graphs - that Jennifer Golbeck’s very readable book treats these relationships.

The early chapters of the book deal with the principles of network analysis. The treatment is more visual than mathematical, with many diagrams illustrating means of describing network structure, alongside material on quantitative measures, such as those of network centrality and density.

Whilst this material contains many examples from the social web, it could be applied to many other disciplines, and there is discussion of other applications such as modelling the propagation of disease (relevant, of course, to ‘viral’ marketing) or the spread of forest fires.

The later part of the book is concerned more with the application of network analysis, including discussion of information filtering, location-based interaction and privacy. The book ends with a case study on network-based strategies for surviving a ‘zombie apocalypse’ - all the more disturbing for the author’s claim that such an event is ‘an unfortunate eventual reality’.

Jennifer Golbeck is a practicing academic and while this book has the feel of having been derived from a lecture series on network analysis, it is no hurriedly mashed together collection of lecture notes. Rather, it is a carefully crafted explanation of the subject, made readable through the use of interesting and sometimes entertaining examples of applications to the social web.

The book will be of interest to those seeking a largely non-mathematical introduction to network analysis, whether for application to the social web or not. For students (first year university students are perhaps the target audience) the book provides suggestions for open source analysis tools, many exercises and copious references to recent original research material.

Further information: Morgan Kaufmann

September 2013