Feeds

Social networks may be imaginary

Think of them as spherical cows

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Supernova Eric Bonabeau doesn't mince words. "A lot of this talk about the social graph," he says, "is crap."

Speaking to a small army of business-minded folk this morning at the annual San Francisco tech conference dubbed Supernova, Bonabeau argued that the world may be exaggerating the influence of so-called social networks. For years, web pundits have said that the social graph - aka all those virtual connections between everyone on earth - will reinvent the way businesses distribute and market online applications. But Bonabeau - a complex systems guru best known for his book Swarm Intelligence - points out that setting up a network, including a social network, is less important than what you actually do with it.

"We see a lot of focus on the structure of networks. Structure is nice. It can be graphed. It can be displayed. It's beautiful. And people can relate to it," said Bonabeau, the founder and chief scientist of Isosystem, a company that tells other companies how to deal with complex computing problems. "But what's really important when you're trying to predict or control or alter the behavior of a system is to really understand the function of the network."

In the Bonabeau lexicon, social networks are spherical cows. "If you ask a mathematician to give the milk yield of a cow, he says 'Let's assume a spherical cow.' There are a lot of spherical cows out there, and the problem with spherical cows is that if you're in the prediction business, they're not that good at predicting anything."

In other words, the social graph is just an idea that makes people feel good. "The social graph is a spherical cow. It's a mental construct. A metaphor. Just because the image looks good doesn't mean that it's useful."

Rather than talking up the social graph as some sort of online cure all, Bonabeau argues, we should focus on the apps themselves. Some apps lend themselves to online propagation, and some don't. If you've got an app that doesn't, he says, then link it to one that does.

"Whatever the structure of your network, you can design a layer on top which does what you want," he concluded. "When you have services that aren't necessarily viral - which do not necessary spread on the network - you need to create and connect some sort of viral vector."

As an example, he pointed to mobile banking services. "No one would say that banking services are viral - but they are if you connect them to things like micro-payments or contributing to some sort of social cause."

OK, Bonabeau may be over-thinking things in his own (entertaining) way. But it's nice to hear someone call the social graph "crap." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.