LinkedIn and the nature of networks

Howard Rheingold has two videos posted on YouTube regarding what he calls “Network Literacy.”  They focus both on “control” of the Internet as well as how the organizational and human relationships evolve as communication mediums are invented.  He defines social capital as “the ease with which you can get things done together without going through institutions.”

Of particular note is how Sarnoff’s Law begat Metcalfe’s Law which in turn led to Reed’s Law, which Rheingold covers in the second video.  The point is that the value in networks is changed by the way networks are used.  I’ve taken a screenshot of the graph he created that highlights the exponential growth of networks via the evolution from Sarnoff’s Law (in green) to Metcalfe’s Law (in purple), and finally to Reed’s Law (in orange).

Rheingold graph

Sarnoff’s Law recognized the value of networks is based on the number of recievers, using broadcast television as an example.  Metcalfe’s Law identified that the value of a network grows with the number of nodes or users, citing the fax machine as an example.  David Reed was struck by ebay and its facilitation of transactions.

Sarnoff saw one-to-many communication.

Metcalfe envisioned one-to-one communication, replicated by the square number of users.

Reed identified exponential value from the facilitation of group affiliations.

At right is a graph of mJoe Brant Linkedin network graphy network on LinkedIn.  It resembles a whale.  Because I use LinkedIn so rarely for social purposes, I’ve been less discriminating as to who I connect with and, for that reason, I find this graph especially illuminating.  An overwhelming majority of the people here are connected to me and each other by our shared Aboriginal ancestry.   A handful are colleagues from a Toronto-based professional affiliation, another represents friends from the twelve years I lived in Nashville and yet another appears to be individuals connected to just me or me and each other only.

It’s particularly revealing in that it reinforces a long-held assumption of mine: that Aboriginal people are inherently social and that we are all looking to connect.  Because the truth is this: I really don’t know many of these people personally, yet I see now that an opportunity exists.


Works Cited

Rheingold, Howard. “Network Literacy Part One.” YouTube. N.p. 13 February 2011. Online video. 26 September 2013.

Rheingold, Howard. “Network Literacy Part Two.” YouTube. N.p. 13 February 2011. Online video. 26 September 2013.

2 thoughts on “LinkedIn and the nature of networks

  1. Boyd Neil

    Nicely done Joe (may I call you Joe?). The reality of networks is that it is through networks that organizations — whether government, non-profits or businesses — get things done. The trick is finding the most influential nodes in the network and determining how to use them to achieve your objective.

  2. Pingback: Comparing B2B and B2C content marketing | Joseph Brant

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