Economist on mining social networks

September 4th, 2010

The Economist article Untangling the Social Web describes growing interest in business and government organizations in extracting information and making predictions by collecting and analyzing social network data. The article leads with an example of how mobile phone companies in the very competitive Indian market analyze their customer’s social networks to identify the most influential ones in order to “keep them on board with special discounts and promotions”. (See Social ties and their relevance to churn in mobile telecom networks.

According to the Economist, there’s a big market for such software.

“By one estimate there are more than 100 programs for network analysis, also known as link analysis or predictive analysis. The raw data used may extend far beyond phone records to encompass information available from private and governmental entities, and internet sources such as Facebook. IBM, the supplier of the system used by Bharti Airtel, says its annual sales of such software, now growing at double-digit rates, will exceed $15 billion by 2015. In the past five years IBM has spent more than $11 billion buying makers of network-analysis software. Gartner, a market-research firm, ranks the technology at number two in its list of strategic business operations meriting significant investment this year.”

The article also touches on more sophisticated systems that integrate additional information, including V.S. Subrahmanian’s work on STOP:

“Called SOMA Terror Organization Portal, it analyses a wide range of information about politics, business and society in Lebanon to predict, with surprising accuracy, rocket attacks by the country‚Äôs Hizbullah militia on Israel. Attacks tend to increase, for example, as more money from Islamic charities flows into Lebanon. Attacks decrease during election years, particularly as more Hizbullah members run for office and campaign energetically. By the middle of 2010 SOMA was sucking up data from more than 200 sources, many of them newspaper websites. The number of sources will have more than doubled by the end of the year.”