February 10, 2010

More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (and Wozniaks...)

In a relatively recent New York Times OP-ED, Thomas Friedman ( argues that: "Obama should make the centerpiece of his presidency mobilizing a million new start-up companies [...]." Friedman then argues that if: "[y]ou want more good jobs, spawn more Steve Jobs."

This emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship is well placed. A substantial body of research going back to Adam Smith, Max Weber, and Joseph Schumpeter has demonstrated how innovation and/or entrepreneurship are associated with prevailing social and economic conditions. However, Friedman's emphasis on "spawning" more Steve Jobs is somewhat misplaced. Rater, as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich noted in a 1987 Harvard Business Review article, it is often the entrepreneurial team that is the hero. Indeed, even Apple was initially founded by a team of entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne.

More generally, research generally finds that entrepreneurial teams tend to outperform solo ventures. And research suggests that including "weak ties" or social connections that can access distinct factor or knowledge markets may be key to novel (re)combination that is the essence of "Schumpeterian entrepreneurship" as novel combination. However, research by Ruef, Aldrich, and Carter (which appeared in the American Sociological Review) finds that very few founding teams include such ties. This implies that at their founding most ventures (in a representative sample of would-be US entrepreneurs) do not have the "social DNA" that is best suited to creating truly innovative products or services.

This finding presents unique challenges for those creating public policy intended to foster entrepreneurship. (It should be noted that some researchers believe that entrepreneurship implies innovation whereas others do not.) While tax policy may be important for entrepreneurship generally defined, serious consideration should also be devoted to issues concerning intellectual property and structural features--including social networks--that can be harnessed to create the conditions for innovation.

September 10, 2009

Learning from Chemical Traces

A few weeks ago a really fantastic study got a lot of press about how researchers found that 90% of US bills have trace amounts of cocaine on them. This got me thinking about some of the other interesting currency studies that have been done.

Where is George? comes to mind as another brilliantly designed study. Researchers stamped thousands of bills with a URL where people who received the bill could go and enter its current location. The researchers got a huge number of responses, allowing them to use bill mobility patterns to approximate human mobility patterns. Of course with the recent availability of high quality cell phone and sensor data this may not be the best data collection method in the future, but at the very least it's a great study design.

But the cocaine study got me thinking: what else can we learn about people's habits from chemical traces on bills? Of course the reason cocaine can be detected is that it binds to the green dye in money, but a large number of other compounds would likely also bind to this dye. Can you learn about fast food consumption from bill traces? Could you gauge the "stress level" of the country by measuring the amount of certain sweat compounds?

You can potentially get this data from other sources, but often it's hard to get a large enough cross section of society to get a broad enough picture. By combining analysis of these physical traces with digital traces, we can get closer to having a complete view of how our society is behaving.

May 3, 2009

The Hunt for Gollum: A New Era of Filmmaking

EDIT: I changed the embedded video since the old trailer was taken down

Some of you may have already seen the fan-film The Hunt for Gollum, an original prequel of sorts to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Fan fiction is by no means new. There are plenty of Star Trek stories written by fans, super hero home movies, and others all produced simply because the fans wanted to continue the story, all with no financial gain for themselves. Normally this is branded "fair use" and the companies that own the rights ignore the efforts of these amateur writers and filmmakers.

And then a movie like The Hunt for Gollum comes along. Watching the trailer for the first time, you believe you're watching the trailer for the next Hollywood blockbuster. There are drooling orcs, sweeping shots of spectacular mountains, and incredible special effects. But this movie was written, filmed, and produced for $4500 by a group of about 150 UK Lord of the Rings fans for free distribution on the web.

Watching the finished product is inspiring. While it isn't the best movie I've ever seen (it lasts about half an hour), the fact that I would even compare it to multi-million dollar movies staffed by thousands of professionals is incredible. Certainly this is due in no small part to the dedication of the group that created this movie, and by no means would this amount of dedication be the same for every potential amateur project. After all, this still took years to make. Potentially this could be viewed as a threat to professional filmmakers, as discussed in an NPR article.

One could even wonder if this model could extend to other industries. Could cars be designed and manufactured by weekend enthusiasts? With GM phasing out their Pontiac brand, could die hard fans create their own Pontiac and start rolling out a new line of cars on a limited scale for no profit? When rapid prototyping and 3D printing tools become more widespread, this seems like a possibility.

This might be some of what Prof. Tom Malone discussed in his book The Future of Work, a completely new kind of organization. But interestingly The Hunt for Gollum was a much more physically based production than what he had envisioned. Certainly remote collaboration tools helped the group put this film together, but what really elevated this project was the close knit face-to-face collaboration that was employed to make this movie work. It seems that while new technological tools can push us to new heights, old fashioned teamwork is still crucial for success.

November 6, 2008

311: The Next Wave" - Harvard online event 11/13/08

Nine Imperatives for Leadership of 311-Enabled Government
November 13, 2008: 2:30 - 4:30 pm (EST)

~Online event. Registration required, and free of charge.~

Join us for this free, interactive discussion outlining the findings and discoveries of a report about the "next wave of 311," generated by 25 government leaders and technology and service providers convened at Harvard.

The forum will be moderated by former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who is the Dan Paul Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. The panel includes:

* Michael A. Sarasti, Manager, Strategic Customer Research & Development, Government Information Center, Miami-Dade County
* Neil Evans, 311 Project Director, City of Toronto, Ontario
* Joe Morrisroe, Deputy Commissioner & Executive Director: NYC 311 and
* Gerard Gallant - General Manager, Public Service/311, Motorola
* Zachary Tumin - Executive Director, HKS Leadership for a Networked World Program

For more information and to register for this event, please visit our event page at:

Also, when you register for the Government Innovators Network, we encourage you to sign up for our biweekly e-newsletter on emerging government innovations, Innovators Insights. Just be sure to check "yes" at the bottom of the registration page to subscribe to the newsletter. If you've already registered, simply log in to our site, and click "my profile" in the upper right-hand corner to update your subscriptions.

Registration to online event.

July 2, 2008

Book: Citizen Relationship Management - A Study of CRM in Government

It is my pleasure to announce that "Citizen Relationship Management - A Study of CRM in Government" is now available. Just follow the link to Peter Lang Publishing Group.


Here is a brief description of the book:

This study explores Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in government. Based on an interdisciplinary literature review and multiple-case study design, a model of Citizen Relationship Management (CiRM) is developed and discussed. The case studies explore the perceptions of CRM/CiRM by administrators, elected officials and consultants as well as its implementation and impact on the municipal level and in a multijurisdictional environment in the United States. Although the explorative part of the study focuses broadly on a theoretical conceptualization of CiRM, the immediate empirical referent of research are the 311 initiatives in the City of Baltimore, the City of Chicago, the City of New York and Miami-Dade County. Thus, the results help administrators and researchers to convey the idea and challenges of 311 well. The study shows that CRM is to a certain extent only partly able to make novel contributions to currently active reform movements in government. In addition, the study's findings support the idea that CiRM provides the means to a different kind of public participation.

From Customer Relationship Management towards citizen oriented government - CRM - New Public Management - TQM - eGovernment - Citizen public administration relationship - Citizen as customer - Administrative contacting as public participation - Case Studies: CiRM and 311 in Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Miami-Dade County (Implementation, Understanding, Impact) - Comparing CRM with TQM and eGovernment - A model of Citizen Relationship Management - CiRM and public participation.

I will try to keep you updated on trends in CRM in government on my blog on Citizen Relationship Management.

May 21, 2007

Networking (Social) Science Networks

During the last three weeks, I have attended two different conferences - both focused entirely on (Social) Networks: First, I went to Greece to attend the International Conference for Social Network Analysts (main audience/attendance: social scientists) and I am currently blogging from the NetScience conference in New York in the Hall of Science (main audience: scientists).

I talked to a lot of people and listened to a lot of talks at both conferences and I noticed a couple of interesting things:

1. Researchers in all fields, natural and social sciences are working on (social) networks and within their specific fields they are located in a very specific niche within their own discipline. This is reflected for example in the fact, that a lot of researchers feel obligated to explain what a social network is and what the definition of concepts such as centrality are.

2. The basic concepts and analysis methods are the same across all disciplines, but we all use different language to describe what we are doing.

3. Researchers in different fields have different needs for analyzing and visualizing their network data and those who have the abilities to do so are creating/programming their own visualization and analysis tools or libraries. This seems to be an exploding area and I see a potential to synchronize the different needs and tools across disciplines.

4. Academic disciplines on (social) network research are largely disconnected and innovation is occurring within the disciplines, but usually not across disciplines. It seems as if the wheel is reinvented, but because academic disciplines are isolated and siloed the overall network science field is extremely innovative for its specific audiences.

March 13, 2007

Enterprise Social Networking Software

IBM has announced to launch its Lotus Connections software in the first half of 2007 and Cisco buys the technology assets of It seems as if social networking software has become an important business line within large software vendors.

From a researcher's perspective it makes sense for firms to connect their employees through social networking software. Finding information, locating experts and spotting project relevant knowledge effectively are promises social software seems to able to hold. If not, why would people be interested in paying annual membership fees on platforms such as or

At the same time, software vendors haven't got much to offer than whitepapers, prototypes, or other studies. A persistent question software vendors might be struggling with thus is: What is the USP of online social networking software why is it worth a client's effort to go through a massive data migration effort from several expert or knowledge management databases to a consistent social networking platform?

Here are some arguments/talking points that might help:
- Validation through Existing Models: The success of and as two prominent examples of popular professional social networking platforms shows that managers and practitioners are willing to spend time and money in locating contacts, knowledge, and information within social networks
- Tie Characteristics and Performance: Studies in the management literature have shown that the characteristics of ties among managers and employees can have strong effects on the firm's or a managers performance (Hansen 1999, Moran 2005, Obstfeld 2005, references see below)
- Privacy Concerns: People are willing to publish their profiles online (as it can be observed on prominent Web 2.0//online social networking sites and as described by Ines Mergel in her prior blog). Hence, people are used to publishing their profiles online, have experience with it and might ranke the expected benefits higher than potential data privacy concerns.

Hence, why should making ties among people within firms visible NOT help these people to become more effective or productive over time?

Continue reading "Enterprise Social Networking Software" »

February 2, 2007

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part IV: Connecting the cases to the literature

Today's post ends my entry series on the use of local Social Networking Services by Japanese municipal governments. If you would like to read the entries in order just click here: Introduction, Yatsushiro Case, / Nagaoka case, discussion (organizational aspects).

Even without knowing the respective research and terms interviewees made the correct assumptions about social networks or tell stories reflecting results of social networks and social support in disaster literature. Drawing for example on the narrative of the family that was helped by many strangers after a the mother of a sons friend (weak tie) wrote about their flooded house in her “Gorotto Yatchiro” blog which supports Granovetter’s weak tie and Burt’s structural hole role in non routine activities (2004; 1983). Those interviewees who joined the local SNS found new friends on the platform and expanded their social network as concluded by Tindall and Wellman (2001). Furthermore, Soiga NPO is a great example how an organization, once brought into existence for one set of purpose (environmental activities), can also aid others for different purposes described by Coleman, thus constituting social capital available for use (1988). The NPO’s blogs were considered a trusted source and can provide an alternative to the mass media which is regarded by many individuals as a more credible source of risk information than government (McComas, 2001). A centralized approach to the provision and publication of local information might not be fine-grained enough to cater to the viral and capillary spread of word-of-mouth information anyway. This informal interaction can only be supported by recognizing the peer-to-peer nature of local interaction which is distinct from the conventional many-to-many, few-to-many, or one-to-many broadcast nature of other online interaction (Foth, 2006). In the past this role was taken by neighbourhood organizations which are already impacted by demographic and cultural change (young generations are not really interested in joining).
Finally, if the majority of the population would be represented on local SNS platform, sociograms could provide snapshots of networks and interaction structures. From these types of diagrams government and citizens can visually identify emergent positrons and clusters of interaction. By examining these patterns of mediated and unmediated interaction they could gain an added perspective on communication structures that underpin explicit community processes as well as those that support affective, less instrumental behaviors (Garton, Haythornthwaite, & Wellman, 1997). Privacy might be a concern for citizens of course. At the moment, local SNS can serve the functions of managing and building social networks. In disasters it covers the areas of “observe and report” and “warn and inform”. Along the lines of La Porte, I argue that the design and rules of the network constrain the character, use and content of member roles and exchanges and the network (1996). Consequently, local SNS could support the community and government beyond its current scope.

Sidenote: As I heard this week MIC is planing to extend their local SNS pilot with 10 other cities. I will keep you posted.

January 20, 2007

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part III: Some observations

In today's entry I would like to make some comments on the two Japanes local government SNS case studies (Yatsushiro / Nagaoka) I presented earlier.

Mr. Kobayashi, the member of Yatsushiro's IT department, has a key role for the future development and functionalities of the SNS platform. He started this local SNS completely on his own, inspired by the rise of private social networking platforms and personal interest in technology. His government membership and high level of personal involvement ensure the sustainability of “Gorotto Yatchiro”. By comparison, “Ococo Nagaoka” is managed by an actor outside of government. The NPO, although well connected, has less leverage on the level government support and involvement. Government officials reportedly evaluate success by the quantity of users which influences their willingness of support. Therefore, "Ococo Nagaoka" is in a critical state (only 600-700 users).

Many online activities (i.e. exchanges) are depending on a critical mass for others to be attractive, a criteria which has not been met in both cases (1%< of the total population) and both mostly exclude older generations. In addition, both are competing with big platforms like Mixi.

If the local SNS has more users, the load on technology and burden on involved managers will also grow. Mr. Kobayashi would not be able to monitor user behavior without further help if that happens. Although officials claim to learn something from citizens, there is nobody checking the information in the citizens' blogs.
Mr. Kobayashi is right when pointing to the importance taking a gradual approach of getting more users and introducing the platform. However, government marketing is not helping much and poorly done which reminded me of discussions with administrators who were wondering about the slow user uptake in their eGovernment projects.

Although Mr. Kobayashi added the map feature, functionality and design of existing platforms led to an early framing of his understanding of the possibilities and limits of local SNS. The lack of feedback by other people in the creation process is certainly a reason why its use in disaster or the government citizen relationship is not fully exploited. Administrative members would also be more willing to join, add content and engage with the citizen if there would be a considerable and visible amount of support by executive level administrators. Again, Mixi and Gree formed their perception of SNS so that in their words local SNS is mainly a way to interact with the public and offer it a way to interact with each other. They miss the aspect of building social capital.

Moreover, MIC should have planned a longer pilot phase since the tendency of a slow user uptake was already visible in the data for Yatsushiro. Central government is still influential in Japan so MIC could have also done more to inform and motivate the public and administrators alike.

January 15, 2007

Lacking ideas for outsourcing? Ask the citizen.

Saga Prefecture is located on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Facing a budget crisis Mr. Furukawa, the newly elected governor, started one of Japan's most ambitious reform programs in 2003. It included yearly budget cuts of 15% while at the same time allowing allowing granting departments more flexibility, an organizational redesign and cultural change towards citizen centricity. One of the latest innovative measures was the release of a list with 236 government areas/ processes in October 2006. The public was then asked for outsourcing/public private partnership proposals. Anyone was welcome to participate.

Hiroichi Kawashima, Saga's CIO, and his team worked together with all departments to identify the outsourcing "candidates". Their final list consisted of 236 areas/processes but the public was also allowed to make suggestions for the remaining 1791 areas/processes. The submission deadline ended in November 2006. Surprisingly, only 1/5 of proposals are directed at the 236 areas/processes identified by public servants. The team is currently reviewing the 361 proposals from individuals, NGO's and non recognized organizations. Thereafter, the will announce which proposals have been accepted and will do a public tender. They are also discussing of doing a second round of proposal submissions.

I think this is a very unique way for governments to tap into the creativity and resources of their citizens. I will keep you posted about further developments.

January 8, 2007

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part II: Nagaoka City

The following describes my findings from Nagaoka city. Follow the highlighted area to read the first part about on government social software in Yatsushiro.

Nagaoka is a city located in the center of Niigata prefecture spanning from the northern coast inland of Japan’s main island Honshu. Just like Yatsushiro, Nagaoka merged with a couple of surrounding cities and towns between April 2005 and January 2006 increasing its population by approximately 100.000. Nagaoka was completely destroyed during Second World War and always had to cope with some form of disaster (earthquakes, snow, flood). This fact left its distinctive mark on the now roughly 283.000 people living in Nagaoka and is a reason why the Phoenix was chosen as a symbol of the city. The recovery of the Chuuetsu earthquake (More on the geophysics) in October 2004 is still taking place in some mountainous areas. The community is said to be better connected in those rural areas than in the city. According to city officials internet penetration is now at 60%. During the earthquake the internet and basic mobile messaging were the only communication channels working.

Before Nagaoka introduced the local SNS platform, it had a web bulletin board besides its official city website. Citizens showed the same frustration with the language and inappropriate behavior of some users which led many to abandon the platform. The city’s local SNS called “Ococo Nagaoka” was introduced in mid December 2005. As it is based on “Open Gorotto” I will not go into detail about its functionality. By now (December 2006) there are 600 registered users compared to 300 at the end of the MIC test phase in February. Only a few forums around casual topics like food eco-tourism can be considered active. The local SNS was marketed through publications in city newspapers, banners and section on the city website. In contrast, Mixi has 2000 members just for Nagaoka.


The process that ultimately led to the Nagaoka local SNS started in 2004. Soiga, an NPO, originally founded for environmental activities in April 2004 used a blogs and RSS to inform the public when the region first experienced a severe flood in April and earthquake in October. They provided faster information than government which received wide media attention, especially when they took over communication after Nakanashima government was operational ineffective through flooding. The NPO tried to convince government officials later that year to start an official government blog but their idea was rejected because nobody saw any need or importance in it. Thereafter, the head of the NPO was asked by MIC to join a newly formed working group on local SNS. (Furthere information in Japanese) The group consisted of academics, members from MIC and members of local administrators among them Mr. Kobayashi. They formed two groups to cover the theoretical and implementation/system aspects. First, they all looked at Mixi and Gree as the majority of them had never heard of SNS or used it before. To get the funds, the official project goal was officially about improving civic participation in Nagaoka and Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. Although they could not think of a different kind of use, improved information sharing in disasters was a secondary object. MIC covered the costs (¥ 1,500.000) for the local SNS pilot phase whereas the NPO was asked to manage it and work together with local government. Running costs are at around ¥ 30,000 per month.

When Nagaoka’s local SNS started, many sections except for information policy did not understand the SNS concept and why Nagaoka was chosen. In fact, of those interviewed, many admit that they are still wondering what SNS is all about, why they should put their information online and how it could be further utilized for government. Many immediately joined Mixi to get a feeling for SNS. Perceptions of local SNS vary. The dominating view is that local SNS provides a convenient location for communication and information sharing for citizens and government. In the past neighbourhood associations (NA) were the link between government and citizens. However, most leaders and people in the NA are now very old and lack knowledge or interest in the use of IT. Some interviewees think it could complete or add value to real-life relationships. People could help each other more by learning more about each other, what they could do for the community and as a result rely less on government. One mentions a group that started discussing how to have a nicer city and improve economic growth which members first got to each other through the local and later offline. A member of the disaster section adds that it is strengthening the community by building broad networks between the newly merged cities. Sceptics think that there are more dominating means of communication like mobile phones. A council member who uses multiple blogs and the SNS, thinks that the level of impact on the community of the local SNS is very low. To stress this point he compares his networks on Mixi (112 contacts) and the local SNS (12 contacts). In general though, SNS helped the council member to interact with the younger community.

Currently the members of Soiga (Japanese only) are working on an updated version which should be online by early 2007. The biggest change lies in the use of the Google Maps API. They are as well talking about online advertisement space and how to attract more users to the platform. Significant changes to “Open Gorotto” can only be introduced if they are implemented by Mr. Kobayashi or someone with his skills.

December 6, 2006

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part I: Yatsushiro City

As I wrote in an earlier entry I am currently in Japan doing research in 2 areas. First, I look at local SNS (social software) and how this could be useful for disaster management. Second, I will do another case study for my research on Citizen Relationship Management.

Yatsushiro is the second largest city of the Kumamoto prefecture and is centrally located about 40 km from the Kyushu west coast, the southernmost of the four Japanese islands. As part of the eGovernment efforts in 2002/03 the city started “Gorotto Yatchiro”. It offered a bulletin board, calendar, link posting and email form functionality. However, it never got quite of the ground with a final community size of 600, 40 truly active users and 10.000 page views per month. Usage decreased over time and since membership offered anonymity some members did not stick to accepted conventions of online behaviour. As for Japanese culture, this keeps a lot of people critical of such initiatives paired with general mistrust in government and public administration in Japan. More than 900 local governments around Japan had set up citizens’ virtual conference rooms by 2004 as part of their eParticipation efforts. Though, most of these projects met the same fate as the one in Yatsushiro city.

Meet Mr. Takao Kobayashi who had/ still has the biggest influence on local government social networking services in Japan with his ideas and "Open Gorotto" platform which is available free as openSource software (click the above link to download the latest version).


In response to the decline of the bulletin board and inspired by bigger and popular social networking platforms such as Mixi, Mr. Takao Kobayashi, a young member of the Yatsushiro IT department, decided to design and program a new version of Gorotto in 2004. Interestingly, he was neither ordered to do so nor did he ask for permission. Within three months the first version of the “Open-Gorotto” SNS using openSource software as Free BSD, PostgreSQL, and PHP was developed. Except being inspired by existing social networking platforms no additional surveys on user needs were conducted. As the platform is hosted on government servers and development was done in work and free-time costs can be considered insignificant. Up to this day there is no additional budget set aside or significant recognition of political or administrative leadership except that that there is no interference.

Mr. Kobayashi mentions four points that motivated him to create the SNS platform: First, citizens are much better at sharing government information, so each citizen’s network serves as a multiplier. Second, the platform helps the community to grow stronger, meaning that people who share mutual interests can get together in a pleasant atmosphere. Third, the platform presents general and government information in a different way. Finally, administrators can interact and learn from citizens. Disaster is missing here but was picked up by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) as a goal. MIC conducted empirical testing of SNS communities in the City of Nagaoka which will be described in LINK and in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in early 2006.

The SNS platform exists parallel toYatsushiro city's website which links to the former. “Gorotto Yatchiro” functionality includes a blog, networking, personal profile, picture/media library, calendar and newsgroups (see picture below). Its uniqueness compared to sites like Mixi, Gree, MySpace or Xing lies in additional features as GIS/Google maps mash-up, a fire alert or open architecture with allows for integration of other features. Besides that the platform is mobile friendly. Although everybody can use the platform registered users can invite contacts. In order to prevent a development similar to the bulletin board “Open Gorotto” includes the “Alien” or “Grey Person” feature. This automatically scans for swearwords and the like and also sends a quick note to the administrator (Mr. Kobayashi) and another person supporting him with this task.


Since the new version was made available online by end of 2004, member expansion was left to invitations of users only. Mr. Kobayashi thinks that this allows for a healthier online community and avoids the objections citizens might have towards government although it is much slower. Advertising was only done through links on the city website, flyers and ads in the city magazine. Additional public attention came through press articles first in the regional and later in national press which is visible in higher website traffic after key interviews. By now the platform has around 2800 members with 70% being from Yatsushiro. Average age of members is 39 with males tending to be more active than females (ratio: 7:3). 400 users can be counted as truly active in terms of their blog, commenting or in forum behavior. The most used features are the diary followed by the internal email system and forums. 400 users have also subscribed the RSS feature. Smaller forums are managed by citizens; bigger ones are managed by the admins. 100 members of the community belong to the local administration or politics. When asked, Government officials see the local SNS mostly as another communication channel. They are still thinking about further use, especially with regard to disaster though.

Mr. Kobayashi is currently promoting the idea of having local interconnected SNS in all of Japan's municipalities that also mirror each other in case of a failure/disruption like a disaster. Modifications of "Open Gorotto" are already used by other local SNS throughout Japan. However, many times Mixi is able to attract more people from the same area as the local SNS. This relates very much to questions raised by Ines Mergel regarding individual social networking platform online behavior.

In any case, the actions of Mr. Kobayashi are unique. It is proof of an individual's impact on a smaller and ultimately broader scale. I could not find similar projects of government SNS in the world with regard to eDemocracy or disaster management. Hence, "Open Gorotto" is an innovation for local government worthwhile spending more time thinking about.

April 10, 2006

Clusters and Bridges in Networks of Entrepreneurs

Post comments on "Clusters and Bridges in Networks of Entrepreneurs" in response to this posting. For reference please see his presentation and paper.

The abstract and seminar are based on a draft chapter for the forthcoming book, The Missing Links: Formation and Decay of Economic Networks.

In our model workers leave their former employers to become entrepreneurs, and found new firms by partnering with former colleagues or with workers who left a different employer. The first types of partnerships create clusters and the second types create bridges. Formation of bridge partnerships requires greater effort, and in equilibrium bridge partnerships yield greater profits on average than cluster partnerships. This pattern of network formation is shown to create community border effects in trade. It is also shown that less than the socially optimal amount of effort is devoted to formation of bridge partnerships. Policies to improve this situation are analyzed, including enforcement of restrictive employment contracts that affect the incentive to form cluster partnerships. Extensions of the model to two rounds of partnership formation and to two rounds of production generate additional effects of intra- and inter-firm networks on profits of individual entrepreneurs and on inter-community trade.

James Rauch is a professor economics at the University of California, San Diego. His areas of research include International Trade, Economic Growth and Development, Urban Economics and Labor. His most recent book is Leading Issues in Economic Development, 8th edition (with Gerald M. Meier), New York:Oxford University Press, 2005. He received his BA from Princeton University May and his Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University.

February 14, 2006

What would you do with the telephone call network of an entire country?

I’m beginning a collaboration with British Telecom in an effort to analyze their massive call network dataset. This is a dynamic, directed network that contains ~250 million nodes (ie: distinct phone numbers) and ~2000-5000 edges (ie: calls) generated each second. The phone numbers are of course one-way hashed such that it is impossible to link a node’s identifier to an actual phone number. However we do have information about the country and region to which the node belongs (ie: country code / area code). While it is not inclusive of every call to and from the UK, it is estimated that the dataset includes approximately 80% of landline calls and 30% of mobile calls.

So my question to the complex systems / social network community is this: what are some questions we should attempt to ask of this dataset? Possible examples include calculating the strength of a particular region’s relationships with other regions and countries, analyzing the dynamics involved in “call cascades?, inferring the average size of an individual’s hierarchical social groups (from close friend to possible acquaintance), etc...


While many metrics may be impossible to calculate for a network of this magnitude, simple sampling can yield interesting results. For example, the plot above represents the duration of outgoing calls from 100,000 randomly sampled nodes during 6 month intervals over the course of October 1995 to March 1998. It is clear that there are an increasing number of very long calls (over 10^4.2 seconds ~ 4.5 hours) which could be a good indicator of the uptake of dial-up internet in the UK during this timeframe.

February 10, 2006

The Strength of Weak Ties Revisited - A Practical Example

Having discussed Granovetter's seminal paper on "The Strength of Weak Ties" in our last class on Network Analysis, I just found a 21st century application of the theory on the website of

There is a relatively new service on the web, which allows people to connect to each other when traveling from A to B. The service is called AirTroductions and provides interested individuals to register and subsequently look for other, unknown individuals, that might be on the same flight. The purpose of the service is to allow people make interesting contacts which eventually lead to all type of relationships.

I found this interesting as another example for how easy it is today to build weak ties with modern web technology!

January 22, 2006

Citizen Relationship Management ? - Part I

My next entries will discuss the application of Customer Relationship Management in the public sector. Other terms used are citizen or constituent relationship management. As this is a relatively new topic and less applied concept in the pulic sector I hope our visitors are interested in sharing some of their ideas or questions with me.

What is CiRM?
In how war is CiRM different from CRM?
How is it understood in government?
How is CiRM implemented?
Will it have an impact on customer service in the ps? What other impacts do you expect.
What other questions should we ask?

I am looking forward for your input. I will provide further information on Citizen Relationship Management at my website.

January 21, 2006

Innovation, Social Capital, and Entrepreneurial Strategy - Part I

In the upcoming week, Las Vegas will host the 2006 SIA Snowsports Trade Show. As the SIA announces on its website, the trade show is the premiere show in the world market. Sports manufacturers, distributors, buyers, sales representatives, press/media, industry professionals and athletes come together to both discuss the latest trends for the new season as well as to extent their "social networks".

LINE Skis is an entrepreneurial firm in the snowsports industry, which is based in Burlington, Vermont. Within the last couple of years, the firm has significantly contributed to the development of what today is known as "newschool" or "freeride/freestyle" skiing. In a recent interview on, the founder and owner of the company, J. Levinthal, announced not to participate in the SIA trade show, although it is (a) the world's greatest and important event, and (b) the network of distributors and sales reps obviously weren't really happy about decision.

One of the key arguments Mr. Levinthal brought up to explain his decision goes like this: The main theme of the company is to promote alpine skiing. It is not about making profits, instead it is about spreading the word and building an (international) community of alpine skiers.

In consequence, the company is taking serious efforts to establish a constant information exchange with its "customers" through the company website and diverse online communities, such as Skiers from all over the place "meet online" to share ideas, movies, pictures, and plans for building an ever growing community of skiers!

So what? The aforementioned development raises a series of interesting questions for innovation and network scholars alike:

- Will online communities become a novel type of business model for "action-sports entrepreneurs"?
- Will online communties help firms collect novel knowledge to foster (technological) innovation?
- Is creating "social capital" a new way of funding entrepreneurial activity?
- How do strong ties between action-sport communities and young entrepreneurial firms as well as common beliefs affect traditional incumbent firms?