How blogging alters social network theories - March 6, 2004—
I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past several months about network theory as I prepared to market Jyte and a few other products we're working on. One theory, from books like The Tipping Point, holds that trends and news and technologies start with the "Innovators" or the "Mavens", then travel to the "Connectors" who know everyone; the Connectors introduce the ideas to the "Salesmen" or "Influentials"; the Influentials convince the masses through their newspaper columns, positions of political power, radio talk shows, or whatever methods they utilize.
Here's where it gets interesting, I think: blogging can consolidate all three network roles into one individual, or small group of individuals posting on a single blog. Bloggers are Innovators by nature: they are the very definition of early adopters. They also are Influentials due to their blogs (which are often extensions of their work as reporters, venture capitalists, PR professionals, or whatever). And lastly, as Marc Canter and Joi Ito have proved to the nth degree on Orkut, they are Connectors.
So can we really influence the masses with one individual? Or are the masses not paying any attention to the blogs? Does it even matter when most of the most influential bloggers have non-blog influence, anyway?
My theory is that this small window of history will allow any truly great technology, trend, joke, or idea to be adopted by a huge number of people vastly more quickly than it would have a few years ago. I'll be the first to say "I told you so" if my theory works... ;)