The study of networks has exploded in recent years. Network scientists have measured, simulated, kicked and prodded almost every social network under the sun.
And in doing so, they’ve discovered all kinds of fascinating properties of these networks, properties that allow them to better understand the spread information and the role that people play in this process. In particular, theorists have long known that better connected individuals play more important roles in a network because they allow information to spread more efficiently. These individuals are of particular interest when it comes to the spread of gossip and even the spread of disease.
It’s easy to imagine that mere humans have always been largely ignorant of these networks, given the complexity of these webs and the complicated measures needed to calculate the connectedness of each node within in them. Which is why theorists have spent significant time and effort in working out ways to find these best connected people. This usually involves mapping the entire network, measuring the connectedness of each individual and then ranking them accordingly, an approach that is time-consuming and expensive, particularly for large networks.