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March 06, 2009

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Jane Bozarth

As I posted in a comment to Nancy, my dissertation was on CoPs. You hit the nail on the head that "not all social networks are communities". That's what frustrates organizations, who have read about CoPs and think they can just make a "community" happen.

The link to my dissertation is included in a Workplace Learning Today blog post by Gary Woodill:
My dissertation is on CoPs. There’s a link to it in a Workplace Learning blog post by Gary Woodill:
http://www.brandon-hall.com/workplacelearningtoday/?p=2801

Nancy White

OK, to dig into this further, we need to define a social network. Is any configuration of two or more humans who interact with each other a social network? If yes, then all CoPs are social networks.

I realize as I read your post that I wasn't very clear on how I was using the term. ;-) I was thinking about groups of people who associate through some shared interest (however slender) but whom do not necessarily have relationships with most/all of the people in the network. In communities, relationship is implied (even if it is a bad relationship!!! )And I had somehow in my head that networks are larger things, but I never said that. Such fuzzy writing, eh?

This is why we need the blogosphere. To help us clarify our thinking. THANKS!


Vanessa DiMauro

thanks for you post- your definitions are helpful in articulating the nuances and larger dfferences between the two. Not to add to the complexity, but I propose also the difference between Social Networks and Professional Networks, as the goals, measures of success, and functions are often very different with social vs. professional networks. With professional networks the aim is to extend F2F networking with the purpose of connecting with work ideas, generate business development, share best practice with colleages near and far. There is a true mission and streamlined objectives to their use and utility. And, they are often closed to the public/ gated networks with vetting processes. Must be a lawyer, doctor, practitioner, title level etc. to join.

anyway, these are my 2cents. Appreciate your post!

Mike Gotta

Hi Vanessa - thanks for the insight - I would suggest that social networks is the proper underlying term. But, you can label different types of social networks to add context. In fact, a lot of my clients do use the term "professional networks" because (1) the term "social" implies "play" and/or (2) they want to give the connections a business context.

So I don't disagree - but underneath the label, it's still a social network by definition.

Mike Gotta

Nancy - great feedback. Below are the definitions I use (blended from several sources (David Knoke, Song Yang, Robert Cross, and John Scott)

Social network: A social network is a structure composed of a set of actors, some of whom are connected by one or more relations. Understanding social networks requires analysis of the structural relations between actors and the patterns of interaction among actors.

Actors: Entities within a social network are referred to as “actors” (also “nodes” or “agents”). Actors can be individuals, collections of individuals treated as an entity (e.g., a group), organizations (e.g., a company), or nation-states. Actors are associated with two types of data: attribute data and relational data.

Relations: A relation (synonymous with the terms “ties” and “links”) is a type of contact or association that connects actors. A relation between two actors is called a “dyad.” A triad occurs when there are relations among three actors. It is important to note that a relation is not an attribute of an actor but a joint property of the actors in a dyad. Ties between actors can vary. Some ties may exist for purposes of friendship, advice, or mentoring. Other ties may exist because of an authority context (e.g., a team member related to a project manager), while other linkages may be driven by boundaries of some type (e.g., a council of managers from different lines of business where each actor [i.e., manager] represents a different organizational subgroup within the enterprise).

Attribute data: Attribute data is information that characterizes that entity (i.e., data independent of the actor’s interaction in a social network). In essence, attribute data is owned by that actor. Some examples of attribute data include attitudes and opinions, occupation, and gender.

Relational data: Relational data is data that is a result of a connection. Relational data is a jointly owned property among the actors because of their association. Some examples of relation data include kinship, friendship, business hierarchy, project team membership, and group association.

walker thompson

I just found your blog... Great post. At our company, we have developed a strong sense of community by advancing the practice and planning of surgical cases (www.syndicom.com). We've seen our users engage beyond this, to also conduct research and drive new product development. We were able to do this, partly, because we have developed a mantra: healthier patients, better outcomes. It resonates with our users and they keep to the mission of the community.

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