Coolhunt Log #5
Friday, April 20, 2007
Scott Cooper, MIT researcher with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Renaud Richardet, software developer with the Condor software program
Steve O'Keefe, moderator
MODERATOR: I'm Steve O'Keefe, and welcome to the Coolhunt for Friday, April 20, 2007. Joining us today we have a special guest, Renaud Richardet, developer of the Condor software project. He's also a colleague of Scott and Peter.
MODERATOR: The coolhunt consists of one site review, one blog post, one comment on another's post, and one personal connection via email or phone. Please introduce yourself and tell us where you're calling from.
RENAUD: I'm calling from the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I met Scott working on this project.
SCOTT: I'm calling from my home office in MA. I'm going to let Renaud speak for himself but I'll introduce something that's essential to the Coolhunting book. We use a software called TeCFlow for graphs to show social networking at http://www.ickn.org/ickndemo. It's downloaded for free and shows the temporal communications connections among people. We'll begin our Coolhunt today at Galaxy Advisors, which is an association of a bunch of coolhunters -- a swarm of creative people.
MODERATOR: The software shows a great many maps that look similar to the zodiac or constellations. Those with us today can follow along online.
RENAUD: At galaxyadvisors, the first part of the process is entering data into the software in different formats such as HTML.
MODERATOR: So you're importing large quantities of info?
RENAUD: When you think of 3 million emails, it's scary. So when we analyzed the emails from Enron, we only looked for the messages where people are talking about fraud. This helps you to "find the needle in the haystack."
SCOTT: In our book we actually report on the outcome of the research that Renaud just described. People are familiar with the Enron accusation and their claims against it. Analysis of these emails show a direct connection between the perpetrators of the fraud in California with Ken Lay by searching on words such as "affair," "investigation," and "disclosure."
MODERATOR: Were your results ever involved in the trial?
SCOTT: No, or at least they were not mentioned in open court or entered into transcripts. But economists hired to get people out of trouble do use such software as Condor.
RENAUD: Research of such documents does reveal the usefulness of Condor. Also, Condor can be used to enter web pages instead of just email for search purposes. You can graph the information as nodes (web pages) and lines (hyperlinks). We focus primarily on links between web pages and email instead of focusing on text as with Google. Text is more used for web page searches. For example, with blogs we look for who started the buzz, the subject -- regardless of what subject it is.
SCOTT: This not only spots the trends but the trendsetters.
RENAUD: We have a server version to help users explore coolhunting. On the first page of the Condor viewer we have probable searches. Click on Show Me to see three graphs. The first graph you see is what we call the galaxy. We have pre-searched all the important information. The graph is balanced with a layout algorithm. You can see the largest nodes are the search engines, Wikipedia, along with other pages such as HillaryClinton.com, .org, etc. It's counting a subset of the net. Instead of Google's search for text, we focus more on the social network, for instance, who links to Hillary Clinton?
SCOTT: Why would some of these sites come up? Why would zazzle.com come up? Why Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com)?
RENAUD: Because of the connection with Amazon.com and HillaryClinton.com. Maybe zazzle.com prints t-shirts for hillaryclinton.com?
MODERATOR: Let's take a look at IMDB. Open a new window to go to IMDB.com.
SCOTT: Now type in Hillary Clinton.
RENAUD: If you search Hillary Clinton on IMDB you find actors by this name and references to movies. We're trying to bring users the most interesting information.
MODERATOR: It seems that very high traffic sites often show up, correct?
RENAUD: Yes, because many people link to IMDB. Google shows that the more links to a page, the more important the page. The more a page is linked between other pages, the higher the "betweeness." If Alex and Clara need to talk to Bob to get each other's phone numbers, Bob is very important because he is between them. When pages are needed to connect other pages, they are "in between" those other pages. And the more betweeness, the more pertinent the pages.
MODERATOR: Does the relative size of the nodes on the graph relate to betweeness? Or the distance?
RENAUD: The size of dots shows betweeness, how central the page is in the web, in the network. We are working on software that will remove certain sites from the list we track -- such as search engines -- that are distorting the linkage analysis.
SCOTT: Renaud, could you speak of how coolhunters could use this in a more sophisticated hunt such as when others communicated, how they communicated, and about what they communicated?
RENAUD: In Finland, we just finished a project where we did just that. We were able to create another view of an organization's clustering, representing someone's position in the circle, so top management could see who is networking, who is talking to one another.
SCOTT: And this has all sorts of implications for companies such as if people function as stars or galaxies.
SCOTT: In the book "Coolhunting," we discuss an experiment with a cell phone company that wanted to determine what features or technology of a phone were the most important to users, which bells or whistles were embraced by the community. It was a relatively small group of about 17 phones being giving out to people with some broad social class network. These college kids were given free phones with the understanding that the telecom company could track their use. It wasn't the content of their conversations that was tracked but rather which services they used and how long they used the services such as call waiting, soccer scores, etc. to discover the social networks involved. Therefore, the company could better market their phones to the right customer community.
MODERATOR: Is the software free?
SCOTT: Yes, you can download a trial version at the TeCFlow website.
RENAUD: We plan to improve the relevance of the data returned. You'll be able to search for which blogs talk about your topics of interest, and blogs that are in between other blogs.
SCOTT: Since we have a few more minutes, I'd like Renaud to talk about the website Digg.
RENAUD: Let's go digging. This is the prototype of a new kind of site where people can spread the word about cool sites they find. You can see a list of popular sites on the left side. When a page has enough diggs it's promoted to the front page. We don't have CNN or Google telling us what's cool; it's actually the web and it's people telling you what's cool.
SCOTT: If you comment on a blog, you only reach the people who read that blog. But if you "digg" the blog -- that is, alert people on Digg to the blog by tagging it or "digging it," others might find it.
RENAUD: Digg being part of this Web 2.0 move is getting important with non-techie people.
MODERATOR: I thought the Galaxy site was cool, but how do you digg it?
RENAUD: Go to the top right to Submit a New Story link. The site is so popular that you have to register to create an account.
MODERATOR: It's a fairly simply process. I'm going to fill in the fields to see if I can digg. I've registered so now I could probably add a story -- which is how you "digg" a site -- by "adding a story."
RENAUD: I'm actually adding a story right now.
MODERATOR: I'm back at the home page where the number of diggs on the top story has doubled in the last 5 minutes, while email postings tripled.
RENAUD: I would like to show you how this page is going to be digged. Search for "online coolhunting." They have done an incredible job on bringing meaningful links to the front page and keeping the site clean and pertinent to relevant pages.
MODERATOR: These diggs represent selfless behavior to provide information. I'm going to sum up the coolhunt. Today we visited galaxyadvisors, IMDB, and Digg.
MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you very much, Renaud and Scott. Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're about commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt or any connection problems you experienced.
MODERATOR: Join us Monday for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper.
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