Friday, September 11, 2009

Social Networks -- as Predictors of Popularity

This appeals to my inner geek, the idea of using social networks as a way to predict the next big hit in pop music. 

This article (warning: math) asks whether it's better to rely in the intrinsic qualities of music or on social networking to predict that next song to run up the charts.  I won't get into the math but the methodology looks sound to me. The authors used as source material for user tags to create a "folksonomy of music."

The result?  Mining the music social networking data does a pretty damn good job of identifying popular songs.  Cool.

Why am I so fascinated? 

Think of the ways we might mine Twitter or Facebook or whatever tomorrow's social networking flavor of the year happens to be to predict the success of a policy, like health care, or even of a candidate's run for office.  If we take social networks to roughly sum up the group mind, then tapping into that should be an interesting snapshot -- not unlike that of a traditional public opinion poll.  I see this as another way of understanding what people think and know about the important, and not-so-important, issues of the day.

Yeah, the math and algorithms are not for the casual user.  Gotta work out the kinks, but I suspect someone will come up with off-the-shelf and on-the-net ways for paid users to do this kind of analysis.

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