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October 27, 2006


Mitch Ratcliffe

I'd argue that authority is much more definitionally confused than influence, because it has become synonymous with popularity and is generally undifferentiated by topic. Mary Hodder's presetation at the summit was very succinct about the problems with authority. Credibility is a subjective issue, as you can have credible experts on both sides of an argument, a legal case, and so forth.

Influence, as I've defined it over at ZD Net, is the topic specific ability to shape a networked conversation that can be measured using the link, traffic and relationship stats. It can be graphically represented in convenient and easily understood form to speed the customer's work in social markets.

We're only at the beginning of influence. By the way, I highly recommend Alan Kelly's new book, The Elements of Influence, as a primer on the application of influence.

Bruno Ribeiro

In one of my final faculty papers, on social influence, I adressed that same question with only one exception: I labelled 'Network measurements' as 'Social Validation', manly because that's the social psychological term for the construct. I'm actually trying to 'translate' the paper into some blog posts.

I totally agree with you that you have to decompose 'influence' to actually understand it, and then measure it.

Mitch Ratcliffe

Yes, deconstruct and reconstruct it into a metric that is useful for folks who, unlike us, don't want to think about the constituent parts while having confidence that they are well measured.

Bruno Ribeiro

The problem here is how do you measure authority (I prefer using Expertise, 'cause authority conveys to some people an hierarchical relation) and credibility?

As it is done today we infer it from the measurements, but it's like the question about the chicken and the egg: wich came first? Does a blogger have authority and credibility because social validation; or does social validation groes as a result of he's authority and credibility?

Then there's the point Mitch made in BuzzBlog: Who's influential about what? And how can we measure the level of influence someone has on a particular subject? By measuring the number of links from that particular subject community?

Flemming Madsen

What always surprises me about these discussions on influence is that nobody seems to ask the question that used be any researchers first: "What does good, peer-reviewed, credible research tell us about this area? What do we already know that we can build on?"

Measurement of influence, prestige, centrality, power and popularity are well researched areas. For the last 30 years or so it has been common to measure the influence of things from academic journals, researchers and universities. There are 10s of thousands of credible academic articles, thousands of books, thousands of conference proceedings about this topic. Add to that at least one Nobel Prize.

I'm not saying that a well researched area can't be improved. Of course it can. But any who presents a conjecture, for example on how to measure influence, owe it to the discussion at the outset explain why his conjecture is a superior explanation compared to those that are generally accepted.

What happened to standing on the shoulders of giants?

Matthew Hurst


I appreciate your point. Could you start the ball rolling by summarizing the core references?

Actually, the reason you are seeing this discussion here is because the space is struggling with definitional issues precisely due to the fact that what is happening in the faster-than-light development of social media is something new. We should be reflecting on models of influence for *different* spaces as well, but they are for different spaces, not this one.

The point of my post was that because any thing we labeled 'influence' has to be a construct of many other factors weighted in a certain way, it is better to actually pull out those factors and describe them rather than steam on discussing 'influence.'

Matthew Hurst


I like your point regarding authority versus expertise and agree with it.

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