22 January 2014

Don't Touch Me, I'm a Real Live Wire

Every now and again, research of nature's laws can be applied to human behavior and actually make sense. Eye of the beholder and all that, is assumed.

There was reporting a while back that Facebook had lost some teenage users. Now comes a study of Facebook as organism. A human virus, specifically. I can hear sphincters snapping shut all over Wall Street. Such analysis can also apply to, say for instance, iPhone infatuation. Or, for that matter, any activity which is discretionary and/or mob-like.
The SIR [Susceptible, Infectious, Recovered] model can be applied to OSNs [online social network] by drawing the correct OSN analogues to the SIR model parameters. When applying the SIR model to OSNs, the susceptible population compartment is equivalent to all users that could potentially join the OSN. The infected population compartment is analogous to OSN users: potential OSN users are susceptible to joining the OSN through "infection" by contact with a current OSN users. Finally, the recovered population compartment is analogous to the population of people who are opposed to joining the OSN. In the case of an OSN, this could be comprised of people who have left the OSN with no intention of returning or people who resist joining the OSN in the first place.

Have a look at Figure 2 (it doesn't want to copy, so I'll vent my frustration elsewhere). There's a fairly well known analysis of cholera in London which serves as paradigm for disease analysis. Not exactly the same as Facebook, although one might opine that having cholera is better than having a Facebook account.

Note that the authors are neither biostats nor epidemiologists, but real engineers. (Gad it felt so good to type 'real engineers'!!)

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