People as Nodes
Wired has an interesting article taking the idea of Gladwell’s Connectors further by actually identifying people as nodes in specific categories. From the introduction:
In 1974, a Harvard sociologist made a seemingly unremarkable discovery. It is, in fact, who you know. His study asked several hundred white-collar workers how they’d landed their jobs. More than half credited a “personal connection.” Duh. But then it got interesting: The researcher, Mark Granovetter, dug deeper and discovered that four-fifths of these backdoor hires barely knew their benefactors. As it turns out, close friends are great for road trips, intimate dinners, and the occasional interest-free loan, but they suck for job leads and blind dates – they know the same people you do. In other words, it’s not so much who you know, but who you vaguely know. Granovetter called the phenomenon “the strength of weak ties.” He had discovered the human node.
In a computer network, a node performs the crucial task of data routing, playing digital matchmaker to packets of information. In a social network, a node is the person whose PDA runneth over with people they met once on an airplane. Nodes host countless dinner parties, leave movie theaters to answer cell phones, and actually enjoy attending conferences. It seems like they know everybody, because they very nearly do – and most important, their connections are from all walks of life, creating a panoply of weak ties. Mensches with an intellectual bent, nodes perform invaluable feats of synthesis, bringing together thinkers, scholars, captains of industry, and the odd professional rugby player, all for the sake of adding new spices to their melting pots. Great books, products, partnerships, and technological innovations form in their chaotic wake, and one could make an argument that they run the world, if only by accident. But chief among the node’s attributes is a tendency to stay behind the scenes.