Before I started reading Albert Laszlo-Barabasi’s book on networks, I read some reviews that commented both on its usefulness and its repetition of the same key ideas. Reviews like this one also mention, albeit more emphatically than I would, the excessive anecdotes prefacing every major point his book makes.
While this review and my reading only cover the first half of the text, I see the validity in that criticism. However, the more I read, the more I appreciated the examples and, for lack of a better word, parables, that Barabasi used to illustrate his points. I do think that more examples and less introductions could have made the text more useful, but I also think the magnitude of the ideas explained in this book carry enough merit to justify a full length book, so I guess I also see why it was given the length that it was. To summarize the important ideas I took away from the book: the 80/20 rule, connectors, power law, the six degrees of separation, strong and weak ties, the scale free model, and the idea of ever increasing networks also increasing the magnitude of a problem on that network, are all concepts that are invaluable to how we understand information and how it spreads on a network.
At times, though, these lessons are lost in turns of phrase and convoluted, long illustrations, when their value for growing a network can independently carry the whole of the text. While I really valued the information I found in the chapters, I just felt that some space could have been left to illustrate different ways to use the information given, rather than repreatedly explaining why that information was so valuable.
In that sense, I think the book was pitched and executed more as a book on theory, when it seems it would have functioned better if it had initially been treated as a practical, hands on guide to networks and growing them, since so much of its lessons carry that benefit anyway.
Overall, this is the kind of text you appreciate finding because you know its information is fundamentally important to understanding different aspects of many other trades. The great thing about learning about networks as a human being, is that you can use them, build them, and benefit from them in basically any aspect of your life. Your social and professional circles, and your audience as a content creator (more people fall under this title than you think) all can grow under a real implementation of these ideas. I’m purposely not going to explain them too much, because the book is worth reading for yourself, but I’ll briefly talk about the ideas that stuck out to me.
The 80/20 rule : 80 percent being reaped by or made from 20 percent of those making. Barabasi explains how many different models this ratio applies to, but also makes sure to highlight that the systems that this applies to actually stand out as an exception, not as the rule. So while this ratio is good to keep in mind when it comes to certain examples like productivity and wealth distribution, it doesn’t always apply to every scenario you look at.
I also appreciated the example given in chapter 9, about an ever increasing reach in a network also being a liability, illustrated by the 1996 west coast power failures. I think it’s really important to remember that while our interconnectivity is so important, and I think fundamental to what makes us human, that it also leaves us more prone to misinformation, since the bad, or false or malicious, can travel just as effectively and legitimately as the good, or credible or true. I think that would be most easily illustrated by looking at the recent revelations made by social giants like Tumblr and Facebook, in their own roles in the 2016 election interference.
I found this read endlessly useful. I look forward to the second half, and knowing to expect lengthy examples and anecdotes makes it easier to filter down to the useful advice, which there is plenty of.