Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review of "The Power of Networks: Six Principles That Connect Our Lives," by Christopher G. Brinton and Mung Chiang

Review of
The Power of Networks: Six Principles That Connect Our Lives, by Christopher G. Brinton and Mung Chiang, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2017. 328 pp., $35.00 (hardbound). ISBN 9780691170718.

Five out of five stars

 The two primary uses of the term networking, based on the hardware being used, are covered in this book. When the hardware is human, then the term networking refers to the series of personal and professional relationships that people have. The other use of the networking term is when the hardware is electronic.
 As the authors demonstrate, there are many similarities between the two, they often explain a concept of computer networking by using examples of how human relationships function or fail. This brings what often appear to be complex problems down to a level where the non-technical person can understand. The best chapters are those describing the wisdom and stupidity of crowds. Politely stated in sections three and four as “Crowds Are Wise” and “Crowds are Not So Wise.” 
 Many of the fundamental tactics, such as how pages are ranked when searches are conducted, are explained by using a combination of equations and examples between people. The mathematics never rises to a high level of difficulty, if you have had high school algebra you have enough background to understand all but the most complex short sections. It is possible to skip over those sections and still understand the principles being described.
 The six broad principles of networking alluded to in the title are:

*) Sharing is hard
*) Ranking is hard
*) Crowds are wise
*) Crowds are not so wise
*) Divide and conquer
*) End to end.

Useful as a resource for learning the basics of networking and much of how social media works, this book could also be used as a supplemental text for courses in the subject. Instructors will find valuable analogies that they can use to explain the concepts in terms that all people can understand.

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