management by matrices

a fresh perspective on management.

Social Graphs and Vanilla Networks

Jyri Engestrom has an extremely interesting post on where social networks are headed. In this post, he points out Brad Fitzpatrick's views on how the social graph (the map of how users are connected to each other) should be made universal.

Brad's solution is to create a service where people go to aggregate all their networks into a master network, and then let other services check against that to automate friend discovery. The outcome to the user who signs up to a new service should be "These 8 friends of yours are already users here, would you like to share your books / music / pictures / trips / etc. with them?"

I'm not so convinced due to the following reasons:

1. Firstly, 'friends' is a nebulous concept and it varies from network to network (my Linkedin friends may not be the same as my Orkut friends), thereby making the whole idea of having a universal social graph quite impractical.

2. Secondly, Brad assumes that all the competing services will actually cooperate with each other to share their respective social graphs. I doubt that will happen. If it did, then it would be equivalent to voluntarily reducing exit barriers for its users.

But it looks like the problem that Brad is addressing is one of singular identity (say a Google Account or a Hotmail Passport) that uniquely maps people across applications. That's a separate problem in itself. Anyway, here is what I think will be the future of social graphs and networks.

Where I see this heading
I forsee that in the future there will be two kinds of 'social network' services:
1. A plain vanilla social network with the usual friend of friend and profile features.
2. Satellite social applications like say a photo sharing service, a book sharing service etc.

My guess is that there would be about 3-4 major plain vanilla networks. The satellite services would then sit on top of these networks and share their social graphs. So say I signup on Facebook (the plain vanilla network), and then I feel like signing up at to share books with friends. I would just activate Shelfari inside Facebook. The Shelfari-Facebook tieup would not be exclusive. Shelfari could go and signup with all the other vanilla providers too. Facebook has already moved in this direction by allowing 'applications' by independent developers to hook into Facebook. The next level is for all these 'applications' to have their separate identity in the world outside Facebook, thereby allowing users of other vanilla networks to use them too. The following image should help clarify what I'm trying to say.

Thus, the vanilla networks would serve the purpose of being repositories of social graphs that independent developers of services can tap into.

An arrangement like this would be very useful for all web applications with a social dimension to them. The major vanilla networks house the social graphs, and the independent guys hook in as satellites and share revenues with the parent network.

Business Today's idiotic b-school rankings

Business Today's annual practical joke entitled 'India's best b-schools' is out. The preliminary evidence is as follows:

SIBM is India's number 4 business school

MBA wannabes prefer ICFAI to FMS Delhi

Welingkar Institute of Management is India's number 3 b-school under the parameter 'Functional Head'. Under the same head SIMSREE Mumbai and ABS Noida are amongst the country's top10

Recruiters voted Welingkar as India's number 5 b-school

'Young Executives' ranked SIMSREE and Welingkar at joint number 3. If this is any consolation, these two b-schools managed to beat IIMC.

Without going into the merits and demerits of the aforementioned schools (I'm sure they are reasonably good places), let us now examine the methodology adopted by Business Today and AC Neilson that enables reality to be twisted and turned in any manner deemed fit by the editors of the magazine. The BT ranking claims to be based on the winning brands model i.e. it asks 'consumers' about their preferences with regard to certain brands (in this case b-schools) on certain pre-defined attributes with pre-defined weightages. Hang on. Winning brands? Do prospective MBA students pick their b-schools based on brands as opposed to facts? If that were the case, these applicants would surely flunk the Marketing Research course when they join b-school.

Imagine you have applied for a job, and the interviewer calls up 30 of your friends to find out their 'perception' of your academic performance, intelligence etc instead of objectively measuring it by asking you what your marks were, and verifying supporting documents. Such an interview would be a waste of time to attend - after all the interviewer is not interested in that trivial thing called facts. He is more interested in the feelings that your friends have about you! Your friend Mr.A might 'perceive' you as being a poor student, but 'facts' may indicate that you actually scored 95% in your boards. This is precisely the model that BT has used to rank business schools. They asked random respondents about what they 'felt' about the b-schools in question, and completely disregarded facts - facts such as average salaries, faculty count, published papers produced by the b-schools, infrastructure, exchange programs, international placements etc. Facts that are easily measurable if you get out of your Mumbai office and conduct a survey by actually talking to b-schools as opposed to conducting an inane perception survey with whoever you found at the water cooler. George Bush would love to commission a survey by BT-AC Nielson on the Iraq war - because like him, the BT-AC Nielson guys too hate facts - the prefer feelings.

I could go on and on, but some reputed bloggers have already trashed this survey in some detail. Do check them out.

Rashmi Bansal: This year, last year

Prof. Madhukar Shukla on last year's rankings:

Outlook has chosen a fact based approach to rank b-schools. They seem to have done a good enough job for both Rediff and Mint to syndicate their content. Here is the link.