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June 23, 2005

Carissa's Column

This column is devoted to resources – as broadly defined as possible – that are somewhat (or maybe entirely) off the beaten path of traditional business resources. Some might be familiar to you, but you were unaware of the depth of business information available through them. Some you might have heard of, but never considered as business resources. Some might be so atypical that you’ll wonder at first why they’re included here. But hopefully all of them will give you (1) new perspectives on the types of resources available to help you in your business research, (2) new approaches to compiling your data, and (3) new ideas on how to convey the information to your audience.

So, off the beaten path we go…

At the Special Libraries Association Annual Conference earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a session on Social Network Analysis (SNA). Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., which presented the session, maintains an area on its website devoted to SNA. Here you can find a basic discussion on what SNA is, as well as many links to related resources. Among these related resources, you’ll find They Rule http://www.theyrule.net.

They Rule is admittedly not the most easily navigated site – it takes 5 clicks to get to the options page – but it is well worth a look. Here you can see the webs (literally) that connect members of company and institution boards. For a single company, you can build webs by clicking on directors’ names to show what other companies’ boards they sit on; you also have the option to “Search” on a board member’s name in 11 sources, or on a company’s name in 16 sources, including Google. When the screen becomes too crowded, click and drag to move the icons for a better view. When you’re ready for something new, click “Clear Map,” and start over again. “Find Connection” will draw a straight path showing how the boards of Company A and Company B overlap; this is the “six degrees of separation” concept. Under the “Load Map” option, you can find ready-made views of different topics of interest; check out “The Magnificent Seven” under the Popular views.

One note about authority and accuracy: the site is credited to Josh On, affiliation unknown. He includes a disclaimer to “…please just see They Rule as a launch pad for investigations and not the definitive representation of reality.”

“They Rule” is a great example of SNA applied to business information. And while the information itself may not be current, the visualization of that information generates interest and prompts questions that encourage further exploration.


Posted by neugebau at June 23, 2005 4:53 PM Posted to Carissa's Column