This course covers the new and emerging world of information acquisition and dissemination in social networks. First, we study properties of small worlds networks important for social networks. We look at the new developments in internet economics and mechanism design to study how incentives act as catalysts in a social network. We study attempts to model problems such as computing trust, influence and relevance of search in social knowledge networks.  Next we study social networks that don’t use the internet at all! Plant networks, bees and bacteria.

The approach of study in this course will be hands-on and experimental. Students will get an opportunity to explore new social networking platforms and api’s to develop interesting applications. Assignments will include review of assigned papers and blog based discussions on topics covered in class. Students will be expected to develop new ideas, be interested in programming and be proficient in assimilating ideas presented in research papers in a variety of areas.


The course is structured to attract any UW student who is interested in learning about social networks. Students with an undergraduate course in data structures and statistics/discrete mathematics will find this course enjoyable and interesting. Experience with java/php and MySQL query processing is desired but not a requirement if you wish to do a non-programming project.

Workload and Style:

The course will involve discussions, research readings and one entire term-long group project.

Each week the discussion will be led by the instructor, a guest lecturer or a student from the class. The discussions will be threaded around the topics outlined in the course. The hope is that this discussion will be informal and fun, supported by in-class exercises that enhance the quality of learning. Hence, many times, the class will involve in-class activities that will require participation from all students.


Project: (a) Working code that can be shared with the community - 30%, (b) Paper/Report outlining problem and results-30%.

Reading Assignments (20%).

Participation (20%).

Reading Assignments:

Typically one article/manuscript will be provided for our reading review. The requirement is that you MUST read and assimilate the information in the article prior to the discussion in class. In addition your reviews on the reading must be posted at-least 24 hrs prior to the class meetings.

Reviews for reading assignments should be submitted to the instructor. You may blog your reviews and publish a rss feed. You may post and then review and comment on other reviews and posts to enhance the quality of discussion. Remember that even though the author made the most sincere attempt at developing the idea/theory such that it is flawless, it can have flaws. Our aim is to look beyond these flaws and not merely critique the effort but to gain an understanding of the subject area and the author(s) contribution to advancing the state-of-the-art. Your reviews should ideally offer constructive comments about the work and scope for its improvement.


Individual project.

Scope: The area of social networks is broadly construed to include a variety of topics outlined in the list of topics. The focus is to develop an idea that explores one of these topics and advances the current understanding of the problem domain as reflected by these topics.

Instructor will be available for consultation on the project scope and ideas prior to the start of the quarter and during the first week of classes. It is important to note that your project can focus on any one or more social network platforms or focus on offline social networks but you must prepare a plan for the project and get it approved by the instructor.

Timeline: In a quarter system it is important to get a head start on identifying the project. The first 3 sessions will be geared to help identify a project topic and get approval on the idea.  During the fourth session you will present the idea to the class and fine-tune the deliverables based on class discussion.

The final deliverable will include a not to exceed 10 pages paper reflecting your contribution to the area of social networks in ACM Proceedings Format. Concise, filtered presentation of ideas and theories carry more importance than loose statements that enhance the length of the paper. Kindly keep that in mind while writing.

Social Networks


  1. 1.What defines a social network?

  2. 2.Mechanism Design, Internet Economics and Incentives

  3. 3.Social Trust

  4. 4.Social Influence

  5. 5.Social Search: A knowledge network perspective

  6. 6.Social Networking Platforms: Facebook, Myspace, Open Social and others.

  7. 7.Social networks outside the Internet

  8. 8.Social Recommender Systems (Blogs, Trust Enhanced)