Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Digital Bear Consulting has a very useful set of links to software tools in aid of social network analysis. It's an area I discovered by accident, having "rolled my own" link analysis software as a private utility. My motivation was to keep track of the burgeoning network of events, persons and other entities related to the Global War on Terror. The products listed out at Digital Bear are far removed from my own amateurish attempts. For one thing, they are founded on sound mathematical theory. I haven't had the time to look at each closely, but they range from Analyst's Notebook, a professional law enforcement and military package whose claim to fame was helping track down Saddam Hussein at the high end to Agna and NetVis Module, which are freeware. There are also libraries and toolkits which can be adapted to custom purposes. Other resources include INSNA and its directory of relevant software tools. Vladis Krebs describes the motivation behind social network analysis.

Social network analysis [SNA] is the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations, computers or other information/knowledge processing entities. The nodes in the network are the people and groups while the links show relationships or flows between the nodes. .. A method to understand networks and their participants is to evaluate the location of actors in the network. Measuring the network location is finding the centrality of a node. These measures help determine the importance, or prominence, of a node in the network.

While it sounds like something that would be extraordinarily useful in the war on terror, I suspect the actual utility of many models and the tools based on them will be quite limited by the quality of the data and its volatility. All the same, there was never a tool without a use and while I don't expect that these tools are used in the field to target Zarqawi's minions scuttling around in Iraq, the concepts of "social networks" are probably never far from mind.

The spiritual leader of a militant group that claimed to have beheaded two American hostages in Iraq has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, and his Jordanian family is preparing a wake, a newspaper and Islamic clerics said Wednesday. Sheik Abu Anas al-Shami, 35, was killed when a missile hit the car he was traveling in on Friday in the west Baghdad suburb of Abu-Ghraib, said the clerics, who have close ties to the family. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

Al-Shami was a close aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the militant group Tawhid and Jihad. The al-Qaida-linked group is blamed for some of the biggest attacks in Iraq, including the bombing of the U.N. headquarters last year, and the beheadings of foreign hostages -- including two Americans this week.