Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another Crazy Analogy!

Long back, since my high school days, I always used to love fundamental science, and Physics in particular. Though I no longer do the basic sciences, working in an area like (online) social networks which is of widespread interest to people spanning over multiple disciplines, as economists, sociologists, physicists and of course computer scientists, I can see a lot many correlations with fundamental sciences, especially when I am thinking at a high level!

Have you ever heard of the popular one-liner taught at high school on Mechanics - it is easier to pull a cart than to push it? I found a very interesting correlation of this idea with the on-going research by Duncan Watts on refuting the Influentials' Hypothesis - that the idea that a few handful people trigger big sociological phenomenon is actually a myth.

Imagine a company interested in marketing their business idea / product over a community interested in technology-savvy products. Whom should they spend money on? The influentials (if they exist) who would "push" their idea / product; or a set of susceptibles (people prone to accepting new ideas) who would "pull" novel ideas / products from external sources?

The analogy looks very obvious with the Mechanics example of distribution of force while pulling / pushing a cart. A pull takes less effort (less expenses in the company context) to market a business idea :)

A very crazy correlation, but could not help thinking on the line of distribution of force in the context of high school Mechanics!

PS: More "pull" based models based on recent discussion with AK (Teddy): any web-based search (or any search thereof) is a "pull" model because the results are supplied based on queries from the user who is trying to pull in relevant information. A very challenging "push" model to cater to useful information to a user could be for example, automatically filtering RSS feeds (e.g. Google Reader) of users to "push" them only "interesting" information. A recent work from me on these similar lines of motivation has been done here. It has been accepted to be published in WWW 2009 to be held in Madrid, Spain in April.


scritic said...

Interesting analogy but I always thought that it was harder to pull something than to push it!

Munmun said...

@ Shreeharsh, no it's surprising but a Physics fact (based on decomposition of force vector along X and Y axes) that pulling is easier! :)