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The power of indirect social ties

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While direct social ties have been intensely studied in the context of computer-mediated social networks, indirect ties (e.g., friends of friends) have seen little attention. Yet in real life, we often rely on friends of our friends for recommendations (of good doctors, good schools, or good babysitters), for introduction to a new job opportunity, and for many other occasional needs. In this work we attempt to 1) quantify the strength of indirect social ties, 2) validate it, and 3) empirically demonstrate its usefulness for distributed applications on two examples. We quantify social strength of indirect ties using a(ny) measure of the strength of the direct ties that connect two people and the intuition provided by the sociology literature. We validate the proposed metric experimentally by comparing correlations with other direct social tie evaluators. We show via data-driven experiments that the proposed metric for social strength can be used successfully for social applications. Specifically, we show that it alleviates known problems in friend-to-friend storage systems by addressing two previously documented shortcomings: reduced set of storage candidates and data availability correlations. We also show that it can be used for predicting the effects of a social diffusion with an accuracy of up to 93.5%.


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