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California Prop 30 puts new social influence website to the test

A new website launched by UC Berkeley to measure social networking influence's role in spreading knowledge will use California Proposition 30 as its first test case.

Visitors to the website will be challenged to become one of the top 50 influencers regarding Prop 30 (a proposed tax hike that could prevent big cuts in education budgets) by sending friends and family a link to a Web page about the issue via email, Twitter, Facebook or other means.

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A variant of the Kleinberg and Raghavan algorithm will be used to compute a person's influence, awarding 1 point for each person recruited, half a point for each person they recruit and so on. UC Berkeley says a twist here is that this may be the first time the algorithm has been used in a situation involving intangible rewards rather than financial ones.

Users will have access to a visualization of their influence shown in a graph like the one shown here that anonymizes their social connections. 

While the initial test of this system will be with Prop 30, it could be used down the road to measure influence on other issues.

Professor Ken Goldberg, faculty director for the UC CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative, says in a statement: "Although the outcome of this vote has an enormous potential impact on students, alumni, teachers, parents, and employers, many are not aware of Proposition 30. The California Proposition 30 Awareness Project aims to change that."

The website features a link to the California voters' guide, arguments on both sides of the issue, and more.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +. 

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