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Recent Readings

Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Runner
Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006





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Understanding Terror Networks
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sageman's book is a compendium of militant islamic terrorist network history. Though detailed and informative, there is much more minutia here than there is meat. Indeed, I found it almost impossible to do more than very lightly skim the first four chapters (on the origins and evolution of the Jihad, the Mujahedin and on joining the Jihad).

The fifth chapter on social networks was more interesting but even it was weighed down in detail and seemed sketchy in its grasp of Social Network Analysis (SNA). For example, Sageman cites Barabasi's book Linked for the claim that Small world networks are resistant to random assaults but vulnerable to targeted attacks at their hubs. This is true of Scale-free networks (which are Small world) but not necessarily true of other Small world networks such as those of Watts and Strogatz. On the other hand, his analysis of the utility and function of embeddedness, cliques and weak links (in Granovetter's sense) seems spot on.

In summary, Understanding Terror Networks may be an excellent work for those interested in the history and motivations of islamic (and analogous) terror groups. It is not, however, particularly useful from a SNA or computer science perspective.


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