Creating and influencing social networks

My favourite magazine, New Scientist has two interesting social networking related stories this week.
The first, “Intelligent tags are breaking the ice” describes the nTag (a “a complete event communications system for forward-thinking business and social gatherings” according to the marketing blurb”). It’s basically a simple PDA type device that stores your personal data, including interests, and can communicate with other similar devices locally to help introduce people at conferences, etc.
I’m exploring the use of FOAF data to support community building amongst conference delegates at the moment, so it’s interesting to see what else is in this space. Personally though I think I’d prefer to have a Bluetooth-enabled PDA running something like FOAF Finger. I can manage my own data thanks very much. IBM’s Socializer is another software app that has similar goals.
The other New Scientist piece is a short news story, unfortunately only available in the print edition, that describes some work by David Kempe exploring the spread of influence through a social network (PDF).
That study used a network constructed from co-citation data amongst physicists to explore how ideas spread through a network. The conclusions (and no, I’ve not read the very technical paper in depth) appear to be that it’s not who you know, it’s who you know knows. i.e. it’s not the most connected individuals who have the most influence, they’re merely gateways to the rest of the network; you just need to be associated with someone well connected for your ideas/influence to spread.
Not an astounding conclusion perhaps, but something to ponder on over a morning coffee