MS&E 135: Networks (Spring 2016)

Lecture hours: Tu/Th, 10:30am-11:50pm
Lecture room: McMurtry Building, Rm 102

Instructor: Johan Ugander, Assistant Professor, MS&E
Email: jugander [at] stanford
Office location: Huang 357
Office hours: Tu 4-5pm, Th 3:15-4pm

TA: Stephen Ragain
Email: sragain [at] stanford
Office hours location: 60-118 (Building 60, Room 118)
Office hours: Weds 2-5pm

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to how networks underly our social, technological, and natural worlds, with an emphasis on developing intuitions for broadly applicable concepts in network analysis. The course will include: an introduction to graph theory and graph concepts; social networks; information networks; the aggregate behavior of markets and crowds; network dynamics; information diffusion; the implications of popular concepts such as "six degrees of separation", the "friendship paradox", and the "wisdom of crowds".

Most important links:


Week Date Topic Reading Assignments
1 3/29 Course overview; Introduction to graph theory Ch. 1, 2.1-2.3 Visit Canvas
3/31 Strong and weak ties Ch. 3.1-3.3 PS1 Out
2 4/5 Homophily, Affiliation; Friendship paradox Ch. 4.1-4.3, Friendship paradox
4/7 Structural Balance Ch. 5.1-5.4 PS1 Due, PS2 Out
3 4/12 Game Theory Ch. 6.1-6.9
4/14 Congestion, Auctions Ch. 8.1-8.2, 9.1-9.2
4 4/19 Matching Markets Ch 9.3-9.6, 10.1-10.4
4/21 Bargaining & Power Ch. 12.1-12.3, 12.5-12.8 PS2 Due, PS3 Out
5 4/26 The Web as a Network Ch 13.1-13.5
4/28 Link Analysis Ch. 14.1-14.3
6 5/3 Web Search Ch. 14.4-14.5
5/5 Sponsored Search as a Market Ch 15.1-15.5 PS3 Due, PS4 Out
7 5/10 Guest Lecture: Sean Taylor, Facebook Data Science
5/12 Information Cascades Ch. 16.1-16.7
8 5/17 Network Effects, Cascading Behavior Ch. 17.1-17.3, 19.1-19.4
5/19 Rich-get-richer Ch 18.1-18.6 PS4 Due, PS5 Out
9 5/24 Small Worlds Ch. 20.1-20.6, FB calculator
5/26 Epidemics Ch 21.1-21.4, 21.6
10 5/31 Review (Last Lecture)
6/2 (No Lecture) PS5 Due, 10:30am
(Note: TA OH on Monday 6/1, 2-5pm)

Problem Sets

Problem sets are posted on Canvas, solutions will be posted to Canvas soon after the submission deadline. See the syllabus details (below) for detailed information about grading, late, and collaboration policy.

Writing blog posts

All students will be required to write three short blog posts during the quarter, posted to a course blog and taking the form of a miniature reaction paper.


Each post should be centered around an recent news article, academic paper, online essay, new company or organization, and contain at least one web link on that subject. The goal is to provide commentary that gives context around the subject, targeted at your peers in the course (or similarly informed outsiders). Why do you think it interesting or relevant? The post should be at least two paragraphs.

One of the purposes of these writing assignments is to practice communicating your thoughts in a public forum (albeit anonymously, see the privacy discussion below). Your audience is each other, not just the course staff. Engage each other! Posts that dialogue with earlier posts from the course are encouraged, though should add significantly to the previous points made (in part by referencing a new news article/paper/essay).

You should keep in mind, as you write your posts, that if you refer to a company, organization, or research project in the outside world, the people you’re talking about may well end up reading what you write. Finally, adding inappropriate, rude, or disruptive content to the blog will result in a 0 for this part of the course grade, and (depending on the nature of the content) potentially stronger actions. Plagiarism is also not acceptable; the Honor Code applies.


Posts will be graded based on their relevance to the class, novelty, and quality of the insights and writing. Outstanding posts will be mentioned and discussed in lectures. You are encouraged but not required to read the posts by your classmates.

Account creation and privacy:

During Week 1, your Stanford email address will be invited to be an "author" on the course blog. When you accept this invitation you will be asked to create a Wordpress account. The blog is configured in such a way that each student can choose an arbitrary "Public Display Name" that can be unrelated to their real name or Stanford ID; this display name will be the only public identifier that will appear associated with a given post (but the TA and instructor will know your identity, being blog administrators). No student will be required to make their true identity public as part of this assignment.

The course staff will keep a private record of the user names and the corresponding real names for purposes of grading. Nothing prevents you from including your real names in the text of a post, if you choose to do so, but please do not mention other students by name as a blanket policy. You are free to mention the instructor or TAs (e.g.: "Professor Ugander mentioned on Thursday that...").

If you join the class late, please email the TA to obtain an account.

Scheduling: To space out the post traffic, students are assigned "deadline weeks" based on the first letter of their last name. You are responsible for submitting a blog post before Friday 5pm of the weeks you are assigned. If your name is Ada Lovelace, you would be required to submit your first blog post by April 15th, your second blog post by May 6th, and your third by May 27th. You may submit your blog posts before the week they are due if you so desire.

First letter of last name Weeks Deadlines
A-J 2, 5, 8 April 8, April 29, May 20
K-R 3, 6, 9 April 15, May 6, May 27
S-Z 4, 7, 10 April 21, May 12, June 3


This course blog (and the course as a whole) is inspired by similar courses run at Cornell and elsewhere. Feel free to browse the Fall 2015 Cornell course blog for inspiration, though the central stories for your commentaries should not come from this blog or any other similar course blog.

Syllabus Details

Learning goals



Problem Set Rules Final exam Evaluation Students with Documented Disabilities
Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. For more information: