MS&E 135: Networks (Spring 2018)

Lecture hours: Tu/Th, 10:30am-11:50pm
Lecture hall: Hewlett 201

Instructor: Johan Ugander, Assistant Professor, MS&E
Email: jugander [at] stanford
Office location: Huang 357
Office hours: Th 3:00pm-4:20pm

TAs: Stephen Ragain (head), Silviana Ciurea, Olivier Pham, Benoit Zhou
Email: sragain, ismci, mdopham, benzhou [at] stanford

TA office hours:
Monday: 4-6pm (Ben), Rm 380-380F
Tuesday: 6-8pm (Stephen), Rm Hewlett 103
Wednesday: 11am-1pm (Silviana), Rm Gates B12; 3-5pm (Olivier), Rm Herrin T195

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 4/3 Course overview; Introduction to graph theory Ch. 1, 2.1-2.3 Visit Canvas, request blog account
4/5 Strong and weak ties Ch. 3.1-3.3 PS1 Out
2 4/10 Homophily, Affiliation; Friendship paradox Ch. 4.1-4.3, Friendship paradox
4/12 Structural Balance Ch. 5.1-5.4 PS1 Due, PS2 Out
3 4/17 Game Theory Ch. 6.1-6.9
4/19 Congestion, Auctions Ch. 8.1-8.2, 9.1-9.2
4 4/24 Matching Markets Ch 9.3-9.6, 10.1-10.4
4/26 Bargaining & Power Ch. 12.1-12.3, 12.5-12.8 PS2 Due, PS3 Out
5 5/1 The Web as a Network Ch 13.1-13.5
5/3 Link Analysis Ch. 14.1-14.3
6 5/8 Web Search Ch. 14.4-14.5
5/10 Sponsored Search as a Market Ch 15.1-15.5 PS3 Due, PS4 Out
7 5/15 Information Cascades Ch. 16.1-16.7
5/17 Network Effects, Cascading Behavior Ch. 17.1-17.3, 19.1-19.4
8 5/22 Rich-get-richer Ch 18.1-18.6
5/24 Small Worlds Ch. 20.1-20.6, FB calculator PS4 Due, PS5 Out
9 5/29 Guest Lecture: Sean Taylor, Facebook Core Data Science
5/31 Epidemics Ch 21.1-21.4, 21.6
10 6/5 Couse review
6/7 Review practice exam PS5 Due, 10:30am

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 two 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:

No student will be required to make their identity public as part of these assignments. During the first week each student will be randomly assigned to an ID number between 100 and 499. You will be emailed instructions for how to log in to your account. If you have any problems with your blog account, please email Stephen.

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 Stephen to obtain an account ID.

Scheduling: To space out the post traffic, students are assigned "deadline weeks" at random, based on the ID number they are assigned for the class. You are responsible for submitting a blog post before Friday 5pm of the weeks you are assigned. If your number is 127, your ID falls in the range 100-199 and your deadlines are April 13th 5pm and May 11th 5pm. You may of course submit your blog posts before the week they are due.

ID range Weeks Deadlines
100-199 2, 6 April 13, May 11
200-299 3, 7 April 20, May 18
300-399 4, 8 April 27, May 25
400-499 5, 9 May 4, June 1


Feel free to browse posts from previous years 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: