I am reading this post on "leaderless revolutions" on http://technosociology.org. The post discusses preferential attachment and its relations to the growth of importance of a node on network. And the ability for certain nodes to become extremely important and for hierarchy to grow spontaneously.
I have discussed a similar issue I have termed "self-association." The two ideas are similar but are not the same. Preferential attachment is most interested in the quantitative value (the "how many") of a node. While self-association concerns itself with the motivations behind an individuals choice to join the said node.
The two terms are complementary as the concept of preferential attachment exists in a scale free environment, and self-association provides that missing measure of scale, through the only means available, the lens of the individuals members of the node in question (the "why").
I think that any full understanding of the role that social networks played in Tunisia, Egypt and the Middle East will only come by combining these two measures. Combining this data also might help us sort out and elucidate the values that geography, culture, and other local concerns may play inside a scale free network. After all the ability or "rating" of leaders is often a consensus based approach (rate my teacher et al.) whether in public or private. And as such we can expect that national and local leaders will in fact maintain a level of importance.
Some people are only able to contribute some small way to the overall cause. The "scale" in "scale free" networks is expressed through the individual and those choices. His or her level of contribution is then aggregated inside the network.
I am arguing that "scale free" networks are in fact scalable, but only outside of the said network. The traditional mechanisms for understanding aggregated scale does not work with such networks like the Web. Instead we have to find the "scale" that is hidden behind the design of the network. In other words we need to find the overarching and motivating factor behind the popularity of the node in question. Some nodes might scale cross cultures (lol cats) and others might be strictly regional affairs (Tunisia, Egypt). Whatever the case may be we cannot understand scale free networks without understanding the motivating factors and hidden scales behind those nodes growth.