Category Archives: Networks

Living Web Social Innovation

Yesterday, I listened to most of Nick Yeo’s conversation over at the social innovation center’s conversations network.  He is the communications director for Taking ITGlobal, a youth- and development-oriented social networking pllatform.

One thing that stood out (and that I think Vishant might like) is that he discussed how they discovered that their users in places like Africa were often huddled five or six aroudn a computer using the site, and they thought of ways to cross leverage that liittle face2face net with the networking of their platform.

Their official elevator pitch:

TakingITGlobal.org is an online community that connects youth to find inspiration, access information, get involved, and take action in their local and global communities. It’s the world’s most popular online community for young people interested in making a difference, with hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month.

The other link is to google.org.   Read this in Fast Company’s Fast list for 2008.  They seem to combine corporate philanthropy, R&D, and wiki-type decision making (letting lots of people propose and rank ideas for grants and investing).  Also interesting to see that Hal Varian, whose book Network Rules was one of the better strategy books i read at IESE, is their chief economist.

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Filed under activism, digital culture, Network Society, Networks, participatory technology, Politics, Power, Activism, social bookmarking

Computer thoughts

So, I get to request a new machine this summer.  This is the first time I am at the front of the line (due to my employment status).  As I have become more of a power user due to necessity of work, I am much more sensitive to the kind of machine I use.

BU will probably get a Latitude D83o 0r D630 according to my inside source.  Looking over the sites, I noticed that there seem to be some concerns about the screen width on the 630.  The 830 may not have an optical drive?

But there are other concerns.

– Is a tablet a good technology for me?  I need to really use it before I can decide and that may be tricky.  (Also, does BU min specs include smae level of graphics for a tablet?)

– Is a mac and then use parallel software (or whatever that is called) to run network analysis software.  I think network stuff is the only PC specific software I need.  Do any network researchers use macs?  Can I ask socnet?

– Do I need extra video graphics for Second Life or future video editing (for students, for qualitative data).  I think I will move more into students doing video or multimedia work.

– Do I need a second Monitor for my office to show things to students and/or for more screen real estate for writing or for larger network mapping.

– What is the best desk configuration for me?  Does that include a docking station? Since I actually don’t type properly, I prefer to have screen and hands nearby so I can glance back and forth easier.  Also, For a tall guy, I find I like to sit high up and right on top of my machine.  Probably terrible, ergonometry.  (word?)

– It looks like I can request software above and beyond standard package.  Oh really…  Should I ask for different network software so I can see what is best for me and for students?   That might include NetMiner, UCINET/Pajek, and InFlowWhat else is out there? Like this high end software: http://www.tomsawyer.com/home/index.php

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Filed under Computer add ins, Networks, Research, Social Networks

Search for Social Physics (keynote from INSNA)

Keynote Address
By soft science we mean, science conducted on phenomena that don’t tend to come with numbers already attached. And by hard science we mean science that has been around long enough to have acquired the ability to have numbers already attached.

That  is a pretty clear definition of hard and soft science.    This is from INSNA’s keynote address about ten years back.  One of the two speakers, Peter Killworth, just passed away which I learned from the INSNA list-serv, SOCNET.

The address looks like its worth reading.  Of course one is immediately struck by the very INSNA-y approach of having a physical scientist and an anthropologist.  That kind of deeply interdisciplinary work seems to be often the hallmark and honey (attractiveness) of research that attracts netheads. (Did I just coin that?  An off shoot of orgheads?)

The idea of social physics has come up before.  Harrison White and Duncan Watts more recently, at least in terms of their career trajectories.  Also, I recall one fo those grand daddy type sof social science (Comte? Sant-Simone?) said something to that effect.  Maybe I can check later…

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Filed under Networks, Research, Scholars, social theory

Social Networking and Business

Peter Durand asked this question over at linkedin.

I thought to myself, “I should be able to say something about this.” Here is my first crack. I think its ok. Its helpful to have someone with a practical question ask it to get me to focus.

My initial response raises more questions (which I’ll return to at the end.)

What is the most effective way for a professional service firm to use social networking apps? (After all quantity of connections does not equal quality.)

(1) What are the business goals behind the use of social networking Web 2.0 apps such as LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook?
(2) As volume of connections increase, how can integrity and authenticity be maintained?
(3) And, most tricky, how can the business value of social networking apps be described to senior leaders who tend to operate on the other side of the technology gap?

Great questions. I need to have good answers for myself. Some quick hits.

1) The goal for any particular business must be part of an overall approach to customers and relationship management. However, if a given business seeks or has one way, firm to customer communication, they will find lots of conflicts because most SNS have reciprocity built into them.
2) Facebook is an interesting case. Due to its initial growth exclusively through college domain name emails (bubba@college.edu) college students flocked to it creating a “network effect.” A network effect is when a product becomes more valuable as the network of users increases. The value of a carrot to me is not affected by the number of carrot owners. The value of fax machine goes up as more people have them. But, now that Facebook has thrown itself open, will the attractiveness of network effects offset the negatives of the lower baseline trustworthiness of the average user. The second half of that sentence is the predator fear. On MySpace, due to its low threshold for authenticating users, I don’t know who is a predator so newbies are vulnerable and power users are wary.

3) Short answer: how do they feel about this: Cluetrain.com elevator pitch. If they feel threatened, don’t bother. If they feel invigorated, than explain that SNS are a way to have more conversations between you and any one of your customers/stakeholders.

If that seems like too much of a cop out, especially for decision makers who feel threatened by conversations but can be convinced otherwise, I might try this.

Markets are about conversations. Even when you don’t see or monitor those conversations, it is the most natural form of communicating. In a brand-intense, information saturated economy, conversations are even more important, and the new scarcity, the new value driver is “real” conversations. For more and more people, they are choosing to substitute many-to-many forms of communication for the older one-to-many. That is the difference between a radio ad and a blog, between mass media and wiki media. We are not “adding” SNS to our lives, we are building our lives around them, and adding TV, print, radio as we need or want to.

Peter’s Blog response.

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Filed under Business, Networks, participatory technology, Social Network Sites

The Perils of Self Management (or, My Self Subsidized Sabatical [SSS])

I am almost a week into my SSS. My tenure track appointment starts in the fall, I have no teaching obligations, and no one is paying me for my time now. This is the ultimate mental retreat. Its a true sabbatical as most days kids are in school from 9-3 or 4:30.

I feel like a man walking out of a long tunnel into a bright beach. The sun is blinding, I hear waves crashing, sea gulls are crying in the distance. The ocean beckons, the sound of the waves on the pebbles like the sound of active melting, geologic time speed up to the audio range or mere mortals, dynamism made concrete. I sense all kinds of motion and activity in many dimensions, and, as my eyes,ears,and sense of smell adjust and parse the sensory overload, the next thought is uncovered.

What now?

This is the peril of self-management. Its endemic to being an academic. And I think my track record to date has been awful. How to take an ocean of noise and possibility and chart a course to somewhere. How to pierce its crystal surface and find a meal, something digestible.

I must become myself. I read in the Economist (don’t think I can link) about a Chinese scientist who was exploring the biochemsity of addiction. One line stood out- about how learning is fundamentally about growing neurons. So, to learn how to be a better writer it is not enough to think it or will it. One has to do it and in the doing there is mind over (self) matter.

Oh, It is linkable. Here is the line:

Several of them take part in strengthening the connections between nerve cells, which is the underlying basis of learning. Unlearning something by breaking these connections is hard.

“Them” are genes that directly relate to biochemical pathways. Like, instead of the genome, the scientist is identifying the biobehavioral-ome (all the genes that code all the proteins that code all the biochemical processes that code the behavior).

SO, I have a gift of time. It s like an asset I need to make the most out of. Not like, it is. And, like my seagulls cawing for mollusks, my interests are circling the pearl of this time, eyeing how to swoop in and get a piece. Here is an off the top of my head list of what I want to do. Continue reading

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Filed under life, Networks, PhD, Research, writing