Community and social computing
I'm reading Mark Buchanan's excellent book on Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks, and came across the concepts of egalitarian and autocratic patterns in social networks. Before you jump to conclusions, let me say a few things about this book. To me it seems to focus on the mathematical origins of the theory of social networks, but takes a pleasant approach going through the history and background of how these ideas emerged. It also spans a wide range of disciplines in terms of where these patterns appear, from biology to watershed and geological studies.
First, it talks about Watts and Strogatz's truly innovative look that has eventually spread across the world as the meme: six degrees of separation. There's a lot more to it than the Kevin Bacon game, but I'd like to point out the particular elements here on egalitarian and autocratic networks. This is actually has little to do with policital systems like socialism versus monarchic or oligarchic communities. Instead if you look at it as a mathematical problem, what it describes is that there are often two varieties of patterns of connections in a system that emerge often.
The first is a basic heuristic that can be commonly seen in some biological systems like the brain: as a node (in a network system), you try to establish a fixed amount or ratio of connections to other nodes. The connections are not a random pattern, but neither is it based on a high degree of "purpose" or "intention". This proposes a very egalitarian and essentially a very simple rule to help build more complex systems as the overall network grows and evolves.
The other is the autocratic pattern, where the heuristic is to start with one node and grow from there. Essentially the key node itself starts growing in size or strength, while its immediate connections grows with it, and scaling down until you reach the end or leaf nodes which have only one connection to someone else. This easiest example is in terms of well known sites or articles on the Net that get linked from many sites, and in a very simplified description, the basis of the algorithm that Google's engine uses.
If you look at one example of each of these networks from a high level, the egalitarian network seems to be completely chaotic with no easily discernable pattern you can tell visually. On the other hand, the autocratic network looks strangely like one of those classic fractal diagrams. Yet, both serve different purposes and have different uses. You might almost say that they are the yin and yang that exist pervasively throughout the world. Okay, maybe that's too metaphysical for a Friday :)
Money magazine has a US Dollar to Wizarding world currency convertor for the world of Harry Potter, but apparently it has some shortcomings. If JK Rowling, the first billionaire author, were to transfer $1 Billion--that's US one billion, or rather a UK one thousand million--to Harry's world, apparently she'd need several trucks to carry all that change, but not have much in terms of larger values.
CURRENCY CONVERTER RESULTSMonday, July 23, 2007
1000000000 US Dollar = 2 galleons, 125862069 sickles and 15250000000 knuts
No harm done; just funny.
As part of a personal project, I've started learning JSPs and Servlets. My first thought was to go into Rational Software Architect and start modeling out what I had in mind. Without really looking into it I went into standard class modeling. Then downloaded Tomcat to start work on the actual JSPs, and which then led me to download Eclipse 3.2--I don't know why I didn't think of checking into how I could build JSPs with RSA, but I think it was to be able to get something that the students can use. This is a project for the students but I realized later through our Academic Initiative (when you sign up), they can get a copy of RSA for student development projects anyway; (or the 30-day eval off our site)
This probably sounds like a commercial but, to make it short, the Eclipse basic tooling to create JSPs in a Dynamic Web project is pretty simplistic; enough to get you an editor and get working. The visual modeling in RSA is just so much easier to use (supplemented by the text editor for the scripts) for planning and layout. The relevant HTML tags, JSP elements, and even JSF (which I haven't used yet) is there too. Now, I just need a whole lot of practice.
I picked up a copy of The Kids are Alright by John Beck and Mitchell Wade at the airport a few weeks ago. The subtitle How the Gamer Generation is is changing the Workplace is very apt. It is a sort of business-oriented sociological report on the behaviors, interests and incentives of this particular generation.
This is probably a must-read for all current managers and those who simply don't consider themselves as part of this generation. What is this generation you say? It's a cohort/generation that probably started around the early 1980s up until the current block of 10-year olds. They generally consider anyone over 34 or 35 to most likely not be part of this generation. I'm in that generation myself although I'm just about exactly at the cut off point.
This is one of those books that talks about the implicit life lessons that influenced those in this generation, even if they were not heavily into game playing. It is very likely that those in this generation were surrounded by this and the closer you get to the current time, the less likely that they know a world where video/computer games were not commonplace. The preface lists 7 Habits of Highly Typical Gamers which seem quite relevant to the behaviors I've experienced amongst others in this generation. I'd even put it as something to think about when designing or delivering products and services.
The book appears quite on the point but almost dates itself, not because of time necessarily but because it was likely written at the turning point in the game industry: the rise of MOGs (for the non-gamer generation folks: multiplayer online games). At one point of the book, it talks about how gamers are tuned into solely individual experiences, in that the game-world exists solely for them.
While this is/was case for single-player games, recent years have shown that multiplayer games can become successful, recurring sources of revenue. While single-player games are still the vast majority, many leading games now are either designed solely, or have special modes, for squad (4-6 players), team vs team (16-32 players), or massive-players (up to hundreds of thousands simultaneously).
Most WoW players today probably won't even understand that even ten years ago, even squad-team games were not worth their development time. I recall in 1996 trying to convince a VC and game developers to consider creating multiplayer games. Most just shrugged or plain laughed at the idea. Thank goodness for a reversal on that. (For me, it does suck to be way too early to a party and no one's there).
Anyway, MOGs may change the rules for gamers once again. One key point in this book is that because it's a world customized for your experience, it does not emphasize the more-challenging issues of building social connections within games. Even when players get together to play a game, with SP games, it was mostly a solitary experience. With MMOGs, players once more are faced with social relationships and often with total strangers from other locations, and with much larger crowds and changing people. On top of that technology has evolved so that it is even simpler to interact: actual live audio conversations rather than typing a lot of text, greater bandwidth and better computing power for richer environments, and even social networking sites for recording/blogging events, etc.
It's my belief that games are so much better these days for their multiplayer aspect. For myself, I started on MMOGs back in the text-based MUD days around 1990 or so, so I'm pretty ingrained into this from an early date. So when I play a top-10 single-player game like Oblivion, even with one of the richest environments, most detailed graphics and storyline, open ended gameplay, and a reactive environment, it still feels a little dull because of the lack of other real human players.
In any case, I'd be curious to see a followup to this book in another 4 years examining how MOGs have affected the gamer generation. Let's face it, after a certain point, you can't really call it a separate generation because games are likely going to be here from now on.
I was discussing this topic with several other friends today: when it's your turn to watch the baby, what computer game do you play?
I have a night shift from 8 to about 12 to watch the baby and the best game I can play is Civilization IV. It's a little older now but it's still a good game and the turn-by-turn basis gives me a lot of time in case I need to stop and attend to him. Also Civ IV is can be played almost as well whether you have just a keyboard or just a mouse, which is an important factor when you have to do your turn one-handed (while bouncing on a big rubber ball holding the baby). Also, the game takes many hours to finish and that is just what I need.
My friend Eric is/was quite into World of Warcraft, but when the baby cries, he put his priest character into "follow" mode. Unfortunately, that doesn't always work so well, when the others need your help. E.g., they're off fighting a creature and you're just standing there while others are begging you to heal them. So, I won't mention what his character's name is...
Another friend plays a version of Half-Life--I think it's Team Fortress--where you can turn your character to Observor mode, thus essentially making your character invulnerable but ineffective in the game. Your teammates still probably won't appreciate you taking yourself out.
Anyway, I've played Civ IV to death and new I'm looking for another building/management strategy game. I hear good things about Caesar IV, so its next on my list.
On the last two points that Davenport made in his book: to get commitment from a knowledge worker, it is important give freedom to experiment and work on ideas rather than to always dictate or direct them to work on specific things. Also, just as it is difficult to describe the job, it is also often hard to describe the knowledge output; for that matter, knowledge workers may not even seemto be in their best interest to share their knowledge.
The concern is that if you do not provide the correct supportive environment for your knowledge worker, they are quite likely to move to another organization that does (i.e., jump ship to a potential competitor who does offer the right environment).
This has direct relevance to a number of activities in IBM. For one, we now have Think Fridays. Basically, Fridays of every week should be freed up so that you have some peace of mind to consider, experiment, or talk about new ideas. Each person should apply that to their job as they see fit. I hear that 3M has something similar in that engineers should put aside 15% of their time to this kind of free-thinking.
For me, this tends to free up my regular weekday packed with phone calls with different groups, and sit back and think of the issues and changes to our project, or new ideas that have emerged. Others in our division use this time to experiment with new technology. C.J. and Peter on our team have even extended this to Think Friday-Build Saturday-Test Sunday, which I agree is certainly going beyond the call of duty, and very applaudable.
Now, consider Think Fridays on a different level across all IBMers. In particular, think of what people do in blogs and different community areas: discuss, digest, or produce new ideas. In fact, if youre an avid bloggers, you probably have Think-Mondays, Think-Tuesdays, etc., but in less than a full days time. Thus by blogging, as a knowledge worker, you are very likely and effectively using that free-thinking time.
So my advice to bloggers in IBM (and even beyond): Consider using a portion of your Friday to blog, because by blogging you are in effect implementing the spirit of Think Fridays.
Obviously, not all the ideas that you have are something you would want to discuss on a public blog. In that light, for IBMers we have an global intranet system called BlogCentral, which is a safe environment to discuss ideas with other IBMers. This quickly points to the necessity of having a blog system not just for an external audience but also one for a company-internal audience. Therefore, for knowledge workers within an organization, it is important to have an organization-wide blogging platform.
So for those looking for a business case for why you need a blogging system inside an organization, this is one good example. Blogs allow an expression of Think Fridays (or your organizations equivalent) which many companies think is an important aspect of encouraging, supporting and keeping happy their knowledge workers. I would generalize that to any number of other community tools, not just blogs.
Science fiction movies and TV shows have come a long way from simple puppets and men in ape suits. It even seems like the industry is starting to become nostalgic about those old movies (e.g., Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds, and upcoming King Kong by Peter Jackson).
A friend of mine brought around a hilarious B-movie spoof called The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (None Can Stand Its Mental Power!). It was complete schlock, with such classicly idiotic dialogue like "Yes, honey, I am a scientist and now I shall go do science." B-movie's typically have bad dialogue, cheesy plotlines and very cheap effects. (This one had an evil skeleton that walked around puppetlike which you could obviously recognize as left over from a medical school model).
Some B movies can still excel. To get away from the stigma of B movies, they are now sometimes called "independent films", although I'm not sure if that does it any good.
Ever since watching Clerks, a decade ago, I've found a whole new respect for these movies. Made on a budget of $27,000 I believe at a convenience store that the director actually worked at, it was the first independent film which I thought should have gotten an Oscar for best screenplay.
Take George Romero. Dawn of the Dead is still considered one of the best zombie (B) movies of all time. But it spawned a whole new generation of such movies from the Evil Dead series to the absolutely hilarious Shaun of the Dead. With his new release (that I have not yet seen) Land of the Dead, Romero was honored with an ovation at the pretigious Cannes film festival this year.
On US TV, the remake of the Battlestar Galactica series loses the idealistic, sophomoric drama, and heavy stock footage reuse from the late 1970s series, for a significantly more hard-hitting drama that poses the tough questions that sci-fi at its best tries to bring forward.
Like War of the Worlds, the Battlestar Galactica series has a non-human force that easily overwhelms the skills and ability of humanity. In this case, this force is the Cylon "race" of intelligent robots that humankind created to handle warfare. After many smaller wars, the Cylons retreat for years eventually returning with new self-designed models that are very humanlike. More significantly, they develop the notion that God has created them to replace humans with a more organized civilization.
These are the tough questions that the legends of sci-fi like Asimov, Niven, Wells, and others posed. Too often today, the sci-fi stories are simply covered up with cute relationship drama, and special effects (e.g., the new Star Wars series spent too much time on these elements rather than building a deep story).
Whether probing the classic futuristic themes or just providing entertainment, many of these same shows have developed a very healthy community of faithful followers. Some of them have even become some of the biggest brands in entertainment (e.g., Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.)
If you follow Douglas Atkin's theory as described in The Culting of Brands, many leading brands have similar features whether it is a company, an organization or a religion. These include ideas like:
Atkins' talks about how such activities exist in many leading organizations like JetBlue, Apple Computers, Harley Davidson and others.
Can you see any of Atkins' elements in movie and TV show fan followings?
- rawn[Read More]
I noticed Hutch Carpenter's (@bhc3) post about this proposed session in Enterprise 2.0 conference where he's talking about different forms of competition. I had to share this excerpt from chapter 4 on Social Tasks of my book on the different forms of working together on a social/collaborative task.
Another excerpt from :
Another excerpt fromSocial Networking for Business
"The next step of defining a social task is to consider how members perform this task collectively. Social software aggregates the behavior or content from many individuals into overall results or collections of results. However, you can use different methods to perform aggregation:
- Independent: Members work on the task separately, but the results are aggregated across all members. Their discrete actions and results might not be directly visible to others: the results are visible only as an converged aggregate value (for example, closed ballot voting).
- Autonomous: Members work on the task separately of each other, and their results are distinctly visible to other members as separate work. This creates opportunities in which members might benefit from information that multiple other members share. A collection of divergent results across the many members or a single convergent result (such as brainstorming on ideas) can occur.
- Consensus: A group of members works directly together on the task with the intent to deliver an overall collective result, even if it’s not unanimous or convergent. Tasks often require analysis, discussion, and debate to arrive at a collective answer. The ultimate goal is to converge and deliver a single collective result, but members might not always agree on one answer and there sometimes produce multiple options as results.
- Deliberative: A group of members works directly together without the intent or necessity of coming to a consensus on a single result. These are typically discussions or interactions that can spread out in many directions, depending on how subsets of members interact.
- Combative: Members must compete against each other to derive the best result from the group, denying other choices.[i] Unlike consensus forming, only a single answer is provided from all the choices the group generated.
Glass, Designing Your Reputation System in 10! Easy Steps, IA Summit
A discussion on community manager or builder's skills on Twitter incited me to post this list below. The following are various personality traits, behaviors and skills to look for in a Community manager or builder, straight out of my new book, Social Networking for Business (Wharton School Press 2010):
- Listening: A large part of a community manager’s role is being responsive to the members of the social group, noting their issues and tone, and having the patience and willingness to put things aside to pay careful attention to issues and problems.
- Talking: Writing or talking about their experiences, ideas, events, or other insight in a natural or casual tone helps users get to know the CMs better. This is not about marketing or making sales pitches, nor is it an extensive academic or official report.
- Taking notes: Good community managers are always taking notes, literally or mentally, and saving or organizing them in a retrievable fashion. In a conversation, they are listening carefully and taking notes on the key points the other person is trying to make. If CMs need to write something down, they can ask users for permission to take notes. With problem issues, CMs might perform the physical act of note taking, either with pen and paper or through tagging and writing online; mental notes often get lost or forgotten. The notes saved are helpful in other activities.
- Building relationships: Listening and talking sets a frame to build relationships with members. This is not just remembering the names of members, but also paying careful attention to their motivations, interests, activities, relationships, and other facets of their lives.
- Engaging in remote or virtual interactions: Being comfortable working in an environment in which you might never physically meet the users you work with is important. Online environments frequently do not require a physical office location, giving community managers the freedom to work from home or other venues. This also means having the responsibility to actually perform work in such a remote environment and to avoid distractions. However, this is not exclusive; knowing how to interact with members you have never met in face-to-face situations is also useful.
- Energizing members: A good community manager’s personality engages and energizes the people he or she talks to. These community managers like to shine the light on others’ activities and bring awareness to such activities they consider significant.
- Mediating: Within any social group, some degree of debate or argument eventually will arise. Community managers can play a role in mediating or arbitrating when things get rough. They don’t need to be the ones to find every solution: it’s better if the parties come up with a proposed solution: but they need to be open and seen as neutral.
- Voicing for the membership: Community managers might need to negotiate with other parties: whether competing for attention in the same organization or working with other sites, events, or groups: to bring attention to their own community or members. Community managers should be able to act as a voice for the overall group to the sponsoring organization or to other groups.
- Finding a way: CMs must handle a variety of issues—some I see occurring repeatedly, and others are fairly unique. Community managers need to have a drive to find a way to solve problems. This means persistence, intelligence, creativity, social awareness, and more. No template exists for this role—it requires an instinctual nature of wanting to help people.
rawn 100000R0P5 Tags:  social-computing blueiq social-software population scalability e20 size 1 Comment 8,925 Views
On returning from the recent Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, I had time to reflect on the scaling issues that come up in social software adoption across an enterprise. In watching Gentry Underwood's excellent presentation on how they designed the social computing environment in IDEO, I tweeted to him that new issues start to pop up when you move from an enterprise social environment for 500 people to 200,000--or in IBM, nearly 400,000 people in 170 countries. This is not a bragging point, rather a one of frustration.
There certainly are other large or technological-oriented companies deploying social environments, but from my experience in hearing from others, no one has hit some of the scale issues that we have in IBM. Obviously we are talking about an enterprise's deployment rather than a social site like Facebook; they're very different issues for each.
For one, while employee profiles and directories are starting to become commonplace in other enterprises, we have had one for well over a decade in one form or another. We've already gone through the issues and practices others have found: (a) include everyone; (b) prepopulate with relevant contact, work info, projects, etc; (c) popularize it as the place to look up data; (d) integrate into or make it THE basis for contact info for other existing internal and extranet Web apps; (e) invite partners,contractors and suppliers; (f) tie to enterprise-wide LDAP and single-sign on; (g) integrate into common work processes and behaviors. In fact, the last I looked, we had nearly 600,000 profiles in our Bluepages (including employees, supplementals, contractors, bots, some partners and suppliers).
While the Bluepages system certianly popular, it is but one of several dozen commonly used social software tools, some of which in themselves have hundreds of thousands of unique users. We have thousands of smaller communities and wikis some of which have tens of thousands of members. The multiple tools comes out of our laissez-faire attitude to allow many software ideas to emerge, and through our user base test and advocate the best ideas.
The population size of this system isn't quite the issue, but I put some thought into what enterprise 2.0 deployment issues might appear with scale and came up with the following chart. I hope this can help other maturing e2.0 environments consider some of the issues they may be coming up agains
A. distribution of people across time zones
B. distribution of people across cultures / countries
C. distribution of people across physical locations
D. distribution of people across job categories or dissimilar job roles
E. projects people work on are very different in nature
F. distribution across access devices (desktops, laptops, mobile)
G. many separate (non-integrated) social tools, or different interfaces
H. many separate databases as information sources
I. many separate or isolated social instances
J. number/reach of boundary-spanners
PS: Thanks dW folks for migrating my blog over!
I've finally had a chance to read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers today. As with his previous books, he tends to border on sensationalism focuses on events which may possibly be rare outcomes but wrapping it in a story. The impact here is that he is a great storyteller, but his stories may not necessarily be correct. I can't substantiate that irrefutably but I don't need to.
For example, one chapter focuses on birthdate year as an influential factor describing a host of folks in the computer industry who have gone on to be hugely successful. But at first depoints out that SOME of these folks may have had a series of lucky breaks (e.g. Bill Gates) that gave them an advantage, most not related to their age but to their connections. Then with some quick wave of the hand, he points back to the birthdate year being the summary of the chapter. Okay, what happened there?
Patterns may exist (same location, same birthdate, etc.) but it is a combination of these factors that contribute to success. For that matter, it doesn't qualify if one particular of these factors is a bigger contributor.
He's still a great storyteller and uncovers unusual tales, but from what he has in his books alone, it's hard to tell if what he describes is really is true, or just makes for interesting entertainment. That aside, he has still achieved business star status which can direct people to think that way.
You may be familiar with Wordle, a nice little Web2.0 tool by our own Jonathon Feinberg that creates word art images like this below. You've probably seen wordles like this appear recent (e.g. Tim O'Reilly's Web 2.0 paper)
(Source: Wordle.net - Pride and Prejudice first chapter)
Here's a game we started playing with it similar to other word games like "Cr*nium".
We had lots of fun with the Pride and Prejudice wordle, and not the phrases you think would appear out of Jane Austen (e.g., "girls better consent", "young delighted experience lady", "insufficient flatter heard")
I have no idea if this is an original game by itself but I'll set out the rules we're using and you can try and tell me.
The goal of the game is to see how many meaningful phrases you can make out of words that appear next to or very near each other in a wordle.
You need: 2 or more players. Paper and pen/pencil per person. Web access to wordle.net
So I broke down and created a Manga face of myself. (Manga's are Japanese graphic novels, some for kids, some for grown-ups). This is a recent fad on Twitter, but cute nonetheless. The FaceyourManga site offers a Flash tool to choose many different factors that you can choose from to create your particular manga.
Here's mine below:
What's the point? You can use this as a profile photo whenever a social site calls for it.
(As part of becoming manga-ized, you turn 12 again, whee! :)
What I found amusing was my wife's reaction when she saw the photo: "Why do you look so angry?"
Sarah: "You're not similing."
Me: "But I am. I just did not pick the wide-mouthed grinning smile."
Sarah: "You look mad. Must be an Asian thing of not showing your teeth. "
Well that's an American view I guess. It seems a cultural interpretation that unless you smile, almost grin wide-mouthed, you're not happy. I'm just here to state that that's not true at all.
Oh well, I'll stay true to myself and stick with this manga face. It's an I-know-a-secret-smile.
I read Jonathan Trenn's recent posts on the fallacy of community (and more on it) which seems to argue the concept of community but combine a number of different elements together: culture (mostly), governance, and structure. T
It seems we often argue about "what is community" quite frequently but the arguments are on different levels because they argue on different elements. Some arguments are on structure: Are blogs, delicious, wikis, yahoo/google answers, or discussion forums all communities even though they are structurally different? Some are on how people work in those communities and governance: only I run my blog, vs many people editing a wiki? It's not just a matter of access but rules of how people work together in those governance scenarios. The most difficult to differentiate is culture which comprises unique elements like ideology, social norms, acceptable behvaior, etc. for each instance. On a cultural level, is a blog where only one person talks but others can comment, still a community or just a following? Does it matter?
My previous post showing my list of different modesl for social experiences focuses just on the structural component. I have other models for governance (but not yet for culture). These look at the different ways social sites/experiences are structured from the owner's point of view. They can map to multiple types of social tools (e.g., a defined group can be a forum, chatroom, Q&A system, etc.) Some social tools can be used in multiple ways to map to different experience models (e.g., a wiki can be an Individual, Social network, Defined-Group or even a Community experience).
I added a social network as a separate model from the Individual expereince (since that last post). The definition here is the specific network connected directly to a single individual through bidirectional agreement (both shake hands to be friends), or by inbound agreement (people following you). For one it is certainly beyond the scope of a Personal experience. It isn't quite a group experience because each person's social network may be different. In the group models (defined group, community, mass collaboration) there isn't a definite "center of the universe" as there is in the Personal, Individual or Social network experience. There can be centers of mass around key influencers in those group models, even leaders but groups aren't necessarily only about a single individual. They can be (e.g., fans around a celebrity), but this is always the case.
Here's my table of different qualities of each model:
I think most of the qualities are self-explanatory. Relationship engagement focuses on the key type of relationship the social experience enables: to who or with what a visiting user becomes engaged. Loyalty here is a summary description of what causes a person to stay loyal to the experience.
I'm begining to think I need to switch places of Social Network and Individual; there's possibly a relative scale in there, although not necessarily in terms of size, but in terms of radiance from the person, or how well one knows all the members of the population in each experience. There's also an aesthetic separation of three individual-focused experiences on the left, and three group focused experiences on the right, but that's coincidental. After all more models may upset this in the future.
I'm trying to determine what would be the best way of describing the following concept:
- a recurring or common scenario of how people gather together in any size of population from small pairings to very huge communities
- who can post, provide input
- who can see/use/take the output
- how long it exists, who determines that
I simplified the factors above but it gives a general idea. Some examples are: a person's social network, a group activity, an instant messaging session, a long-term community, a mass collaboration like Digg, etc.
I started thinking about it as a social perspective or how people see it in a visual sense. We've also been talking about it in terms of social context which separates out the visual element and away from a focus on a beneficiary group, towards an abstract notion.
My thought is that there are a limited number of well known types of social contexts/perspectives that I've seen repeatedly across many sites. However, people don't necessarily know which one they are because they don't know the general idea versus specific examples (like how I listed Digg above). Once you can tell which social context/perspective your site has, or even multiple ones, you can then go on towards explaining what the other elements of it are.
Which do you think makes more sense or rings better to you?