Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Communities lower the cost of action

The final death rattles of Friendster made me pause to think about communities for a moment. Not that I need much encouragement...

I start from the real world of physical groups.

One I belonged to found its numbers dwindling. That reduced the ability of members to act as freeriders. Almost everyone had to have a role, a responsibility.
The group got to the point of needing a new Treasurer. No one stepped forward.

The group was reminded that without a Treasurer they could not continue. After a long discussion in the bar, a Treasurer emerged. The group survived.

What made a freerider take responsibility? The group had a purpose - a set of shared goals which every member signed up to - both figuratively and emotionally.

Friends come together often inspite of their differences. But friends are rarely units of organisation - often because of their differences. What's the common goal you selected your friends to help you achieve? Thought not...

Let's imagine I want to organise a coach trip to Leeds United's next home game. I'll struggle among my friends. Among a community of Leeds United fans it'll be a breeze.

The web lowers the cost of group forming. But the important bit is that these aren't any old groups. These are groups of people with shared purposes: Communities.

And communities lower the cost of getting things done.

Friends share much. They inspire each other, encourage one another. But those among them who genuinely share your passion and desire to achieve x are in limited supply - limited by time and geography.

Communities of purpose - no matter how adhoc - gather to achieve x. It's not a by product of their relationship, it is the cause of it.

The ties of adhoc community may not be as strong or long lasting as friendship but they will prove more effective in delivering change.

The web lowers the cost of forming communities and communities lower the cost of getting things done.

Applying this reality is what the job of any government, organisation or business is. How is yours doing?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clay Shirky interview - salvaged from Google Video


When Google announced it was closing down Google Video I was relatively comfortable with the idea since they said nothing would be deleted. The idea (as I recall) was that you could no longer add to it. Made sense post the YouTube purchase, of course.
I was staggered to find recently (and they haven't even emailed me with this) that they are going to shut it down as a hosting site entirely. And it's up to you, dear contributor, to download what is yours or lose it.
Some would say that's the risk of free SaaS. I disagree. There is a difference between SaaS and a platform to host content from which the platform owner then makes all the money (ie by advertising against content that users contribute).
And I think it was incumbent on Google to transfer all Google Video content to YouTube on behalf of the the content creator, with the option to merge with the owner's Youtube accounts or delete. How hard would that be.
Instead it's up to mugs like you and me to salvage the likes of this, above: A 35 minute interview with Clay Shirky I conducted in 2008. It was too long for YouTube at the time, so started life on Google Video.
In it we discuss Gin, TV and what comes next?, Why Here Comes Everybody (his book) avoids the copyright issue, is technology changing us, scoring collaboration in education, humanising brands, facebook and email and how algorithms caused the credit crunch.
Gin, TV and what comes next?, Why Here Comes Everybody avoids the copyright issue, is technology changing us, scoring collaboration in education, humanising brands, facebook and email and how algorithms caused the credit crunch.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

What makes you share?


I’ve been wondering about the etymology of ‘Conversation’. The ‘con’ bit has been worrying me.

It’s been nagging at me ever since some social media auditing I was involved with (many moons ago) revealed that an online news article with positive sentiment attached (the Holy Grail for many a PR) more often than not triggered a deluge of negative sentiment in the comment stream.
This came up for me again recently when speaking with journalists at The Guardian about influence (which, for the record, I argue must always be thought of in-context and as emerging from relevance.)
It’s almost as if to generate the greatest volume of positive sentiment you should duplicitously create content which argues the contrary position to that which you want people to take (and more fundamentally, express that they take). (Image courtesy Toban Black)
Turns out the ‘Con’ part of conversation isn’t the part I should be concerned about (ahem) more the ‘versa’ bit – which is from the Latin versus and does hint at the argumentative nature of much of our dialogue.
The flip of this is that much conversation is much more of the social grooming part of our behaviour. We agree on the niceness of the weather, that policemen are looking younger and other such trivialities. By agreeing, we reveal how alike we are, bring loose ties a little closer, prepare the ground for doing stuff together should the need arise.
By taking contrary positions we are also sharing our identity – expressing where we are in conflict and through this discovering others who are in accord with us.
Now, whether or not taking a contrary position or agreeing with fellow humans is the most effective way of generating positive or negative sentiment is of marginal interest to me. Learn too much about this and seek to gain from it and I doubt you’ll end up feeling particularly clean.
What encourages others to express what they think – one way or the other? Now that does matter.
It matters because the only way we can find others who care about the same things we do is through one or other party expressing that concern. Until you share your thoughts they have no value to you or your network. They contribute nothing to making your life better or the world a better place.
But the simple act of sharing what you care about can make change. When you share you allow others to access your thoughts and to discover you. And bringing people together around things that matter to them is what changes our world.
So what drives you to share? What would make you share more?

Friday, April 08, 2011

A challenge for the way sentiment is measured

It occurred to me when watching my twitter stream fly by (I follow close to 3000 people) that I rarely see anyone share that they have been at an 'unawesome' event - or had the bad fortune to spend time with really dull people.

When we say we've had a good experience we are showing off a bit - "look at me - aren't I good at making the right decisions". We don't like to be seen to be making the wrong decisions. It's part of us retro-fitting a model of rationality on to our more likely Herd behaviour.

Which I think is one of the reasons we tend to be more positive about the choices we make compared to those imposed upon us. No need to post-rationalise when the decision wasn't ours. (image courtesy niznoz)

Of course, my friend Mark Earls would argue most decisions aren't ours, they are more driven by physical context and those around us than we'd like to admit. But the kind of 'not my choice' I'm thinking of is more in line with being negative about the train service you have little choice about taking, the utility or bank etc where the cost of switching appears high (in effort terms at least).

Which is all a long way of saying we big-up what we choose for ourselves and more easily criticise what we don't. There's a lesson in there for building positive sentiment about brands and products and change for the better. And also a challenge for the way sentiment is measured and valued.

Sentiment isn't a standalone value or a necessary consequence of product, positioning or recommendation alone. Good product does not (always) = good sentiment. Good product + 'I chose it myself' may ampifly the positive. Good product - 'someone chose it for me' may dampen it.

For me this is another example of the questionable value of sentiment analysis in and of itself. It cannot be a stand alone value, it has to be measured in the context of a number of complex factors - the purchase cycle, the relationship of 'peers' in the distribution of recommendation. And then its measurement must be put in the context of what a shift in sentiment here or there results in elsewhere. Folk being a bit happier about your product means nothing on its own. That playing out in rising sales, more engagement in co-creative processes (both active and passive) etc (in other words things that deliver real value) is where the bang for the buck resides.

And I haven't seen a tool yet which does even half of that.

The world is full of data. Always has been. We get access to more of it than ever before - thanks to digitisation of thought, emotion and opinion through the likes of blogs, forums, texts, emails, twitter and facebook.

Making useful, innovative efficiency driving sense of it is the key. And that remains a very human art.

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FasterFuture.blogspot.com

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?