An ancient virus has come back to life after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists...
We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
Social media FTW! In terms of online usage at least.
I am writing a new series at CMSWire called Social Contract, exploring the themes of our ‘social rights’ in social space online, including the nature of identity, issues related to privacy and publicy, and the relationship of the individual to companies, social platform owners, and the state.
Here’s the first two installments:
Foundations of ‘Social Rights’ in a Scale-Free World | 16 July 2013 | Our basic “social rights” are self-evident. We exist in social space, and from that arises everything else.
A New Social Contract | 9 July 2013 | We need a new social contract, one that establishes the rights of the individual in a world dominated by gigantic corporations.
I also wrote an earlier piece at CMSWire in June, not in the series but related in thinking:
Curation in the Enterprise: Imagining Increased Social Scale | 10 June 2013 | The current social business architecture — a social collaboration layer sitting “on top” of non-social functional enterprise applications, like CRM, HR, ERP, a social frosting on a non-social cake — is not going to meet the needs of 21st century business.
from the report’s Executive Summary
“Socialized business process” — the idea of adding social tools to traditional business processes — is unlikely to work in the long term. The enterprise is now transitioning to social network–based communication as introduced by social tools, and there is a fundamental conflict in communication models with business-process-centric business. The attempt to make the socialized business process work may be part of the adoption problem reported in the social-business industry.
The shift to social network’s pull communication, where individuals more or less subscribe to information sources, will run counter to business process push communication and eventually invalidate it. Push-and-pull communication styles won’t jibe, and pull lines up with the transition to social network–based communication. Most notably, this will undermine business processes and the collective-collaborative organization that evolved in parallel with business processes. The shift won’t take place in the way that email led to organizational flattening. Rather, it will invalidate the rules and roles of business processes and turn the process logic into just another kind of information passed along through the social network.
It may be obvious, but companies that are more oriented toward a connective-cooperative style of work will get more benefits from social networks than those that are less so. Stated more strongly, those wishing to get the boost that many believe is inherent in this lean, self-innovating, fast-and-loose model of work will have to actively move away from the cultural principles of slow-and-tight, twentieth-century business.
In order to better explore these rapidly changing dynamics, this report presents a psychodynamic cultural model for business called the 3C model. The name is based on three sorts of business culture:
- Competitive: wheel-and-spoke organization, decision making by edict, feudal or clan culture
- Collaborative: pyramid-and-processes organization, decision making by elite consensus, slow-and-tight culture
- Cooperative: network-and-connections organization, laissez faire decision making, fast-and-loose culture
We also explore various archetypes of individuals’ psychosocial matches with the various flavors of companies. The freelancer and follower archetypes, for example, do well in cooperative settings, but they are poorly matched with entrepreneurial organizations (which may explain Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent edict excluding remote work.)
High-performing companies of the near future will be operating based on looser ties among individuals in and across businesses. Many more of them will be supported by next-generation cooperative tools. Individuals in these companies will have more autonomy, and there will be more opportunity seeking when compared to the largely slow-and-tight, risk-averse companies that are dominant today. The value of consensus is falling in a rapidly changing, unstable world where there is a higher premium for business innovation and more uncertainty than ever before. And this leads to a devaluation of business processes, in particular those business processes intended to direct human agency and to act as a surrogate for management directing employees’ every move.
You can sign up for a seven day free trial of the GigaOM Research service, and read the entire report.
Alina Turgend writes about bragging and the way it stimulates the part of our brains linked to stimulation from sex.
Alina Turgend, The Etiquette of Celebrating or Bragging About Achievements
Last year, two Harvard neuroscientists published a paper, “Disclosing Information About the Self Is Intrinsically Rewarding,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They conducted brain imaging and behavioral experiments and found that when people talked about themselves, there was heightened activity in the same brain regions associated with rewards from food, money or sex.
Diana I. Tamir, co-author of the study and a doctoral student at Harvard, said the research focused not on bragging, but on answering neutral questions about one’s personality.
“When asked questions about themselves, there was more reward activity than when asked about someone else,” Ms. Tamir said. And there was even more activity when the participants could choose to share information, by pressing a button, with someone outside the scanner.
Another experiment found that people were willing to give up small amounts of money to reveal information about themselves, rather than talk about someone else.
“I think there is a natural human tendency” to talk about oneself, Ms. Tamir said. “The interesting question is why we are motivated to share.”
Another interesting question is when sharing turns into bragging — and the answer is often in the eye of the beholder. As one commenter wrote on the Canadian blogwondercafe.ca, “I wonder if it’s sharing if I do it and bragging if someone else does it.”
Although boasting may seem more acceptable now, Susan A. Speer, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Manchester in England, has found that “self-praise” is still largely considered unacceptable.
Professor Speer, a conversation analyst, looked at a variety of data, from psychiatric interventions to everyday conversations, that involved self-praise. The information came from the United States and Britain.
In her study, published last year in the Social Psychology Quarterly, Professor Speer discovered that in almost every case, directly praising oneself seemed to violate social norms.
She said people responded to self-praise negatively or, more subtly, with a long silence or a roll of the eyes.
She found that the only way to really blow your own horn — or toot your own trumpet, as they say in Britain — without alienating someone was to repeat something positive someone else said about you.
It’s easier for a listener to respond to this kind of self-praise, Professor Speer said, by saying, for instance, “How nice someone said that.”
Even being self-deprecating about accomplishments doesn’t work. In fact, it can be even more irritating, and it has come to be known as “humblebragging” or “underbragging.”
Examples? Complaining about e-mail service from Cannes or about having to sign too many autographs. As Henry Alford wrote in The New York Times last November about his annoyance with this phenomenon: “Outright bragging expects to be met with awe, but humblebragging wants to be met with awe and sympathy.”
I’m all for masturbation — after all its been shown that having more orgasms prolongs life, not to mention the immediate benefits — but it’s one of those things that’s best done behind closed doors. So, let’s cut back on the bragging, especially underbragging.
I am personally trying a strategy for cutting back. I am retiring anecdotes: once I tell anyone an anecdote that could be construed as braggage, I then plan to not tell that anecdote again for at least a year.
Did I ever tell you about the time I…?
I was involved in a twitter thread today with Ben Zimmer, who is a well-known lexicographer, and chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. He has been researching the Twitter hashtag, which was recently selected as Word Of The Year:
In its 23rd annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “hashtag” as the word of the year for 2012. Hashtag refers to the practice used on Twitter for marking topics or making commentary by means of a hash symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase.
Presiding at the Jan. 4 voting session were ADS Executive Secretary Allan Metcalf of MacMurray College, and Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society and executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. Zimmer is also a language columnist for the Boston Globe.
“This was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk,” Zimmer said. “In the Twittersphere and elsewhere, hashtags have created instant social trends, spreading bite-sized viral messages on topics ranging from politics to pop culture.”
Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item” — not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year. The vote is the longest-running such vote anywhere, the only one not tied to commercial interests, and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead. It is fully informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words, but it is far from a solemn occasion. Members in the 124-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars. In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.
One interesting wrinkle is that Zimmer contends that I was the first to use the term ‘hashtag’ back in a post on 26 August 2007. My use was a response to Chris Messina’s proposal for so-called Twitter ‘channels’, which had the form of hashtags today (like ‘#hashtag’), but apparently I was the first to use the term hashtag to denote them. I also coined the term ‘microsyntax’ to represent the developing use of symbols — like ‘@mentions’, ‘#hashtags’, ‘RT”, ‘$ticker’ — in Twitter and related apps. (I still haven’t been successful in getting '/geotags' implemented.)
I didn’t even have that post up on my blog. I moved my blog several times since 2007, from Typepad (where it was called /Message), to Squarespace, and then to Tumblr. And I hadn’t reposted all the older posts, since it has to be done manually. I reposted that piece today, copying the text from the Wayback Machine.
In response to Roger Cohen’s recent Thanks For Not Sharing — a rant about the oversharing he sees on Twitter and Facebook — Alexis Madrigal skewers him:
Your Anti-Social Media Rant Reveals Too Much About Your Friends - Alexis C. Madrigal via The Atlantic
My diagnosis is simple, Roger: your friends and associates are terrible and boring. Being that you are a smart and interesting guy who would distill only the finest information from any social network, the problem is the garbage going into your feed, which can only come out as garbage in your column. And that garbage is being created by the people who you choose to follow and know.
Madrigal is being a bit snarky, but it’s actually true. The best thing about open social networks is that they are open: you can follow whoever you want. And the most positive and life-affirming thing we each can do is move ourselves in the network by adding new connections, and possibly dropping old ones.
I am leaving aside — as did Madrigal — the question of what others may gain by following Cohen. Or not.
But the possibility exists to be enlarged by this, and to share that: I am made better by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections. But I think Cohen is missing that point, completely.
Cloud Computing 2020 Futurecast - Fred McClimans, Alan Dickenson, and I spoke about the future of cloud computing.
I make the point that the first-order benefits — reducing the cost of today’s IT — will be irrelevant by the time that the second-order benefits of the cloud become obvious.
Imagine systems that are based on analysis of petabytes of social data exhaust in combination with new computing models based on social network analysis and influence, as just one area.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff here.
Yesterday, I was doing a dress rehearsal for a webinar that will be live tomorrow. I was talking with Fred McClimans, Geoffrey Colon, and Alan Dickenson about the future of cloud computing and how that intersects with big data. This morning something occurred to me regarding the application of social data in the future.
Imagine that the workings of human social networks are finally figured out by crunching real data from really large social networks. And at the same time, the the deep forces of social influence are revealed, and the mathematics lurking below our interactions is cracked. And in parallel, imagine that continued research into cognitive science has led to more understanding of how social interaction is linked to brain chemistry, and for the first time, effective techniques are developed to make the sad happy, and the lonely loved.
Ok, I know, but let me finish the thought experiment.
So, imagine that researchers are able to create algorithms that can actually — with real success — influence our behaviors. Through a society-spanning combination of content marketing, social media, and targeted social network strategies, researchers are able to decrease cigarette smoking, or increase bike riding. And the unscrupulous or avaricious would be able to get people to chew one kind of gum, or watch a particular TV series.
Alright, let me add the last ‘what if’ to the scenario, although it is starting to sound like a chapter of Daniel Suarez’s Daemon. So, imagine that some global non-profit, like the Gates Foundation, builds a software system that leverages all this new-found knowledge about social influence and social cognition, and sets about changing us.
This system — let’s call it Grace — has access to the world’s major datasets, which contain millions of petabytes of social data in this hypothetical future. Grace would work surreptitiously and guardedly, applying social math to each of our private social contexts, convincing us to brush more often, to read to our kids, to help others in need. Grace would reward us at the physiological level, by convincing one person to touch another, unleashing oxytocin and building trust where none existed before. Teams would work more efficiently. Friends would make that extra effort, families would settle old differences. Politicians would reach out to their opponents to find common cause and to put aside partisan division. Warring factions in dusty far-away lands would lay down their AK-47s and make peace where there had been decades or millennia of war.
Cue the harps.
And the reason I called this system Grace is a nod to Richard Brautigan’s All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace:
I'd like to think (and the sooner the better!) of a cybernetic meadow where mammals and computers live together in mutually programming harmony like pure water touching clear sky. I like to think (right now, please!) of a cybernetic forest filled with pines and electronics where deer stroll peacefully past computers as if they were flowers with spinning blossoms. I like to think (it has to be!) of a cybernetic ecology where we are free of our labors and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothers and sisters, and all watched over by machines of loving grace.
In my version, Grace is operating behind the scenes, without our knowledge, nudging us to do good and make nice, an animatronic Jimminy Cricket, the invisible conscience we need to become more humane.
And the question is, if we could make such a thing happen, should we? There is no doubt that marketers will attempt to take our growing knowledge of social connection and neuroeconomics to try to sell baby food and sports cars. And dictators might use such mechanisms as mind control and hyper-efficient propaganda engines. But what if such tools could be used to make the world a better place?
Should we? Is it immoral to surreptitiously influence humanity, even if the result is a better place? Ultimately, the question becomes who gets to decide what better means, and so in my it-could-almost-be-a-novel scenario, it would likely be the choice of a solitary genius, as in Daemon, following personal convictions rather than some plebiscite.
What if it would only work if it was secret? What if the world could be bettered, famines averted, wars ended, climate change reversed, but only if the mechanism to do so was completely unknown to the world?
In my early morning musing, in the twilight stage between sleeping and waking, I envisioned Grace moving the world from exploitative, growth-at-all-costs hyper-capitalism toward a steady-state, sustainable economy and social compact, where we’d ramp down the population to a few billions over the next few decades, provide meaningful and interesting work rewilding the planet, building livable and beautiful cities, and growing healthy food and a smaller number of better-loved and better-fed babies.
But I was dreaming, obviously.