Friday, December 23, 2005

All I want for Christmas is a week off with my friends

Looking at my website recently, one friend of mine thought I had a new fascination with Tinker Toys. Actually, the artwork below (which has graced my right sidebar the last two weeks) is supposed to suggest a Christmas tree:For any of you out there doing last minute Christmas shopping, I recommend Magnetix as a fun way to unleash the inner network-builder of any kids (or kids at heart) that you know.

Connectedness is taking next week off for the holidays--catching our editorial breath from a busy 2005 and gearing up for a big 2006. Peace, love, joy, and blessings to all.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2005 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Economy of Prestige

Is it art? Or is it just plain old crap? Take a look at the preceding website and you will appreciate how difficult it can be to tell the difference. Then for a breathtakingly intellectual approach to this distinction, call Santa ASAP and ask for The Economy of Prestige. In this new book, Prof. James English of Harvard University takes a close look at the world of literary prizes: How does someone win the Nobel Prize of Literature, and what does that have to do with quality writing?

Louis Menand's review of The Economy of Prestige, published in this week's New Yorker magazine, sums up English's thesis as the delightfully counterintuitive notion that the main value of literary prizes is that they give us something to rail against. As long as critics rant annually about how hopelessly misguided awards committees are, and how they fail utterly in the task of appreciating true art, then we know that deep down, the prestige of art remains unchallenged. Therefore, English notes the increasing willingness of authors and critics to buy into the credibility of awards as the death knell of the awards themselves. After all, who will care about literary awards when we have reduced literary merit to something that can be measured by a committee?

That is thought-provoking stuff for those of us who create metrics for the human side of organizational performance.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2005 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Post-Katrina community network reweaving

Hurricane Katrina so obliterated New Orleans that it's no exaggeration to say the very future of the city remains in doubt. Thankfully, the rebuilding effort got a huge boost today when the White House announced funding an addition $1.5 billion in hurricane protection. (See the editorial "A down payment on New Orleans" in today's NT Times.)

Cleaning and rebuilding New Orleans physical infrastructure is just part of the recovery effort. Equally huge is the challenge of re-uniting and re-integrating the communities whose neighborhoods were demolished by Katrina.

A team that includes the minister of a 9th Ward church that was destroyed has asked me how social network analyis and other technologies might help them reach out to their far-flung former congregation. Here is the plan we sketched out to help them begin to reconnect with each other. We would:
  • Convene and support a team of local high-schoolers to lead this project
  • Consolidate in one list the names and contact information of the 50 or so people already re-connected to the church, as well as a working list of the estimated 100-200 missing.
  • Prepare a phone script that the church youth can use to collectively call congregants with known phone numbers, get their updated coordinates, and learn about any other connections congregants may have renewed with each other.
Church youth will then update us with the results of their phone calls, so that we can update the master list for their next round of calls. Social network information collected during the phone calls (who has renewed contact with whom) will help us identify congregants who can help lead this community reweaving as the process continues.

Is anyone else out there doing something similar? I think this is a great service my network-savvy readers can provide to meet a huge need. I would love to hear from anyone with ideas for improving this game plan to help the people of New Orleans reconnect with each other.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2005 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licensing

I noticed and liked the Creative Commons licensing over at MeshForum. I have reformatted Connectedness under the same "Attribution-ShareAlike" license. This license states more rigorously the very same "open source" terms I have long informally espoused here. In other words,

You are free:

  • to copy, distribute, and display material from Connectedness
  • to make derivative works based on Connectedness
  • to make commercial use of Connectedness

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must give credit to Connective Associates or
  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
  • Any of these conditions can be waived if you get written permission from Connective Associates.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2005 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Boston KM Forum Dec 15: Leveraging knowledge through collaboration

This just in from Lynda Moulton:
Just two more days to pre-register for the program this Thursday at Bentley College, the grand finale of 2005 meetings. We have a very strong panel of speakers and interesting exhibitors.

Please join us for this view of "Leveraging Knowledge through Collaboration." The speakers will share how they have made an impact through practical collaborative practices. Speakers: Eric Wilson, President, Brane space LLC; Kenneth Bruss, HDA Consulting, Changing the Way New Products are Developed Using Collaboration Tools to Improve ROI; Jean Tatalias, The MITRE Corporation, Connecting People and Supporting Collaboration; Bruce Hoppe, Connective Associates, Disruptive Collaborative Innovation; Jeffrey Govendo, the Innovative Edge, Achieving Real Collaboration through Co-invention (an interactive exercise).

When: December 15, 8:30am - 5pm
Where: Bentley Collage, the Adamian Center Commons
Cost: $40 (pre-registered), $50 (walk-in)
Details and Registration: More Details:

If I don't see you on Thursday, please have a safe, healthy and peaceful season of celebrations.


Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.

Monday, December 12, 2005

NY Times 5th annual year in ideas features networks

Networks did not officially make yesterday's NY Times Magazine list of big ideas. But perhaps that's because networks are too big to be listed with other ideas. Like a Hollywood superstar, networks now get credit before the rest of the story even starts:Interesting ideas of 2005 include
I love how their graphic design connects network visualization with astrology. What better way to convey the mythic story-telling power of dots and lines.

Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Yahoo Answers adds community to "Ask Jeeves"

Red Herring reports:
Yahoo launched a service called Answers on Thursday that invites people to ask questions, and then lets other visitors answer them. This isn’t explicit search—it’s Yahoo’s attempt at tapping into a community’s collective knowledge to dig out information.
Neat! Now think about combining Yahoo Answers with a bit of text analysis, CiteSeer technology, and perhaps a touch of eBay--next thing you know you'll have some serious answers to your questions.

Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How to build your network by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap

Last week I analyzed the introductions underlying my professional network. Coincidentally, my colleague Steve Frigand sent me a nice follow up to this from the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review. Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap write about "How to build your network." They suggest that once you have analyzed who introduced you to each of your contacts, take a look at the grand total of how many times you personally introduced yourself (instead of being referred by a colleague). If you are introducing yourself more than 65% of the time, then chances are your network lacks diversity and is overly filled with people similar to you.

Something about this metric rubs me the wrong way. I participate in a wide variety of groups, and I like to volunteer for things like "hospitality" and "registration." I get to introduce myself to lots of people that way. Take a look at this detail of my business introduction network, and notice all the red nodes. Each of those is a different group I participate in where I have met business colleagues. Uzzi and Dunlap would suggest that even when I work the registration desk for one of these red nodes, I am subconsciously selecting people similar to me every time I exchange business cards. When I follow up and get introduced by my new colleagues to their colleagues, then Uzzi and Dunlap suggest I am more likely to free myself from my unstoppable urge to "homophilize."

Uzzi and Dunlap are probably right, but I wish they talked more about how networks grow from the groups we participate in. Instead, readers must turn to the somewhat more scholarly article, "Where do social relations come from?" which was published in the most recent issue of Social Networks. The author does a careful analysis of just how many relationships typically from from "circles" (group membership) versus "sociability" (introductions through others) and finds 59% arise through circles.

Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Living SNA bibliography by Jonathon Cummings

Jonathon Cummings, professor of management at Duke University, has assembed a nice academic bibliography on social network analysis, which includes a form at the bottom so that anyone can add new entries. He also maintains a comprehensive list of network visualization software.

I first encountered Jonathon through his paper (co-authored with Rob Cross) "Structural properties of work groups and their consequences for performance," which you can request from Cummings here. This research reveals a negative relationship between heirarchical team structure and performance in complex non-routine tasks, over 182 small work groups in a global service organization.

Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Benefits of name dropping: David Krackhardt, Valdis Krebs, Kate Ehrlich, Martin Kilduff, Steve Borgatti

A significant majority of hits on Connectedness come from Googlers. Thanks to Google Analytics, it's easy (and free) to summarize exactly what keywords brought them this way:
Within the subset of commonly used keywords above, notice how many are names of other people.

In my blogging practice, I have found writing about my fellow social networking enthusiasts to be beneficial on many levels. It's a good discipline to keep me informed on what's happening, and prevents me from reinventing the wheel. It's also a great way to build relationships with these esteemed colleagues, who are generally good at filtering out unwanted attention, but still appreciate concisely thought-out posts on their work. And, as the above graphic shows, name-dropping on Connectedness attracts hits. By comparison, notice how often people find Connectedness by Googling "Bruce Hoppe."

The problem with name-dropping is its superficiality. Or is that really a problem? The other day David Krackhardt gave me a call and we commiserated on this question. To get the gist of our conversation, I recommend you read Martin Kilduff and David Krackhardt's paper, "Bringing the individual back in: A structural analysis of the internal market for reputation in organizations." The abstract includes this provocative quote:
We found, as predicted, that being perceived to have a prominent friend in an organization boosted an individual's reputation as a good performer, but that actually having such a friend ... had no effect.
Of course, as long as people know you have a prominent friend, then actually having that prominent friend doesn't hurt either. That's why I still appreciate gestures like Steve Borgatti's link to Connectedness from his Managerial Network Analysis page:
Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Overhaul of open source licensing could have broad impact

Yesterday's NY Times had an article on how the "Overhaul of Linux License Could Have Broad Impact." This is the first time in 15 years that the General Public License, which regulates Linux and many other open source software programs, will be updated. The article states:

"The big boys, corporations and governments, have far more reason to be interested and concerned this time," said Eben Moglen, general counsel to the Free Software Foundation, which holds the license, commonly known as the G.P.L.

The process will also be closely watched for how the new G.P.L. will take account of software patents, which have exploded among proprietary software developers since 1991, the last time the license was revised.

One person who has watched the open source community especially closely is my colleague Bob Wolf at BCG. He published an outstanding analysis of how open source works in the July-August 2005 Harvard Business Review. Click on the title page at right to read it.

Bob and his coauthor Philip Evans compare Linux developers to the Toyota Production System and draw fascinating conclusions on what big business can learn from rebel hackers. Jack Vinson at Knowledge Jolt gave a good summary of these lessons back when the article was originally published. To Jack's comments I add that the HBR article does a nice job of distinguishing two kinds of trust: (1) Trust based on reputation, and (2) Trust based on reciprocity. Open source depends more on the first. I may not ever repay your favor directly (a requirement of reciprocity) but if I screw you then the word spreads so fast that my reputation across the entire community will be ruined. So for the sake of their reputations, group members all play nice, develop great trust for each other, and thereby enjoy very low "transaction costs" (e.g., fewer contracts).

Bob and I both attended a talk this week by Professor Markus Mobius on "Measuring Trust in Social Networks Through a Microfinance Field Experiment." It's a more academic take on the same issues Bob discussed in his HBR article. You can hear the whole talk (podcast style) at Prof. David Lazer's new Complexity and Social Networks Blog.

Copyright (c) 2005 Connective Associates, except where otherwise noted.