Friday, April 25, 2008

Knowing the path and walking the path

One of the great and tragic lessons of my life so far is that the ability to distinguish four major categories of network centrality and code them all in an Excel spreadsheet does not, in and of itself, bring me the ladies. Denial, anger, depression--somewhere amidst these precursors to acceptance comes a revelation. Perhaps network centrality will show me who is getting the ladies, so that I can learn from them, or, failing that, construct an argument demonstrating some measure by which I am superior to them.

Looking at the network of sexual relationships among Jefferson High School students (which I mentioned last time), it doesn't take a PhD to see that these kids spend plenty of time away from their spreadsheets:
No matter how liberal I am, surely my desire for public health must respond to the above network. Measures of connectivity and centrality impel me to have a talk with the "key players" of the sex network. Their reproductive health (and the health of many of their classmates) depends on it. Yes?

Actually, no. This teenage sex network does make a great emotional appeal: hire a network analyst so that you can target key players in your advocacy campaign. However, the central point made by authors of the above map, over the course of 40 pages, is exactly the opposite:

"Epidemiologists, unable to observe or measure directly the structure of sexual networks, have tended to latch onto a single idea: specifically, the idea that the number of partners matters for STD diffusion dynamics.... Our data suggest that a shift in social policy toward comprehensive STD education for all adolescents, not just those at highest risk, would be significantly more effective than current intervention models."

In other words, when it comes to teenage sex, don't waste any time targeting key players in the network. The teenage sex network, by its very nature, tends to connect in a way that makes the very notion of "key player" irrelevant. So concludes the paper "Chains of Affection" by Bearman, Moody, and Stovel.

Not all networks connect in this way. Sometimes it does pay to hire a network analyst and target key players in your advocacy campaign. Specifically, if Bob and Alice complete the partner-swap we see here (and others do likewise), then my services are definitely called for.

Kids turn out to be better than adults at avoiding these sorts of messes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2007 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

10 Minutes for Marty Kearns of Netcentric Campaigns

Last week I enjoyed a presentation by Marty Kearns of Netcentric Campaigns and Green Media Toolshed. My big take-away was the notion of the 10-minute volunteer: if someone shows up willing to help me for 10 minutes, and will just as surely forget about me in 11 minutes, how can I make use of this gift? Most people would rather ignore such a flighty volunteer, but Marty makes a great case for bringing them in, just for those 10 minutes. For example, "Where are they now?" runs a massively distributed phone campaign to expose dubious staffer moves within Congress.

OK my 10 minutes is up. Coming soon--a closer look at the (in)famous sexual relationship network of Jefferson High School, which Marty used as part of his introduction:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2008 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

KM 0.0 by Dave Pollard

Recently I was invited by HP's knowledge management (KM) connector Stan Garfield to join a conference call that featured Dave Pollard. It was the first I heard the expression "KM 0.0", which was perhaps coined by Dave here. Dave describes KM 1.0 as "content and collection," and KM 0.0 as "context and connection." This not only makes for a poetic KM checklist, but it also reminds us that the better we get at KM, the more our KM draws from pre-historic roots of humanity.

My attempt in the conference call to agree with Dave did not get very far. Too many ideas in my head and not enough sense out of my mouth, I think. Nevertheless, those who want to support Dave's "KM 0.0" notion will do well to notice how 1920's anthropological study of archaic societies anticipates this 2006 MIT Sloan Management Review cover on "Enterprise 2.0."

Dave's poem also deserves more consideration:

Content, collection;
Context, connection.

I interpret this poem as a tribute to and other exemplars of the Long Tail phenomenon--digital hosts who provide not only content but also ways for users to interact through their experience of that content. It's an amazingly successful network recipe cooked with equal measures of centrality, clustering, and structural equivalence.

Too many ideas in my head now, so I must sign off.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2007 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.