flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Imre

A woman reading SMS messages on her mobile phone while standing on a bike in traffic.

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Wise Web Developers from High Wycombe

I am delighted again by the wisdom that flows from High Wycombe. Paul Imre commented on my post about SwarmTeams and the exercise we did comparing soccer and work.

An online community as a rope

This time Paul used the analogy of a rope to think about a “social media community”. The rope becomes stronger the more we add strands. The rope has a past (so easy to forget) and the rope has a future when it begins to “think” for itself.

I think the first two points are useful to remind clients.

  • Ties with a community require constant participation – social media is a “hands-on” business.
  • A community has come from somewhere and is going somewhere.

How does the rope think? In two ways.

  • In a swarm – which for people not from UK is a social media community built up around an SMS system similar to Twitter – we communicate peer-to-peer – this is not unlike birds flying in a flock. P2P messaging allows us to follow the general direction of the flock, keep up, and not bash in to each other.
    • So we “think” by keeping in position by bouncing messages off the people immediately around us.
    • We also think, when gradual changes in what we do make the flock sweep and swoop across the sky.
    • This is what the pundits call low-level emergence. The flock looks as if it is intelligently following a leader. They are just following each other! And they are doing it without bashing into each other.
    • This kind of coordination would be particularly useful in a fleet of taxis for example, who could communicate where passengers are during rush hour.
  • The message board on an SMS system, that we can see by logging on to a computer, gives us the second level of thinking. The message board allows us to scan the overall pattern of the messages and make higher level changes – and any member of the swarm can do that. It is the equivalent of one of the birds in the flock saying “guys we passed that church half an hour ago – can we check our bearings”. My fleet of taxi drivers might scan the message board at the end of the day and observe, say, that it could be worthwhile having one person in a location to alert other taxis. For so many purposes, we don’t need a specialist to do this – we just need the message board and some motivated people.

Using Swarms at Conference

I also thought Paul’s question about when the “rope starts to think” takes us to something I commented about on the NLabNetworks blog – why didn’t we use social media more at the conference? It struck me that DMU had brought together a wide range of people from Leicester and wasn’t energetically linking the strands or developing a group that was “thinking”. After Bucks08, Paul came up with the analogy of a “dam” which stores potential. Toby Moores of Sleepy Dog wasn’t so taken with the image of “blocking”. But a “dam” is what we made when we put 150 people in a university building for a day. It is a pity that at the end of the day, we just let the water out. We should have at least used the water to turn a turbine or two.

The Swarm technology can be used to that effect. By capturing the tweeting for that group, we might be able to move up to another level of emergence where we see patterns, generate other contacts, etc.

So what are the five questions?

1. What will we do to add more “strands to the rope”?

2. Where did the community come from and where is it going?

3. What peer-to-peer decisions is the group making to “stay in position”and how are we going to join in?

4. How can we form an overall picture of the conversation and reflect it to the community so everyone can contribute to the group thinking?

5. How have we enhanced our future by joining and supporting the conversation (or did we just let the water run out – changing the metaphor, I know!)

Thanks Paul. Great heuristic.

Added this a few days later: What voices do you hear?

Social Media, HR and Member-driven Communities

Social Media is dominated in a fair degree by marketing. I am particularly interested in HR and communities like universities where customers and suppliers are the same people. If you would like to collaborate with me, or work with me commercially, please drop me comment. It would be good to expand the network of people interested in HR and social media in the UK.

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Paul Imre has thrown out the challenge: what is Tribal IQ?

Metrics gurus will ultimately want a set of numbers. This is a take influenced by corporate anthropology. I have lifted it almost entirely from a one-pager written by Dr Phil Baird, Vice President of United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota. With slight modifications, Phil Baird’s vision for his college fits almost exactly what we have been talking about:

What does it mean to provide communication infrastructure for a community, which is, in its barebones, exactly what social media does?

Mirror who we are

#1 Tribal IQ defines who we are: our past, our present and our future. We define our IQ ourselves and we recreate it everyday in what do, with each other, and people around us.

Support the everyday re-creation of our community

#2 A community manager is keenly aware of the way we recreate our culture on a daily basis. Our mission is to support our members as they regenerate our group through everyday activities

Recognize the competing definitions and internal dynamism of the community

#3 Sometimes our groups are complicated. Within one community, we may have multiple groups who have competing demands and between them add an invigorating tension.

Range of our challenge

Our groups might have a narrow or broad focus, be superficial or deep, and be short or long-lasting. The issues defining the group might be concrete and specific, such as supporting Obama for President, or they might be helping diffuse and long-standing such as communicating with local government through FixMyStreet.

Expansion of the role of IT & Geeks

In this year of 2008, the question many of us are asking is how we are using social media to support the needs of our community. IT experts are being drawn directly into the discussion of who is our community and what are its needs. We are drawn into the discussion about how our community functions, how it expresses itself, and how it recreates itself on a daily basis. And not least, how we facilitate our community’s activities, how we affect its internal functioning, and how we make it easier to fulfill its needs, including, the need to reflect on its needs and change the way members interact with each other and the outside world.

Moral challenges of community managers

As resources are always limited, we have to prioritize and help our members prioritize. We have to map out clearly what we will do and align our map with the wider map of the community’s needs. In this way we are drawn into the debates on management and governance within our community, our tribe.

Strategic work of community managers

We also need to address the challenges appearing on the 10, 5, 3 and 1 year horizons. One of the challenges of community regeneration is the arrival of ‘digital natives’. Every generation brings with it the challenge of incorporating new members and new ways. The generation joining the adult ranks of voters, workers and managers are digitally savvy and bring with them new skills, different attitudes and higher expectations. They will refresh our communities and highlight they way we interact, on-line and off-line, and the way construct our past, create our present and co-create our future. As Dr Phil Baird said in 2007, “What will their Tribal IQ bring to our Tribal College?”

The challenge is no longer for the community to understand IT. It is for IT to understand community

Social media is here, and IT has become communal. The challenge is no longer for the community to understand IT. It is for IT to understand community. I believe we will see joint careers in managing IT and sociology, anthropology, political science and psychology.

I like the 21st century! Comments?

Next social media camp is on July 5 2008 in London – follow the link for immediate registration, presentations, details, and so on.

 

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Kariba Dam wall by acidwashtofu in Flickr

Hat-tip for the picture of Kariba Dam wall: acidwashtofu on Flickr

Metrics, marriages & dams

We had a good session on metrics at Bucks08 Social Media Camp at the weekend, and no sooner than we had got home, Dan Thornton, a community marketing manager with Bauer, and Paul Imre, a web specialist from High Wycombe, had translated our discussions into models.

Dan used the parallel of a marriage, to ask how well our social media functions. Paul asked about how much we should invest in social media. He followed up Toby Moores of Sleepy Dog, who had commented that social media was essential infrastructure, much as electricity in our office – essential and not debatable.

Paul asks

  • Does social media increase our collective potential to act?
  • Can we estimate in advance how much we will increase in our capacity to act collectively?
  • And, consequently, can we judge how much to invest in social media?

He used the metaphor of a dam to capture these ideas.

Collective potential and the amplification factor

As luck would have it, there was a lull in the American elections this week, and several articles on how the Barack Obama campaign used social media.

Look at this profile. One of the factors prompting Barack Obama to run for President was that supporters, not his official campaign, his supporters set up a campaign in My Space with 160K members.

Obama expects ultimately to raise USD1bn online. As online donations tend to be around 10 dollars a pop, there is, by my calculations, an amplification factor of 650.

I like this example because it provides a working example for Paul’s metaphor of a dam. The My Space campaign captures and concentrated the energy of 160K supporters. That reservoir helped provide the energy or impetus for a ‘real-life’ action – Obama throws his hat into the ring.

Obama’s campaign is using social media formally. He has a media strategy and staff. Certainly, his use of social media has helped his campaign. It is nice to go to You Tube and pick up his latest speech when I want to.

But I doubt that social media has had a large impact on his campaign. His campaign is still led by ideas, policy, rallies, phone calls, etc. etc. What social media has allowed, are additional forms of communication and additional forms of donation. If it is easy to donate USD10 or 5 pounds, you are more likely to do it.

The amplification effect is reciprocal. The social media concentrates loyalty. Loyalty affects the leader. The leader amplifies loyalty. And we see the effect in the social media.

When it comes to investment, these figures illustrate the size of things. If I suspect I can swell my audience from 160K to 100 million, with the corresponding increase in revenue (4 times I believe the last record), then investing in the infrastructure is worth it. It would be nice to know the cents spent on social media per vote. I suspect the money spent on social media is trivial compared to the money spent on conventional advertising, air travel, etc.

A quiver full of questions

I like any idea with heuristic value and the dam metaphor prompts several questions and rules-of-thumb.

1 Community first

We don’t locate a dam anywhere. We need a catchment area where rain falls, dribbles into rivers which flow into a wider river which flows onwards to the sea where we can no longer use it for drinking, etc.

In social media, we need to understand our community and where they hang out in the social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.

2. We add a new marker for our community

We don’t build the dam wall anywhere. We must capture the water. With a dam, we build the wall in a narrow place with a natural basin behind it to store the water.

The same principle applies in social media. in LinkedIn, asking a question temporarily captures interest. I understand Second Life works around events. We need to understand the topography of the medium to know how to cocoon our community.

3. Engineer in context

We don’t build the dam wall anyhow. The wall must be an effective piece of engineering and it must work in situ.

Most writing about social media is about the engineering. Less is written about engineering in context. We need to know about the context too.

4 Be very, very responsive

We need to maintain the wall. I know that Kariba, the second highest dam in the wall, is constantly maintained by divers who swim with giant crocodiles (trolls?)

We know that we must be very responsive and very honest in our dealings with online communities. We are likely to learn more.

5 Why are we getting together online?

And we need a reason for the dam. We build dam walls to provide us with hydroelectric power, water and irrigation.

We need to know why we are building the ‘container’ of interest in the media space. What is it that many of us can do together that we cannot do alone? Do we understand the power of community in the context of our business? I would begin by asking business clients about their community and how they relate to it.

6. Where does our business stop and where does our community begin?

We need to understand that we are changing the patterns of interaction. With real dams, water upstream and downstream is owned and used. When we build a dam we have to negotiate water rights far afield and it is very likely that our interaction shifts a level from the individual to the collective. We might even shift from the private to the public domain.

I ‘hear’ this as being the biggest mental shift for business people. In ‘dirt-space’, usually a strong community leader emerges who talks about the possibilities of things like dams and mobilizes people to imagine the possibilities.

7 Lest we forget

Some people lose out altogether. When we build a dam, we flood peoples land.

Who will lose out and what do we intend to do about it?

8 Side-effects

Dams also change the pattern of use. If you search for Kariba on Flickr, most pictures are about recreation and tourism. There are very few pictures about hydroelectric power or the people who live alongside the lake.

Every action has a reaction, and a heap of side effects!

9 What is the multiplier effect?

And ultimately, can we imagine the impact of our dam? When we understand electricity, we can imagine the benefit of a national grid – or can we? Massive amounts of reliable electricity transform the potential of the economy. We aren’t talking about more of the same. We are talking about infrastructure that liberates us from drudgery, from limiting our work to daylight hours, from winding up our USD100 laptop, from lugging paraffin to power the fridge for our medicines. If your business is based upon that drudgery, you may not be happy to see electricity on tap, or on switch, rather.

This appears to be the second place where we stumble. I would look for the opportunity precisely at the point we say “I’m alright Jack”.

And is I suspect that ultimately, we are going to have to walk-the-talk. Like Obama, we are going to have to throw our hat into the ring and prove the point. And to do that takes confidence in yourself, your community and a critical mass of believers (or hopefuls – sorry!).

Next social media unconference

If you are interested in social media, the next unconference is in London on July 5.

Sign up social media style on the wiki. It’s free. And present if you would like to.

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Phoenix de Julia

So what does fractal mean in plain language?

In the social professions that are my milieu – psychology, HR, workplaces – fractal means “walking the talk”. It means using the working procedures you would like to see in an organization to bring those working practices about.

It means delivering democracy through democratic means.

It means having the same pattern of organization throughout the organization.

I attended the Bucks08 Social Media Camp

at Bucks New University in High Wycombe on Saturday 17 May 2008. It was organized by Chris Hambly and kindly hosted by Bucks.

It was an unconference. It is free, and registration is simple on an open wiki. Any one who wants to present, signs up in the room and time slot of their choice. It is gently organized with people changing rooms on the hour as they wish.

Around 60 people converged from as far afield as Brighton, Leicester, Nottingham and Sweden (yes, it was international with people from at least 7 countries there). Personally, I went to sessions on

How was this fractal?

Social media capitalizes on self-organization. We provide a framework where people can “read and write”. Social media is a framework in which the audience has a voice.

An unconference is minimally structured and, far from being disorganized, captures the energy of people with a purpose. So it is fractal in the subject matter is participation and the method of organizing is participative.

And then it becomes fractal again, because participants leave and blog about the conference on their own initiative and using their own resources. Before I had got home, a High Wycombe website designer, Paul Imre, had written up the session on metrics. Dan Thornton wrote up his take on social metrics with a parallel on reflecting on your marriage. Michael Clarke provided a running blog on the same session with comments on the whole day.

And it becomes fractal again, in that Dan & Paul summarized the discussion with the metaphors of marriages and  “investing in a dam” to build and release potential.  Dan’s metaphor was about managing social media.  Paul was talking about deciding how much to invest in social media.  In so doing, they effectively advanced the discussion and took it to another level. Within the afternoon, several people had replied, continuing the engagement, which I suspect will continue in other forums too.

Bucks New University must be very proud. They would have been happy, I am sure, with a smoothly organized event. This was so much more: it illustrated the power of social media, it supported a community of practice, it engaged new people, it generated new material.

To use Paul’s metaphor, investment that increases potential and to use Dan’s, when we enjoy ourselves, we come back for more!

PS The next media camp is at SAE in London on 5 July 2008.

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