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    Entries in socal networking (41)

    Tuesday
    Jan262016

    Dunbar strikes again

    This recent piece on CNET, You can only really count on 4 of your 150 Facebook friends, study says, a recap of some recently published research by none other than Robin Dunbar, (of Dunbar's number), reminded me of a piece I posted here almost 5 years ago. Long story short, once again Dunbar's essential observation and conclusion about the number and strength of personal relationships that a person can have and maintain, (around 150 in total), continues to be validated even in the age of constant connectivity and ubiquitous use of social networking platforms. 

    You can check out the CNET piece, and the link to the related research paper from Dunbar, and just for fun, I am going to re-run my almost 5 year old piece below as well. That Dunbar, he never stops being right it seems...

    In the Jungle, or on Twitter, Dunbar Still Has You Beat

    June 2011

    You might be familiar with Dunbar's number - the theoretical limit on the number of meaningful and stable social relationships that one can successfully maintain. First proposed by the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it asserts that the actual number of social relationships one can maintain ranges from 100 to about 230, with 150 as the commonly accepted value.Should I 'unfriend' Steve?

    Dunbar's original studies that led to the development of the concept of the 'number', were conducted on studies of the social activity of non-human primates, that as far as we can tell, did not have many Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Why do I toss in the social networking bit? Well, in this modern age of social networking, hyper-connectivity, and the ability to make some kind of connection, (meaningful or otherwise), with thousands upon thousands of people is now quite possible and fairly simple.

    Naturally the technological and social revolutions have led many to question or even claim that modern social networking technology can indeed finally enable individuals to effectively expand the actual number of social relationships they can successfully maintain, that in the age of Facebook and Twitter and the ease with which these tools allow essentially limitless connections to be made, that Dunbar's number might no longer apply.

    Recently Bruno Goncalves and a team of researchers from Indiana University set out to determine if indeed this was the case. They studies the actions and interactions and the networks of connections of over 3 million Twitter users over a period of 4 years, examining a grand total of over 380 million tweets. The researchers wanted to see if indeed among these 3 million users, they could discern patterns and evidence, (replies, conversations, sustained connections, etc.), that could prove that the long-accepted Dunbar limitation of 150 would indeed be more easily overcame, aided by the ease and speed and facilitated connection engine that is Twitter.

    Their findings? (below quote lifted directly from their paper's conclusion)

    Social networks have changed they way we use to communicate. It is now easy to be connected with a huge number of other individuals. In this paper we show that social networks did not change human social capabilities. We analyze a large dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving millions of individuals to test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar's number. We found that even in the online world cognitive and biological constraints holds as predicted by Dunbar's theory limiting users social activities.

    I follow about 6,000 people on Twitter. I probably interact regularly with maybe 100 or 150 of them. Which is altogether normal and expected and not at all unexpected according to our friend Dunbar, the primates he studied, and the results seen from the recent research from Indiana University.

    The larger point in all this?

    I suppose keeping in mind that no matter how large and diverse and important seeming these giant networks of contacts, connections, followers, and friends we build online are to us, to our businesses and our personal lives, the technology itself has yet to do much to overcome some of the apparent laws of nature and biology.

    What do you think? Can you really have more than 150 'friends'?

    Thursday
    Jan072016

    As much as it pains me to write this, I would rather you send an email

    Even though I have a 'hate-hate' relationship with email, as many of us do, I have to make my annual stand/defense/plea for email once again, even in 2016. I touched upon this issue in my 'Ways in which to contact me, ranked' post from late 2014, when I laid out a pretty persuasive argument for what I feel compelled to re-litigate once again in 2016. And that is unless you have some kind of prior understanding, or are corresponding with a close associate or friend that you know really, really well, the default medium for business communication still has to be email.

    Hang on, I need a second before continuing with the post. I think I many have threw up in my mouth a little...

    Ok, I am better. Here goes the rest of the take.While most of us, especially me, has come to loathe many elements of email, it remains the default communication media for global business. Everyone has email, everyone still uses email in some capacity, everyone in business understands you have to check your email at least daily, if not several times a day. It may be the lowest common denominator for business communication, but it is the common denominator nonetheless.

    And that can't be said for the seemingly 293 other ways that we can use, or try to use, to contact one another for business reasons. There are the obvious mechanisms from the popular social networks - Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, even Instagram. And then the less obvious ones like SnapChat or Skype. And most of those networks have multiple ways in which they can be used for communication - mentions, messages, private messages, tags, etc. It all adds up to an enormous set of potential 'places' to check for communications. And that is not mentioning old-fashioned phone calls, voice mails (which I hate), and text messages, (which I like). 

    Note, this rant is 99% directed at cross-organizational communications, not internal company communications between co-workers that in many cases are moving away from email and into alternate productivity and communication platforms like Slack or HipChat. Those tools may be fantastic at simplifying collaboration and reducing email volume, but they are almost always internal tools. In my role probably 90% of my communication is with people from outside my organization.

    So when you send business and otherwise 'important' messages via one of these other media, (and you did not have an agreement or understanding to do that beforehand), you are creating two potential issues. One is that you are making a big assumption about the person you are contacting and their habits and preferences. You might even think that their methods are similar to yours. You may live all day sending Twitter or Facebook messages for work purposes, but that does not necessarily mean that I or anyone else does. I will admit here, I never check Twitter direct messages. I mean never. 

    Second, you are making an unfair ask of the person you are contacting via these messages to adapt to your preferred methods of communication. I have a LinkedIn account of course. But I do not want to conduct any meaningful correspondence in LinkedIn's messaging tool. It stinks to use. It is not searchable as far as I can tell. And it does not integrate with anything else. Frankly, it sucks. Just about every LinkedIn message I send says, 'Please send me an email directly on this.' I am not proud of this, but it is just how things have to be.

    And a quick disclaimer for folks that know me and might know this: I am not always great at email. In fact, sometimes I am pretty terrible at email. But I am more terrible at the dozen other potential ways that I can be reached, many of which I never or rarely even check. I am looking at you Facebook messages.

    Ok, that's the end of the 2016 version of my email/messaging/ways to contact me rant.

    I wish things could be different. I do.

    But until then, you, me, all of us, we are stuck with email. 

    Monday
    Nov302015

    Learn a new word: Face with tears of joy

    At the risk of sounding a little too much like the 'get off of my lawn' old codger that I am fighting against becoming, please take a look at the image on the left, your Oxford Dictionaries 'Word of the Year' for 2015 and try hold back your tears for the future of humanity while you contemplate the same.

    The 'Word' of the Year for 2015 as you have certainly deduced is not really a word at all, but rather an emoji, and to be precise, it is the 'Face with tears of joy' emoji. And if the folks at Oxford are correct you have doubtless seen this particular emoji plenty of times this year as their research claims 'face with tears of joy' to be the most-used emoji of 2015. I guess 'smiley-face' is just so 2012. Note to self: I probably need to up my emoji game.

    Just why did Oxford Dictionaries go with an emoji, never mind this particular one as its Word of the Year? Let's take a look at the reasoning from the blog post announcing the selection:

    Emojis (the plural can be either emoji or emojis) have been around since the late 1990s, but 2015 saw their use, and use of the word emoji, increase hugely.

    This year Oxford University Press have partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and ๐Ÿ˜‚ was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015. SwiftKey identified that ๐Ÿ˜‚ made up 20% of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US: a sharp rise from 4% and 9% respectively in 2014. The word emoji has seen a similar surge: although it has been found in English since 1997, usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year according to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus.

    Admit it, you have used an emoji(s) in some kind of 'business' correspondence in the last month or so. Even if it was not a full-fledged 'image' emoji, you have definitely dropped a :) (technically, an emoticon, not an emoji, but you get the idea), somewhere in an email or a text to a business contact. It is ok, I have to.

    And I suppose with recognition of the rise in popularity and increase in common usage of emojis by organizations like Oxford Dictionaries it is becoming a little less troubling to admit that you have been peppering emails and other messages with those cute little characters. And why not? A picture is worth a thousand words and all that, and NO ONE wants an email of a thousand words, or even half that.

    But the larger part of the story, and the reason why I have submitted 'Face with tears of joy' as the latest in the 'Learn a new word' series is that it reminds us (again, as if we needed reminding), that methods, manner, and styles of communication, even 'serious' communication, change and morph over time. We are not writing long-winded memos any longer, no one has tolerance for lengthy emails, voice mail is just about dead as a business tool, and so on. 

    With the growth in popularity of short messaging services, (SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, etc.), the style of interaction on these services are changing and adapting to the medium. Throw in the seeming information overload/time crunch that almost every professional you know will claim these days, and the ability to convey complex information in the shortest, most succinct way possible is a skill that is at a premium.

    And since this post has already gone on too long for a post that is more or less about getting your point across more quickly, I will leave with this - it is probably time to step up your emoiji game. As much as I cry a little inside to say that.

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Jul012014

    Three quick takes on the Facebook mood manipulation study

    By now you have certainly heard or read about Facebook's 2012 study in which researchers altered the messages and posts presented in about 700,000 users' newsfeeds in order to determine if seeing relatively more negatively or positively connotative posts would in fact make the user him or herself tend to post more negative or positive posts than they might otherwise.

    Turns out, that yes, seeing more positive or happy kinds of posts led users to post (to a small degree), more positive and happy updates themselves, while the inverse, with more negative posts in the feeds led to more negative updates than would have been expected.

    Here is a quote from the research paper that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

    “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

    This study became news not so much for the findings themselves, (which seem kind of obvious), but for the expected and now kind of tired internet rage that accompanies every questionable move Facebook makes around privacy or related matters. How dare they manipulate the emotions and possibly the mental well-being of so many of its users in the name of a (kind of dopey) experiment? That kind of thing.

    So since I  A: Don't really use or care that much about Facebook to be emotionally invested in this, and B:  Need something other than the NBA or HR Tech to blog about occasionally, here are my (FREE) three quick takes on what this entire 'Facebook is using us for lab mice' kerfluffle should mean to you:

    1. You have been a lab mouse for years, you just like to forget this (or don't care). The instant Facebook began to tailor or select on your behalf the updates and posts it decided to display for you, (as opposed to a simple reverse chronological feed of all the updates from your friends and the pages you follow), you became a part of their little devious laboratory. In fact, you likely have no idea why Facebook shows you what it does, you just kind of accept it and move on. You miss probably hundreds of updates every week because Facebook has decided not to show them to you. You are already a mouse in their maze. 

    2. The business of Facebook is selling ads. The 'emotion' study, the hiding or promoting of items in your feed, the insane amount of times Facebook asks you for more information about you and your life are all for one (ultimate) purpose only - to better target you with 'relevant' ads. The more that FB can do to understand you, the longer it can keep you engaged and using the site, the more it can learn about you. And the more it knows about you the more about you it can package and sell to GM and Clorox and Microsoft. You get angry at FB for this little experiment because you have not yet made the leap to seeing them for what they are - a giant, publicly traded corporation that has to make its numbers every quarter. 

    3. You (probably) care too much about Facebook for this to matter to you. If this emotion study and the dozen other times FB has played fast and loose with privacy in the last few years really bothered you that much, you would simply opt out. But I bet 99% of the people that are reading this post have an active FB account. I do too. It doesn't mean that I agree with what they like to do with our data, but it also means that for whatever reason we keep giving them the benefit of the doubt, while silently acceding to their experiments and whims. We have allowed FB to become so important to our family lives or our businesses that we simply keep taking (and giving) whatever new change/experiment they care to dish out. I read 10 articles today expressing various levels of outrage over these 2012 experiments. I have not yet heard of anyone I know deleting their FB account.

    If you don't like the rules, then you have to start your own game, in your own sandbox. Until then... 

    Ok, I'm out. Be sure to 'like' this on Facebook. Maybe Marky Z. will make sure other happy people see that you did.

    Monday
    Dec022013

    You don't have to social network to make it

    Cleaning out some old 'saved for later' items in my RSS reader over the weekend and I re-visited this gem from Bob Lefsetz, 36 Things We've Learned which ran a few weeks back on the Big Picture site. 

    In the piece, which is simply a series of observations about the modern music industry (but certainly could be relevant to any number of fields of endeavor, particularly ones that have undergone significant change and disruption from technology, social networks, or other external influences), Lefsetz shares this 'learning' regarding social networking, which is below:

    22. You don’t have to social network to make it.

    You’ve just got to do great work, constantly.

    An interesting observation at least, if not a true 'learning.' But one that at least made me think for a little while. In our little corner of the world, the Human Resources/Talent Management space, it seems like lots of people, many of whom I know and respect quite a bit, the 'early social tech adopters' have spent lots of time and energy and pixels exhorting the 'rest' of the profession to get on board with social technology and social networking in a professional context.

    Still in late 2013 I see folks giving presentations and talks aimed at mainstream HR professionals and designed on 'selling' the benefits and importance of social networking for these HR/Talent pros. These kinds of sessions usually take the position of trying to convince the slow adopters or disbelievers that they have to get on board, or risk getting passed by or marginalized.

    But I wonder, or at least I ask you to wonder for a moment, if that advice is actually true, or at least mostly true. What if Lefsetz is right, and doing great work is really what is needed and that trumps the need or desire to simply 'network' more, (social or otherwise).

    The last CHRO I worked for (at a publicly traded company with 5,000 employees), achieved that lofty position in 2011 or so without having so much as a LinkedIn account, much less a professional blog, active Twitter feed sharing the latest from Harvard Business Review or a leading or even participating in one of the daily Tweet chats on HR and Talent topics. 

    But she did great work. Had great mentors. Built a great and loyal team. Earned the respect and trust of the rest of the C-suite.

    Spent the time doing great work and not worried at all about social networking.

    Or to take a slightly different take on the issue, just ask yourself this question today - is that hot article or blog post being shared all over social media today really any good? Does it really have any non-obvious important insights? 

    Or is it just being tweeted a lot?

    Happy Monday. Look out above your head in case an Amazon drone is buzzing.