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    Entries in social networking (10)

    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    Numbers never lie - but they change how we behave

    Full disclaimer: I am not much of a fan/user of Facebook. I check it very infrequently, almost never see things like messages or friend requests in a timely manner, and really only keep my account active for HR Happy Hour Show page purposes. So take that for what it is worth and as preface to what I want to talk about today.

    I caught a really interesting piece on The Atlantic titled 'How Numbers on Facebook Change Behavior', a review of a study conducted by Ben Grosser that attempted to understand just how much that Facebook metrics like the number of people that 'liked' a piece of content or the number of friends that a Facebook user has goes on to influence user behavior on the site.

    I recommend reading the entire piece, particularly if you are a big Facebook user, but I can give you the short (and maybe kind of obvious) conclusion in one sentence: You (and most everyone else) are more likely to 'like' something on Facebook if lots of other people have 'liked' that same thing. 

    From the Atlantic piece:

    To keep its 1.3 billion users clicking and posting (and stalking), Facebook scatters numbers everywhere. While it collects many metrics that users never see, it tells users plenty of others, too. Facebook tells you the number of friends you have, the number of likes you receive, the number of messages you get, and even tracks the timestamp to show how recently an item entered the news feed.

    And these numbers, programmer and artist Ben Grosser argues, directly influence user behavior by being the root of Facebook addiction. In October 2012, he set out to find exactly what Facebook's metrics were doing to users after noticing how much he depended on them.

    He did this by creating a browser extension, that when activated, 'hides' the numbers from Facebook. Instead of seeing the little red number alerting you to the count of notifications you have, you are just informed that you have notifications. And you won't see the that '18 people like this' but rather that 'people like this', that kind of thing.

    Grosser then examined what happened and recorded the observations from some of the 5,000 or so people that installed the tested the 'numbers hiding' extension.

    And again, the findings were probably not terribly surprising. People tended to report (and demonstrate) that when visible the Facebook numbers fostered more competition, (more likes the better), manipulation (removing posts that did not have enough or any likes), and probably most importantly, homogenization, (liking posts that many of your friends had already liked).

    Why am I writing about this, as a self-declared non-user (essentially) of Facebook?

    Well because everyone else uses Facebook, so what happens there sort of matters in a big-picture sense and I find that important to keep in mind. But also, for what these kinds of findings might mean for the systems and tools that we use in the workplace as well.

    Wouldn't it make sense for savvy (and admittedly unscrupulous) organizational communicators to not just message their workforces, but to imbue in these messages a sense of importance and value by gaming the system with additional 'likes' or upvotes or 5-star ratings - you get the idea? The kind of activity that gets restaurant owners in trouble on Yelp for example.

    It really is not that much of a stretch, and I am sure this happens all the time, for companies to post on their blog or in their LinkedIn Group and then have a few dozen employees immediately 'like' the post, this setting off what they hope will be a snowball effect once other readers observe all of these 'likes.' And note, I am not talking about scammy 'like farms' or purchased Twitter followers or YouTube plays. I am talking about real people taking actions and reacting the actions of others.

    Is that really a bad thing or not, I suppose I am not sure.

    But we have always known, even in the age of Facebook that popular doesn't necessarily equal quality.

    I wonder though, even in the communications from our friends and colleagues, if we should also realize that popular doesn't always equal popular as well.

    Happy Tuesday.

    Monday
    Feb242014

    You will be corrected (if you're wrong)

    The alternate title to this post is, 'It's just about impossible to BS your way to the top, or even into the bottom any more.'

    If you haven't checked it out yet, I would recommend the latest Malcolm Gladwell book titled David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, a fascinating look at how we think about (apparent) disadvantages and obstacles in business and in life, and how, often, these kinds of challenges prove not to be disadvantages after all.

    One of the 'underdog' examples in the Gladwell book is from about 20 years ago and tells the story of a guy who during a shared cab ride from Wall St. out to LaGuardia Airport in New York, talked his way into an interview (and was a few days later, hired), to be an options trader at at a big financial services firm. The catch was that in fact this guy had zero job experience, no industy connections or references, and did not have the kind of educational background that would have gotten him past the first few knock-out questions that the bank would have had in place (had there been such a thing at that time). But he was able, in that one hour in the cab, to pitch and present himself as a sharp, experienced person that was worth pursuing.

    Long story short, he went on to be really successful in that job trading options, (he essentially taught himself, was smart, and a bulldog that out worked everyone), and has gone on in his career to become a rich and powerful executive at one of the big Wall St. powerhouse firms. Great story of someone who was able to overcome some disadvantages, turn at least a couple of them into assets, and succeed where it might have seemed that a middling and non-descript career was probably his most likely outcome.

    Great story for sure, but what I almost immediately thought about after reading it was how there is probably no possibility of it happening today.

    The 2014 equivalent of the 'Guy conning a busy manager in off the cuff conversation to give him an interview for a position he has no education/experience to qualify for' might be something like a guy hitting up a hiring manager with a well-crafted and interesting LinkedIn connection request, (because LinkedIn is now so big and out of control they have a couple of shared connections), but that shows a profile with thin, and not relevant job experience, an educational story that doesn't 'fit' the candidate profile, and no meaningful recommendations or endorsements. If the hiring manager even noticed the request, and this is a bigger if, forwarded the profile over to anyone in HR or Recruiting to review, there would be little to no chance of the guy getting a second look, much less a call in for an interview or a job offer.

    And I totally get why that makes sense, it is hard enough for many jobs to find people that are qualified or nearly qualified so they can hit the ground running (as your hiring manager demands), and there are a raft of other kinds of jobs where you are turning away really good candidates, so in either case chasing after any kind of 'No way he is a fit, but what the heck, he's got charisma, let's call him in for an interview anyway' type of candidate is kind of a long shot no one has time for.

    I'm not saying if this is bad or good, really, it's just how it works today. Today, the guy in Gladwell's book almost certainly would not get hired at most established firms. You would check his story first, and you'd find it lacking. LinkedIn is the new scoresheet.

    He'd have to find another way in to the industry (or start something on his own).

    Thanks to the social net (and more advanced technology), we can now know just about everything about anyone who wants a shot at working for us.

    I wonder if that has made hiring easier or harder.

    Have a great week! 

    Friday
    Jul192013

    Vacation Week - Read this instead #5

    Note: The blog is on vacation this week, so you should read this instead...

    ‘Oh, I’m So Good at Math’: Lessons From the Jay-Z Business Model

    From the piece:

    The nature of those rules was revealed in the spot’s final second, when the words SAMSUNG GALAXY flashed on the screen. Viewers were directed to a website, where they could make out—amid stylized redactions—directions that allowed Samsung users to download a free app, which would in turn give them the album five days ahead of its general release. Samsung paid $5 each for a million digital copies, assuring the album of platinum status before it even appeared, while also giving Jay-Z the benefit of free advertising. The Wall Street Journal valued the partnership at $20 million—a figure that shocked an industry battered by piracy and declining revenues.

    The deal was about much more, however, than solving a distribution problem. Before the release, the free app worked as a machine for data-mining and promotion, trading scraps of information, like lyric sheets and cover art, for access to users’ social networks. Though some critics objected to the crass intrusiveness—“If Jay-Z wants to know about my phone calls and e-mail accounts,” the Times’ Jon Pareles groused, “why doesn’t he join the National Security Agency?”—it didn’t much affect his standing with fans. A total of 1.2 million people downloaded the app, creating a mailing list at the very least and potentially offering something more, like the core audience for a music-streaming service.

    Read the rest here...

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Jul182013

    Vacation Week - Read this instead #4

    Note: The blog is on vacation this week, so you should read this instead...

    DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’LL BE 285 DAYS FROM NOW AT 2 P.M.? THESE DATA-MASTERS DO

    From the piece:

    Using information from a pool of 300 volunteers in the Seattle metro area, Sadilek and Krumm gathered a mountain of location data. As the volunteers went about their daily lives--going to work, to the grocery store, out for a jog, even for transcontinental travel--each carried a GPS device much the same way they carried a cell phone. To further ensure accuracy, the researchers also installed GPS devices in commercial shuttles and transit vans that the volunteers used regularly, and the volunteers’ own vehicles. After collecting over 150 million location points, the researchers then had Far Out, the first system of its kind to predict long-term human mobility in a unified way, parse the data. Far Out didn't even need to be told exactly what to look for--it automatically discovered regularities in the data.

    It turns out that no matter how spontaneous we think we are, humans are actually quite predictable in our movements, even over extended periods of time. Not only did Far Out predict with high accuracy the correct location of a wide variety of individuals, but it did so even years into the future.

    Read the rest here...

    Thursday
    Feb142013

    'And we're going to track one of our employees'

    There you go, happily wandering around the internet and the social networks. A Twitter conversation here. A Foursquare check-in there. Maybe a quick cruise up and down your Facebook feed dropping a few 'likes', and uploading a cool snap from your weekend trip to winery or petting zoo or ballpark. It's fun, it's social, and in 2013 for many of us, updating, connecting, and participating in social networking and contributing to the colossal Big Data set that is the social graph is an essential part of our lives.

    Sure, every so often we get a little tired of it all, maybe we take a Facebook vacation, or go on a little Twitter hiatus. We forget to update our LinkedIn profile for a while, (at least until we decide we need a new job), or decide 'checking-in' every time you get a coffee on the way to work is kind of silly. But eventually we come back. Too much of our lives, personal for sure, and increasingly professional, are wound up in the social web. 

    That essential nature of social networking that not only compels us to Instagram our pancakes before digging in or fighting over meaningless 'Mayorships' at your kid's preschool also leads to a kind of softening in our views of privacy and security. Through a combination of often confusing and shifting privacy policies, and a pessimistic, (probably realistic), rationalization that no matter what 'privacy' settings or controls one chooses, that their data, once submitted to the great big social graph in the cloud, will eventually become if not public, at least privy to people and programs for which it was never intended.

    We sort of get it, we get the tradeoff, we (mostly) accept it as a 'cost of doing business' where the value we derive, (fun, connections, business opportunities), is greater than or at least equal to the darker side of social - loss of privacy, more and more ads, the occasional backlash in the form of 'If your not the customer, you're the product' bitterness. Ok, that last one is mostly my pet peeve.

    But despite all that, and our real understanding that nothing on the internet is ever truly private, it is enlightening to catch a glimpse, a snippet, of just what is happening with all that social exhaust we leave as we traverse the social networks and live our lives online.

    The UK's Guardian site managed to get a hold of a pretty amazing video created in 2010 by the defense and security firm Raytheon, that features a short product demonstration of a tool called RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology). The Raytheon system was designed to exhibit just how simple and powerful social network data can be for the purposes of identification, tracking, and predicting one's movements. Take a look at the video below, (RSS and email subscribers please click through)

    Pretty incredible, right? And remember this video of RIOT is from 2010. No doubt development has continued on RIOT, and no doubt that Raytheon was or is not the only company interested in this sort of thing.

    But a great reminder nonetheless. 

    We KNOW the data that we publish, push, and post on social media is never private.

    But we don't usually get to SEE a reminder of what that actually means.

    What's your take? Creeped out by RIOT? Or simply do you chalk it up as the way the world works today?

    Happy Thursday.

    Aside - Did you notice the Raytheon demo guy from the video looks just like comedian Louis C.K.? Weird.