Tag Archives: social networks

What Steve says

The always-insightful Steve Wright pretty much nails it in this short post on OWS (emphasis mine):

Social media does a fantastic job of creating noise and through noise you get attention. But noise has no narrative. The decentralized approach has served us brilliantly. Again, I am grateful and in awe of those in the OWS movement who have done what I do not have the courage to do myself.I believe we are rapidly approaching the time when old school Port Huron style organizing is necessary. Reading up on the early days of the last civil rights movement, it took them about 10 years to get to the catalytic moment of 1968. I think we are at our 1968 moment today but don’t have the structure underneath us.

Three keys to understanding Occupy Wall Street

I don’t have much original to say about Occupy Wall Street, other than that I find it quite fascinating on many levels.  Here are three articles from cutting-edge progressive social change organizers that I think offer important, non-obvious insights into what is really going on and what it could become.

  1. from liberty plaza, Adrienne Maree Brown
  2. Turning Occupation into Lasting Change, Tom Linzey and Jeff Reifman
  3. Occupy Wall Street is Not a Brand, Marty Kearns

Very different perspectives, but some amazing thematic resonance: opportunity, radically democratic process, networks instead of organizations, diversity (of people and ideas).  Will these seeds blossom or wither and wait for the next season of discontent?

Unplugging from the social networks

After some soul-searching, and a prod from my dear friend and inspiration role model Sam Dorman, I’ve decided to unplug myself from “web 2.0,” “the social nets” or whatever we call the rapidly-expanding tarpit of social networking sites these days.

Long story short: I’m increasingly convinced that the constant stream of tweets, status updates, Facebook wall posts and the like are causing me more cognitive harm than professional or personal benefit.   And I deeply suspect that they’re harming us as a society, too.  (See “Skinner Box?  There’s an App for that!” for more on this.)

I’m not going cold turkey from the internet.  That’s not what this is about.  I’m going to continue reading email, surfing the web, and maybe taking in a few RSS feeds, since that’s a very convenient way to follow the news.  I will continue to blog (and hope to write more in the future since I won’t be as distracted by constant consumption!)  I might even keep my Facebook account after paring it down to people who are actually real-world personal friends.  But I’m ditching Twitter, unsubscribing from most of my “professional” RSS feeds, and am going to basically pull out of the “real-time web.”  Our brains just aren’t meant to work this way, and I can feel it harming my work, my personal life, and my happiness.

“Surely you just need to manage this stuff better, Jon,” you might be thinking.  Well, maybe, but if you know me, you know that I am an extremely disciplined person and am about as far from an “addictive personality” as it gets.  Heck, I didn’t even have an internet connection at home until 2001, and then only because my wife made me!  If I am suddenly finding myself experiencing addictive behaviors with web 2.0 tools, I’m pretty sure it’s because these qualities are deeply wired into the technology, not into my personality.  Also, if you think that “technology is completely neutral, it’s just about how we use it,” then please go stop and go read “In the Absence of the Sacred” before deciding whether you really want to pursue that line of argument.

So, in short, I won’t be seeing you on Twitter or Facebook so much anymore.   But please do drop me a line, give me a call, let’s go get some coffee or a hoist a pint.  Let’s go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride.  Let’s play some music together, or cook some food.

And if you’re feeling a little stressed out by the constant chatter of your online “friends,” then I invite you to join me in easing back out and into the sunlight.  See you in the real world, person-to-person!

Is the Tipping Point Bullshit?

New research suggests the Malcom Gladwell-popularized theory of “Influentials” (or Gatekeepers) doesn’t hold water. Really interesting article in FastCompany about research Duncan Watts:

Watts, for one, didn’t think the gatekeeper model was true. It certainly didn’t match what he’d found studying networks. So he decided to test it in the real world by remounting the Milgram experiment on a massive scale. In 2001, Watts used a Web site to recruit about 61,000 people, then asked them to ferry messages to 18 targets worldwide. Sure enough, he found that Milgram was right: The average length of the chain was roughly six links. But when he examined these pathways, he found that “hubs”–highly connected people–weren’t crucial. Sure, they existed. But only 5% of the email messages passed through one of these superconnectors. The rest of the messages moved through society in much more democratic paths, zipping from one weakly connected individual to another, until they arrived at the target. Why did Milgram get it wrong? Watts thinks it’s simply because his sample was so small–only a few dozen letters reached their mark. The dominance of the three friends could have been a statistical accident. “And since Milgram’s finding sort of made sense, nobody even bothered to redo the experiment,” Watts shrugs. But when you perform the experiment with hundreds of successfully completed letters, a different picture emerges: Influentials don’t govern person-to-person communication. We all do.

There’s a really interesting bit about how they experimented with ForwardTrack, which makes viral forwarding activity transparent to the users. It massively increased pass-along traffic. I really want to start working this into more online activism work.

Video From Our Recent Social Networks Event

Those of you who missed our recent event “Online Social Networks: Can They Power Social Change” missed a good time and a packed house with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.

Fortunately, we got a decent video of our eight 5-minute presentations, which you can watch online at:


Warning: the video’s just under an hour, so grab a chair and get comfy. :-)

Thanks to friend-of-ONE/Northwest Jeff Reifman for loaning us his video camera on short notice, and to Drew Bernard for jumping in as lead cinematographer.  Not quite as challenging a shoot as “Heart of Darkness” but not the easiest environment either.

How Network-Centric Warfare Failed: The Networks are Social, Not Electronic

Michael Gilbert picks up on an important piece: How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic

A couple of key ‘grafs:

The network-centric approach had worked pretty much as advertised. Even the theory’s many critics admit net-centric combat helped make an already imposing American military even more effective at locating and killing its foes. The regimes of Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar were broken almost instantly. But network-centric warfare, with its emphasis on fewer, faster-moving troops, turned out to be just about the last thing the US military needed when it came time to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. A small, wired force leaves generals with too few nodes on the military network to secure the peace. There aren’t enough troops to go out and find informants, build barricades, rebuild a sewage treatment plant, and patrol a marketplace. … Continue reading