KMCluster event on social networks, NYC

Following are some of my notes from the 3/26/04 KMCluster event on social networks ( ) in New York

Social networks over the decades (Robin Athey)
Jacob levy Moreno (sociometrics / sociograms (early SNA)

Kurt Lewin: group dynamics

Fritz Heider: balance theory (when group is thrown out of balance , we work to correct it)

70s: Ron Burt , Mark Granovetter


Stowe Boyd—‘Social Tools: Ready for the Enterprise?’
His own disclosure: He’s highly biased, he’s a wild-eyed fanatical advocate.

In Message 1999 (5): he wrote about ‘social tools’
Talked about ‘beehive’, which was made by Buzz, and NY Times acquired it.
– bottom up emergent expertise discovery tool
CompanyWay provides a similar service, and was acquired

These tools are designed to deliberately change the way companies work.

We’re moving towards the messy, interpersonal, and innately harder side of IT

Then: automate processes to minimize extraneous interaction. A lot of the efficiency work was designed to minimize interaction between people

Now: Supporting, augmenting, and enriching [DT: and documenting] social interaction

Social tools are not just group-oriented project or content management
They make explicit something that is invisible and intangible: creating, discovering, supporting, or managing social relationships.

Putnam: ‘norm of reciprocity’, affiliation, and collective action

David Weinberger: ‘there are no intelligent people, there are only intelligent conversations’

Three spheres:

– 1 conversational interaction among indivduals or groups (like interplay in blogs)
– 2 support for social feedback (digital reputation, karma, whuffie, or swarmth)
– 3 support for social network applications

Blogs are a conversational medium, unlike broadcast media
Interaction of authors and readers implies a community
Applications: bottom-up project management, business intelligence, customer conversations

Example: macromedia used blogs to get better dialogue with web designers, which revitalized the company. now they have their own blogdex, across their 27 blogs!

Emergent knowledge management: a lot of large scale KM solutions did not have social mechanism for feedback.

Tacit Software: accelerating the chance of collaboration. Hooking up potential collaborators

Swarm intelligence: ‘the emergence of social order from properties of merit-based social interaction is a potent self-orgnaizing principle and is likely to form the basis of all adaptive social tools in the future.”

Dunbar constant=150.

Consumer side will accelerate things that communities provide: stuff (classified ads, CDs, etc.)
– intros for work, housing, dates, sex
– – entertainment
– -collective buying

People will buy things thru socially — mediated systems

He recently met company which offers collective buying for young people

Business Models

Seeker 1 Seeker 2
Employment Job seeking Candidate seeking
Customer support Answer seeking Expert seeking
Sales Intro/sale seeking Product/service seeking
Development Partner seeking Partner seeking
M&A Buyer seeking Seller seekering

Accelerating sales: even a few percentage points is worth a bundle


Who is invited?
Who is buying? Public Private
Enterprise 2. Social supply chain 1. Siebel goes social
Individual 3. iTunes goes social 4. Pay for involvement

Sector 1: Siebel goes social
enterprise buy, closed communities
sales, biz dev—acceleration of deal flow
best scenario: Siebel goes social. This will be another module of Siebel.
Is this a feature or an application? Answer: it’s briefly a market, but it will be a feature.

Sector 2: Social supply chain
Enterprise buy, open communities
Corporate sponsorship of tribes, communities, groups
Consumer-facing customer support/market research and analysis
This is more authentic form of customer support
Stowe Boyd wrote piece on group of Presario users who provide customer support unpaid. Customer support costs went down. And customers rated this support more highly, more authoritative.
GM has 8m people in its supply chain. 900 buyers interact with 100,000 suppliers

Sector 3: iTunes goes social
Individual buys in open or sponsored communities.
Dating, job search, classified ads, ecommerce.

Sector 4: Pay for involvement
Individual buy, closed communities
Identity groups: ethnic, religious, alumni, etc.
Affiliatory groups (invitation only, age-restricted, pay for access, etc.)
Ex: suicidegirls—counterculture site built around blogs. People pay to get involved in relationship with the suicidegirls (who get paid to participate)


How to apply social tools: how to apply these tools to real-world problems?

+ Conversations: allow individuals in company to talk with one another.

+ Talking with the market: the market is smarter than you are. This will revolutionize product development.

+ Feedback: merit-oriented decisions, collaborative filtering
Cross-network and application reputation

‘the future of work’ book: order emerges from loosely-coupled individuals

socialize yourself

There’s no time to wait: you need to use these systems now.

There will soon be a split between companies developing technologies with point solutions (Spoke, Visible Path, etc.) and companies that try to move to infrastructure role (on which companies can build apps).

Microsoft is doing ThreeDegrees and TheSpoke, but will probably move into providing an OS for socializing.

Email helped create re-engineering

‘management would rather use a method that doesn’t work than try something they don’t understand’

Q: how do you address the problem: that by leveraging the social network I endanger them?

Valdis Krebs: Social Network Analysis

TRW story: they do custom satellites. They had junior engineers with very specific knowledge, and turnover was very expensive for them. They wanted to minimize turnover. Women /minorities had much more turnover than white men.

Valdis found that engineers with most commitment to an org were people involved in key information flows/decision flows.

big pharma is very interested in who the thought-leader doctors are.

SNA used for : biological networks, office design, patent networks, community networks, etc.

In Cleveland, they give attendees of ryze mixers a map showing how everyone is connected to one another. The chart is a core/periphery structure. (not a scale-free structure, but a core/periphery structure).

(one of the audience members mentioned that Karen Stephenson has found that the peripheral people are often the people who emerge into leadership. )

Shows map of Athens, OH food industry network: ACENET mapped these networks.

You can leave a structural hole as is, or you can bridge it

ACENET follows a union strategy: they’re trying to help people partner. They’re a network weaver.

He’s seen a positive effect from use of email , other technologies, etc. They make it easier to manage weak ties.

Covert networks: networks that want to stay undercover. E.g., 9/11 pilots were very central in the map of network around the 9/11 planners.

At TRW: they would invite people to lunch, and give survey there. 95% of project team would show up. This can get 100% response rate. Much harder to get that response with web. Lucent said first 50 people to fill out survey get movie tickets. They need at least 75-80% response rate to do effective analysis.

Two types of analysis: confirm ties, and one-way data (John says he knows Mary)

Does performance drive connectedness or connectedness drive performance?

You can have too much connectedness. That’s called a bottleneck.


UVA Prof. Rob Cross

Working with Larry Pruzak at IBM

The Hidden Power of Social Networks (his new book)

Administrative Assistant is always central.
He once saw that someone with the M&M machine by her desk was very central.

3 ideas: –
1/ “Managing” Networks in Organizations
2/ Managing Personal Networks
3/ Developing Energy in Networks

they asked people: when you interact with certain people, does that add energy to you?

Why focus on networks now?

Where work happens: boundarylessness. Networks drive performance.

‘Companies that are appropriately connected for task at hand outperform those that are not.’

What drives an individual’s performance? It’s their network. Answer: a specific kind of network. This is due to a loop.

Better connected people are less likely to leave, much more satisfied

It’s where people engage:
And where knowledge lives

(Valdis is on a listserve with a lot of well-connected tech people. They frequently send out requests ‘does anyone know someone at _____’, despite the fact they’re all at linkedin, ryze, etc. )

BUT : networks are invisible—tough to know them immediately.

SNA is a tool to look across divisional boundaries.

e.g., Cross et al. initiated a program to develop not a top management team, but a top management network.

Why might groups not cooperate: geography, culture, incentives, competition over career advancement, competition in their actual product. Two bosses are fighting, and it filters down thru the company. lack of knowledge of who’s who. Company X acquires Y, and breaks up the people and disseminates them thru the company.

Just 10ft, or one floor, can create major cultural problems.

IM does bridge physical distance, because it offers serendipity + awareness

United Technologies started to do cross-division brainstorming, and as a result they’ve created something called ‘pureplay’ which captures lost heat and converts it to power.

Common pattern: companies acquire a firm and lose all the intellectual capital. Cisco does a great job of keeping the IP. Some studies say that 75-80% of mergers underperform, in part for this reason.

SNA can pinpoint cross boundary breakdowns in info flow and collaboration. You usually see splits on: Age, education, gender, functional, geographic, hierarchical, tenure, organizational.

Common pattern: leaders have forums to meet one another, but all the lower-level people don’t. In downsizing, companies often fire the connectors, who have been around a long time and are friendly with many people, but ‘we don’t know what they do around here’.

Don’t fly in 3 years, because of FAA’s mandatory retirement laws.

Improving network connectivity:

Org. context and leadership:
formal structure, work management and context, hr, cultural leader behaviors.
Point diagnostic.

When leader is super-connected, it’s often because of unclear decision rights—so everyone goes to him with their decisions.

Relational Development
Latent networks
Stages of development

Individuals and network planning
Intervening based on position
Assessing individual contributions

Central people are central because they’re popular, they’re multidisciplinary, answer questions, they actually do stuff, they’re an authority

To take load off central person:
– put more stuff in policy and procedures (e.g., travel requests)
– Delegate to a less central person

What about problem of psychological need? Some people like this situation.

For another person, requests were broken into informal and formal requests. And formal requests were often turned down.

He thinks that working together is much more effective for promoting communication than offsites/schmoozing. Most people don’t want to do offsites.

A major thrust of their work is what do high performers’ networks look like?

Valdis: “Weak ties is a distorted term. Just meeting someone on a blog is not a weak tie.”

Gatekeeping and gaming are common network behaviors. Both are destructive on some level.

How to approach these problems: you need full disclosure. Another approach: total non disclosure of names.

They’ve developed software to analyze your personal network. A web-based survey tool. It complements what Valdis has done.

McKinsey partner said high performers create buzz around what they’re doing. So Cross asked , when you interact someone, how does it impact your energy level.

People avoid de-energizers, and a side effect is untapped expertise.

People who are energizers are 4x more likely to be high performers than those who just have knowledge.

Energy==positiveness, enthusiasm

it is possible to have too much energy. E.g., one person gets charged up about a new technology, and the company spends $10m on it.

Energizers get more from those around them. People are more engaged in a given conversation, and are more likely to devote discretionary time to these issues.

People tend to win out in the internal labor market and wit hcustomers. Ability to inspire is critical.

Energy spills over into follow-on interactions.

Energizers: ‘passion’: like their job and like people. They’re positive about you .
He’s not just a Pollyanna. Always moving forward, making progress. Has next steps. Is this getting us there?

They’re not afraid to fail. Can see the end game. Very good at creating realistic possibilities.

Key points: Heedful. Fully engaged. See opportunities. Trustworthy & have integrity. They do what they say they will do. Connect with others as people.

They don’t pick up the phone when meeting with X.

Myers-Briggs: there’s no relationship between I and E and whether they are central or not. However, extroverts get central in a different way than introverts.

He studies fast-movers. Some people turn energy on or off. People with high ‘self-monitoring’ often have a very negative impact on networks.

De-energizers: denigrate your point, wet blanket, say ‘no’, make me feel like a failure.
Don’t create opportunities for others. Inflexible. Don’t come thru on commitments. Don’t show concern. Just get louder when people don’t listen.

Braveheart speech: his reputation precedes him. Fully engaged by going back and forth with the horse.

When people do surveys, they often ½-way thru start thinking : how do I affect others’? (instead of focusing on how others affect them.)


SNA can create profit & performance when it can be applied to a discreet business problem or opportunity

Chance of Person doing an Action for you= fx (capability + return that the person will get + trust)

Trust=relationship + context

SNA tools must provide:
– ways to identify and / or improve relationships
– – ways to communicate or work within context
– -ways to ID or improve capabilities
– – ways to provide or communicate return to requestee

relationships can be declared but these are the tip of the iceberg

real value and the ability to take action come from trust and context. Trust and Context are much more likely to be found within the enterprise and 1degree away.

What are business applications?
– human capital management
– – M&A
– compliance/legal: tracks IP, provides info trail
– Sales: networking, customer contact points
– Customer support: IDs experts to solve complex problems
– LOB managers: build teams with specific expertise
– ID experts, leaders, peers
– Remove info bottlenecsk
– COPs: KM, linking disconnected networks

Brief biased history

Erdos—on random graphs
– Rapoport—random biased nets
– Wasserman (1994)

“social” exchange theory (Emerson 1972)
consulting industry

How do you get the data:anthropology (Gullathorn 1960), surveys, census
Edges, vertices, links, nodes, actors, ties, site, bond

Entopia’s approach to social networks

Collaboration networks—akin to affiliation network

By automating analysis, they avoid recall biases, framing issue. For example, he surveyed nurses about their activity level and found that they were highly inaccurate.

The affiliation environment is any object within any enterprise application.

Any object within these applications has a number of valid fields to define a relationship:
Cc: from , to , to
SFA: accounts owner, call ticket

Some fields are more equal than others (being an actor, not a writer, in a movie)
Some applications are more equal than others ( a blockbuster, vs. B movie)

Generally, degrees of separation diminish the actionable value of the path
Need a sense of reciprocity
‘common value’ to keep providing access and paths
there needs to be a sense of trust

Need full disclosure, within privacy constraints
– results in a clear a priori value determination of each path

in business setting, you do opposite of milgram small world experiment. Instead, you send out just a few messages.

Social networks are not unique
– path type (gives path from you to x).
– Diagnosis type (tells you how info flows within the expertise).

User centric key values: privacy, spam and fatigue
– at object level (documents)
– rendering level (showing who connects to who),
– and action level

Spam: the network is of value only if it is not abused. Not a copout

ENtopia K-Bus: the first Enterprise Knowledge Infrastructure.

Ues rich metadata: keywords, concepts, user activity, context, document property, embedded meta tags,

They offer SNA.

Tacit historically is very focused on email. SNA is just one of the solutions on top of their platform. They think that analyzing email alone is distorting.

They have a directory system (that draws on LDAP, and can be fed by HR system)

Provides the ‘why?’ Not just the ‘who?’