Tuesday, May 21. 2013
Soundbite video from the Business Reimagined session last week, I used the term "Coasian construct" for Social Business, thought it may need a bit of background.
Firstly the Coasian bit - that is referring to Ronald Coase, a 1930's economist, and his thesis on transaction costs. Wikipedia sums it up perfectly:
I've put the last line in italics. To explain a bit of history, I started looking at the impact of information flows on business in the mid 1980's for my MSc, and that's when I came across Coase and transaction costs, and it became clear to me that the Internet (as it came to be called, it wasn't called that in 1985 when I started playing with "wide area networks") was going to have a massive impact on business transaction costs. Researching back, it became clear that the main impact of all communication revolutions in the past had been to reduce transaction costs, and once that became clear it was possible to predict the impact of the Internet far more closely, so for example the arrival of things like Amazon, eBay etc ("Silicon Soukhs", as we called them in the early 90's before the dotcoms existed) were entirely predictable.
Secondly, the Construct bit. Now we are seeing the next jump forward in Comms technology, Social Networking. We started looking at their impact on business seriously in 2005 when we founded Broadsight, as we could see what the rise of blogging, wikis etc, and what better webtools would do to Web 1.0 technologies like groupware (If anyone would like our classic 2005 paper, "Everyone is a communication business now" email me now ). It was clear that what they would do would be to have another major impact on another layer of transaction costs, that between individuals both in any enyerprise and in the value chain, ie it would go down to the person to person messaging level. Previously the major impacts here had been the telephone and email, this would take the costs down another order of magnitude. That was also why Twitter was so interesting when it emerged, as although we had great fun laughing at the "what I had for lunch" tweeters, the bigger point was that the transaction costs had reduced to the level you would say this over an electronic medium.
In essence, what this means is that with Social Media the whole enterprise can, (in theory - see below), start to resemble the buzz of conversation around a small company's workspace, even if it is larger, geographically, and even temporally dispersed. This buzz is the stuff that makes businesses hum, that ensures many little things "go right" and its why businesses that get above a certain size they start to become much less efficient ("decreasing returns to the entrepreneur function", including increasing overhead costs and increasing propensity for an overwhelmed manager to make mistakes in resource allocation, as Coase would have it). Furthermore, Social Media is continuing outside the enterprise, so in theory the buzz of your potential customers, suppliers, competitors and existing users are also all in the room with you. The business efficiencies that are theoretically possible from this are immense. Just imagine all the little inefficiencies you see in your company, and in those you transact with, and imagine a major reduction in that.
It would be a massive change in efficiency for any enterprise.
But, what still has to be controlled is data and message overload - that is what has killed email's usefulness, the lower transaction costs of writing and sending an email has not been matched with a similar reduction in the cost of reading and acting on the message - and it wil kill social media in an enterprise if it is not managed better than email. The term "Big Data" to me is an admission of failure, its occurring because we have not yet worked out how to target what we are looking for. The major risk in social business is drowning in data, and that will be the big challenge for social business systems.
Friday, April 19. 2013
There was a very interesting article in the Grauniad the other day, arguing that News can be toxic (the irony of the article being in a newspaper is there...). Its based on an essay by German writer Rolf Dobelli and argues that News deliberately plays to some of our more primitive instincts, so a glut can be bad for our health. In summary, the argument is:
News misleads. . It often looks at the wrong problem, or over-eggs the spectacular. We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.
The author says he "has now gone without news for four years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It's not easy, but it's worth it.". I must say I did the same, a similar time ago, after spending an extended period outside the UK and realising missing out on the daily News had a similar effect. I prefer to read "the News" once a week from journals eg the Economist, as very little that happens on a day to day basis is much more than mental chewing gum.
So here's the kicker for this article. What I have been using, a lot, over the last few years is social media of many forms. I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the more immediate types (like Twitter etc) have a similar effect to News if over-consumed and have started to curtail my usage of it too (except for blogs, which I see as the more investigative element). If you replace the word "News" with "Social Media" in the above passage, it is largely still true in my view.
Wednesday, April 17. 2013
Source: FRS blog, Princeton
Picked up from the New Scientist:
Sociologists have long known that people have fewer friends than their friends do, on average. This strange conclusion, known as the friendship paradox, arises because of sampling bias: people with a larger number of friends are more likely to be your friend, so they get counted more often.
Re the Friendhsip Paradox, it is also seen on Facebook - NYT
You spend your time tweeting, friending, liking, poking, and in the few minutes left, cultivating friends in the flesh. Yet sadly, despite all your efforts, you probably have fewer friends than most of your friends have. But don’t despair — the same is true for almost all of us. Our friends are typically more popular than we are.
In fact its a power law thing, in any network the "connectors" at the centre of friendship nets have a large number of friends, the less connected on the ouskirts have far fewer, so the "average" is higher than the average peripheral user owing to the high score of the connected Ones - see picture above. (Read the maths in the article, its a very good primer on social graph link weightings). The other highly connected strategy is to be a Social Butterfly, a being peripherally connected to many friendship nets
In short, unless you are the social hub of your friendship network, or a social butterfly, you will suffer from the Friendship Paradox - its one of the Power Laws of Nature.
Tuesday, April 9. 2013
Unscientific, amusing - and surprisingly accurate - Sentiment Chart on Margaret Thatcher's death by Martin Belam
For those who may have missed it, Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister in the 70's/80's, died yesterday. She was, according to the commentariat consensus, "extremely divisive". "Extremely" doesn't factor in our more precise world of Big Data Analysis (we used to call it data analysis, but what with inflation - you know how it is these days), so we decided to see just how much, and set our trusty old media analysis engine onto Twitter for a spell of Big Data bump n' grind (the term Thatcher is still ticking over on Twitter faster than a petrol pump eats pound notes by the way).
Anyway, much Big Chugging later and we can say safely that Twitter is about 44% against and 39% for Margaret Thatcher, ie the ratio of For : Against is about 1.13:1. The error on sentiment analysis is typically 10 - 15% so its near as dammit a wash in terms of divisiveness between the Maggie haterz and fanz (The Twitter demographic is still more left leaning than the national average, so I'm not that surprised it swings slightly to the left, as it were). An Ipsos/Mori poll shows that she is still the most popular post war British Prime Minister by some way, but she was seen as the most capable (39%) far more than liked (22%). For comparison, runner up Tony Blair was also "liked" at about 26% but seen as only 27% capable. The rest make for pretty sorry reading.
What is more interesting though is what is meant by "extreme" - to have a total of 39%+44% = 87% taking a position is a very high %, usually reserved for spats about various 'isms and causes du jour on Twitter, and even then many people tend to play the more even handed (or popcorn eating sports fan on the bleachers) role. For comparison the average Social business would be delighted if more than about 20% of their twitterstreams got really passionate one way or the other (a national broadband outage would possibly do it), and the parallel-running Twitter'Meedja discussion* about MumsNet got to about half that at its peak.
As to actual topics of - ahem - "conversation" in the Thatcherstream, the graphic above by Martin Belam (@Martin Belam), though data-poor compared to our big data crunth-a-thon, and far more tongue in cheek, actually captures the zeitgeist of the online discussion* very well.
In vitriol veritas, as they say.....
Monday, March 18. 2013
Bailout Wordcloud from Worditout.com via Broadsight Twitter Phirehose
It is no surprise that the Cyprus Cyprus bank raid is sending shivers down people's spines across the European Union (and the wider world - there is something visceral about seeing a government prepared to grab 7% of your guaranteed bank savings here, now, rather than robbing you the traditional ways via raising tax and stoking inflation) so I thought I'd give our social media monitoring system a quick run to see what the sentiment looks like. Talk about a firehose, there is a huge furore going on (update - trending on Twitter now).
The wordcloud above tells the memetic story, ie the concepts that the issue is swirling around (note eurozone, ecb, fail, and the various countries mentioned). The sentiment is nearly all negative (one of the highest ratings I've ever seen on Twitter) not at all encouraging for the politico-financial Euro-elite who sanctioned this move, as no one except the most technical financial analyst-bots are in any way in favour, and very many are very viscerally against it (even The Economist, that bastion of darwinian monetarism thinks its daft). That they even agreed to doing this is "interesting", but there is definitely no excuse for not knowing what their (too oft ignored) citizens' opinions are (update - seems like everyone is now running away and blaming everyone else for the deal). Putting my cliodynamic hat on, I'd say this may well be one of those major tipping point moments, as it is now very clear to every EU citizen just who their ruling Elite's hearts and minds belong to, and it ain't their own citizens. Will be interesting to see what happens next, I think I will poll sentiment every few hours to see how it shifts - who knows, we may be able to predict a riot.
(Post Script - the alternative currencies being posited for holding money on Twitter are gold and mattresses (no surprise) , but also bitcoins before dollars - now that is interesting)
Friday, March 1. 2013
Was musing after yesterday's post about where the future of Social Networks is going, and after kicking it around at Tuttle today I am increasingly thinking that it will be an enabling technology like email or web browsing, i.e (apart from the early frothy IPOs), a true Zero Billion Dollar industry. I went down this thought line:
Email and Web Browsing both went this way (as did SMS), initially they operated in wa;;ed gardens, the walled gardens were then broken by interconnection (driven by outsede emergent open standards) and then taken over by open technology.
Seems to me that is going to be the path of Social Networking, so I expect to see my Stage 2 emerge over the next few years, and in 5 years time it will just be there, like web browsing and email, ignored unless it doesn't work, embedded in the Infrastructure
Thursday, February 28. 2013
Friendster Collapse - the reverse S curve
Interesting article in MIT Review of research looking at why Social Networks collapse (carried out by another of the great Technology universities, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich - here is the paper). In short it's about cost/benefit (or hassle factors, as they were once called) and the number of friends people on average have on the network (the k-core score):
Be interesting to see if there is any maths about the interplay of these - is the cost benefit a slow rise thing or a step "last straw" thing? Is there an 80/20 k-core number, where a "state change" occurs, or does stickiness increase with connections linearly, or maybe by Metcalfe's Law?
Anyway, as the paper notes, Friendster got it wrong and everyone left. However, there was a 3rd factor operating then which isn't right now, viz:
3. Where else would they go? Friendster fell apart in a world with Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, so the collapse was very fast. Today, where would one go? Wouldn't a Facebook collapse just be a slow tailing off of activity as the cost/benefit rises, (as is happening in the early facebook countries in fact), but there is not a clear go to alternative Social Network.
Now THAT is the factor to really watch methinks
Monday, November 26. 2012
Lots of angst today following this WSJ article, the key point being:
Overall the amount invested in consumer information services was off 42% in the first nine months as the difficulties of newly public Internet companies such as Facebook and Zynga cast doubt on the business models and valuations of social media companies.
Fred Wilson, always very interesting to read, argues it is driven by 3 main trends - summarised below:
The last point is in my opinion the crux of Fred's post, but he doesn't address the "why" it has shifted - and I think this comes down to the WSJ's point - the demand is falling because the returns (outside of the insiders) are as virtual as the products.
Those more wedded to the Consumer Web VC model disagree fervently:
Perhaps they are, but I would argue that the market is behaving totally rationally here - "Return On Investment" is still deeply unfashionable among the Consumer InterWebzerati as the profits are as virtual as the products, but it is becoming increasingly clear to investors that the current business model for the Consumer Web is a busted flush* - Freeconomic market grabs plus a great IPO/exit to the dumb money only works for a while until the dumb money catches on, and "everything sold through iTunes" is hardly better. Facebook in my view stopped the Consumer Web VC party bubble.
(*It always was, as we showed in 2008, but we underestimated how far greed and "mass dumbness" can go in pushing a market)
Friday, September 28. 2012
Two trends...firstly, and predictably, the minute there is a new social currency, there will be the attempts to inflate it for commercial gain - Facebook Likes being the latest example - CNN:
Facebook has begun a purge of fake accounts and "Likes" as part of a set of site improvements announced last month. The result has been lower numbers on fan pages, including some of the site's most popular ones, but no actual loss of real followers.
It was ever thus....but the more worrying trend to me is the increasing belief that systems that measure this are in some way measuring something valuable - Klout has just got significant investment from Microsoft and it will be linked to Bing - TechCrunch:
You’ll begin seeing Klout scores — the combined measure of a person’s influence across Twitter, Facebook and other social networks — show up in the search engine today. The initial implementation will show Klout scores for friends in the “People Who Know” section of the right-hand column, alongside other third parties already in there, including Twitter and Quora. Search for a hot topic like “Facebook advertising”, you’ll see people with socially-proven expertise showing up. Mouse over an expert’s name, and their Klout score will appear, along with their Klout-determined areas of expertise.
There seems to be a mass amnesia about the GIGO concept, in that these reputation systems' parameters are half bake...sorry, "currently imperfect", and are measuring an easily inflatable and unstable social currency, based on the actions of a relatively small number of noisy vessels. Still, no doubt there will soon be a Klout Engine Optimisation industry (if there isn't one already).
Hopefully these Index systems will become more discerning over time, but i don't think that's where the payoff is today. To me its just another example of the online forces inexorably driving Greshams Law of Information - ie bad information is increasingly driving out good on the "Free" Web.
Tuesday, September 25. 2012
Attended the McKinsey event on Social Business in London Social Media Week yesterday, overall I don't think I heard anything new (the mere fact that McKinsey is sponsoring a session and pushing out a big report tells you Social Business is now over The Chasm, and is something saleable to the blue chips, not an early adoption technology). Even the Elephant idea is old now, we used it in the first "Social Business" talk we did at the first London Social Media week 2 years ago Most of the "ahas" I got, had to do with other implementation lessons (here are some of ours, from our own experience).
The only thing that has changed is that the market now has an £800bn price tag attached to it (a lareg anmount from the rebadging of Enterprise 2.0, I'll warrant). Anyway, here are my notes on "aha's" and "oh really's":
- ROI is a hygiene factor. Early adopters are now getting benefits, but no one can cost justify it early up, so...
The conflict between IP and getting Social benefits
- Social media "theory" today relies too much on trust, fine in consumer systems but motivation to cheat is v high in business, the problem of how to police this dichotomy is still in infancy. "Most people are good" vs "yes but the few who aren't can cause a lot of damage" issues still not clearly addressed, still a conflict between open-ness and IP protection.
"Oft repeated Theories still to be Proven"
- We are in "A world where abundance is possible". Saying something isn't possible is a clarion call to developing world developers everywhere. But what is abundant? Is the abundant worth having? See my notes on the declining quality of what is abundant in my "Gresham's Law of Information" posts
Some Predictions from the Panel
Social Media Winners - Healthcare, Education, Consumer businesses, Electronics
Good news was I saw quite a few faces I haven't seen for ages. And a Free Lunch
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