What’s Your Story?



Every social graph tells a story.  In this sweeping visualization of nodes and connections, you can see the shape of my career history and relationships.  This imprint of my LinkedIn social network was generated yesterday. You can see how new contacts and interrelationships jettisoned off from my base when I started to work at 7Summits.  You can also see  how one person in my network connected two clusters. You can also see how some of my “Austin” friends are also “Dachis Group” friends.  The LinkedIn Maps tool will show you who is most influential in your network and how their connections overlap with yours.  Definitely worth a download and a journey into your own path.

I have been invited to speak to an upper level undergraduate class at UT Austin,  The associate professor is Dr. Jeffrey Treem teaches a course called, “Social Media and Organizations.” Among other things, I plan to talk to the students about the vital role our network plays in our career. It can serve as the very foundation of our success.  Regardless of the company or the organization you are affiliated with at any moment, the real value in your work experience comes from the relationships you form.  The reciprocal trust and value exchange you negotiate with each and every node in your network is the real asset of your career.  Sure – credentials, knowledge, performance, achievements – all matter a great deal, but they pale in comparison to the power of your own personal network.  Think carefully about your most significant career changes, chances are someone you know played an assist in your move.

I’ve always been fascinated with Social Network Analysis to draw conclusions and make predictions about organizational performance.  The science is there, and I know that some of the larger social collaboration and community platform companies are doing impressive work in this area.  Michael Wu, Chief Scientist at Lithium, is one of the more interesting veteran researchers to talk to on this subject.  He has been applying social sciences and large-scale network analysis techniques to make actionable observations and predictions for the benefit of Lithium’s many customers for years.  I know that Jive has expertise and some ongoing work in this area too.  David Gutelius, whose company Proxima was acquired by Jive, is a lead in this area for Jive.   While I was at IBM Connect last month, I saw a number of experimental research projects showcased in IBM’s Innovation Lab.  Several of them held a great deal of promise.  For instance, Community Player analyses how a certain event or community member influences behavior in a network.  Community Player is being developed by researchers at IBM Research in Haifa.  It originated as part of the EU-FPZ project ROBUST.  System U focuses on exploring computational discovery of people’s intrinsic traits from the traces they leave on social media.  The project focuses on profiling customers as individuals, yet on a very large scale.  This research is being done at IBM Research – Almaden.  And something that a few of us have been kicking around for a while is being explored at IBM called Work Marketplace.  It’s a concept around crowdsourcing your network for work and projects.

Dr. Treem and his academic colleagues are working on studying this area.  I’m really looking forward to diving into this more and learning as much as I can about the current state of this sort of organizational science.  If you have sources (academic and commercial) on how SNA is being applied in enterprise networks, please let me know.  It’s a key area that holds tremendous promise.




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The Remix on Generation Wired

It occurred to me that I was introduced to Facebook by Euan Semple in April of this year. By June, I had about 60 Facebook friends, and I have been progressively adding them since then. When I do a cursory review of my friends’ demographics, it surely does not skew GenX/Y/Z/New Millennial, and if I had to guess the median age of my social graph? Well, I’m thinking it could be over 40, definitely over 35. And, no, this is not another marketing post about affluent buyers and purchasing power and how I might be influenced to buy a specific brand of camera lens because one of my friends recommended it (although, I still argue there is a powerful case to be made here.) In addition to Facebook, I’m also starting to get connected up on Plaxo, more people are finding me every day on LinkedIn, and I make heavy use of the Ning social network at work. Same universe though, predominantly– seasoned professionals with over 20 years in the tech business.

What I’m getting to is recognizing the profound crowd wisdom density in my social graph. For those of us “of a certain age” who are getting this, it’s like striking and mining intellectual gold. I check the Facebook stats every so often and the fact that “more than half of Facebook users are outside of college” and that “the fastest growing demographic is 25 years or older” reinforces my own observations and experience. About a month ago there was a somewhat ugly conversation on Paul Dyer’s social media blog about whether anyone in my age group was qualified to consult, teach, or otherwise claim expertise in the social media arena. (The accused held their own in the comments; see for yourself.) Yet Dyer’s POV nothwithstanding, what’s more important is what those who do not participate in social networks are missing. These powerful social networking tools make knowledge and people more accessible. That sounds overly simplistic, but you have to put it to the test to experience the results.

Ed Yourdon and Susan ScrupskiPersonal Case: On Nov. 7, via Twitter, I noticed that Ed Yourdon was speaking in Austin. I asked him if he would have breakfast with me here. He agreed. Now, I could have done this via email and via a web page or newsletter, but Twitter has a way of making something that could be formal, quite informal and casual. It breaks down barriers. Ed Yourdon, for any Gen X/Y/Z/Millennials who may be reading, is an icon in the world of software design and analysis. My short breakfast was delightful, and I’ve since added him to my broader social network on Facebook, Dopplr, etc. The “network effects” of adding Ed’s knowledge and experience to my social graph has immeasurably added gains to the IQ (insight quotient) of my social graph. And now, Ed’s wisdom is within reach of all my friends. This is where weak ties theory really can begin to return tremendous benefits.

Ed is currently inviting collaboration on a massive slide deck that captures everything that has been published on web 2.0. This deck is available for sharing on SlideShare, as well as editing on google docs.

Incidentally, Ed posted a note last week on the failure of his middle-aged friends to adapt to this new way of connecting, learning, and growing. Here is an excerpt:

And so it is today with social networks. It doesn’t matter which ones you belong to; the point is that, to increasing degree over the next few years, if you adamantly and noisily refuse to participate in any of them, an entire generation of people who do use these networks will conclude: you’re irrelevant. They won’t bother trying to convince you or persuade you; they won’t object, protest, march, or complain loudly. They’ll simply ignore you. It’s okay with them — and if it’s okay with you, then everyone is happy. But if you wonder why fewer and fewer people are paying attention to you, there’s a reason …I find myself slowly building a new network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances … and slowly leaving behind a much larger network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances I’ve built up over the past 40 years of my adult life. It’s not that I dislike any of my old friends and colleagues … but it’s almost as if they’ve consciously chosen not to have an email address, not to have a cell phone, and not to have a fax number… There’s a younger generation that’s learning how to communicate, collaborate, share ideas, and keep track of each other’s travel plans, and day-to-day activities through a variety of new networks. As for the increasingly irrelevant set of old friends: good luck, have a nice life, and send me an annual Christmas letter to let me know if you’re still alive …