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.
Personal 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 …