Can Small World Theory Explain Polarization? #blogredux

small world

This week in Blog Redux: can small world theory explain polarization? This week I’m reviving an old post from blog.ginaminks.com from July 10, 2010. The post was titled How information needs and small world signatures are related to affinity and relevance. Ahh the good ole days when we didn’t have to worry about SEO and we could just write to communicate!

This blog post was based on my undergrad degree, in particular the work of Elfreda Chatman. Unfortunately she passed away very unexpectedly soon after I graduated. I wish she were around to know how much she impacted my work, and so I could work with her now.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2020.

How information needs and small world signatures are related to affinity and relevance

Last week I wrote a post asking if anyone knew a technical term for truthiness.

No takers on that so that request. So now this is my reflective post to work my way through the idea that unscrupulous information impostors will be able to figure out how to use social media to control information networks. How can that happen? Think about information.

Thoughts from 2020: I wrote that post as I was working out my presentation for Bitnorth. That presentation was on the digital divide, and how can normal people compete with media that intend to manipulate videos and stories to get their message across. Spoiler: the bad guy was Andrew Breitbart.

Information Needs

We talk alot about the digital explosion of data at EMC, but how is data different than information? Information has more depth than data because information responds to a need. There may be a need for the information, but if that need is never expressed the information seeking process never begins.

Thoughts from 2020: this point about information is really important. We are overrun with data, even more so 20 years later. The data we pay attention to is the data that responds to a need. That’s what marketers do, look for (or create) an information need, and convince you that only their product can fill your needs. That’s also how propaganda works.

The way that people process information is dependent on the small worlds (or communities, or tribes…) to which they belong. The roles we play in our small worlds also impact if we are able to express a need for information.

Thoughts from 2020: I went along with the social media craze of talking about our “tribes”, mostly because it felt pointless to fight it. But ten years later, we have native twitter, and seriously great posts from citizens of native nations explaining why saying tribes is appropriation and actually has a negative impact on native people today. Follow some native people, learn more, and stop encouraging people to “find their tribe”!

Small world signatures

Once you belong to small world, you have to conform to that group’s signature (or style) to remain a member of the world. The signature defines how a group will handle events, topics that can be discussed (or must be excluded), the form of interaction, and the level of meaning of events.

The style also instructs group members how to deal with outsiders. Usually, if a stranger enters a small world they present enough raw information about their world to allow members of the group to see a worldview beyond their own. If the stranger understands the rules the group has for information exchange, the stranger can continue to share his alternative world view. But if the stranger forgets to stay within the group’s signature, the members of the small group won’t communicate freely anymore.

Think about Windows admins vs UNIX admins. Think about very technical people and marketers. Think about women in technology. Think about teenagers and parents. Think about yankees and southerners.

Thoughts from 2020: Think about our current political climate. All sides have these small world signatures, and it is interesting to see how some of the political groups define the signature (hats, catch phrases, how to interact).

Also think about what happens when an outsider tries to interact. If the outsider says or does certain things, the communication channel is abruptly closed.

How this relates to social media

Relevance and affinity are two goal posts companies are driving toward with their social media programs. Its the place companies want to get after all of their investments in listening and building reach. The idea is to build real relationships with customers, not to just market at them.

Here’s my idea:

Relevance is being able to meet an information need. If a company has done their homework, they know how to be relevant and end up in one of their customer’s searches for information.

Affinity is being able to know a small world’s rules for exchanging information, and being able to copy the pattern so that information exchange is possible. Its understanding your target community, connecting on their terms, talking their language.

Thoughts from 2020: I believe these definitions of relevance and affinity have held up. From a corporate marketing standpoint, this is very hard work. I feel like for the most part this was abandoned when community was ditched for pure digital marketing.

If we think about the current political climate, and how digital and social media marketing tools have been used to sway elections, the implications are more sinister.

Here’s what scares me

Information imposters can have play this game too. They can study small worlds, make themselves relevant to information searches of their target population, and build affinity. If they are able to do all of these things they should be able to infiltrate a small world. Will they be able to change the group’s signature? Will they be able to change the rules so that people no longer have a need to search for information?

And now this post is getting too long — so I have more reflecting to do. What do you think? Am I on to something here?

Thoughts from 2020: Ten years later, and my predictions were correct. And frankly, that terrifies me. The question now is: how do we fight this? How do we take back social tools to unite us, instead of divide us?

All of this came from a paper I wrote in my undergrad days, the material was from class notes in my Information Needs and Preferences course which was taught by Elfreda Chatman.

Thoughts from 2020: Are you interested in finding ways to fight the polarization in our world? Do you want to help link small worlds instead of fighting against each other? We are too. Please subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on LinkedIn if you’re interested in learning more.

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Is Community Still a Bad Word? #blogredux

community

This week in Blog Redux: is community still a bad word? This week I’m reviving an old post from blog.ginaminks.com from February 2012 (almost 8 years ago!). The post was titled On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia. Don’t worry, the c-word is community.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2019: .

On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia

Pneumonia is a funny thing. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with pneumonia a week and a half ago. While I was at Cloud Connect. I can honestly say I’ve never been this sick in my entire life. It’s worse than the massive kidney infection I had when I was 8 months pregnant. Or the appendectomy that happened when I was six months pregnant. (Yes same kid. She obviously inherited tenacity from the get-go).

I’ve had to just lay in bed for 12 days now. This blog has been written and re-written several times in my head, but today is the first day I’ve had the energy to sit up and write it.

Thoughts from 2019: I was very sick. I didn’t even have the energy to read, which was a first for me. It was the first time I had slowed down in a very long time. The universe absolutely told me to have a seat. Hard IT burn-out lessons learned here.

One of the things I’ve been laying in bed thinking about is how social media tools are being used for marketing. I jumped to marketing from technical education because I wanted to blog and learn and talk about all of the cool new emerging technologies. I wanted to do more than maintain courses on legacy technologies  for a corporate training organization. And isn’t marketing really just educating people about what your company can offer?

Thoughts from 2019: I maintain that this is exactly what a product marketer does, based on research and collaboration.

Social media gives all of us the ability to find experts on all sorts of topics . Hell, you may be the expert – maybe you find a blog or a video or a message board that sparks innovation by giving you a different angle, a different definition. Then you share your innovative idea with others – and you banter and argue and everyone learns a ton.

Thoughts from 2019: I believe this is still true, but it may be harder to find. I mean, kids these days want to grow up to be influencers, not influence others with their unique insights and talents.

For businesses, harnessing the power of the experts inside and outside of your organization can be a very powerful thing. Unfortunately, that’s not what I’m seeing in the world of marketing. Lots of the traditional marketing viewpoints – reach, eyeballs on the pages, crafting and controlling the messages seem to be much more important than telling the company’s story from the viewpoint of external and internal experts.

You may have seen me talking about the “C-word” on Twitter. The c-word is Community. I started using the c-word after talking to some other social media folks who had also noticed in meetings about new social media plans, lots would be said about various social media tools, keywords, even metrics, but nothing was ever said about how this plan would impact and build the community. It’s almost like community is a dirty word!

I think the support groups in an organization – e.g. Education and Marketing – really need to step up and start changing the way they do business. We need to stop applying the old way of doing things to these new social media tools.  We are the teachers, the story tellers. Why aren’t we telling stories, teaching our communities? Why are we just making plans to tweet and blog and chatter? Let’s take advantage of the promise of the tools – and change how we do things!

Thoughts from 2019: Just coming out of a corporate product marketing role, I’m not sure this has gotten much better in the last 8 years. It is much easier to create video and blog content, and social media marketing is really part of digital marketing now. There are even efforts to do influencer marketing, but that too doesn’t try to knit ties between internal and external parties, let alone build internal or external communities. There is so much potential for marketers and educators here, surely we are better than nation states who use social media marketing tools to disrupt the social fabric of their enemies.

One of the few conversations I was able to have at Cloud Connect was with Brent Scotten of DreamHost. We mulled over the idea of what will happen if the whole devops movement really takes root in organizations.  The devops movement is about the operations and software development teams working together to create the best infrastructure possible in order to quickly develop and deploy software. If those teams work as a well-oiled team, and the company’s product is getting better faster because of it, marketing and education can’t be add-ons. These groups can’t continue to business like they did last century when the bread and butter of the business has moved on to doing things a new way.

I love this point the Agile Admin makes in a post about the definition of dev-ops:

The point is that all the participants in creating a product or system should collaborate from the beginning – business folks of various stripes, developers of various stripes, and operations folks of various stripes, and all this includes security, network, and whoever else.  There’s a lot of different kinds of business and developer stakeholders as well; just because everyone doesn’t get a specific call-out….   The original agile development guys were mostly thinking about “biz + dev” collaboration, and DevOps is pointing out “dev + ops” collaboration, but the mature result of all this is “everyone collaborating”. (emphasis mine)

Thoughts from 2019: We are 8 years in, and I believe the dev-ops movement (although the intentions were good) and public cloud providers have actually widened the gap between developers and IT admins.

These days I’ve had to lay in bed have allowed me to really reflect on who I am. I’m a community builder, an educator, a story teller. My forced shut down reminded me how important those things are. Looking forward to getting my strength back and getting back to work to try and to help people see that community isn’t a bad word.

Thoughts from 2019: A strong product community can make a better product. We strayed from that original idea to chase likes and views. I think it’s time to revisit the promise of community.

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Cloud 2020 Summit – did our predictions materialize?

zoltar - fortune teller

The Cloud 2020 Summit was held May 19, 2013 at the Supernap in Las Vegas (which is now called Switch – I think). The event was pulled together by Krish Subramanian, Ben Kepes, and Mark Thiele. The purpose was to “look at the future of cloud infrastructure – it’s going to bring together pundits, vendors and enterprise buyers to postulate on where the industry is going“.

The website is no longer live, but you can see the agenda here. Thank goodness they invited bloggers! I’m not sure how I got invited, but I sure was happy to be there. I’d like to challenge anyone who attended the Cloud 2020 Summit and blogged about it to republish their blog, with added commentary now that we’re at the close of 2019.

Observations from 2019: Here is the post I wrote (original post is here). Looking back, I think it is pretty incredible what I took away from the event.

Cloud 2020, new economic models, and diversity

Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend Interop and the Cloud 2020 Summit. I have lots of thoughts and themes that are converging into a solid story, and this is the blog is the first of the themes that have come out of that event for me.

Observations from 2019: I started off pretty nice. 🙂

To set the stories up, I first have to talk about my passionate outburst during the #Cloud2020 session “The Economics and Use Case of Federated Clouds”. The goal of the session was to “make some sense in terms of economics of how it is going to play out and also discuss some use cases around the idea”. So they discussed cloud as a platform and the economic theories that could drive that. Mainly capitalism vs. communism. My suggestion is that we are leaving out older economic theories, mainly indigenous | substinence economic models.

During the panel, I questioned why the same old tired economic theories were being discussed. Why is it still a binary discussion, with no dissent or deviation, even when the plans we are discussing will impact every person on this earth. What are our responsibilities as we think of the economies of the cloud?

Observations from 2019: Looking back, I know that our visions for cloud 2020, and how new “web 2.0” applications were being implemented bothered me at this level: if we continued to ignore the people our new world was going to impact, we were going to get some scary results. And that’s exactly the path we’re on right now.

I say that it is vital that we have a healthy, vigorous dialogue that is truly diverse. One definition of diverse is where the environment is open enough that all the questions can be asked. I’m not sure we are there yet. (Yeah this is gonna be long, please read on!).

I told the panel there was a problem when all day none of the speakers had included women, multiple races, or representatives of different classes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: this is not an anti-man, they didn’t include us, blah blah blah post. I know the organizers. I know this is not how they think or operate, and indeed they invited women who had to back out because of other commitments. I also know I could have been/should be more participatory…the responsibility is not just with the men or the organizers.

Observations from 2019: I think we’ve started to make improvements with diversity. But we still have a long way to go. I still go to meetings, to events, where women and minorities are not present, and if they are they aren’t the ones on the stage. It is even more important than ever to have a diverse group of people deciding how infrastructures and applications are built, especially as we use people’s personal data to fuel these new apps.

I was approached afterward by someone who felt attacked by my words. I apologized for that, told him I was sincerely sorry and that wasn’t my intention.But he made sure to let me know that specifically had felt attacked because I called out the lack if women (even though my point was the lack of diversity). He then told me something that really has stuck with me.

He told me if I wanted to get ahead, I should stop pointing out that I’m a woman.

He entirely missed the  point I was making, probably because it made him uncomfortable. Whether he knows it or not, he went on to do what’s been done to reinforce the power system for centuries…he told me if I wanted to prosper in the capitalistic society we are ruled by that I needed to hush. Quit rocking the boat. Don’t call attention to the obvious gaps.

I know that’s not what he intended. But it was the net effect of his words. I know it’s because he felt threatened by my words and ideas. And I fell into the same role I’ve always assumed as that familiar scene played out.

I didn’t mean to make him feel threatened. But that’s his issue to deal with, not mine. I didn’t say anything wrong by calling out the obvious. It should be obvious to everyone that when we talk about he future of IT, we are talking about something that will impact all of humanity. We should understand that there will be unintended consequences that may impact disenfranchised societies. It’s our responsibility as the creators of these new ways to manipulate information to insist that all the questions be asked before we settle on the new normal for communications. We need to insist on a truly diverse conversation about these issues.

Observations from 2019: Reading this almost 7 years later, I’m mad at myself. I can still remember that interaction, and he had no business talking to me the way he did. He wanted to intimidate me into silence. Of course I still wrote about it, but look at this language I used.

He sure didn’t care about how I felt when he threatened me. I was working at Dell at the time, and at the time I took it as a threat. And especially when we look at what is happening because we don’t have diversity creating new apps and new architectures, he could have taken a breath and took away a different perspective.

I can say without a doubt that the Cloud 2020 summit is one of the best events I’ve attended in ages. It gave me an opportunity to connect and think and talk about some important issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m very grateful I walked away from the experience and event feeling so empowered. I think that says alot about that event, and about that community.

Observations from 2019: This was a great event. I think they should should host #cloud2030!

So, with that out of the way, in my next post I want to start talking about the concept of the social economy – one used by indigenous and subsistence societies.

Observations from 2019: I never wrote this post, but I’ve been talking again indigenous ways of knowing. That was the point of contention with this talk – he spoke about using the cloud to give salmon fishers a bigger market. I brought out – maybe they don’t want that. Maybe they don’t want to over fish. The speaker said they could switch to genetically modified fishing, and I said “I don’t want no existentially modified salmon”. That line is still hilarious. 🙂

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