Shiv Singh: October 2007 Archives

Visualizing Social Networks

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1767579846_f7e46a01eb_m.jpg Wondering what social networks may look like? Check out these flickr photographs for some fun images. The source is Skyrails which is a social network visualization system built on scripting languages that can be used by anyone. You have lots of flexibility in how the different nodes in a network can be represented. It's perfect for visualizing social networks whether they be within your organization or beyond.

Bear in mind that the software is currently in beta mode which means that there is very little software documentation available for it. Yose Widjaja from the University of New South Wales is the software's author.

Social Networks. Are they a corporate asset?

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Over at Web Strategy, Jeremiah talks about Visible Path's Corporate Social Network Design Council event that he spoke at recently. A key question that he highlights is how do personal and professional networks become both a private asset to an individual as well as being shared by the enterprise.

There's no question that networks are an incredible asset and they have been for decades. That's half the value of an MBA program most people would say. The question is whether anything is different in the online space now that it has gotten far easier to manage one's networks and to mine a network by leveraging the different degrees of separation.

They're certainly an asset but I don't think the networks can be shared by an enterprise without the active participation of the individual. I can give you my phone book. But unless I personally introduce or connect you with all the people in the phone book, no one will take your calls. This means that networks are primarily an individual asset and will always be. Rather than trying to mine an individual's network, companies should focus on helping employees build their own personal networks. As long as those employees are with the company, the company will benefit too.  

Being scared of Social Media

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So I grew across three continents in a world where I never shared too much about myself. It might have been because I was in a boarding school for several years where I had no true privacy. So I sought to hide certain parts of myself from others. I wanted to have a private life too. Later in the early 1990s, I started to get involved in online communities like the AOL forums and the WELL. Those worked quite well for me. I was able to design a very specific online identity tied to specific interests and compartmentalize my life. This carried on for years as the web grew and I joined more and more communities. But now things are getting harder.

Social Media is frightening. I'm expected to participate and have an opinion on practically everything I touch. Whether its in the workplace or at home, everybody wants me to collaborate and contribute. Words, images, voice - everything and anything needs to be put in the public domain. I must upload my photographs to flickr for friends to see, my facebook status must reflect my activities, my wiki profile needs to reflect current professional interests and if I am not twittering then I'm not cool. You get the idea? Social Media has a dangerous side. Not only are we forced to reveal more than we may want to, but we're also pressured to do so just to be a part of the conversation.

What's the solution? I don't know. But as I navigate the social media landscape, I'll be constantly asking why participate, what value does the participation bring and does every conversation need to be joined? We have private lives for a reason, because we like to keep some things private. Does that need to change?

Microsoft buys into Facebook

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The mystery is over. Microsoft has bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million valuing the company at a $15 billion. It is hard to tell what it will mean for the users of Facebook. Probably little if anything at all. It seems to primarily an advertising defensive play. Microsoft did not want Google to form a relationship with Facebook. A key reason why Facebook went with Microsoft was their existing advertising relationship. The deal allows Microsoft to target more advertising at the Facebook 49 million users.

With the deal, Microsoft will be the exclusive third-party advertising partner for the social networking site. The ads will expand beyond the US to Facebook's international presence as well. No Microsoft technologies will be integrated into the Facebook platform. That's good. Facebook is winning, why try to fix something that isn't broken. What's left to be seen is actual ROI on the advertising on Facebook. The word on the street is that people click less on ads when they are on social networks because the content within the network is so much more attractive.

I wonder whether Facebook decided to go with Microsoft because they did not want anything to do with Google's own social networking plans. Those call for a more open ecosystem of social networks driven by OpenID and other similar technologies.

Newsbreakr, a citizen journalism alternative

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