Booksimreading: The Wealth of Networks…


As part of an effort to think more and do less, I just started reading a new book: “The Wealth of Networks; How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom“, by Yochai Benkler. What do I think so far, after the first 30 pages?

“At the beginning of the 21st century, we find our selves in the midst of a battle over the institutional ecology of the digital environment,” says Benkler. “What characterizes the networked information economy is that decentralized individual action plays a much greater role than it did or could have (before)”… “the removal of the physical constraints on effective information production has made human creativity and the economics of information itself the core structuring facts (of our economy and our society).” Just as the proprietors of the new printing presses of europe used their economic clout to gain independence from the church and aristocracy, people today, both individually and in groups, are exploiting the economics of the internet to take on massively ambitious projects. An important difference, though is that they are often taking on these projects just because they feel like it, and not for economic reasons.
Friendship Wheel Collage, by choconancy.
It’s this idea that first caused me to pick up this book, actually. The amplification of the individual human as a social creature, as opposed to a “market actor”. This is a major change in thinking for some. Capital is less important than it has been in the past. Groups of individuals, acting from motivations unrelated to economics, can often organize themselves more quickly and effectively than a corporation can. I find this idea exhilarating. More as I read along…

Extending and enhancing an existing network


Here’s a comment to my previous blog post. It seems important enough to promote it to a post of it’s own. Personally, I walked away from the McCrae Alumni weekend very impressed. Here’s a group of people who have built a (human) network that transcends the institution that initialized it. Below is an example of the group’s internal discussion. Good suggestions, and thanks for letting me be a part of the unfolding dialogue.

Hey thanks for buying the power assited bike Michael.

I think I asked a question about effective practices that each McRae alum could engage in immediately: (1) on existing social networks like Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace, and (2) what are the most effective ways we can project our power as a network, i.e., what are some good examples of other successful networks of people who have projected power?

A couple of answers that occurred to me:
RE: effective practices on existing social networks …

  • we need to be consistent in the name we use for our program. Because “the Program” has changed names some call it McRae, other APMCP, others Cap. Consistent name and tags would make our profiles and comments easier to find,
  • be a good follower. Charles Caldwell introduce many of us McRae folks to Linked in within a year of its founding, most of us didn’t take it seriously. Many still have not spend a lot of time moving their contacts in. I didn’t spend anytime on Linkedin until I noticed that a guy who is at least 5 years older than me and commands millions (maybe billions) of investment funds and put $50-million into our project in China had 80 contacts there. For example, if someone opens McRae Facebook group … join, comment … it take seconds.
  • do business with fellow alum, refer them for jobs, collaborate, coinvest, help your fellow lobsters out of the pot (Canadians usually spend thier time pulling each other back into the pot! who said pot?),
  • practical recoms for the alum website – expand the profiles, add some mapping/geotagging, let each person add photos and attach business plans/documents to share to their profiles, add RSS feeds for each profile and the whole site so that when anyone contributes content the network gets the intel,
  • I wonder if now is the right stage for philanthropy efforts. Sure if a fellow alum is running for a cause by all means, but if we are raising $20,000 as a group for something, should we be reinvesting directly in the network (improve website, hire someone to write a report on where the alum network goes from here, particularly if Cap is out of the picture completely).

Good introductory presentation on the changes that are effecting everyone.
Thanks

You’re welcome. Thanks for letting me be a small part of it!

How to organize yourselves

This last weekend (August 23rd), I was speaking to Alumni of the McCrae Institute of International Management about the social shifts taking place today as a result of the Internet. “Groups of people can organize quickly and efficiently and make their voices heard,” I said. “The locus of control is shifting from corporations to people, with powerful implications for politics, marketing, product development.” In response, I got the obvious question: “how?” Recognizing that I took the answer to that question for granted a little, here is a short treatise on the ways groups of people (such as the McCrae Alumni) can make finding each other and getting together a little bit easier. In the end, you’ll need to have a motivated, passionate, and involved group of people to get anything done, of course. That problem hasn’t been solved with technology, at least not yet ;-).

  • Get involved in the Blogosphere. Create your own blog (typepad is good, so is wordpress. I use blogger). Find others who share your interest who blog, and comment on their blogs. Link to their blogs from your blog. Blog about their blogs. Strike up conversations. Talking, linking, and generally letting people know what you’re about and that you want to connect is how it all begins.
  • Get set up on LinkedIn. Make sure you fill out the “additional information” section at the bottom of your profile with relevant details of your interests and affiliations, and make sure your “contact settings” encourage people to contact you. Actively search for contacts, and invite people you know.
  • Find your friends on Facebook. I’m a little more wary of Facebook’s privacy policy and terms of service, but if you’re careful about not revealing non-essential information you should be fine. When you’re filling in your profile information, don’t forget to put information in the other tabs (to the right of the “basic” tab) that will make it easier for people to search for you.
  • Create or join a private or public discussion group. You can use Yahoo! Groups, Google groups, or Ning. Try to use them more than point-to-point communications like email and IM. These days, I like Pownce. …and I hear Jumpnote is going to totally kick butt when it comes out of alpha.
  • Most importantly, follow your passion: find out where people are already gathering and add your voice.

Hey Blogosphere: any other keen suggestions for a motivated and savvy, but loosely knit, group of people who are hoping to get more organized?

My first online social networking application (1982)

It was 1982, and I was calling into a music video show called “Soundproof” (1979-1983… big love out Buzz E. Miller and Dave Toddington!) on the North Shore Community Cable Channel. Ring. Ring. Ring. I was hoping to request Shrink’s “Paranoid” (anybody?), and I was waiting for the phone to pick up. They didn’t even have IVR to pick up and put you on hold, so we’d call and let it ring while we watched videos. One day, I was sitting on the couch at 1 AM, with the phone to my ear and I realized I could hear voices in between the rings. “Hello?” I said. To my surprise, somebody responded.
Dozens of us would call the request line and chat in between the rings. Can you imagine? “Oh yeah, I’m (ring) totally into Wall of (ring) Voodoo. ‘Callbox’ is the (ring) best song ever!”
Check out the article on page 8 of this old UBC student paper.
Warning: Some bad language in this video!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KNUnLaRekg

On a personal note

Jill AlexanderFor the most part, I’ve been focusing this blog on my professional interests, but today I make an exception. I’ve lost a young cousin, an Aunt, and an Uncle to cancer, and an older cousinMy cousin Ruth is fighting hard today. This is not a sad story though, but a story of empowerment and inspiration: My mother, Jill Alexander (turning 70 on her next birthday), is training hard to run a marathon in October to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma research (the cancer that took little Tommy and Aunt Arlene from us). She has a website where she’s keeping a training log, and accepting donations. I hope you will visit, and consider making a donation.

I should say a little about my Mom: My Mother is the great inspiration of my life. With all the challenges that come with being a single mother of two small boys, she grew a business from nothing into a beautiful day spa and health centre. She worked hard so we never felt that we lacked for anything that truly mattered. I remember her greeting customers and employees alike with a hug and loving kindness. Losing her brother and sister-in-law, whom she dearly loved, and burying baby Tommy would be a terrible burden for anybody, but she has turned the pain of her loss into a positive will to do good. Those who know my mother well will tell you that this is how she lives her life: with love, and to the fullest she knows how.