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    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    This weekend I experienced a snowcrash; a moment where the seemingly disparate pieces of information floating in my head came together. A synapse fired, a new connection was made, and I was brought to a new level of consciousness, a new way of seeing the world. In reading this over, it almost sounds obvious, but it took me a while to get here. I hope that by sharing with you, it'll help you "get it" too. So let me take you on my thinking trail.

    Insight #1: The Overview

    The Future is Networks.

    This idea has been buzzing in my head for a long time. The first time I wrote it down was over a year ago, not really understanding what that meant, but it was an "intuition." As time has gone by, this has seemed more and more probable, but I wasn't sure how it fit together.

    The buzzing has been growing louder, and my mind was saying, 'The future of Social Business is networks,' 'The future of education is networks,' 'The future of society is networks.'

    What the hell did this mean?

    I know everyone is busy. Everyone is looking for some solution to how to make their situation better. If you will just bear with me, I'm going to expose you to what I found to be an incredibly powerful idea.

    Insight #2: Where "we're at" in History

    We're all aware that there's something going on here. We're not quite sure what, but it feels like we're nearing a point where something must change if we're to move forward.

    I'll be honest with you - I don't really follow politics. I find it baffling at a national level and I feel impotent to do anything about it at the local level. (I tried volunteering last year on a committee in my town to promote Zero Waste and green energy. Every meeting was just talking and arguing, instead of devising solutions and implementing them. I got bored and resigned.)

    Economics also confuses me. I don't really understand how I paid over $14,000 towards my mortgage in 2009 and like $6 went towards principle. I also don't understand how there was just a multi-billion dollar bailout of our financial industry, and yet Wall Street bonuses rose 17% to $20.3 billion last year. I don't think of myself as an idiot, but my mind *literally* can't conceive how those two things could happen at the same time. It seems like the wealth of the entire nation is being funneled right to a couple thousand fortunate people, and all of us are still working pretty damn hard to make ends meet, yet ultimately supporting that model.

    Everything seems really bizarre and nonsensical, and it feels like it's pointing to something. Lester Brown just wrote a really simple, relatively short, easy to digest post that lays out the situation better than I can - give it a read: A Civilizational Tipping Point.

    Insight #3: The Underlying Forces At Work

    While these things are unfolding at the surface level, something else has been going on underneath. Without really understanding the big picture, I've been trying to identify it. I wrote a post a few months ago, called Three Key Trends Shaping the Web and Society, where I tried to put my observation into words. The trends are:

    I explained what each of those means in the post, and added some nice graphics too. If you're not familiar with those concepts, you can go check it out. For the sake of flow, I'm going to keep moving here, but essentially it means that the world is now more interconnected than it's ever been because of social technology.

    Now, let's call "social technology" anything that allows us to communicate information on a global level.

    And let's also frame it in these terms: EVERYTHING is information.

    Not just these words on a screen, but also the physical objects we exchange; all the goods that keep the world going - food, furniture, clothing, toys, tchatchkis, all the "stuff." It also includes the virtual objects - the services that we provide each other, the money we exchange, our voices talking to one another over Skype, and every other intangible thing.

    Every one of these things is actually a type of communication, a representation for something.

    A banana isn't fruit, it's nourishment. A couch isn't furniture, it's relaxation. A toy isn't plastic from China, it's fun. My Toyota isn't a car, it's transportation. My husband isn't a man, he's support, trust, and love. I could go on forever, but seriously take a look around you, and realize that you're surrounded by stuff that means something else.

    Think of it ALL as a type of information.

    Now, if you can truly imagine every "thing" around you as information, and we're now a globally interconnected world, all trading goods and services and knowledge, that's A LOT of information.

    That's complexity.

    It wasn't that way when we lived in tribes or even villages or even Empires. It's literally NEVER been fully globally connected, until now.

    It's so complex, that we literally don't know how to handle it. When we talk about "information overload," it doesn't just refer to all these activity streams on the web - it refers to EVERYTHING.

    So what do we do about it?

    Luckily, complexity isn't something that's never happened before. It may not have happened before for humans as a global civilization, but it happens in Nature all the time.

    An ant colony, the biosphere, the brain. All highly complex, yet functional.

    Why? How?

    If those systems "work," shouldn't we be able to imitate them in order for us to "work" too?

    Well, actually, yes.

    One of two things happens when a process reaches a certain level of complexity, and we can and have observed this. Over. And over. And over.

    a. it compresses into simple patterns
    b. it expands into chaos


    So we're kind of all struggling with avoiding chaos right now. We all still go about our day, go to work, entertain ourselves, have sex. We're getting by. But we're also wondering, somewhere in the back of our heads, how much longer things can go on like this, with all this uncertainty. Hopefully someone figures this out so we can go on with our lives and feel secure again about the future.

    Enter accelerating change.

    We don't think about this part, because the idea of it doesn't fit with the way we experience reality. We only live for so many years, and things feel like they unfold at approximately the same pace they always did.

    Let's use "technology" as an example.

    Let's first talk about technology as if that means just electronic technology.

    OK, we went from telegraph to radio to phone to TV to cell phone to computer to smartphone within about a hundred years, but that feels like it happened at a pretty natural pace, because we've lived in it as it happened, and we experience time on a linear scale.

    BUT, if you plot those changes on a graph, it actually doesn't move in a slightly tilted line moving upwards at all.

    It swoops like the letter J. It gets faster at a faster rate.

    Now if you quickly back up, and understand that 'technology' isn't actually just digital, but that technology includes all things that humans have used to simplify things when complexity increases, things begin to make A LOT of sense.

    Every tool man has made, from the flint arrows to the wheel to civilization to systems of governance have ALL been in response to complexity.

    Tribes got bigger and more complex and needed to hunt down food more effectively to feed more people, and they realized they needed more than a club. They needed an arrow. This worked.

    [quickening]

    They got bigger still and couldn't be chasing after food all the time, so they domesticated animals and developed agriculture. This worked.

    [quickening]

    They got more complex and different people started doing different things, making stuff, and wanted to trade their stuff for other people's stuff. The developed a barter system. This worked.

    [quickening]

    They got more complex and this had to be organized into some kind of structure, so systems of governance were implemented. Different versions emerged all over the world, but they all had something in common: There was a scarcity of resources, and so the systems were competition-based. They had to be, because Nation 1 wanted to retain more resources than Nation 2. It wanted to protect or control its own interests, its physical resources, the intellectual capital of its society. This ultimately exploited a ton of people in order to work, but it worked. At least for the folks on top.

    [quickening]

    Then it got more complex, more interrelated and interdependent. This brings us to the present.

    It's now become so incredibly complex and enmeshed, that each of us now has access to EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE PLANET in less than 6 steps. Even with billions of people on the planet, we can reach literally anyone in 6 steps. That means we can access anyone's resources in 6 steps. Their skills, their knowledge, their capital, their influence. Any resource.

    What does this mean?

    We've transitioned past the point of scarcity.

    Take a second to let that soak in.

    There is no longer such thing as scarcity.

    There are only misallocated resources.

    It happened right under our noses while we've been trying to solve problems that are not just past the point of fixing, but irrelevant.

    The only thing we have left is the scarcity mentality. Any actual problem that needs to be addressed is already possible, right now.

    The Final Insight: The Future is Networks

    If you've made it this far, either this

    a.) doesn't make sense to you,
    b.) is something you already knew,
    or
    c. ) your heart is racing because you're getting it

    Let me share the final pieces that clicked this into place for me:

    I never really understood what it meant when people said, "It's not what you know, it's who you know."

    I never really understood what the point of going to a 'business mixer event' and "networking" meant.

    It all seemed not only intimidating, but damn near impossible. How do you meet people? How do you make a business connection? How do you build trust with strangers so that you're not strangers anymore, but might help each other. (And help is anything from lending your neighbor a hammer, to making a referral to help someone maybe land a job, to emailing or tweeting a link online to information you think someone might find useful.) Help comes in all shapes and sizes.

    I tried getting a job the old-fashioned way, sending out applications and crossing my fingers, hoping somehow my worth would be reflected on that dreaded piece of paper we call the resume.

    (Oh, and by the way, I'm not just a recent college grad with no work experience. I used to have a six-figure income as a corporate executive. I quit because it was soul-deadening.)

    My other prerequisite for a job was it had to be interesting and meaningful and fulfilling. Tall order. Nothing panned out.

    So I started to experiment online. I had this feeling inside that "I'm worth it, and I want people to know."

    But what is it exactly that I'm worth? What is it that I "do"? Where does the value lie? What am I actually trying to convey?

    I realized we all have skills that we learn, expertise that we develop, a trade, a craft, an art. Those things are different for all of us, and they develop and grow over time as we learn through experience. But underneath that we have strengths.

    Strengths are something we're born with, and they get better over time too, just like our skills, but strengths "come naturally." It's the stuff that makes us us. Maybe your strength is that you're super generous and empathetic, or you're assertive and strategic, or you're a good storyteller, or a network weaver, or you know what people really mean when they say something, or you can anticipate what people want.

    I hope you know what I'm talking about, because we all have these core strengths.

    If you have any connection with your strengths, if you have acknowledged and pursued developing them, it's probably reflected in what you do for a living. For instance, if you're the generous empathetic type you might work in customer service or a non-profit, if you're strategic you might be an exec or an entrepreneur, if you're a storyteller you might be doing video or journalism or painting or music, if you're a network weaver you might be in sales. If you're not in touch with your underlying strengths, and therefore not applying them, you're probably doing a job that's making you really, really unhappy.

    My strength is the ability to see patterns.

    It's what enabled me to write this post. People call me "insightful." I have the ability to see stuff that other people don't see, even when it's staring them right in the face. (I've been calling this process "metathinking," and I'm going to try to explain how it works for me in upcoming posts.)

    So I figured out my strength and ventured online to share it, because it clearly wasn't being appreciated in the "real world." I had no idea how 'seeing patterns' would be an asset that would bring me any type of opportunity, because I'd never been appreciated for it before. Well, maybe I'd been appreciated for it in small ways throughout life, but our memories are short, our egos are weak, and we need constant positive reinforcement to feel any kind of worth in this society. And society isn't really set up to give it to us, so we all feel kind of impotent most of the time.

    Feeling impotent isn't just depressing, it also makes us frustrated, angry, and fearful, because we feel like we have absolutely no control over what's happening to us in our lives. Kind of like how we feel when we're sitting in dead-stop traffic and have someplace to be, or when a corporation fucks us and there's no one who will punish them for it, or when the government isn't able to provide us adequate education or healthcare, even though we bust our asses and pay our taxes.

    We have no trust in any of it anymore, and we're pissed.

    But all of that seems really big and overwhelming, so I just ventured online to see what I can do about it for me. I can't single-handedly change the system, I can only change my own situation. So I started this blog. I started writing about the patterns I was seeing. Explaining trends I was seeing in simple language, distilling down big concepts into words that people could "get."

    (By the way, I made the commitment to try this little experiment in September. It's March now. It's been just around six months.)

    Along with the blog, I started a Twitter account. I opened the account the week that Twitter Lists was introduced. That was in October. I didn't use Twitter before that for the same reason I don't attend 'networking events': I had absolutely no idea who I'd want to interact with, or how. No one ever taught me "networking."

    The reason that Lists changed everything is because it allows you to identify who people are following in a way that is contextual meaningful. People organize people into categories that are useful for them; either by geographic location ("NY-friends"), by profession ("design-thinking", "community-managers", "social-crm"), by power ("most-influential-in-tech"), by intelligence ("thought-leaders", "best-mindcasters-i-know"), and any other number of categories that they see fit.

    Whether they realize they've done it or not, they've provided you with a free resource. They're publicly exposing you to their network.

    It's now up to you to determine that person's credibility and reputation, and how much weight you put in their categories. (If they come across like a moron to you, but have a list called 'thought-leaders,' you might not find their opinion of a thought leader useful. Or maybe it's really useful, and you're the moron. That's for you to figure out. ;) )

    So what do you need to do?

    Well, it takes a little homework. What I did was go to Listorious.com. I looked at all the Top Lists that were interesting to me, and started following every single person who I thought I could learn from. That means I looked through their tweetstream to see if it was filled with potentially useful links to info, and I also clicked through to their personal website.

    (On every Twitter bio page the user can link to their website. This is really important. Everyone should have a website. It doesn't have to be professionally designed, it can be a simple free blog, but you need to have a place where you show off your work, whatever your work may be. And not just a link to your LinkedIn resume. That's just an assertion of who you are - you telling everyone who you work for and the tasks you do there. That IS NOT who you are. You need to have some kind of site that SHOWS who you really are. Otherwise, it's a lot harder to get a feel for what you're all about just by looking at your tweetstream.)

    Not everyone will follow you back. It's ok. You'll continue to follow them because what they provide you with is a curated source of information. One example that comes to mind, for me, is Maria Popova's stream, under the username @brainpicker. I follow her, she doesn't follow me back or engage with me in any way, but her tweets are consistently interesting, so I keep following. You'll have some of that, and it's fine, because it provides YOU with cool content to then tweet to the people who follow you. I follow almost 200 people who don't follow me. No hard feelings.

    How many people should I follow?

    So now you're starting to build up a network of interesting people to follow. Everyone has a different suggestion of how many people to follow, so it'll be your call. But in order to be able to start spotting patterns, I'd recommend a minimum of 150. This will take time if you want to do it right. Just start with the most interesting people first.

    Then watch.

    See what those people are tweeting about and who they retweet. By seeing who they retweet, you start to understand who's in their network. An excellent tool to aid in this process is mentionmap. You just enter in a username, and it shows you exactly who that person talks to the most, and who their closest connections are. I'm consistently surprised when I use this tool, because there is ALWAYS at least one person in a stranger's network that is either also in my network, or I've at least seen their name go through my tweetstream. This is a constant reminder that all of us are connected in under 6 steps.

    Then start tweeting.

    Hopefully you've set up your blog or site where you update information about who you are and what you think about. Start tweeting a mix of retweets of interesting information you find from other people, and links to information about you. Oh. And when I say "information about you," it HAS to be a gift.

    What do I mean by 'gift'?

    It means you're not selling anything or talking about the company you work for or wasting people's time with some inane bullshit. People are busy, and won't waste their attention on you if you're not providing value.

    This gift is something you give for free. That could mean a blog post you wrote that is filled with information someone might find useful, like a 'how-to', or an insight into something in your industry, or a tip that's helped you be more productive, or a link that shows something you made if you're an artist or artisan, or anything that shows off one of those inherent natural strengths of yours.

    As you observe the people in your network more, and start talking to them, you realize that these are JUST PEOPLE on the other end.

    This is going to be very bizarre and mindblowing at first, because we're not really used to the idea that strangers could be potential allies that would help us. But it'll get more comfortable over time. And you'll start to get a feel for their personalities and their interests, and if you pay attention to who they are paying attention to, you get a feel for who they know. And again you'll notice how closely we're all connected.

    But, there are always holes in networks, and spots where you can make an introduction that could lead to a discovery. You don't even have to "know" the person you're introducing. You might be following a person who tweets stuff similar to @brainpicker, but you notice they don't follow her. So you just tweet to this person: "hey, you should check out @brainpicker, you might enjoy her tweets." That's all. That was a gift, a free offer of a connection.

    You just earned a brownie point.

    As you get better at this, you'll start noticing that some people are working on similar projects or ideas, but they don't know about each other. You realize that they could probably mutually benefit if they exchanged information. So you introduce them. (Again, you don't have to "know" either party, all you have to know is that there's a connection there to be made). I might notice a couple scattered people interested in social change, but realizing they could be more effective if they worked together, instead of repeating the same work in different locations, so I say "hey @CDEgger @HildyGottlieb meet @openworld @kengillgren @toughloveforX". I've never met any of these people in real life, but I think they could benefit from knowing each other.

    This takes effort and time. It's work. And it's unpaid.

    So why on Earth would you waste your time doing this?

    Because something interesting happens when you start sending people links to information that they can turn around and apply in the real world, and when you introduce people to each other which allows them to collaborate on projects or ideas in the real world.

    It builds trust.

    This was literally a revelation for me.

    As I started interacting more with these real life humans in an online space, I couldn't understand why people were being so nice to me and sharing information with me and providing me with resources.

    It's because I'm earning their trust.

    This is the most fundamental, essential, critical thing we need in order to get ourselves out of this whole mess.

    I now have a network of people, none of who I've ever met in real life (yet), with whom I exchange value with on a daily basis and build trust. In under six steps, I have access to anyone on the planet, and if I have access to the person, I have access to their resources. Resources like their expertise, their social connections, and their influence.

    Do you know how this makes me feel?

    Empowered.

    Not powerful. Empowered.

    Let me give you the book definition of empowerment:

    "To equip or supply with an ability; enable."


    This hit me like an absolute ton of bricks.

    All of this free giving and sharing actually does something tremendously valuable.

    It enables us.

    It gives us the capacity to access the resources we need to take an action in the world.

    I went for a walk through NYC this weekend thinking about this, and I passed by a homeless man sitting on the street begging for change.

    At that moment, I realized that I was looking at a man without a network.

    I don't know what happened to him along the way or how he got there, but at some point he lost access to the resources that would empower and enable him to act. He possessed strengths, somewhere inside, but he had absolutely no way to leverage them, develop them, or use them in a beneficial way. He was a lone node, or at the most, a node within a network that possessed no resources that they knew how to use to their benefit.

    It's networks.

    The answer is networks.

    Networks solve the problem of complexity.


    Since my blog/Twitter experiment started in September, the effort I've put in has helped me to begin forming a network of strong and weak ties. At first, I got a few retweets of my tweets; then more comments on my blog; then some people of greater influence started tweeting my posts, giving me more exposure; then a few people asked if I would do guest posts on their blogs; then I was asked to speak at a business conference here in NYC coming up in April; then I was hired by Duke University to teach a Futures course this July; and I literally am just waiting to see what happens next.

    It feels like magic, but the process has been completely practical, and actually kind of felt like a game.

    It turns out, life is EXACTLY like a game. If you can access the right resources, you can win.

    Now here's the kicker.

    Everyone can win.

    By definition, a complex system can only function with independently acting agents who collaborate. That means you still have your own personal interests that you're serving, but in order to serve your interests, your actions have to indirectly serve the whole.

    And this is not just theory, there's proof.

    You may not know the name Elinor Ostrom, but she just won the Nobel Prize for her work on cooperation in economics. Turns out she did research that showed that the "Tragedy of the Commons" wouldn't be the necessary effect of a globally cooperative society, as we've assumed. She showed, in practice, that this could actually work.

    So what does all this mean?

    I've tried my best to take some incredibly complex topics and distill them down to something that makes sense. I hope the examples are painting the picture of what's going on.

    This whole online thing is essentially a simulation - it mimics the actual world. The relationships you build online and the networks you build online aren't just made between screennames and avatars, they're with real life people.

    Turns out, we're all actually in this together, all trying to figure out a way that we can all utilize our strengths, connect, collaborate, and survive. If helping each other and building trust is the way to make it work, let's make it work.

    All this time, I was thinking way too big, trying to understand how to change the world. I kept asking myself, "but how do we leverage networks?"

    We don't.

    We ARE the network. Networks self-organize. We only have to leverage ourselves, and the infrastructure gets built.

    Each one of us has to create our own ecosystem of relationships that will be beneficial to us personally. We'll all have some relationships that overlap, but none of us will have the exact same set. The point is that we want to build trust so that when we need help we know who we can access to help us.

    Now imagine, if you're a entrepreneur, or an organization, or a non-profit, or a corporation, and you understand this message and spread it to each and every one of your employees. What happens when your entire organization of people, as a unit, is a network in itself, but each person also has their personal networks of relationships to draw on, which extend beyond the organization?

    You then have an INCREDIBLE competitive advantage. (Yeah, there can still be 'competition' in a collaborative society, it's just different, because it's based on trust.)

    Your organization becomes agile. It becomes a learning network, where every person has access to information that can be shared, interpreted, and implemented. You'll be able to identify weak signals faster, come up with solutions faster, and adapt to change faster.

    The world will keep moving. It's accelerating at an accelerating rate. The ONLY WAY to deal with it is not to cling to the old hierarchies and silos and pride and egos. We have to understand that we can only deal with this as a fully connected system.

    And the really crazy part is: we already have everything we need to make this happen. It's already in place.

    All that needs to change is the mindset.

    Let me repeat:

    All that needs to change is the mindset.

    So how are we going to fix everything?

    I have absolutely no idea. That's kind of the point. None of us do, individually, or even as groups. The system needs to be interwoven first, and then we'll collectively know how to figure it out. We'll be flexible, adaptive, and intelligent, because we'll be able to quickly and freely allocate resources where they're needed in order to make change.

    The first step is to build our networks.

    This all hit me like a bolt of lightening, a pattern that emerged out of all the complex information.

    It's an option that seems not only possible, but preferable, and comes with a plan that's implementable immediately.

    I thought that made this an idea worth spreading.

    If you think so too, pass it on.
    Tue, Mar 16, 2010  Permanent link

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    Good morning, Infosphere!

    Over the past few months, I've been wanting to set up "Metathink Mondays." Essentially, once a week, post an insight or a question that we can all ponder and reflect upon, in the service of making us smarter. Then, I'll collect all the feedback, assemble it into another post or ebook that would be like an 'insight report' for all of us. We've done this once before, but I know we've all grown since then, so I'd like to revisit the topic.

    What's Metathinking?

    So, if you haven't been following along here, I've been working on this concept I've dubbed "metathinking," or "a way of figuring out what the hell is going on." We're surrounded by all these streams of information, complexity, and accelerating change, and just trying to find a way to keep up. Well, there's no way of "keeping up" - it's flowing and it's only getting faster. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel that will keep us from drowning. As Clay Shirky put it, "It's not Information Overload. It's Filter Failure." While the programmers and engineers improve the quality of search, we need to be doing the same - but not with code, with people.

    The way I define metathinking is "employing critical thinking through a multitude of frameworks in order to identify weak signals, make connections, and solve problems." It's a working definition, but for anyone out there doing 'knowledge work,' this is the final frontier folks - not outer space, but the 6 inches God gave us from ear to ear. If we want to be competitive today, we need to spend focused time learning how to unleash the power of our minds.

    I think a huge part of this process is in learning how to harness the power of networks, and that's the purpose of today's post. Though I called it 'The Power of Twitter,' it's not really about Twitter at all. Twitter is a platform, a communication tool for information exchange. What makes it useful is the people that are pumping info through it, but I didn't think titling the post 'The Power of Humans' would travel as well. What I have found as I've experimented over the months is that when used with intention, when assembling our human network in an intelligent way - looking for people to learn from, for strategic alliances, and for insights - Twitter becomes a learning powerhouse. The people with whom you interact end up doing the filtering for you, not only making your tweetstream useful in general, but they'll even directly send you information that they think you can use to grow. This is the way I've been using the platform, trying to provide the best quality, most useful information that I come across, and in turn my peers are returning the favor.

    So today's question is this: How have you benefitted from your Twitter network?

    For me, I'm following around 900 people, about 200 who don't follow me back, but they're smart or tweet great stuff and I'm interested in what they have to say. There are around 150 that I keep up with in a broad sense - I don't always speak with them, but I'm ambiently aware of what they're tweeting and who they're talking to. And then there are around 30 or so that I communicate with regularly. It happens in open exchange with @replies, via DM, or via conversations that unfold in the comments section here. When there's a particularly interesting idea still in gestation, we'll hash it out privately via email. I don't even know what most of these people directly do for a living, but I know they're thinkers, change agents, and linchpins. And they make me smarter every day.

    As you may know, I'm in grad school right now, researching how technology is impacting society and culture, how it is changing our behavior and the way we think. So 'thinking about thinking' is kind of what I do. I clearly find this to be important, and I put in the time and effort to write things here because I want us all to be smarter and better. Unfortunately, the very situation I'm in that gives me the ability to do so much research also puts me on the other side of the wall of practical implementation. My outlet for all of this is here, my insights just feed back into the infosphere, hopefully returning me more insights. What I'd love is some feedback of your experience.

    How have the networks and connections you've made directly helped you at work? What are specific examples of how information that was shared with you via Twitter (or any social media, really) allowed you to DO something new - create a better experience for a customer, client, student, child, or friend. What are you doing to amplify the social capital within your web of connections?

    If you can, take some time to reflect on this, then write a post and share the link in the comments section or just leave the comment here. You might have something in mind already, or maybe you haven't really thought about this before, in which case - just observe your behavior today. See who is providing you with the links that you click through. Who are these people? Are there certain people that consistently tweet stuff that helps you? Have you helped them back? (I think 'thanks for RT' is nice, but even better is when you can show your appreciation for their link by trying to send them one that you think they'd benefit from too). See if by being very observant of how you interact with the people and information, your behavior changes a bit. Maybe you get a little more discriminatory about what you tweet? Maybe you raise the bar on yourself? Maybe you think about who would benefit most from info you come across? (I'm calling this "targeted sharing.") Maybe you realize that certain people could benefit not just from a link to great information, but by introducing them to great people. (The term being used for this is "network weaving," [thanks @juneholley] - I try to do it as often as I can, using the hashtag #networkweaving).

    I think we can ALL become tremendously more effective in what we're doing if we think about it and do it with intention. I'm really excited to hear what you come up with, and if you do have an insight, but don't want to leave a comment or write a post, feel free to tweet your thought with the hashtag #metathink and I'll aggregate those tweets here as I see them.

    Looking forward, and thanks to everyone who's participating in this amazing learning and growth.

    (This post originally appears on Emergent by Design - though you're welcome to post comments here, I will be aggregating the comments/insights here. Thanks)
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    The world as we know it is in disruption. Maybe it's always been in disruption, pushing us through cycles of apparent chaos so that evolution can continue and new paradigms emerge. Thanks to social technologies, we're growing into a globally connected communication system, and seem to be heading towards a tipping point. But what is it that we're transitioning to?

    Maybe we've forgotten the bigger picture. The Web was never intended to be about marketing, banner ads, and spam; it was intended to be about learning, sharing resources, and attaining a deeper level of understanding of each other and the world around us. The latter is happening, albeit slowly. I wonder if reframing the experience might help us accelerate the process.

    I've been thinking about what that would look like, and what it is we're really trying to achieve. I just read a piece on Edge by David Gelertner, titled 'Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously.' In it, he provides an overview of "where we're at" with the Web - a world of information, activity streams, and NOW; flooded and drowned by immediacy:

    The Internet increases the supply of information hugely, but the capacity of the human mind not at all.

    I think he grazed over an incredibly important idea, but never went further to develop it. Earlier in the piece, he said something that also hints at this "big idea":

    It has always been harder to find the right person than the right fact. Human experience and expertise are the most valuable resources on the Internet — if we could find them.

    So the information is only half the battle. Now we need people to filter and understand it.

    Over the past few years, I've spent a lot of time on the web; reading, learning, watching. Only in the past six months have I decided to experiment with intentionally growing a personal learning network. I've written before about how I've been using Twitter for personal growth (How to Use Twitter to Build Intelligence), and now I'm focusing on how to build the social capital within my network through "network weaving" and what could probably be referred to as "targeted sharing."

    I'm becoming convinced that this is the purpose of the web: to use it as a tool to enhance both ourselves and the network.

    I think the web, in it's nowness, has tricked us into a constant state of reaction. The information is streaming all around us, and without a focused mindset of intentional purpose in place, we are not in control. Even as we're posting (which we often confuse with 'creating'), what we post is usually in reaction to something else, or worse, an echo of it. In our social networks, we're weaving intricate representations of our identities, posting our interests, photos, and status updates - but these are not 'creating' either, but rather asserting. "THIS is who I am. THIS is what I've done." None of these things are creating.

    I think, as a society, we have lost ourselves.

    The Internet didn't cause the degradation - we've been slowly breaking down for decades - but the Web may be pushing us in the wrong direction because of how the experience is framed. Everything is about the information "out there," how to search it, filter it, and tag it. But where does that leave US?

    I've danced around this subject for months, not knowing quite how to bring it forward. But perhaps what's needed is to be blunt. Before we can hope to advance forward as a species, I think we should turn the focus away from what exists out there, and instead turn inwards and look at ourselves.

    I see the web as a tool for evolving our consciousness. Not just to be more present or mindful, or more empathetic, but to actually develop to be more fully human. We must understand the implications of our human agency, and learn to cultivate the forces inherent within us that enable us to impact the world.

    I've been thinking a lot about tagging, and folksonomies, and shared language, and found it interesting that in our obsessive desire to label literally every thing around us, we haven't yet thought about how we define ourselves. (And I don't count a Twitter bio of 'social media expert' as self-defintion).

    I'm talking about really reflecting on our Strengths, the combination of things that make each of us both unique and united. There is currently no tool or app out there of which I'm aware that would allow us to describe ourselves and each other in a way that puts a focus on self-development and social capital amplification.

    If we shifted the way we talked about ourselves, would there be a shift in our ability to grow? And further, would it help us to assemble dynamic teams and find the kinds of people we need in order to launch initiatives and take action?

    As we become more interconnected and accessible, we need to be able to search for each other not only by topic of interest, but by the types of people with whom we'd like to collaborate. I imagine an index that would travel with us around the web, comprised of our strengths, our skills, and our social connections. As networks take precedence in the way we orient ourselves on the web, it will be useful to have visual maps of how we're connected. Our personal skill sets, knowledge, and expertise will become our virtual resumes, constantly updated and vetted in real time. And our strengths are our underlying 'human factors' that act as the foundation for our personal operating systems. This might emerge as a visualization, or possibly as a series of tag clouds. Here's a few examples of the types of words I think would be used in a "social tagging system."



    [Update: A tag cloud is just one example of what it could look like. It's hard to put things that may boil down to 'tacit knowledge' into words. Another way this could go is via images, like archetypes or badges.]

    I think we've suffered too long in fitting ourselves into roles and job descriptions instead of choosing to operate in accordance with our strengths. If we define ourselves by a job title, we attach ourselves to prestige, influence, and power. We compete for limited positions, and discard our true selves in place of fitting a mold.

    But what happens now that we live in an era where our knowledge, creativity, and ingenuity are being acknowledged as the source of our wealth? What happens when we exchange value as a result of the limitless potential of our strengths? If we shifted the focus, we could each be allowed to develop and excel in the ways we're naturally inclined to do. If we know what those strengths are and how to harness them, we'll be able to use the Web more effectively as a tool for learning and for collaboration.

    It will take a combination of self-awareness, self-assessment, and some soul-searching, but I think this is a key element in honing ourselves so we can benefit from our collective intelligence. I think it starts with developing a shared language of how we want to define ourselves, and which strengths and values we want to cultivate as we push society to the next level.

    There is no longer a scarcity of information. We're saturated by it. What we need to know now is how to combine the people together who will know how to use it.

    #

    From the Twittersphere

    @ehooge: recommended The Oxford Muse

    The Change Journey
    Thu, Mar 11, 2010  Permanent link

    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Recently during #journchat, I saw a reference to a post titled Does Your Twitter Handle Belong on Your Resume? The author is a PR college student, and the conversation around the post is mainly tactical, but the bigger picture surrounding our online identities is one I've been wanting to address for some time, so this gives me the opportunity. I'll briefly cover some basic points about the nature of online space, but then I want to dig into the opportunities that are available in a networked culture.

    #1. The Web is made up of mediated publics.

    I think the first time I heard the term "mediated publics" was in a paper written by danah boyd while she was still a PhD candidate. In it, she described social networks as a type of public space, but with four unique properties:


    • Persistence - What you say sticks around. This is great for asynchronous communication, but it also means that what you said at 15 is still accessible when you are 30 and have purportedly outgrown those childish days.

    • Searchability - My mother would’ve loved the ability to scream “Find!” into the ether and determine where I was hanging out with my friends. She couldn’t, and I’m thankful. Today’s teens’ parents have found their hangouts with the flick of a few keystrokes.

    • Replicability - Digital bits are copyable; this means that you can copy a conversation from one place and paste it into another place. It also means that it’s difficult to determine if the content was doctored.

    • Invisible audiences - While it is common to face strangers in public life, our eyes provide a good sense of who can overhear our expressions. In mediated publics, not only are lurkers invisible, but persistence, searchability, and replicability introduce audiences that were never present at the time when the expression was created.



    A quick review of these characteristics serve as a good reminder that what you do/say/post online is effectively being done in public. When framed in this context, the results of much of the research being done around managing online information seem expected. For instance, take a look at this chart, taken from 'Recruiters really care about your online reputation even if you don’t.'  The top five reasons mentioned here to reject a candidate for recruitment are things that would be equally inappropriate if done directly in front of that potential employer.



    The article goes on to highlight a growing trend by companies to make online screening a formal part of the hiring process. So the answer to the question of whether to put your Twitter handle on your resume may end up being moot - they're going to be checking it out either way.

    #2. The publics are becoming more public.

    In December, Facebook made some changes in how users' privacy works, but what about other transparency tools whose public acknowledgement (or criticism) hasn't been quite as widespread?

    I saw a post on Dave Winer's blog the other day, Google's two-way search is good for the web, touting the Social Search service as "one of the most signficant, far-reaching and basically good features in its core search product." Here's how it works: Once you've entered some basic information about yourself into your Google profile, (i.e. your blog URL, Flickr account, Twitter handle, youtube channel, etc), your future google searches will not only give you the algorithmic results to your inquiry, but also relevant results from your social circle. As one commenter on the post put it:
    So ... I search Google ... and in response, Google searches me.

    You can watch a video explaining the social circle features here, or click here to see directly who's connected to your connections.

    Both of these examples would suggest a shift in the level of transparency with which we are comfortable. Some will still be apprehensive about this shift, and so for them, it can be a comfort that these services are opt-in: if you don't want other users seeing your information, you can either increase your privacy levels or delete your account.

    But now as everything moves towards the "social," it's not even about your information any more, but it's about your information in relation to everyone else's. So a more accurate statement than 'the publics are becoming more public', is that the publics are becoming more contextual.

    From the perspective of a job-seeker hoping to keep certain content hidden from a potential employer or recruiter, this is something to seriously think about. As I scrolled through Google's Social Circle and looked through the Secondary Connections, I was surprised to see who popped up as connections of my connections. You've heard of the six degrees of separation as a concept - but now with tools and visualizations that map our networks it has become apparent. And as the tools get better, it will become easier for anyone to find out about anything that's been put online about or by you. By tapping the network, everyone on the planet has access to you within just a few steps.

    #3. What's your social capital?

    Now the 'so what.' Yes, we're becoming more open. Yes, we're becoming more transparent. Yes, we're sharing more of ourselves with friends, acquaintances, or in many cases, whoever may be watching. And yes, there are privacy and security issues that arise as a result of it. But what's being gained by pumping all this information out there? Anything? What if we frame it differently: not 'how can i market myself better,' which is more of a "push," but rather 'what can I offer that adds value to the network?,' which is more of a "give."

    I was reading a post the other day by Hutch Carpenter, In the Future We'll All Have Reputation Scores , where he looks at three trends he sees as leading us towards meaningful online reputation scores:



    He references pieces by a few others, like Ross Dawson and Google's Amit Singhal, who are also writing about the increasing visibility of reputation. The crux is that this stuff is already out there, we're just still treating it as a game. If you've looked at TweetLevel or Klout or even the Whuffie Bank, you've seen the various attempts being made to understand and measure people's influence, popularity, engagement, and inherent value within a network. It makes me wonder how long it will be before we decide that displaying your Twitter handle on your resume is irrelevant - it'll be more important to display the value of your Whuffie.

    #4. How do I become a network weaver?

    I touched on this idea last year, in the post The Future of Collaboration Begins with Visualizing Human Capital, and then again recently with my video contribution on Nokia's IdeasProject site, but it's seeming more and more clear that we need to figure out how to leverage this information - both for businesses to facilitate innovation, and for society to facilitate positive social change.

    We're nodes in a network. We all have strengths and skills, but they go to waste if we don't know how to connect them with and through the right people. There's a movement taking place that's pushing us towards a model that's more relational and contextual, or as John Hagel puts it - the Big Shift - "from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows" (break down silos dividing talent and information), "from transactions to relationships" (build trust to encourage value exchange), and "from institutions driven by scalable efficiency to institutions driven by scalable peer learning" (increased competition and economic pressures will demand a collaborative workforce for success).

    I think a personal accountability needs to be taken in order to make this happen. It's not going to get orchestrated by someone at the top, nor should that be the expectation. If our organizations or social networks function as complex adaptive systems, self-organizing bodies comprised of independently functioning agents, then we would imagine this to be a process that will develop organically. And I think it will - we just need a push.

    I came across a paper written by Valdis Krebs and June Holly, called Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving, which provides a very interesting overview of how to develop a successful, innovative business ecosystem. It suggests creating a network map of the organization in order to visually track ties, and then design strategies to enable new connections.
    Instead of allowing networks to evolve without direction, successful individuals, groups and organizations have found that it pays to actively manage your network. Using the latest research we can now knit networks to create productive individuals and smart communities.

    They outline the development of adaptive and resilient networks structures as occurring in four phases. I've created a graphic to display this (click to enlarge):



    This reminded me very much of what's happening as my Twitter network is growing. I've started to map out my network using mindmeister to understand who's who and how I can connect people within my network to each other. I had hoped to have it complete by the time this post was written, but I'm currently following over 900 people, so it's going to take a while. What has been great is that even though I have less than 50 people mapped out so far, I've already pulled up the mindmap several times when I've wanted to direct a link to specific people who I thought would find it valuable. I've also started using the hashtag #networkweaving when I "introduce" new connections I make to connections I already have who share common interests. I'm finding it a lot more valuable to others than doing a general #followfriday.

    I guess I'm just figuring out how to be in Phase 2, but in a very tedious way by cobbling the visualization together in mindmeister. For me, 900 is already an unmanageable number to be a good "network weaver" without the proper tools. Until there's a Twitter application that will map my entire network for me in a meaningful way, I feel limited in my ability to grow the network any larger. The best I can do right now is to try and facilitate more meaningful connections within the current network. But this has certainly been a shift for me in how I operate on Twitter altogether.

    Wrap Up

    So the conclusion here (or conversation starter, I should say) is that our online reputation management shouldn't be limited to what we don't want people to see or say about us. Let the understanding that you're in public guide your judgment about what to post online. Instead, what if we think about our online reputations as the bridges that serve to enhance the network itself?

    _____

    thanks for making this post possible:

    @JDEbberly - RT'd @Mikinzie Does Your Twitter Handle Belong on Your Resume?
    @ErickTaft - tweeted Recruiters really care about your online reputation even if you don't
    @sanchezjb - tweeted In the Future We’ll All Have Online Reputation Scores by @bhc3
    @zephoria - tweeted google social circle
    @davewiner - tweeted his post Google's two-way search is good for the web
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    We've entered into a new year, the channels have been flooded with list upon list of 2010 predictions and trends, and now we're laying the foundations for how we'd like to characterize the times - David Houle is calling it the Transformation Decade, a tweet from @RitaJKing mentioned The Imagination Age, and Seth Godin rang in the new year with a post titled "Welcome to the frustration decade (and the decade of change)."

    Organizations are still scratching their heads about how to implement a social media strategy into their business plan and how to measure ROI, educators are wondering how to bring it into the classroom, marketers want to spam the hell out of it, and the layperson just wants to connect and share.

    There are many levels of experimentation going on in the space, and there will be for years. But I wonder, is there a bigger picture here that might indicate what all this means? Most of us here, who seem to co-exist on and offline, feel pretty comfortable that we "get" social media. Or we think we do. But do we really understand what these tools represent, and what they enable? I'd like to share my view of what seems to be happening. I'm going to try to provide a context and make some connections. If it seems unrelated at first, just bear with me, I'm going to do my best to bring it all home in the end. :)

    What is media?

    Ok, before we talk about social media, just a quick overview of 'media' in general. By definition, media is the plural of medium. So that means it's an intermediary, it exists between two things. We think of "the media" in terms of it being the delivery system between news and us, or the message and its audience.

    But think about the world around us. About everything manmade. Isn't it all a media in some way? You could say we live in a fully mediated environment, in that we as human beings have literally constructed our realities around us, with almost everything serving as a representation of something else.

    Think about the way we've constructed our physical realities through buildings and cityscapes. Architecture may be a combination of form and function, but it's also a representation of the cultural, political, and economic flavor of its time. It represents power, beauty, and often the ideal of perfection or divinity. (Many great structures seem to have been built in accordance with the golden ratio, or 'divine proportion,' a proportion found in nature and associated with aesthetics.) So as media, our built environment tells us stories about who we are, our ideals, and our values.



    We see this in imagery as well, as we construct our social realities. From the iconic photographs we circulate to represent our memory of history,



    to our ideas about popular culture,



    to the products we buy and where we buy them and what that says about us,



    to the propaganda that influences our political views and cultural ideals.



    The point is that much of 'reality' is an illusion, insofar as it is the collection of symbols and stories that we are told and that we tell each other. We collectively agree upon them, and so they become real.

    So what's social media?

    OK, so we did the crash course in media studies, now back to social media. Why is social media so interesting and incredibly powerful?

    In the short history of communication technologies, information was usually limited to flowing from one to one (telephone) or from one to many (radio, television). Then the internet came around and became a read/write web ("web 2.0"), characterized by applications and services that have given us the ability to create and share information. It allows for many-to-many communication, connection on a global level, and signaled the beginnings of a networked culture.

    Through blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, photo sharing, and social networks, we are creating windows into each other's lives and minds. Communities are forming around ideas, hobbies, causes, and any kind of organizational affiliation imaginable.

    Then we decided we wanted even faster access to information, faster access to news, faster access to public opinion, and faster access to each other. Enter Twitter. Wikipedia calls it a social networking and micro-blogging service, but I think of it more like an Information & Idea Exchange. There was a nice write up by David Carr about the service in the New York Times the other day, titled Why Twitter Will Endure, which will give you a nice overview of what it's all about. You can also check out the experiment @ekolsky and I did the other week by searching the hashtag #MonTwit; we sent out a call for anyone interested to write a post on the same day about what they'd discovered about Twitter. We ended up with 20 some blog posts and another handful of responses in tweet form. Not a bad turnout for about 15 seconds of planning. For some practical business tips about how to use Twitter, check out this article in Forbes.

    But essentially, Twitter is a communication platform that's comprised of just about 100 million people located around the world. And unlike any other network, when you're on Twitter, you're in the same room with every other person on Twitter. It's like a pulse of what people are collectively thinking about, and so in some ways, becoming a kind of global consciousness. We're connecting with peers around the globe and exchanging tips for business practices. We're connecting with educators and researchers and scientists and discovering new ways of teaching and learning. We're being exposed to each other's perspectives on the world, and our capacity for empathy is expanding.

    Sure there's misinformation, spam, and useless junk too. Just like anywhere. It just means our ability to scan information and critically evaluate its validity will grow to be an ever more important skill.

    But there is something happening here that is truly unprecedented in human history. Never has there been a potential for all of us to be connected like this. And the implications are huge.

    So what's social media? It's the opportunity to create shared vision. All these platforms are just the tools, but look what they enable. In the way that mass media has shaped our perceptions about culture, politics, and society, now social media also has that ability. But the message isn't traveling from them to us, top down, from the aristocrats to the plebes. It's moving from us to us.

    We are living in a time of tremendous change; global systems are collapsing (economic, political, environmental) and opportunities for better systems to emerge are being revealed. People are waking up and aching for a new way to understand what's happening and to be participants in shaping the outcome.

    If you're using social media as part of a new vision for your organization (social business design, social CRM) or as an addition to your personal learning network (PLN) or to empower people or to build and spread ideas, you get it. We're growing into a global human network, and we're able to begin constructing our own reality. 'The way things work' isn't set in stone, it's a social agreement. So many aspects of the way we work, the way we live, and the way we relate to each other are products of the systems that are currently in place. When we start experimenting with new ideas put together in new ways by new groups of people (and failing often), eventually we'll figure it out - it's how innovation happens. At so many levels, as a species, we are at a pivotal time in history where we can collectively design a new future.

    If every world-changing set of actions is set in motion by an idea, and this new form of communication allows us to plant the seeds for those ideas to blossom and take shape, then those folks at the beginning of this post are on to something - it truly could be a decade characterized by frustration, imagination, and transformative change.
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    intelligence: n. the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge

    (this post is a group Twitter experiment - link to similar articles at bottom & share your own experience on Twitter with hashtag #MonTwit)

    I've been thinking a lot about how we can leverage the potential of social networks in order to learn, facilitate innovation and solve problems. I've been experimenting with Twitter heavily for the past few months, and would like to share a few basic insights into what I'm discovering.

    I started to tackle this a few weeks ago via a comment I posted on @briansolis's blog, so I'll just expand on the main questions I laid out there:


    • What is Twitter?

    • How do you use it strategically?


    Let me just start by saying I understand that Twitter is a communication channel that can be used in a variety of ways. Though there's no 'right' way to use it, there may be 'more effective' ways, depending on your goal. This post is just intended to be an overview of ideas that have led me to change my own habits on Twitter, which has increased its value as a resource for me.

    1. What is Twitter?

    Getting started on Twitter is like walking into a crowded room blindfolded: you know there's somebody out there, but you're not quite sure who they are, where they are, or why you should care.

    My initial Twitter experience was kind of like this: The 46 Stages of Twitter (here's the educator's version)

    After digging deeper, I started to see patterns in the way information was traveling, and in the connections between the people I was following. Based on those observations, this is my current opinion:

    Twitter is a massive Idea & Information Exchange.

    Imagine if the resources you wanted in order to build your knowledge base and hone your thinking skills were available in one "place." Imagine if there were a better way than a Google search to connect with the people, opinions and ideas you're interested in - whether these are your customers, your colleagues, or the thought leaders you respect most within a field. Then imagine you could assemble these people into a network around yourself or your company's brand in order to get a pulse on what's important to you.

    This is the potential of Twitter.

    Granted, there is a TON of noise. I'm not suggesting that Twitter is a utopia where it's possible to get 100% pure relevant content to what you want to know all the time. BUT, there is a tremendous wealth of information and human capital out there that is certainly worth exploring. Businesses are finding it's useful for interacting with customers and gauging public opinion, educators are collaborating with one another and integrating it into their "personal learning networks (PLNs)," and individuals are using it to find out more about specific interest areas.

    I read a piece recently by Howard Rheingold titled Twitter Literacy, in which he said:

    Twitter is not a community, but its an ecology in which communities can emerge.

    I think that's a good way to look at it. Twitter consists of literally millions of pieces of info that are streaming all day every day, ranging from the profound to the absurd. At first I tried to organize a way to catch the best information, but that seems impossible. You simply can't keep up with the content flow and catch everything. Then I started to analyze where the 'best' information was coming from, who the people were tweeting it, and who their connections were.

    This changed everything for me.

    Once you know what you're looking for, you start to notice that certain people keep popping up in relation to certain information; you start to notice the networks of people they talk to, and you realize that there are thousands of loose, informal communities that are existing within this larger ecology of information.

    2. How do you use it strategically?

    Twitter's not just about the information, but about the people creating and circulating the information. The key seems to be a combination of figuring out who to follow and how to engage with the people following you.

    At first I thought that the more people I followed, the better chance I had of seeing something 'good' pass through my stream. Not the case. Instead, it just increased the amount of noise, while making it very difficult to see who was actually bringing me value.

    So I decided to do an overhaul. I asked these two questions:

    • Who am I and what information am I trying to get?

    • What information am I bringing to the table?


    Me: I am a Masters Candidate researching emerging media technology and its impact on society and culture. I'm particularly interested in how people are interacting on Twitter, and how it's being implemented in business and education. I'd like to get the perspectives of practitioners, thought leaders in the social media sphere, systems theorists, futurists, and researchers in complexity, knowledge management, neuroscience, and human behavior. All I bring to the table is a hopeless curiosity, an analytical mind, and a desire to share my findings with whoever might be interested.

    When I framed my purpose in that way, I feel like I woke up.

    I think this is the first step in really benefitting from Twitter. Knowing who you are, and who your intended 'audience' is. I think this applies both at a personal level (like in my case) or if you're a business.

    For the better part of two weeks, I went through each and every person I followed, evaluating why we were connected and how we were bringing each other value. I scrolled through their tweets, and I asked myself "Am I compelled to click through on any of these?" If the person's interested weren't directly related to my research area, the answer was usually no, so I unfollowed.

    For everyone else, I organized them into lists. This had absolutely nothing to do with a popularity contest, but was rather a learning experience. By forcing myself to put people into lists, it really made me focus on who each person was, and what their 'specialty' was. I combined some lists when they made sense. (I combined my "Social CRM" & "Community Management Strategy" lists in with the "Social Business Design" list.)

    [I have a list titled "metacogs" that some people have asked about, so let me give a quick definition. I'm wordsmithing, so you won't find it in a dictionary. I'm using it as a derivative of the word "metacognition",  which means 'thinking about thinking' or 'awareness of the process of learning,' and combining it with the ideas of 'design thinking,' futures thinking,' and lateral thinking. Generally, it means "process thinkers."]

    Once I got down to following around 850 people, a few amazing things started to happen.

    1. I began to see how the people I follow are connected, and also noticed the basic makeup of the various communities that I had been following all along.
    2. Because I realized that many people I was connected to were in fact connected to each other, I was able to start making some tweets specifically geared towards them and their community.
    3. I actually began engaging MORE with the people I unfollowed!

    This last one really surprised me and has changed my entire opinion about following. I remember having read a post by Guy Kawasaki called How I Tweet, where he said he followed everyone back out of common courtesy. That made me feel like maybe I was being mean for not following everyone back, so I originally followed his advice. But now I see things differently and have come up with my own method that works for me.

    Now I'm following people who tweet within a specific topic area most of the time, but I'm engaging with EVERYONE who talks to me. I'm finding a lot of people who I don't follow (but follow me) will send me an @reply in response to something I tweet, whether as a response to a comment or even to share a related link with me. I've been loving this. Because I'm researching under a big umbrella of areas, my tweets cover a broad range that isn't going to be interesting to everyone all the time. But, when something DOES resonate with a particular person, they have the opportunity to respond to me about it, and a conversation begins.

    Then someone else might respond to THAT tweet, and the conversation continues. And it literally feels like a temporary community forms around an idea. Input starts coming in from many different people, with various opinions and perspectives. This goes on for a few tweets, and then without any formal ending, we all just kinda move on.

    This is starting to become the way I'm experiencing Twitter.

    So what?

    Well, now that I see Twitter differently, it's shaping my user habits. I'm trying to fill each tweet with context and value. If I'm replying to a specific person, and don't have more to say than "thanks" or "lol" or something short like that, I send it via DM. I try to think about how each public tweet appears to others, and how to structure it as an opportunity for a conversation to start.

    In this way, I feel like I'm making my personal tweets more valuable to others, and in return, more people are engaging with me. It's a positive feedback look, and it's incredible.

    Whether you're using Twitter for personal use or to serve as the gateway to your brand, I think that approaching it with the above ideas in mind might be useful in deciding what to tweet and how to engage your audience.

    I have more thoughts on all of this, but I'd like this to be a start, and to see what everyone else thinks! Thank you to everyone out there for helping shape my experience. Now that I'm seeing what is possible, I'll be curious to see how we can put more intentionality behind our tweets and interactions. Looking forward to the continued journey with you!

    - @venessamiemis

    Here's a little blurb of me discussing these concepts for IdeasProject:



    And here are the links to everyone else posting on this topic today. I'll keep this list updated:

    @ekolsky - What I've Discovered about Twitter

    @mauricioswg - What I've discovered about Twitter

    @prem_k - What I've discovered about Twitter

    @MarkTamis - What I've discovered about Twitter

    @mjayliebs - What I have discovered because of Twitter

    @timkastelle - What I've discovered about Twitter

    @wimrampen - Sharing personal discoveries about Twitter
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    "Collective Intelligence (CI) is the capacity of human collectives to engage in intellectual cooperation in order to create, innovate, and invent."
    - Pierre Levy + James Surowiecki + Mark Tovey

    I wrote a post a few days ago, Is Twitter a Complex Adaptive System?, that proposed the idea that Twitter may be evolving into an entity of sorts, a collective intelligence. I've come across some new posts that are amplifying that meme, and I just want to keep the thoughtstream going.

    Insight #1

    I was reading an article by Nova Spivack from 2006 over on Ray Kurzweil's site, titled The Third-Generation Web is Coming. In it, he lays out the evolution from Web 1.0 —> Web 2.0 —> Web 3.0, a more intelligent web "which emphasizes machine-facilitated understanding of information in order to provide a more productive and intuitive user experience."

    He also lays out the key technology trends driving the evolution. Among them are Ubiquitous Connectivity (broadband, mobile internet), Network Computing (SaaS, P2P, cloud computing), and Open Information (open APIs, open-source software, OpenID).

    Sound familiar?


    Insight #2

    Then this article from ReadWriteWeb passed through my tweetstream, The Future is all about Context: The Pragmatic Web. The author, Alisa Leonard-Hansen, paints a picture for "a highly relevant and individualized Web experience based on the ubiquity of our identity data."

    However, with the rise of the social Web, we see that what truly makes our online experiences meaningful is not necessarily the Web's ability to approximate human language or to return search results with syntactical exactness....Rather, meaningful and relevant experiences now are born out of the context of our identities and social graph: the pragmatics, or contextual meaning, of our online identities. My Web experience becomes more meaningful and relevant to me when it is layered with contextual social data based on my identity. This is the pragmatic Web.

    Then she goes into a different direction, talking about business models and Facebook. She finishes by just touching on the implications of the centralization of identity data, which is such an extremely important concept that I need to save that discussion for an entirely separate post. But to begin building your framework for understanding the importance of open technology, bookmark the Peer to Peer Foundation website and the P2P blog.

    Dave Winer echoed the sentiment of context in his recent post, How (slowly) we add metadata to tweets, in reference to the new retweet feature on Twitter and issues about attribution. He links to an article by Alex Bowyer, A better design for twitter retweets, which is a very well thought out post that deserves to be read.


    Insight #3

    I then found this article by Dean Pomerleau, titled Twitter and the Global Brain. He starts by explaining that some recent evidence in neuroscience has suggested a new model for understanding how the brain is altered during learning. He then makes a correlation between that process and the emerging structure and function of the real-time web, i.e. Twitter.

    Imagine a twitter user as a neuron. He/she makes the equivalent of a synapse with each of his/her followers. When a twitter user sends out a tweet, it is the equivalent of a neuron firing. Followers who receive the tweet decide whether to propagate the activity by retweeting the message, in a sense by deciding whether they too should fire in response to the tweet.

    He acknowledges that this is not exactly how Twitter works yet, but he goes through some interesting examples of how it could work, and if that system became automated, it could signal the emergence of a type of Global Brain.

    I think he's done a very good job of distilling this concept into terms that are understandable to the layman.


    Insight #4

    Then, just this very morning, I discovered this site: information economy meta language. It's mission is as follows:

    The main mission of the Collective Intelligence Lab is to pursue theoretical, empirical and applied researches related to ieml. This general mission can be decomposed in three sub-tasks:
    - to develop the vocabulary and the grammar of the information economy metalanguage,
    - to design and build the technical and methodological tools that will encourage and spread ieml uses,
    - to exploit ieml-related tools and methods for the study of information economy, the improvement of knowledge management and the growth of collective intelligence.

    On the site, I found this document by Pierre Levy , the team's Director, titled From social computing to reflexive collective intelligence: The IEML research program (PDF), which appears to be due for publication in the Information Sciences journal in 2010. It's a dense 25 page paper, but I see a lot of correlation between what he's proposing and what I'm proposing with the Metathinking concept.

    Essentially, he's saying that we need a new language infrastructure for the web in order for it to evolve to the sematic web stage. I've been echoing that thought by proposing we need a new thought architecture in order to process the new types of information that we're encountering.

    This 'new language' Levy describes seems to be the necessary structure that would have to be created in order for Pomerleau's 'Global Brain' to emerge.


    Synthesis

    This all seems to be brought together beautifully by the Guardian article, After social networks, what's next?

    In it, venture capitalist Peter Theil answers the question by asking us to evaluate what stage we're at with social networks, and reminding us that we often don't realize the implications of what we're seeing even when it's staring us right in the face.

    So, based on the above insights, the pieces seem to be in place. Allow me to answer the question with this question:


    Have we transitioned to Web 3.0?

    _____


    This post made possible by:
    @tonnet - tweeted Dave Winer article
    @futurescape - RT @brainpicker to ReadWriteWeb article
    @ideahive - tweeted Guardian article
    @novaspivack - tweeted link to ieml site & Levy paper

    People mentioned in this post:
    Dave Winer @davewiner (Scripting News blog
    Alex Bowyer @alexbfree
    Nova Spivack @novaspivack (creator of Twine)
    Michel Bauwens @mbauwens (creator of P2P Foundation)
    Pierre Levy @plevy (his wikipedia page)
    Ray Kurzweil - not actively on twitter yet, but here's his site

    Some contextual quotes to chew on:

    To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete" - Buckminster Fuller

    The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed. - William Gibson

    The mark of a well educated person is not necessarily in knowing all the answers, but in knowing where to find them. -Douglas Everett

    - @venessamiemis
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    I've seen a bunch of posts bubble up over the past few days that are really sparking my curiousity about what is really going on with Twitter, so I need to do a little brain dump. Bear with me.

    Insight #1

    An article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter was just published today on the Harvard Business Review website, titled On Twitter and in the Workplace, It's Power to the Connectors. In it, she highlights the fact that there is an organizational trend moving away from the hierarchical networks of the 20th century, and towards complex, distributed, non-hierarchical structures of business organization and leadership.

    She also points out that success today is based on a person's ability to leverage power and influence within their social networks, to act as "connectors" between people and information, and in turn build social capital.

    She leaves the evaluation of the significance of Twitter open-ended, but she lays out a few characteristics of Twitter that I found most interesting:

    In the World According to Twitter, giving away access to information rewards the giver by building followers. The more followers, the more information comes to the giver to distribute, which in turn builds more followers. The process cannot be commanded or controlled; followers opt in and out as they choose. The results are transparent and purely quantitative; network size is all that matters. Networks of this sort are self-organizing and democratic but without any collective interaction.

    (just keep those points in mind, I'm going to come back to it)

    Insight #2

    Also published today over on Stowe Boyd's blog, /Message, was a post titled The Rise Of Networks, The End Of Process. He makes a case for the abandonment of worn out systems of industrial management thinking, and a move towards a social way of structuring work.

    He points out that the explosion of the social web is allowing us to connect with others in a previously impossible way, and the ability it's giving us to share information and ideas is actually reforming our learning process and the way we think:

    People are thronging on social sites like Facebook and Twitter because they are a straightforward way to stay connected with others, and this in turn shapes our worldview.

    This same sentiment was also hit upon by JR Johnson on mashable in the post Social Media can Change the World through Common Ground.

    He also points out that as we are awakening to the power of this interaction on the web, the most progressive companies and individuals are the ones actively creating new business models around this information, hybrids that combine existing frameworks with new social models.

    From a social viewpoint, the architecture of business seems all wrong.

    It's becoming clear that to constrict a person's capabilities into rigid, set roles that limit creativity and innovation just doesn't make sense. Diving talent into silos is an outdated paradigm. Rather, we should be encouraging the facilitation of diverse groups of people working together on common problems. I touched on the potential power of this in a previous post, "The Future of Collaboration Begins with Visualizing Human Capital."

    I think his points completely validate the need for a new approach to thinking in general, which is exactly what I'm outlining in my 'metathinking manifesto'.

    Insight #3

    Wim Rampen is also noticing a trend, with yesterday's post, Connecting the Dots, referencing Graham Hill's recent post, A Manifesto for Social Business, and Mitch Lieberman's post Social Just is..., both acknowledging the power of customer networks, looked at through the lens of Social Business. Hill laid out fifteen trends shaping the future of business, which clearly outline the fundamental shift underway:

    I would almost go as far to say that we are fast approaching a period of ‘Business Enlightenment', based not so much on the linear thinking that drove the Enlightenment in the 18th Century, as on networked, emergent thinking which is driving so much new thinking in the 21st.

    Everyone is catching on - Lieberman's post also references Esteban Kolsky's new 5 part series on the Roadmap to Social CRM, an in-depth series of blog posts that outlines how to develop a Social Business strategy.

    Insight #4

    Here's where things get interesting. From a learning standpoint, there is proof emerging that using Twitter builds intelligence. A study revealed these benefits:

    All of the study participants were new to Twitter and had not previously used it or any similar microblogging service.....In a relatively short period of time, the participants formed quite sophisticated peer networks.....Peer support became a key feature of this student network, with activity rising just prior to assessment deadlines or during revision for exams. Content analysis of the messages indicated clear evidence of the emergence of personal learning networks.....Twitter is also very attractive as a data collection tool for assessing and recording the student experience, with a wide range of free and increasingly sophisticated online analysis tools available.

    Synthesis

    At the surface level, one could look at this information and agree that yes, social networks, and specifically the real-time network of Twitter, enable people to communicate and collaborate on new levels. I think there's something deeper happening.

    I've been reading about complex adaptive systems lately, and many of its key properties seem strikingly similar to what's occurring on Twitter:

    • Emergence: Rather than being planned or controlled the agents in the system interact in apparently random ways. From all these interactions patterns emerge which informs the behaviour of the agents within the system and the behaviour of the system itself.

    • Co-evolution: All systems exist within their own environment and they are also part of that environment. Therefore, as their environment changes they need to change to ensure best fit.

    • Requisite Variety: The greater the variety within the system the stronger it is. In fact ambiguity and paradox abound in complex adaptive systems which use contradictions to create new possibilities to co-evolve with their environment.

    • Connectivity: The ways in which the agents in a system connect and relate to one another is critical to the survival of the system, because it is from these connections that the patterns are formed and the feedback disseminated. The relationships between the agents are generally more important than the agents themselves.

    • Simple Rules: Complex adaptive systems are not complicated. The emerging patterns may have a rich variety, but like a kaleidoscope the rules governing the function of the system are quite simple

    • Iteration: Small changes in the initial conditions of the system can have significant effects after they have passed through the emergence - feedback loop a few times (often referred to as the butterfly effect)

    • Self Organising: There is no hierarchy of command and control in a complex adaptive system. There is no planning or managing, but there is a constant re-organising to find the best fit with the environment.

    • Edge of Chaos: Complexity theory is not the same as chaos theory, which is derived from mathematics. But chaos does have a place in complexity theory in that systems exist on a spectrum ranging from equilibrium to chaos. A system in equilibrium does not have the internal dynamics to enable it to respond to its environment and will slowly (or quickly) die. A system in chaos ceases to function as a system. The most productive state to be in is at the edge of chaos where there is maximum variety and creativity, leading to new possibilities.

    • Nested Systems: Most systems are nested within other systems and many systems are systems of smaller systems.


    Complex adaptive systems are all around us. Most things we take for granted are complex adaptive systems, and the agents in every system exist and behave in total ignorance of the concept but that does not impede their contribution to the system. Complex Adaptive Systems are a model for thinking about the world around us not a model for predicting what will happen. I have found that in nearly all situations I can view what is happening in Complex Adaptive Systems terms and that this opens up a variety of new options which give me more choice and more freedom.


    Is this perhaps the framework that we've all been hitting upon without realizing it? Many people have been sensing there is something special about the way we're able to access and exchange information and ideas on Twitter, organize into Twibes and niche groups to tackle problems together, and develop strategies (like using lists and separate accounts) to filter out the content that matters most to us.

    Final question: Is Twitter not a social media platform, but an actual entity, an intelligence made up of all of us?

    ___

    further thoughts: If you have room for one more idea to provide another context, consider yesterday's post by Tim O'Reilly on The War For the Web. If we start to experience real, measurable collective benefits from our ability to leverage the intelligence of the real-time web, will it be exploited, or will we ensure a system that keep our information and knowledge flows open source?

    sources of the thoughtstream:

    I would also suggest taking a look through Pierre Levy's slideshare on Collective Intelligence & Cyberspace, which I found on Victor Godot's site.

    Insights from the Twittersphere

    @SmartStorming Innovation is really a game of connect-the-dots. Try combining two or more seemingly unrelated things in a new way that creates value.

    @spikenlilli Halpern: "How does one learn to see?" "Make associations between data points" - relational, generative, gestalt, anticipatory design #IPF09

    @Innovation360 Can innovation be systematized?http://is.gd/4VCpm

    @acarvin Hargadon: social media can unleash our latent creativity. #ncti2009

    @WebStudio13 RT @craignewmark - RT @AlecJRoss: “The more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes.” via @ariannahuff


    People referenced in this post

    Rosabeth Kanter @RosabethKanter
    Stowe Boyd @stoweboyd
    mashable @mashable
    Wim Rampen @wimrampen
    Graham Hill @grahamhill
    Mitch Lieberman @mjayliebs
    Estaban Kolsky @ekolsky
    Tim O'Reilly @timoreilly
    Victor Godot @victorgodot

    This post made possible by:

    @SameerPatel - RT'd @stoweboyd's article
    @SocialNetDaily - RT'd @AnneDGallager @HarvardBiz @KellySpors to @RosabethKanter's article
    @Wildcat2030 - RT'd @UniofLeics @TheHistoryWoman @timeshighered to Twitter in academia study
    @emahlee - RT'd @anildash to @timoreilly's article
    @phaloo - tweeted @mashable article
    @ekolsky - tweeted Roadmap to Social CRM article

    note: I'm going to try as often as possible to reference posts in this way, because I think it's a good illustration of how thoughts and ideas are developing as a result of distributed knowledge, and it's easier for me to follow my own train of thought.

    I saw all of these posts within the last 48 hours in my twitterstream.... I don't know that I would have come up with this by reading RSS feeds or by using other news sites.
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    The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. - Einstein


    For several years now, I’ve been studying the intersection of technology, culture and communication, the impacts of social media, the relationship between creativity, innovation and design, and the potential of various futures.

    I’ve had this gnawing sensation at the edges of my mind that all these areas were held together by a common thread, but I couldn’t put my finger on the connection. My intention is that by taking this out of the incubation stage in my head and putting it into words, it will become clarified and provide some value.

    First off, let me lay out a framework . My ideas are based on 3 main concepts:

    * Social media is fundamentally changing the human experience.
    * The world is increasing in complexity.
    * We are experiencing accelerating change.

    And a brief overview of each:

    Social media is fundamentally changing the human experience.

    We can all agree that social media technologies are here to stay. It’s not a fad – it’s a new form of communication. We’re never going to go back to the ‘old way.’ Those of us who actively participate in online environments understand that there is a shift underway, and tomorrow’s leaders will be the ones who know how to leverage the new social ecology:

    The businesses are asking: “how do we monetize this?”

    The educators are asking: “how do we teach this?”

    The youth are asking: “how do we hang out here?”

    The nonprofits are asking: “how do we use this for social change?”

    The designers are asking: “how do we facilitate interaction?”

    Every sector is trying to figure out how to integrate the platforms to serve their particular purposes, but the deeper message is that this is becoming a pervasive social technology that is changing everything about how we live, both in work and in play.

    The world is increasing in complexity.

    This is not to say “the world is becoming more complicated,” (well, that too), but I’m referring to the evolving role we’re all playing in becoming a node in a complex adaptive system.

    The online social networks we form become entities in themselves, a collective, global brain, capable of some pretty tremendous things – we haven’t even scratched the surface of this potential.

    We are experiencing accelerating change.

    The rate of technological advances is increasing at an exponential rate, meaning that the speed at which ideas and information can be transmitted and shared is also accelerating.

    This is creating opportunities for mass collaboration, experimentation, and rapid innovation. It also suggests the need to adopt a non-linear view of the world in order to fully grasp the upcoming implications of technological ‘progress’.

    So what?

    Based on this information, it seems the most critical skills for success in the 21st century include the ability to anticipate, plan for, and adapt to change.

    Because the nature of information is fundamentally different, it will also be necessary to update our frameworks for how we obtain and process information.

    We need to develop strategies for using social media tools to access real-time data, crowdsource information, and harness the power of our social networks to data mine the kind of information we need in an economy based on knowledge work and attention.

    We also need frameworks for understanding what it means. Now that we can be both consumers and producers, it is increasingly difficult to filter the quantity of incoming information, make sense of it, and contextually organize it into our worldview. The blur between these roles raises questions about how we should decide what information is credible, relevant, and necessary, and who to rely on and collectively trust as our experts and guides.

    I’m proposing that this may require a new approach to thinking in general, a new “thought architecture”; to expand thinking to a systems level in order to develop a big-picture understanding of how information is related. I haven’t found a term that accurately describes this concept, so I’ve been referring to it as “metathinking.” My theory is that by implementing this approach, it will cause a reorientation in the relationship we have to information, and cause a paradigm shift that would:

    * enable us to develop better strategies for critical thinking
    * facilitate creativity and innovation
    * equip us to anticipate and rapidly adapt to change

    Over the next few weeks, I’m going to roll out a series of posts that will outline potential frameworks for making this happen. Some of the methods are tried and true formulas that I’m just going to repackage via a social media lens, others I’m still experimenting with, so it will be an evolving process. Any feedback, comments, or collaborations are welcome. :)
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    How can the power and scope of social networks, combined with human capital metrics, be used to facilitate shared creation and innovation?

    It’s becoming more accepted that collaboration, not competition, is a more effective avenue towards producing emergent, innovative results. Now that millions of people participate in online social networks, it seems high time to develop a system of matching people’s skill sets with common values and goals in order to bring about positive change.

    Social networks have the advantage of being able to connect globally distributed individuals, who can then operate with flexibility within a bottom-up, non-hierarchical framework. But, just having access to each other is not always enough to make things serendipitously happen.

    Theorists, consultants, and managers have for years been trying to understand and explain the combination of elements needed to facilitate innovation in groups. Many believe that by introducing the optimal levels of diversity and complexity to the group, it will create an environment on the “edge of chaos”, one that causes just enough anxiety to foster creativity.

    With all of the metrics currently being tracked about our user preferences, behaviors, and activities, could there not also be measurements of human capital? Admittedly, it would be tricky to set up, and might cause some initial ruckus. (who’s the expert to judge human value?) But I envision a set of skills that would be unique to each individual, that could then be matched up with complimentary skills of others in order to assemble innovation powerhouses.

    For instance, imagine if on Facebook (or LinkedIn, or some new collaboration-focused social network, or embedded right into your browser) there was an application for an online assessment, something like Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. Your results would be integrated into your profile page. In addition to that, there might be statistics on diversity levels (family background, transformational experiences, temperament, personality type, business skills), social capital (richness of connectivity within your social networks, spheres of influence), technical skills, core values, and other relational, contextual knowledge and skills. All of these could form your Human Capital Metrics, which would be available to be viewed graphically with some type of visualization tool. The system could then generate a list of people who have the complimentary skills and could create the right amount of tension to carry out an adaptive collaboration project.

    What could this mean for the future of ideas……..design……..innovation………business……..social change?
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