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emergent by design
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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.
    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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    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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