Category Archives: linkedin

Skepticism about “on-line community”?

For those skeptical about whether on-line communities offer the same level of social capital as in person friendships, this cartoon is for you.

TedMcCagg "Modern Friendship"




Kids vying to be seen as social influencers

Social butterfly; Flickr photo by massdistracton

Excerpt of WSJ piece on what PeerIndex calls the S&P rating of kids’ online social presence:

When Katie Miller went to Las Vegas this Thanksgiving, she tweeted about the lavish buffets and posted pictures of her seats at the aquatic spectacle “Le Reve” at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel.

A week later, the 25-year-old account executive at a public-relations firm got an email inviting her to a swanky holiday party on Manhattan’s West Side.

“At first I was confused,” Ms. Miller said. She read on to learn that she had been singled out as a “high-level influencer” by the event’s sponsors, including the Venetian and Palazzo hotels in Las Vegas, and a tech company called Klout, which ranks people based on their influence in social-media circles. “I was honored,” she said, sipping a cocktail at the $30,000 fete.

So much for wealth, looks or talent. Today, a new generation of VIPs is cultivating coolness through the world of social media. Here, ordinary folks can become “influential” overnight depending on the number and kinds of people who follow them on Twitter or comment on their Facebook pages.

People have been burnishing their online reputations for years, padding their resumes on professional networking site LinkedIn and trying to affect the search results that appear when someone Googles their names. Now, they’re targeting something once thought to be far more difficult to measure: influence over fellow consumers.

Some of the “influence” is real, but other youth are trying to game the system, befriending lots of others on Twitter in “one night stands” in the hopes of upping their own popularity and then dumping these “friends” a day later, or dramatically increasing their number of retweets in the hopes that they get greater attention or credit for Twitter traffic. Others realized that by raising the ratio of “those Twitter accounts following you” to “those Twitter accounts you follow”, they could increase their score. Companies are trying to use these services like Klout, PeerIndex, TweetLevel or Twitalyzer (which processes Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn data) in an effort to determine which teens are popular and trusted by others.

Read “Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers — Sites Use Secret Formulas to Rank Users’ Online ‘Influence’ From 1 to 100; ‘It’s an Ego Thing’ ” (Wall Street Journal, By Jessica E. Vascellaro, Feb. 8, 2011)

While they are in their early days, it’s not clear that any of these companies yet score accurately the true influence of youth or adults, as evidenced by how this can be gamed.

See also, “Web of Popularity Achieved by Bullying” (New York Times, by Tara Parker-Pope, 2/15/11) that notes that “students near the top of the social hierarchy are often both perpetrators and victims of aggressive behavior involving their peers.”

Charlie Rose on the social impact of technology

Two snippets from recent interesting episodes on Charlie Rose:

1) Andrew Mason, cofounder of Groupon, was on Charlie Rose the other week.  He stumbled upon Groupon while trying to launch “The Point” about social change and online collective action on the web, but users found they were being asked to do something too amorphous.

He describes the social component of Groupon (which he insists is trying to change the world by repopulating Main Street):

“Question (Charlie Rose):  What do Facebook and Twitter mean to you?”  Mason: “Groupon is an inherently social service because the content is inherently social — it’s restaurants, it’s theater…” Rose:  “Today’s NY special is yoga lessons.” Mason: “I’m sure you do yoga with your friends.  When people get this yoga deal they send it to someone else and say let’s do it together.  Facebook and Twitter are a way for people to spread the word.”

2) In another Charlie Rose episode, Ken Auletta, Michael Malone and  David Kirkpatrick were talking about how 500 million users on Facebook is causing companies to rethink about how to reformat their products to make the experience more social and make greater use of social marketing.  Michael Malone: What other product reaches 500 million people (Coca Cola, KFC?).  It’s literally changing the way young people think.  Goldman’s recent deal with its implicit valuation may put greater scrutiny on Facebook for being regulated. David Kirkpatrick:  Facebook wants to change the world.  Zuckerberg’s not in it for the money.  He wants to make Facebook available to as many of the 7 billion people on the planet as possible.  He wants to make everything we do more social.  As Facebook is more mobile, we are bringing our friends everywhere we go.  We can ask our friends (via Facebook) at the supermarket whether they like this product or that.  Ken Auletta: why do I need Google if I can ask my friends on Facebook what camera to buy?  Michael Malone:  Linked-in [the leading competitor to Facebook] is of course the network of professional people and is feeling its way around how you go beyond just swapping business cards and actually aggregating people on projects, starting companies….Reed [Hoffman, the CEO] is moving fairly quickly to create the virtual corporation, the protean corporation where people work in the cloud and aggregate on projects.  We’re seeing more local geographic-based social networks that center on restaurants, local events.  There’s a website where you can leave a virtual postcard at a store for others to find out you were there.

See Charlie Rose interview on Future of Social Networking (January 7, 2011)

See Charlie Rose interview with Groupon CEO Andrew Mason (December 9, 2010)

Amassing friends: collect the whole set

Victor Keegan in the Guardian (U.K., 6/7/07) expresses something that I’ve been feeling for a while that social network software and sites (like MySpace or FaceBook or LinkedIn) are causing people to measure their ‘friendships’ in a cheapened currency.  I have not seen strong research on this, but I suspect that almost all of the ‘friends’ on these sites are not ones that could be relied on for important purposes (getting job leads, borrowing $100, watching ones’ kids while one went on a job interview, bringing you chicken soup when you’re sick).

I know these sites call them friends, and users call them friends, but (inverting an expression), just calling it a duck doesn’t make it quack like a duck or walk like a duck.

Keegan’s “Collecting friends is new philately“, as the title suggests, observes that people are now collecting friends the way others used to collect coins or stamps or shells.

Keegan writes: “People invest large amounts of social capital in these sites – spending hours entering photos, address books, videos etc. They can import other sites, such as, so they in effect become a permanent home page from which they don’t move away during the day. This makes a mockery of statistics based on page views, since users might be hyperactive on the web but seldom move from their home page, thereby embedding their loyalty. No wonder web giants such as Yahoo!, unable (interestingly) to use their own massive leverage to set up big enough social sites of their own, are gobbling up all the successful new-generation startups.

“These new sites are making personal relationships more intimate (based on communal interests or hobbies as well as flirting) on a global scale. The likes of Facebook have added a fresh layer of communication. Email facilitates links with people you would never otherwise keep up with. Text messaging conjures up conversations, 90% of which wouldn’t have happened under previous technologies but only on a one-to-one (national) basis. The new generation of social sites with libraries of photos of your friends, their friends and their friends’ friends generates a global intimacy that could go on and on. On Facebook I found myself in contact with friends after midnight about mundane things just because they were online. If I had texted it would have been seen as intrusive – and a telephone call completely over the top.

“On such sites you usually chat to people with whom you have a link. In virtual worlds such as Second Life you, or your avatar, can say Hi and talk with strangers. I have met people who, after saying Hi to strangers in virtual worlds, claim to do it more often in real life. Goodness knows what will be going on 10 years hence when global relationships come of age.”

I believe that sites like Facebook, that are rooted in geographically-based communities (like colleges) are more likely to produce real social capital, since there are higher chances that web relationships will jump the Net to real face-to-face (F2F) relationships.  And the fact that you are more likely to bump into people with whom you have been communicating online, and the fact that open dyadic friendship are likely to close into triads, makes it more likely that users will behave civicly and in a trusting manner on such sites, which also promotes social relationships.

We hope that designers will proactively think about whether the site is optimized to make strong friendships that can be relied upon, and users will focus on what they can do to ensure that ‘friends’ truly are real friends or become them over time.  We’ll all be stronger with if the average user or citizen has 10 real solid friends than 5000 MySpace friends.