Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sides of the House: Understanding the Change

Have you seen this or this or this? It is bubbling in to something big and nasty, and "we" are on the wrong side (assuming this letter truly reflects toe Democratic position)...

The following chart compares the adoption rates of the internet from 1995 - 97 versus the recent rise of MySpace and Facebook. The starting point for both was around 2 million users.
Social media is bringing upon the constituency a rapid evolution. Understanding of where it is heading and what it means is lagging. Few understand the opportunity, let alone the consequences. And even fewer of those folks are in decision-making roles, whether it be government, corporate or otherwise.

Issues such as this are going to bubble up fast and furious over the next few months and years. Societal change is so fun to watch!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Social Media as a Fractal

I have been thinking about this social media phenomena, as it matures and crosses the chasm from the early-adopter / tech geek crowd to mainstream. The idea that I am wrestling with is that the primary behaviors being exhibited thus far are just the top layer of a much more deep and complex evolution currently underway.

I have written before about Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's social technolgraphics ladder. Many others are trying to define frameworks to explain what we are seeing. However, my theory is that these frameworks are too simple to explain what is happening, especially as such behaviors expand into the mainstream. And, in order to meet the needs of the ever-expanding social media user base requires a more complex model. And yet, such complex models already exist - in nature.

My thesis is that, as these tools proliferate and organization forms on its own, social media mimics more existing biological structures (i.e. fractals) than such simple structures as a ladder or even a pyramid. Just with biology, such self-organizing structures allow the sum to be better / smarter / stronger than the parts. This framework association is not limited to a particular part or behavior of social media. It reflects the entire social media landscape currently emerging.

This premise is supported by the success thus far of recent API's, such as Facebook and (dare I say) Twitter. Build the core infrastructure of your idea, and then offer integration points for others to permeate from your original idea, making the sum much more valuable than the part.

Wikipedia's strength also supports this idea. The sum of thousands of wonks / writers / editers / and even readers has self-organized in a manner that the sum of all the artciles created is much more valuable than the individual writings.

Obama is another loose example, as he attempts to cede control to his supporters, allowing them to self-organize.

So, as entrepreneurs, investors, corporate decision-makers, political strategists etc., evaluate opportunities within this space, ask this one fundamental question: "Does it enable the sum to be more valuable than the parts."

I am not the first to discuss this (for others, go here or here), nor do I claim to have a strong understanding of bio-structures. I just sense a connection here...