So where is this place that we are going to converse ? It’s called the Social Web • So what is the Social Web ?• It is Social Networks of people having conversations• Who are sharing Social Media • It functions using Social Software applications• And takes advantage of the toolchest of open technologies called Web 2.0
So what are Social Networks? This is my favorite definition “A web of interconnected people who directly or indirectly interact with or influence each other.” • Here is a short video:
So what “Unstructured Trust”. Unstructured trust is the intuitive and unconscious trust that all humans share. •It is emotional, intimate, and often irrational as it probably evolved as are species evolved. •Some people have called it “monkeyware”.
Unstructured trust starts at the bottom, where we have no trust at all. We can see signs of this lack of trust when we are in the city -- we don’t speak or look at each other in the eye, and even when crowded are very conscious of personal space.
The next level of Unstructured Trust is the familiar stranger. While you commute to work, do your errands, or walk around in your neighborhood, you recognize people that you don’t know. You’ve seen them before -- they are “familiar” to you even if you don’t know who they are or what their names are. The higher percentage of familiar strangers there are around you, the more relaxed you can feel. You’ll find yourself glance more at people’s eyes, smiling and nodding, or make brief greetings.
As unstructured trust progresses, you’ll find someone that you might have something in common with. This can be just noticing that someone else likes the same type of coffee, or that you saw each other at another place, or that you both have kids the same age. This can elicit further “conversations for discovery” where you may find more common interests and get to know each other. We are now acquainted, and this creates some more trust between us. We will look at each other eye-to-eye, and will always nod or greet one when we first see the other.
As acquaintances, we may allow our relationship to evolve. We now become “casual friends”. We now occasionally touch each other, and we allow our casual friends to be much closer in our personal space.
As casual friends, you are more likely to meet each others friends, and may form a group. It can be casual such as going out to eat or drinking together, or could more formal such as a regular meeting related to a common interest, like a book club. This size of group is fairly comfortable -- everyone gets a chance to talk, decisions just sort of get made. You’ve been to parties of this size -- aren’t the conversations pretty good? However, here is where we start to see the first group size limits. Does it look like there is room for you in this group?
Does there seem to be room for you in this size of group? How does does this image make you feel? If you had a meeting with this many people, do you feel like you’d get a chance to get a word in? Doesn’t it feel like it needs someone to be in charge, to lead an agenda, and keep everyone on topic? Here is where a new form unstructured trust begins -- the beginnings of hierarchy. It can be very unconscious, but someone more senior or with more authority always emerges to guide things. Or possibly the group will devolve down to the smaller size, or worse, everyone will be unhappy. In our egalitatian society, we may try to deny that this beginning of hierarchy exists, but social research shows that it does.
How does this group make you feel? Is anyone in charge? Is it a mob? So at some point as the size of groups get larger, unstructured trust fails -- instead we must create structure and rules. It can be in the form of cultural conventions, or embodied in law. Groups like mafias have a difficult time growing larger then what unstructured trust allows them because they live outside the law.
So it is with these structures of trust, these rules and laws, that have allowed humans to evolve groups that are much larger then a band or a tribe. But by their nature these larger groups are different -- they are not intuitive, not “natural”. So where is it that unstructured trust for groups ends, and structured trust is now required?
So what is the Dunbar Number? Dr. Robin Dunbar is an anthropologist in England who studies primates societies, ranging from monkeys, and upwards to apes and humans.
Based on field studies, he discovered there is a strong correlation between the brain size of a primate and the size of their groups.☝ Based on this correlation, he predicated that the “mean group size” for humans should be about 147. He then demonstrated that this data matched the group sizes of various villages and tribes in many human cultures.
Since the release of this hypothesis, Dunbar’s ideas on the the mean group size of humans has become been popularized in the business book world -- most notably by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point”, where he calls it “social channel capacity”. Unfortunately, due to their popularization of the Dunbar Number, the number of 150 has become misunderstood.
If you dig further into the original research, Dunbar’s “mean group size” of 150 primarily applies to communities with a very high incentive to remain together, in particular those that are survival-oriented, such as those of sub-sis-tence villages and nomadic tribes.
Since the release of Dunbar’s paper, there has been further evidence to show that this “dunbar number” applies to a number of other survival groups, such as the command structures of ancient and modern armies...
...and even the size of mafia and terrorist organizations. The reason for this is that in order for a group of this size to remain cohesive, Dunbar speculates that as much as 42% of the groups time would have to be dedicated to “social grooming” to keep the group together. Thus the Dunbar Number of 150 really doesn’t apply to most modern day groups because they are not survival-oriented, and most groups can’t support the amount of “social grooming” time.
So now when I watch the Soprano’s, I notice how much time the members of the mafia spend together, at work, at play, at home. This is because their organization requires what I call “unstructured trust”, which requires lots of time spent in social grooming to keep the group together.
In my own research of online communities, I have found the existence of a number of limits on group sizes. Here is a chart showing the sizes of various guilds in an online game called “Ultima Online”. You see that there are very few guilds that exceed 150 members☝.
Furthermore, if you look at this histogram of guilds, you’ll find that most guilds average between 37 and 109 members☝. Very few come even close to the Dunbar Number for survival groups of 150.
More supporting evidence for group size limits comes from the World of Warcraft. Nick Yee and Nicolas Ducheneaut have recorded over 250,000 World of Warcraft users over the course of 1 month, and looked at their participation in over 5500 guilds. For instance, here is social network of a small guild of 14 people. Here we see 5 subgraphs, 4 of which are just 2 people and 1 subgraph that is of 6. The 4 subgraphs that are only of 2 people are members of the guild who did not participate much in the guild. But the number of people in the subgraph of 6 is much more interesting, as it shows this subset of guild members are &quot;cohesive&quot;.
Here we can see that the Max Subgraph Size of many different guilds is relatively linear for the smaller guilds, but as they approach 70 or 80 they become more chaotic, showing the difficulty of maintaining cohesion.
Digging in deeper to this data research that there may be some other significant nodes in the sizes of groups. When you compare the subgraph ratio of different guilds (i.e. the number of members of a group divided by their max subgraph size), you can get a measure of their group cohesiveness. Here you can see that maintaining the cohesiveness of a small number of people is very easy at around 7-10 people☝ However, as you add more users you have to work harder to keep the group together.
My own personal hypothesis, based on anecdotal evidence from 20 years of working with online communities, is that the size of groups can have a profound impact on the satisfaction that the group members have with the group process. There appear to be at least two nodal sizes of groups, a small group that seems to work best at about 5-9 active members, and a larger group of between 25 and 80 members that seems to peak at around 50 active members, but falls off as the number of active members grows. ☝ These nodes reveal two valleys of dissatisfaction, one with groups around 15 in size, where on one hand the causual unstructured processes that work so well with a small group fail, yet there is insufficient requisite variety to make the larger group processes worthwhile, or for a leader to emerge. The other valley is near the Dunbar number of 150, where unstructured trust begins to fail, and more formal procedures are required to maintain trust.
Everyone has a limit as to how many people that they can truly have an emotional connection to. This is called “Social Channel Capacity”.
The smallest level of your emotional connection are your Support Circle: This is the number of individuals that you seek advice, support, or help from in times of severe emotional or financial stress. In most societies, the average size of an individual's Support Circle is 3-5. The people are the core of your intimate social network and most typically are also kin.
The next larger circle is the Sympathy Circle — it is the number of people that you go to for sympathy and also those people whose death would be devastating to you. The Sympathy Circle typically is in the range of 10-15 people, but can vary widely from as few as 7 to as many as 20. The Sympathy Circle often may be made up of kin, but usually includes some peers as well.
These are the people that you have some type of intimate connection to. One study measured it as the people that you would send a family Christmas card to, while another simply tested emotional closeness. In pre-Friendster days the Trust Circle would be those people that you considered your &quot;friends&quot;, however today the meaning of that term has begun to change. In my own usage, your Trust Circle are people that you have strong ties to and that in some measure you can trust. I have also called the Trust Circle your personal &quot;intimate social network&quot;.
I personally define your Emotional Circle as the total number of people that you can have some type of non-mutual emotional connection with, most likely spread across numerous groups of all sorts. You &quot;like&quot; them in some way, but do not necessarily have to have strong ties to them. In academia this threshold is called &quot;social channel capacity&quot;. A study using two different methods to estimate, both suggest that it falls right around 290. However, I like to describe this number as &quot;just short of 300.&quot;
An interesting point to make is that the people who are in your Emotional Circle, but are not in your Trust Circle, are your &quot;weak ties&quot; in social network terms. What is important about weak ties is that studies show that opportunities and knowledge flow to you much more through weak ties than through the more insular strong ties of your trust circle.
The symptoms of a group with too few people are all symptoms related to critical mass: Do you have enough people to sustain the conversation? Do the participants feel that they are alone? Do the people trust the level of commitment by others? Is the group is too small to sustain the effort of leadership? Does the group fall into Groupthink? or reinforce possibly incorrect perceptions through what bloggers call the “Echo Chamber”.
The symptoms of a group with too many people vary. The most obvious is that the signal-to-noise ratio fails, i.e. the interactions of the group are far too noisy. Less obvious signs are a lack of trust in the group process, or that all of the participants are not equally trusted. Another sign is the growth of cliques and bad gossip -- playing politics will always be part of the group process, but not all politics is appropriate. Finally, other signs of a too many people are social contract failures, which may include flames, trolls, or other tragedy of the commons.
These are some of the social software tools that seem to work best for small groups. The require very little unstructured trust, and don’t require a leader. These tools function well for between 2-12 people, but seem to work best for 4-9 people. These include chat rooms, teleconferences with a chat-room backchannel, cooperative editors, flat discussion lists, blogs shared only with a private group of friends like LiveJournal, and blogs authored by a small group of people.
Here are some of the social software tools for medium size groups, best for between 25-80 active participants. These do require a significant amount of unstructured trust, and typically also require some leadership. These tools include instant message groups, avatar-based chat, threaded discussion lists, and single workspace wikis.
For groups that are larger then 150 active participants, we can’t rely on unstructured trust. We loose that feeling that our contributions are appreciated, or fear that other members will overwhelm us. Thus tools that have more structure built into them are required. These include reputation filtered discussion lists like SlashDot, or wikis with multiple workspaces. Other tools that provide structure for larger groups are the public blog, and of course social network software like LinkedIn, Friendster, and Myspace.
Above all, Social Media is about conversations • They are personal and authentic • They are vibrant and allow for emergent ideas• They are two-way — you must listen then respond • They can’t be controlled or organized without losing their value
Don’t just read — bookmark and tag the your favorite web pages and the most useful posts.• Use del.icio.us if you need to share with those without feed readers, or use Reader Notes if your team is using Google Reader.• This is called social bookmarking, here is a short video about it: