Analogy to Social Epidemics
“The Tipping Point” - Malcolm Gladwell
Networks and Social Media
“Here comes Everybody” - Clay Shirky
Tipping Point Agents of Change for understanding
The Law of the Few
The Stickiness Factor
The Power of Context
Law of the Few
Law of the few means that a very small number of
people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and
the rest of us are linked to the world through those
Law of the few says that Connectors, Mavens, and
Salesmen are responsible for starting word of mouth
epidemics, which means that if you are interested in
starting a word of mouth epidemic, your resources
ought to be solely concentrated on those three groups.
Law of the Few - People
Connector – one who accumulates people. Connectors are people
with a special gift for bringing the world together. Connectors know
lots of people in many different worlds. Connectors don’t have to be
found, they ﬁnd you. Connectors are social glue.
Maven – one who accumulates knowledge. They aren’t passive
collectors of information, they have a need to share it with others.
They are like the ‘helpers’ in the marketplace. Mavens have the
knowledge and the social skills to start word of mouth epidemics.
Mavens are data banks.
Salesmen – have the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced
of what we are hearing, and they are critical to the tipping of word of
mouth epidemics (along with connectors and mavens).
Stickiness – means that a message makes an
impact. You can’t get it out of your head. It sticks
Power of Context
Power of Context says that people are more
sensitive to their environment than they may seem.
An example of this is that when people are in a
group, responsibility for acting is diffused.
Social epidemics are sensitive to the conditions
and circumstances of the times and places in
which they occur.
Communities grow out of cultures
Communities create stickiness through discussion
Rule of 150 – communities lose value for members
when they grow beyond 150 members
Communities develop “transactive
memory” (distributed cognition) in which
knowledge is externalized by the individual, yet
internalized within the community (mediated via
When we change the way we communicate, we
change society. The tools that a society uses to
create and maintain itself are as central to human
life as a hive is to bee life.
The collapse of transaction costs makes it easier for
people to get together—so much easier, in fact, that
it is changing the world. The lowering of these costs
is the driving force underneath the current revolution
taking place in social networking.
Cooperating is harder than simply sharing, because it
involves changing your behavior to synchronize with
people who are changing their behavior to
synchronize with you. Unlike sharing, where the
group is mainly an aggregate of participants,
cooperating creates group identity—you know who
you are cooperating with. One simple form of
cooperation, almost universal with social tools, is
conversation; when people are in one another’s
company, even virtually, they like to talk.
Collaborative production is a more involved form of cooperation,
as it increases the tension between individual and group goals.
The litmus test for collaborative production is simple: no one
person can take credit for what gets created, and the project
could not come into being without the participation of many.
Structurally, the biggest difference between information sharing
and collaborative production is that in collaborative production at
least some collective decisions have to be made. Collaborative
production can be valuable, but it is harder to get right than
sharing, because anything that has to be negotiated about, like a
Wikipedia article, takes more energy than things that can just be
accreted, like a group of Flickr photos.
Collective action is the hardest kind of group effort, as it requires
a group of people to commit themselves to undertaking a
particular effort together, and to do so in a way that makes the
decision of the group binding on the individual members. The
commonest collective action problem is described as the
“Tragedy of the Commons,” biologist Garrett Hardin’s phrase for
situations wherein individuals have an incentive to damage the
collective good. The Tragedy of the Commons is why taxes are
never voluntary—people would opt out of paying for road
maintenance if they thought their neighbors would pay for it.
Collective action involves challenges of governance or, put
another way, rules for losing.
The essential advantage created by new social tools has been
labeled “ridiculously easy group-forming” by the social scientist
Seb Paquet. Our recent communications networks—the internet
and mobile phones—are a platform for group-forming, and many
of the tools built for those networks, from mailing lists to camera-
phone, take that fact for granted and extend it in various ways.
Ridiculously easy group-forming matters because the desire to
be part of a group that shares, cooperates, or acts in concert is a
basic human instinct that has always been constrained by
transaction costs. Now that group-forming has gone from hard to
ridiculously easy, we are seeing an explosion of experiments with
new groups and new kinds of groups.
Social Network Evaluation
Shirky points out that there is no recipe for
success with social media but deﬁnes three broad
rules… “a successful fusion of a plausible
promise, an effective tool and an acceptable
bargain with the users.” Three lenses to look at
social media: promise, tool, and bargain.
Promise. The promise is the basic why for anyone to join or
contribute to a group.
Do we believe in this social network?
Is there a desire to participate?
Does the promise offer higher value than other things we
could be engaged in?
What is the actual lived promise of the group rather than
the stated or explicit promise?
Will group members believe other people will also join and
engage in this group?
Tool. The tool determines how the media will work.
Which tool or tools will help people make and keep
What are the best tools for the intention of the site or
Will the tool help people do what they want to do?
How do I choose the appropriate tool given the
geometric growth of social media tools?
Does the tool help deliver on the promise?
Bargain. The bargain sets standards of behavior and norms for and by
What bargain are we entering into if we join and participate?
What is expected of us and what is the code of conduct?
How do the users co-create the bargain of the group?
What can you expect of others and what can they expect of you in
Do the users agree to the bargain and is it a lived interactive
experience in the group?
The essential aspect of the bargain is that the users have to agree to it. It
can’t be instantiated as a set of contractual rules because users don’t
read the ﬁne print.
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