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Friendship Overload – With friends like these…

March 22, 2011 2 comments

As I continue to research the dynamics of Personal Networks – I see a real issue looming of “friendship overload”.

My last blog post included a quote from Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh:

Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.

That’s a big number for a 20 year old to carry along for life!

I then read the Leader Column in a very traditional British magazine, “Country Life” – entitled “With friends like these…”. One of the key quotes

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in the article was:

This should be a boom time for friendship. Once, geographical separation and the divergence of life’s path would make friendships difficult to continue. Now, Facebook means that an act of conscious will is required to lose touch…

Country Life’s particular angle was about how you get to know who your REAL friends are when the going gets tough. The focus of the article was on the troubles of Prince Andrew, Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi. Here’s another line from the article:

… few things are more revealing of the moral character of an individual that his or her attitude towards friends who are going through a bad patch.

Wow – young people are going to have to have bucket loads of “moral character” to support the number of FB friends they have!

This brought me back to a topic discussed a few months ago in a blog post about INSEAD professor Martin Gargiulo. Here’s a brief exert.

…. he compares the reciprocal relationship between people in the network to electrical copper wires. Firstly, the thicker the copper wire – the more energy in the relationship. He goes on to use the same analogy to say that these cables do not rot – and can be easily reactivated. It’s a good way to consider those weak ties (and often close relationships) where our communication is infrequent.

I was greatly amused by how he describes that relationships have to be pro-actively broken. He says that “you must murder” a relationship to really break it! The relationship – not the person…

I am sure we can all think of many friends who we have lost touch with through “natural wastage”. Personally, I think that works well – and it’s often a “toss of a coin” on meeting again whether my reaction is either “Why, oh why did I lose touch with that person – they are great” or “Ah, it’s flooding back to me why I lost touch!”.

I think that all these hundreds and thousand of “copper wires”/friendships staying connected – and with energy flowing through Facebook – this can only lead to “Friendship Overload”. What do you think? Please comment below or take part in the poll on LinkedIn.

Viewdle – social face recognition – interview with founder Laurent Gil

February 17, 2011 5 comments

I’ve just come off the phone from chatting with Laurent Gil, the founder of Viewdle who have created some revolutionary patented face recognition technology. If you read my blog early today, you will have seen their launch video (it’s shown again below).

I asked Laurent whether the video was just a big budget ad creating a vision – but with few links to reality. Laurent said: “Definitely not. What you see is not science fiction. This is the first application of our face recognition technology. Even on the relatively small processors on mobile phones, we can recognise a face in 300ms and then go off to the cloud

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to get more information. It’s just like you see on the video.”

“It’s not a big budget advert either – we’re a start-up! We got together with some cool guys we knew in LA, explained what our technology does and they shot it. It was shot with HD cameras – so you might not see the same definition on your phone quite yet – but the rest is here now with Viewdle’s technology.”

I probed further to see if he could explain why this video had had such an impact on me and many others – the leap in techology is a bit scary. Laurent said: “We have some very serious brains behind this technology. We have 8 PhDs and 30 staff just working on visual analysis. We have a total of 65 engineers. Our team work in Palo Alto, South America and in the Ukraine.”

I’d read on the LA Times blog that Viewdle’s technology “has its roots in technology created for the surveillance-happy government of the former Soviet Union”. Laurent said; “No – that’s not right. People like to say that – but all my staff are much younger than me and from way after the cold war days. The technology came out of clever people in maths and science in Kiev – but out team is around the world now. Our business is consumer facing – and we plan to apply this exciting technology to social media, not surveillance.”

Laurent explained that the technology works on a “Faceprint” that is generated by the software – typically from Facebook albums and photos that you have tagged and have access to. On the phone the super fast comparison and matching is based around this “FacePrint”.

Laurent talked me through the broad vision of Viewdle: “We are getting social at the point of capture – and creating the links to your friends and family. We are closely integrated to Facebook – and the generation that loves social media. Young people want to take and share pictures now. They don’t want to have to go and tag on the desktop. Our technology tags, routes and shares instantly for you – it’s a photo messaging tool.”

They’ve got some heavy hitter supporters in terms of technology and finance. People like Qualcomm, Blackberry and Texas Instrument. They’ve also announced today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a Software Development Kit (SDK) – so he said: “expect to see applications on your phone using this technology by the end of this year.”

I asked about whether it would be hitting the iPhone soon. Laurent said: “Apple acquired Polar Rose last year. They are a face recognition company – but we believe that what we have developed to work actually on the phone is very different. I suppose you could say we are Apple competitors.”

Throughout the conversation, Laurent talked up the idea of Viewdle being for “friends and family” and that “it is an extension of what young people are doing already on Facebook.”

I asked about the “Big P” that hangs over this – Privacy! Laurent said: “We’re focussed on being consumer and social. We work within that environment – and so we recognise and track the Privacy Settings in Facebook. If you are sharing your pictures with someone – then Viewdle can use them to help you.”

I checked how this would work with the SDK – allowing other organisations to build applications. He said: “We are very careful in this area. We know it is sensitive. We are going to make sure that there are the restrictions at the API level so that you can access the ‘Faceprint’ of only those people you connect with and if they allow access.”

There is no doubt that this is a fantastic bit of technology – and that people using social media will have their lives enriched. I spent many years as a professional photographer – I understand the passion to share images. It’s ground breaking – and the Viewdle video gives you a clear view of how that works on a social level. It’s great.

Personally, I am not so worried about privacy – it is ultimately an individual’s choice what they chose to share. I’m an entrepreneur – and I believe these exciting new technologies will find many great uses. However, I do think that Viewdle’s video – with its technology “here today” – will fuel the debate about the “time bomb” of what the Facebook generation chose to share about their life. The “Digital Dossier” or the “Digital Footprint”.

Reading the article on Technology Review – I was struck by one of the comments that focussed on the Orwellian implications:

The amazing thing is that Big Brother is being built without a penny in taxes. We just buy all the gadgets, voluntarily, that enable it.

I’m not so worried about Big Brother. It’s the simple things in life and relationships for me. I can’t see a future where my son will scratch his head and say to someone he thinks that he might have met before – “Do I know you?” He’ll probably know so much more (even at first contact) than he would ever want to know!

Visualising Who You Know – Cool vs. Scary – Impressed vs. Concerned

February 17, 2011 9 comments

I just checked my LinkedIn home page – and one of my connections had commented on a video by a new business called Viewdle. Take a look at it below:-

Absolutely brilliant, mind-boggling video. Before I get on to the rest of the blog, here were the first two comments on my LinkedIn page about it:

Dr. Kim (Kyllesbech Larsen) “This is so cool that I get goosebumps (or am I scared?)”

Tim Lewis “Agreed Kim! I saw this at MWC and was impressed but concerned in equal measure”

I created this blog to track my journey of understanding the value of Personal Networks – and how to visualise them. Watching this video today gave me a fantastic glimpse

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in to the future – and I’m not sure how comfortable it made me feel! It leaps several levels about the visualisation of Personal Networks I had imagined.

One of the first thoughts I had was – “wouldn’t that be great built in to your glasses – so you never have that ‘they know me, but I’m so embarrassed I can’t remember their name.’ moment again!” However, the more I think about it – the phrase “beauty is only skin deep” comes to mind. Do I really want to know so much about everyone I meet? I’d like to judge them by their beauty or their “Digital Dossier”.

Our family are moving to a new city – and my wife and I walked out in Bath yesterday chatting about the future. One of the discussions was about out 13 year old son – and what he would be like when he was 18 and living in the city. I said that he’d be sneaking in to the house late at night and playing games with his mates on the Playstation 3. We both said – “no – it will be a Playstation 5 by then”. What will that beast be able to do – technology moves on at such a pace.

I hope in 5 years time I will meet people I know nothing about – and build a relationship “unwrapping the layers of the onion”. I’m worried that this might not be possible – everyone I meet will have an FBI style security briefing/”Digital Dossier” attached to them that will pop up on my iPhone 10! Anyone out there with a comment to re-assure me??? Off to check out Viewdle …

It’s Complicated

February 10, 2011 6 comments

I’m feeling the pressure. I’ve set my self this task of understanding the dynamics and value of Personal Networks. And – it’s complicated.

I started the process by devouring as many books as I could on the subject – the bookshelf continues to fill, but I seem to find less and less time to absorb in this format.

In some ways, book reading has been replaced by the wonderful world of

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blogs and twitter. I’m spending time filtering the feed of information – and reading up-to-date opinion. Fascinating – but still the clouds aren’t clearing.

The most satisfying is getting to talk to people on-line (and occasionally face to face) – and this conjures up a whole other set of questions or investigations. For example, one of my new on-line friends (not mentioned yesterday – as he has 3 twitter profiles and I think he likes to be a little “enigmatic”) – said I might be better spending time with philosophy to understand Personal Networks. He said: “This is because philosophy is, long term, probably the best discipline for ‘thinking beyond existing concepts’ and then coming back with new ones that can then be tried out to see if they make better sense of the data.”

I’m beginning to not only think that this is complicated – but that it will be a rather long job!

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, your will remember the “10,000-Hour Rule”. Gladwell claims that the key to success is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Seth Godin has a view on Gladwell’s “Outlier”:

“You win when you become the best in the world, however ‘best’ and ‘world’ are defined by your market. In many mature markets, it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to win because most people give up after 5,000 hours. That’s the only magic thing about 10k… it’s a hard number to reach, so most people bail.”

So by my estimation, I’ve so far given 1,200 hours of my time to the investigation of Personal Networks – only 8,800 hours to go! So by 2014, I might be able to give you an authoritative view! Wow – it’s complicated…

“Old” Friends and Digital Dog Years

February 9, 2011 9 comments

As you might have seen in the comments on yesterday’s post – life can’t be lived in a vacuum. I’m enjoying having the opportunity during my period of “funemployment” to step back and review the “world” of Personal Networks – and my own personal network.

For my part, I’ve recently done an audit of my Personal Network. Analysing in particular who I knew – and the cross over into social media. During this process, I also mapped out my objectives – and several weaknesses.

1. I am moving my family across the UK to Bath – and I only know a handful of

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folk there. Action – use social media to check out the noise and ask friends if they know anyone who they could intro me to.
2. I’ve got a passion for understanding Personal Networks, I believe there is an opportunity somewhere within – but I’ve no academic background & no contacts on the periphery. Action – write the blog and try to engage with people in and around the sector.
3. I do want to create another business in the next couple of years – but don’t have mentors to help me with that (I’ve spent the last 5 years doing that for others – and forgot myself). Action – go and meet interesting, bright people from all different areas. Find that support network.

Interestingly, the first objective is the hardest. We’ve got out house in Bath (still living mostly in Leicestershire) – but my current close connections are the builders (and jolly nice chaps they are too!). My wife and I are getting out and about – even going to the local quiz nights when we are there on a Sunday evening. However, time is tight – and there is always something to do … and friendships will come slowly.

However, since starting blogging back in July last year – I feel I’m really making process on objectives 2 & 3. In fact, there’s at least one person met on-line who ticks the box for both areas – and feels like an “old friend”! Isn’t that strange? Maybe there are “social media” years like dog years? Digital Dog Years. So 9 months on-line = 3 normal years?

I’ll embarrass my new “old friend” by talking about him a little. Now that will be a test of friendship….

I met Joel D. Canfield when I was given an invited by Seth Godin to join a private network that Seth runs called Triiibes. It was kind of a personal invitation – me and a couple of thousand others. Joel was one of the first people to greet me as I “walked through the door” into this daunting on-line world. He was sincere – and we struck up a conversation. After a day, he took a risk – and sent out the note below to 20 or so of his closest connection on Triiibes:-

a new friend who feels very old guard Phil O’Brien is a new Triiibester; we’ve only just met. But his comments and his blog just might resonate with y’all. He writes about the value of personal networking. He seems like a kindred spirit :)

Joel is leading a very different life at the moment – roaming around North America with his wife and daughter. They’re home schooling – and running a virtual business at the same time. He’s living a nomadic life to the full.

We’ve done a Skype call – but essentially our “to and fro” is via email. I can trust him to throw out my thoughts on what I want to do – and he is helping and mentoring me. I’m the proud owner of his book “The Commonsense Entrepreneur” in audio and iPad format – and the writing/ethos shared strikes a cord. Copies of the book are flying out to real-world friends and contacts.

There are also people who I’ve “met” on-line who I hope will be friends. People like Beth Campbell Duke (who was the first person to comment on my blog) and Neal Schaffer (whose LinkedIn book I reviewed). We chat occasionally – meeting for that “digital coffee”.

I’ve also enjoyed making the connection with all the people that I’ve interviewed for the blog – and those that have kindly commented. It’s an environment I like – and I think the transparency of social media makes getting to know people (or at least the basic information) quicker and easier.

Another person I’ve struck up an on-line friendship with is Chris Redmond. He’s a busy international executive (today Moscow – tomorrow Africa!) – but finds time to run marathons, write a blog and twitter. I found a blog post last September that resonated, I commented – and we struck up a conversation. I joined his SuperRedNetwork on LinkedIn – as what he described as a “wildcard”. They’ve made me feel at home – and next week I will meet some of them (plus Chris) for the first time in person at a charity dinner in the UK. Now that will be strange. I wonder if meeting “off-line” will increase or reduce our relationship’s “Digital Dog Years”?

Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network

January 28, 2011 2 comments

Apologies for this very British post! Hopefully, the international audience of the blog will find it relevant and interesting too.

The BBC broadcast a thought provoking programme this week – “Posh & Posher” presented by Andrew Neil (former editor of the Sunday Times). Although the programme focussed on the British Education system – and the dominance of Public School (that’s Private Education) and OxBridge (educated at Oxford or Cambridge University) politicians running Britain – the main point I took away was that Personal Networks can bring

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influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

On the first point, the programme traces an amazing story of the transformation of control of British politics. From the end of the Second World War, British politics was dominated by the “Grouse Moor set” (another great place for high power networking). Public School education politicians took the majority of power (from the likes of Eton and Westminster Schools). Then in the 60s – there was a change, to more working class, Grammar School educated politicians. However – and this was the most surprising part of the programme – UK politics in the last 10-15 years is back to a privately educated dominance. Stats like 10% of the Coalition Cabinet being from one school (Eton), 66% being privately educated – and 16 being millionaires.

In my view, this says more about the Personal Network built up through the private education/Oxford & Cambridge root than what has been taught.

Although the programme focussed on education and the old boys network, I found the most worrying aspect to be the similarity of backgrounds (and the density of the connections) of the people who lead Britain. If any of you read my blog on Martin Gargiulo (and listened to his interview) – you will have heard him talk about “Echo”. In academic terms:

The echo hypothesis – based on the social psychology of selective disclosure of informal conversations – says that closed networks do not enhance information flow so much as they create an echo that reinforces predispositions. Information obtained in casual conversations is more redundant than personal experience but not properly discounted, which creates an erroneous sense of certainty. Interpersonal evaluations are amplified to positive and negative extremes. Favorable opinion is amplified into trust. Doubt is amplified into distrust.

This is from “Bandwidth and Echo: Trust, Information and Gossip in Social Networks”, published by Ronald S. Burt of University of Chicago and INSEAD in December 2000.

It’s a lesson for everyone – your Personal Network should not be made up of one group of people. Your judgement will be impaired by the “echo”. You should keep an eye on that – and I’ll continue to worry about the government of my country!

You can watch the programme (if you are in the UK) on iPlayer for the next week.

InMaps inventor DJ Patil talks through his LinkedIn map

January 26, 2011 6 comments

InMaps is such an exciting new feature of LinkedIn – it’s occupied my thinking on Personal Networks for the last couple of days since writing my original post on the subject. DJ Patil is the Chief Scientist at LinkedIn – and seems to have been in charge of driving this project. Watch this video to see him explaining his network (and those of a couple of others) – with the advantage of a very large piece of paper!

It’s fascinating to see that this rich map has been algorithmically defined on connections – and does not use the

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metadata (often inconsistent) input by LinkedIn users.

Over at Flowdata (the very best place to find updates on visualisation) – DJ took time to comment on the blog post by Nathan Yau (Flowdata’s founder). He said:

One thing that we should note about the calculation is that this only uses the “graph” of connections. We don’t use any other information. I think that is one of the very powerful aspects of this visualization. For example, in my case, it identifies my wife’s networks, students, people I went to grad school with, etc. Additionally there are a couple of reasons why this was a challenge. A) Getting everything to work in the browser in a smooth way from small networks (come on Nathan you need to add some connections :-)) to larger networks. B) The ability to “process” as many user’s networks as they use the site. There are over 85M users and that requires some serious processing power. We’ll do a more extensive write up when we can and I can say I was surprised by how much compute power we had to apply to make this real.

DJ’s key points are that the “groups” of different colours are formed by connections. He also discussed the challenges of implementing this sort of visualisation to the huge LinkedIn following. Would be interested to see how the servers have performed the last couple of days.

Well done DJ – this is certainly a real help to my research on Personal Networks.

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