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Replacing half your friends every 7 years – and the tattoo consequences

June 8, 2011 8 comments

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about the research undertaken in the Netherlands which concluded that most people replace half of their friends every 7 years. It was brought to my attention by a couple of on-line friends – Jordi Robert-Ribes and Ben Wirtz – who both happened to raise it when we met up in the real-world for the first time. Maybe they were both hinting there was only a 50:50 chance we would still be in contact in 7 years … or less!

The research came out of a project in Holland called “Where friends are made. Context, Contacts, Consequences,” and was set up by Beate Völker. Beate doesn’t seem that keen on connecting – she has one of those Twitter accounts with protected Tweets! The actual research was run by Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University (not on Twitter at all!). It always baffles me when

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Sociologists/Anthropologist/academics don’t “come out to play” in the world of social media.

Mollenhorst conducted a survey of 1,007 people aged from 18 to 65. He contacted them twice – with a 7 year gap in between. From the original group, 604 people answered on both occasions. The survey contained questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?

The results showed that personal network sizes seemed to remained stable, but that many members of the network were new. About 30 percent of discussion partners and practical helpers had the same position in a typical person’s Personal Network seven years later. The big finding was that only 48 percent of the original contacts were still part of the network.

I have thought for a while that this was interesting research – and it became more relevant after I saw the video of a lady – Suzy (also from the Netherlands) – making a permanent record of her 152 Facebook Friends in the form of a tattoo!

Currently the video has been watched by over 300,000 people. It’s not getting as many likes as dislikes – as I write the score is 511 likes to 1,018 dislikes. Let’s hope that there are not too many of her friends in the disklikes.

Well, Suzy is on-target with the work of Robin Dunbar. She’s bang on with 152 friends and his Dunbar Number of 150. However, she might have also given some thought to the work of her fellow Netherlander Gerald Mollenhorst. She’s in for a lot more than a 7 year itch!

[UPDATE – Tattoo story was a hoax (a good one at that) – changing 50% of friends every 7 years was not! More at CBS News]

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How Technology Fosters Strong Ties – a guest post by Joel D. Canfield

April 19, 2011 2 comments

I’m pleased to welcome an “on-line” friend, Joel D Canfield, to the Personal Network Blog. He’s agreed to be my first “Guest Blogger”!

The clearest communication happens face to face, eye to eye. One purpose of my family’s nomadism is to meet eye to eye people we’ve previously known only over the internet. Some few we’ve spoken to by telephone but that’s a tiny portion of the people and conversations.

When it comes to technology and relationships, you know the stereotype: the asocial geek sitting in his basement in the glow of a computer screen, with the misguided belief that those avatars and screen names he interacts with are real relationships. That stereotype, accurate as it may be, doesn’t render technology meaningless in developing and maintaining

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the strong ties of real relationships.

Best Beloved and I use technology to maintain family connections and our real-life friendships from before we began our nomad adventure. These days, though, we’re meeting people we would never have known without technology’s ability to introduce us to real friends all over the earth. (We may even be meeting Phil this summer!) As we move on, technology allows us to maintain, develop, strengthen those ties.

The nearly two dozen online friends we’ve met have yielded precious few surprises in real life. They have all been more or less what we expected. Strong ties created through technology aren’t less valuable or real than those created in “real life”, they just don’t include the option to shake hands or hug. (I’m a hugger.)

I’ll take a hand-written letter over an email or Facebook post any day. There is nothing in the world like sharing a meal with someone to let me get to know them and them to know me. In a perfect world, those are the ways I would foster strong ties in my relationships. Until that perfect world, technology will continue to be a useful tool in fostering friendship’s strong ties.

Bio:
Though he pays his bills as a business author, writing and business coach, and web developer, Joel D Canfield is first and foremost a philosopher who believes that finding
why makes what and how become clear. Get to know him at http://FindingWhy.com.

End “who you know” culture – War declared on nepotism!

April 5, 2011 10 comments

Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared war on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring 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.

I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes!

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He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”

I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.

First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!

Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-

Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter

My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.

Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….

Photographs and Memories – Facebook Style vs. Bonfire Style

April 3, 2011 8 comments

I seem to have spent all my free time in the last few weeks pouring through boxes of photos. These aren’t from my career as a professional photographer – they are my personal “snaps” and crates full of family photographs stored by my father up until he passed away a few years ago. We are on the move to a new home in Bath – and the storage space of our new house is greatly reduced compared to the stable block bursting with “stuff” at our current abode. I’m a hoarder!

Photographs are wonderful things. They stir memories. They promote a human interaction in the taking and the sharing. They always have done and always will. In modern social media there

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has been no change. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said of the social elements of FB Photos:

““The photo product that we have is maybe five or six times more used than every other product on the web — combined,””

Photos are Facebook’s lifeblood.

From these boxes, I pulled out a bundle of holiday snaps this week. Four packets of pictures from my first foreign holiday to Portugal in the late 80s – nearly 25 years ago. I went with a couple of friends (who happened to be girls). We had a great time, I got painfully sunburned, my bed got infested with ants – it was fun.

However, what the hell was I wearing? Did people really sell clothes like that in those days – and why was I the fool buying them? Who are those people in the pictures we shared beers with?

Well, I’ve been able to “weed history” to my own recollection. There are 5 pictures saved – they are highlights I can use to remember. The rest of the packs (including the shocking images you can vaguely see in the thumbnail image here) are heading for the bonfire. The saved images are going in my “Personal Box” where I store my keepsakes. Mine!

How will a Facebook generation cope with this “baggage”? These 4 packs of images, today would be uploaded to FB unedited – and remain there for all to see 25 years later. They’d undoubtedly be shared with virtually everyone I’d had a beer with on the holiday and “friended” on Facebook. Can anyone explain to me how that “baggage” will work for Generation Y? Will FB let you weed and put on the bonfire by then?

One of my favourite songs is by The Beatles – “In My Life”. Its chorus goes:

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them

Everyone does that. Recollects, smiles, cries – with affection. It’s personal. My life is richer for the people and the experiences – but the record is in my minds eye with photographs aiding that recollection. How does that work in the deeply shared and connected world of Facebook?

STOP PRESS

I was just about to press the “publish” button …. and …. discovered a brand new iPhone App called “The Last Night Never Happened“.

As they say these days “we’ve got an app for that!” Not quite the answer – but people are starting to realise the issue.

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.

Identifii – What sort of person am I? – ENFP, actually…

March 21, 2011 10 comments

In my exploration of Personal Networks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the process starts with a fair degree of self awareness. I’ve always been a “self help” addict – and many years ago I became interested in psychometric testing after undertaking a Myers-Briggs MBTI test. Since then, I have worked with a business psychologist in a number of ventures – and it’s added terrific value. Interestingly, the most pleasing thing with psychometric testing is the synergy between the individual gaining self awareness, the team involved having a shared “score” to communicate around – and the organisation seeing the economic benefit of building long lasting teams with complimentary skill sets.

I recently stumbled upon a start up called Identifii, based in Singapore. It’s an interesting business that focuses on a young audience

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to make sure they start on the right career path. The key to this is helping with self awareness through psychometric testing.

I chatted with Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh about his new business. First off, he gave me his vision for Identifii: “The right people in the right jobs results in a better world.” That’s a big idea – I like that!

Usman has recognised an issue – and wants to solve it. “The primary problem we aim to solve is one of incorrect career path selection. I graduated from college nearly 5 years ago and when I catch up with old friends, I estimate that over 70% of them, are not entirely happy with what they do on a daily basis. However, they are at a point in their lives, where change has become an extremely difficult option and the decision to ‘just to live with it’, is how they resolve the issue. Many of them selected career paths at graduation, paths which were not always suited for who they were, but rather paths chosen and based upon other factors, such as employer brand or monetary compensation.”

Identifii is focussed on Gen Y – the 16-25 year old college graduate, Facebook generation. In fact, after applying to be part of their Alpha test group, the only way to log-in to the system is via Facebook. So I dusted by FB ID off (an old git like me only uses it to keep an eye on the kids) – and gave the service a try. Five minutes and 20 questions later, I had my psychometric test done – and guess what, they had got me 100% right. See the analysis below!




I’ve been called many things in my life – but I think that I like “Colourful Storyteller” the best! From Identifii’s dashboard, I found out that famous people of my “type” – ENFP (Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) – include Charles Dickens, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock & Meg Ryan. Cool!! Top three career paths were Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. I shared the comments with a couple of friends – and they chuckled at the weaknesses … “Lack of discipline in following through on important detail”, “propensity to focus on what’s achievable rather than what’s doable” and “tendency to become bored or side tracked after creative process is done”. How they laughed – got me in one!

I thought back to when I was leaving school and had a difficult time choosing between a career as a civil engineer, social worker or photo-journalist. Luckily, back then I somehow selected the right career path – with Identifii it would have been so much easier!

I asked Usman why he had created Identifii. “I was at University finishing my Economics degree and thought that I would become an investment banker. Luckily, I did an internship before I graduated and realised it was not for me. I went off to Cambridge University (England) and got my qualification as a certified psychometric consultant. It let me explore how people made choices.”

“I then build a relationship with Psytech – a vendor of psychometric tests – and in 2007 they granted me a license for their products in Pakistan. One of the opportunities I had in Pakistan was to work with 200 graduating MBA students. These graduates felt destined to work at the big multi-national companies (MNCs) like Unilever, P&G, Standard Chartered, etc. I understood the attraction of the large brand and the paycheck – but realised that for 60/65% this was not a good long-term fit.”

Usman could see the opportunity – but felt it was not the time to pursue. He headed back to Singapore and worked with friends developing Hatch Media in to the leading Youth Marketing Agency in the country. He discovered a lot about the 16-25 demographic from his experience there – the Generation Y.

When he saw the exponential growth in Facebook in 2009-10, Usman realised that the time was right to bring Identifii to market. He knew his idea needed major distribution – and FB was the channel.

As with all start-ups, it’s not been plain sailing. He explained how joining the Founders Institute in Singapore was a turning point. He made connections, found mentors to help refine his ideas – and was able to secure the funding needed to start things rolling.

Usman’s perception of Singapore, South East Asia and the surrounding areas was compelling listening for me. “LinkedIn awareness in Singapore with the youth audience is close to 0%. People here are still choosing careers based on traditional pressures like parents wishes, brands and the paycheck size. I believe that there is an opportunity for SMEs (Small & Medium sized Enterprises) to stop the traditional flow of talent to MNCs. We aim with Identifii to job match young talent with more satisfying jobs in the SME sector.”

I was surprised that the Identifii platform only allows access via a Facebook log-in. Usman explained: “We chose Facebook as a way to filter who came in to the site. LinkedIn also has very little take up in the region. However, in the future we will offer a straight forward log-in process and customer validation with Twitter and LinkedIn.”

Usman has a very intuitive feel of the youth audience. “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.”

Identifii is currently in Alpha testing. He’s opened it up to about 150 people who he knows – or in my case have registered interest. It’s already seen a viral effect with 2,000 folk now using the service. I must admit at the end of the psychometric test when you say “you’ve got me dead right” – it does make you want to get your pals to give it a try. Quite infectious marketing.

Usman’s target audience is a graduate 2 years out of university or college who has just realised they have taken the wrong career path. Identifii will be there to help them get back on course.

As well as the many job sites on the web, Identifii faces competition from newcomers like Roundpegg, OneDayOneJob and BranchOut. I think Usman’s focus in English speaking Asia is a good strategy – and we might well see it transfer around the world too. As he identifies though: “The biggest challenge is building our relationships with employers to provide jobs for Identifii’s users. We currently have 25 businesses involved – and are aiming for 200 employers by summer. It’s essential we can prove we can match the new found awareness with a suitable job.”

Usman is intending to roll out a whole range of self-assessment/psychometric tests for Identifii. He wants to “democratise” this sort of testing by making them free or low price. He also intends to make them fun – so that people enjoy taking part.

I really like Identifii – and Usman’s vision of making the world a better place by getting Gen Y in to the jobs that match them! Do give Identifii and their psychometric test a try. Please do come back here and tell me what “sort of person you are”!

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 …

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