Power, Networks & Freedom

Here are some observations and insights that were shared on social media this past fortnight. I call these Friday’s Finds.

Power always thinks it has a great soul & vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak. – John Adams” via @JusticeWillett

You Are Not the Product: The Coming Revolution in Social Networks – by @gideonro

This idea that we are just products for advertisers pops up in lots of online conversations, a reflection of the current state of our advertising-driven social networks. These networks were built on TV’s old business model of “I sell your eyeballs and give you interesting stuff to watch in exchange.” They’ve just modified that model a bit so that now, in addition to attention, we also surrender our personal data. Oh, and now we’re the ones supplying most of that “interesting stuff” to watch.

That’s why I’ve gotten excited over a flurry of recent announcements painting an alternative vision for social networks:

  1. Reddit announced its intention to take a portion of its $50 million in recently raised venture capital and give it back to the community of people who built in the first place.

  2. Ello, a brand new social network, just committed to never selling ads, never selling your data and never selling out to another company that would.

  3. Tsu, another new social network, rolled out an aggressive, revenue-sharing model for end users.

  4. Synereo announced plans for a fully distributed social network built on Bitcoin technology that will also compensate end users for their contributions.

The Surprising Truth About Where New Jobs Come From – by @stevedenning

“Both on average and for all but seven years between 1977 and 2005, existing firms are net job destroyers,” write Wiens and Jackson, “losing 1 million jobs net combined per year. By contrast, in their first year, new firms add an average of 3 million jobs.”

“New businesses account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20 percent of gross job creation, whereas small businesses do not have a significant impact on job growth when age is accounted for.” – Kauffman Foundation

Why it matters that networks in organizations and social systems are shifting to power-law distributions – by @rossdawson

* Networks are fundamental not just to our communications but to many aspects of our lives.

* There are many network topologies. One of the most important is ‘scale-free’ networks, in which the structure is identical irrespective of its size.

* The internet has maintained the same scale-free structure throughout its growth over the last 21 years.

* Scale-free networks develop through ‘preferential attachment‘, in which better-connected nodes tend to get more connections, in a version of ‘the rich get richer’.

Engineering serendipity – via @chumulu [sounds like PKM]

So, I’m staking my own claim: Serendipity is the process through which we discover unknown unknowns. Understanding it as an emergent property of social networks, instead of sheer luck, enables us to treat it as a viable strategy for organizing people and sharing ideas, rather than writing it off as magic. And that, in turn, has potentially huge ramifications for everything from how we work to how we learn to where we live by leading to a shift away from efficiency — doing the same thing over and over, only a little bit better — toward novelty and discovery.

The difference between freedom and slavery is one thin line.” –

freedom prisoners

One Response to “Power, Networks & Freedom”

  1. Gideon Rosenblatt

    Thanks for sharing “You Are Not the Product,” Harold.

    I’d not seen the figures on existing firms being net job destroyers, by the way. That’s very interesting and it maps to another point that is probably correlated. When you look at net contributions of equity, there is far, far more money pulled out of firms via dividends and stock buybacks than is actually added as new equity contributions. In short, the stock market acts as a net money extractor from public firms.

    Related? Quite likely.


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