I’m working on this, and so my post is one of what will hopefully be at least two posts. I came back from the Polaris Digital Summit on social media where for two days we talked about all things social (and, as an aside, how to reinflate a collapsed lung).
A new, albeit self-evident, principle seemed to emerge. Sort of a corrollary to the peter principle (wikipedia article is actually pretty good on this one) and the dilbert principle (again, wikipedia nice job), with a little Metcalfe’s law thrown in for good measure. The Peter Principle concerns being promoted until you find yourself in a job for which your competence wanes. You get promoted until you are out over your skis, and then, there you stay, having risen to your level of incompetence. (Dilbert on the other hand speaks to being promoted because as a managerial shmo, the promotion prevents you from messing up something important.) Metcalfe’s Law speaks to the power of the network.
In the world of social media, I see a principle is gaining steam. I use twitter now for the most part to see what my friends, or people who I want to be my friends, are reading. Occasionally it’s nice to hear that so and so re-discovered that vacations are fun, beer is served in bars, and there is a lot of snow on your block, etc., but for me, twitter tells me what I think I need to know about articles/stories that matter in tech. I don’t only rely on twitter. I read a few papers, some key magazines, and, for the most part, subscribe to a lot of blogs. Blogs my friends read. Blogs that TechCrunch likes. Blogs that VC’s follow, etc. The NYT or the WSJ, or MIT Tech Review, or Laptop, or whatever, are no longer the definitive sources on the technology business info I need or want. To be frank (hah…), in some cases I’m not sure what the hell it is I do want or need. I just know a vast array of knowledge is out there, it’s cruising by in real-time, and I do not have time to read a fraction of it. Me journalism, semantic web, real-time tweets, on and on.
The social graph is taking over. And so, I got to thinking. We are becoming people who are only as smart as the persons with whom we are connected. (I should give a nod to Bob Metcalfe here. My social graph becomes exceedingly more dense, complex, and informative with each new node/friend I add.)
The principle we are all observing goes something like this:
Your level of knowledge rises as your time and contacts increase. You are as smart as your friend group. The larger the group, the smarter you can become.
There is more to this. Something about truth exists. I’m sure if your friends or the people with whom you are connected all grew up in caves, then while you’ll know a lot about bats, the world of news, finance, art, and sports will escape you. Stereotypes rise and fall, rumors are spread and squashed, all through the lens of your social graph camera. We all need to learn a thing or two. Serendipitous discoveries will become fewer and fewer, unless you spread your wings.
Grow your graph.