Smells like social media meaning

Falsche freunde. False friends. You hear a phrase that sounds like one you already know and misinterpret it…

As I’ve said before this happens all the time with the word “networks”. We’re so used to hearing it, prefaced by social-, computer-, broadcast, etc. that we think we know what it means.

Read the “five rules of human social networks” bit of Connected, by Christakis and Fowler for the merest glimpse of how hard it is to comprehend these things called networks and how they work. You can read the words, but can you grasp threshold concepts like – we have free will and influence our networks, but networks are also super-organisms, acting with an apparent mind of their own?

I read a brilliant presentation by network analysis research firm scenarioDNA today. I’s good because it doesn’t hide the complexity that we are dealing with when it comes to networks.

Once slide that had me exclaiming out loud (EOL, anyone?) was this one…


When I see something like the complexity of how influence boiled down to simple scoring system, I’m sceptical. When that simple scoring system is skewed by the fact that the data is incomplete – it can’t see all of their online conversations and relationships, never mind their offline ones – I am super-scpetical.

It’s ersatz insight. Smells like meaning. A stand-in for usefulness.

The apparent simplicity of quick-fix metrics simply muddies the waters, makes it harder for the real meaning in our metrics to stand out, to be grasped and acted upon.

Via Ross Dawson

One response to “Smells like social media meaning”

  1. EOL stands for End of Life, generally, which is, of course, what will happen to you if you EOL at the wrong time or place… ;-)

    As for the more serious points in your post – it’s a fairly human trait to want to simplify complex concepts down to simple explanations or (preferably) numbers. And many people will jump on those ersatz insights because it makes the things they need to do (largely, selling stuff) easier. And thus, they provide the rest of us a handy tool for separating those who are truly engaged with these ideas from the dilettantes… ;-)

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