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MeshForum 2006
Jon Lebkowsky, 11 May 06

Verna AlleeMeshForum invited Zack Rosen and me to speak on political aspects of large scale social networks... the supertopic of discussion was "managing large scale social networks," though my first comment was that you don't manage online social networks (OSNs) so much as you create and manage the platforms – the networks tend to self-organize and are somewhat resistant to centralized or top-down management structures. Because OSNs are flat and "out of control" (in the Kevin Kelly sense), they're not attractive to traditional political consultants, who really do want to manage the message, the campaign, and the constituency. Winning is a political consultant's business; the more they're in control, the more they can hope to assure a particular outcome. From a small-d democratic perspective, it's more important to inform and to cultivate real understanding, but this is tough to do with online tools alone. A network built to achieve real understanding of the issues would have physical meetings for discussion and debate as well as online "glue." There are issues of scale with democracies and networks, e.g. how do you scale understanding? How (and how quickly) can a network organization make decisions? Does the majority rule? If so, how are minorities respected and protected (Heather Gold's very good question). Zack described how CivicSpace has been evolving as a platform for organizing communities/networks. CivicSpace has its own robust community of users, developers, and vendors.

I was only at MeshForum for one day, but I was particularly impressed by two others presentations:

Verna Allee discussed the "invention" of teams and the evolution of social networks within organizations, focusing on intelligent or autopoetic patterns of organization, noting the failure to include intangible exchanges within social networks in analyses of the value of organizations. Partnering relationships and knowledge-sharing create connections that increase the value of the network in ways that are not always reflected in organizational metrics. (Consider Reed's Law, which says that the value of a network increases expoentitally with its growth... Allee was explaining why this is the case.)

Karen Stephenson discussed her work with patterns of social chemistry and the use of inference models to reveal hidden networks. Her research has focused on trust in social networks, which she studies by looking at the opposite, betrayal. A trust-based system has powerful force... where there's fundamental trust, participants in a social network are unlikely to walk away when there are difficulties. We can't see or measure trust, so we have to infer it.

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I vs. me (subject vs. object pronouns):

Many people think 'I' sounds more erudite than 'me', even when the object pronoun is indicated. This flagrant condition is running rampant through contemporary speech and I can't take it anymore.

Incorrect example:
"MeshForum invited Zack Rosen and I to speak on political aspects of large scale social networks."

You don't have to diagram sentences to get it right. Just use your ear for what sounds right in these two examples:

1. "MeshForum invited I."

2. "MeshForum invited me."

Corrected example:
"MeshForum invited Zack Rosen and me to speak on political aspects of large scale social networks."

I have a theory that people are over compensating for the incorrect use of 'me' as object pronouns as in: "Bill and me went fishing." instead of "Bill and I went fishing."

Misguided logic: If "Bill and I" is better than "Bill and me" then it must be better to say "Sally went fishing with Bill and I." Dooh!!

Posted by: John on 13 May 06

Point taken. I think I started with "Zack Rosen and I spoke" and left the "I." Language is a virus from outer space.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 13 May 06



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