Friday, September 28, 2007

Are we networking for social purposes, or socializing for networking purposes?

Social Networking is not a website, it's not a technology, and it's not a lifestyle. It's life. It's how we exist and interface with those around us. It may use websites like The Cop Connection Network, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, and Link To Your World. It may include traditional (this year anyway) technology like desktops from Gateway, Dell and HP (didn't they used to make printers?), and laptops from IBM/Lenovo, Apple, or Toshiba. It may include pocket or palm devices with the latest Microsoft (or Palm) operating system, and even smart-phones with who knows what makes them work.

Social Networking may include regular meetings like those at BNI and LeTip. It might be strengthened by relationships between people from Borneo and Hong Kong, and Denmark and the UAE. It may involve text messages, emails, wikis, or even snail mail correspondence.

But at the end of the day, social networking is about people, and our relationships with them.

Here are the rules as I understand them.

1) Social Networking must be transparent, or as transparent as possible.
I don't think a network should be limited to one site, as I believe a real network extends far beyond a site, or sites for that matter. As an example, if you and I corresponded before MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we were both in correspondence with others in our field, I am sure that you would have met people who knew me and vice-versa. We develop ties with people that strengthen when we see how we are connected and look for other ways to be connected.

Adam Ostrow found 15 really useful ways you can already utilize the open authentication system. I've noted them, and explored a few, but I'm just not "there" yet. I don't have the faith and trust in everyone in the world and those who collaborate on the software that provides this open framework. I like to meet people, share ideas, brainstorm, solve the world's problems, and talk about fun places to go and fun things to do, but . . . Between OpenID and the murmurings coming from the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Just Search For Me, I am convinced that we are only months away from a manageable profile that inserts anywhere we want, and I think we should be able to take our baggage with us. I, for one, am tired of copying and pasting "about me" from one site to the next.

2) A few strong connections are better than lots of weak ones.
Mark Kerrigan recently wrote about the "currency" of the future -- the number and quality of the relationships a person has. He noted there was value not in knowing a lot of people, but in having quality relationships - if they are properly maintained. Note the role of the connector in my previous post -- that's the key. Having many connections can be a strategy, but we should be as transparent as the network above and be clear to people that we have standards (and tell them what they are). So, how strong are your strongest connections? It's a safe bet that they don't all know each other, but they all have something in common -- their relationship with you! I suggest you let that "be enough," and trust that if each of us builds a few solid connections, all of our connections will be strengthened.

3) You can't want it more than they do.
Adding connections to your database can be an exhilarating experience, but when it comes down to show time, what can we do for each other? If you ask me to share my expertise and I spend time providing you some insight, can I expect you to do something with what I provide? If the answer is no, then what have we accomplished? There was apparently a communication error, but as a result I have wasted valuable time. We need to make sure we understand requests in our relationships, and convey the level of desire and commitment we have before asking someone else to provide something we have no need for.

4) It should cost you before (and more than) it costs them.
Since networking is about building relationships, this is crucial, and may be reminiscent of something your Mom said to your Dad after two weeks of marriage. It's never 50%-50%, it's 100%-100%. The solution if the other person slips below 100% is for you to remain steady, as there will be a time for reciprocity in the future - whether you plan it or not. The best way to get is to give without expectation. Here's the analogy. If we were somewhere together with others for a couple days, and I asked you for a dollar for the soda machine, would you hesitate handing a $1 bill over? Most would not. Would you expect it back? Maybe, but the value is relatively low (like a dime in my childhood). If you had a similar circumstance and "borrowed" a dollar and also did not give it back, then what? As this happens more and more, we realize that it wasn't hard to earn the dollar or hand it off to someone with little expectation of return. But we are never short a "borrowed" dollar, are we? What goes around does come around, eh? Now relationships are better than soda, and they are worth more than a dollar, but they will only work when we give -- unconditionally. That's how relationships work . . . At least that's what my wife tells me :-)

5) Mistakes can be forgiven, backstabbing should be punished.
This rule was designed to cover any misunderstandings. If I am not clear when I ask you something and you mistake what I am saying, there is no chance that what you do for me will meet my expectations. But isn't that the norm, rather than the exception? Mistakes happen! If, on the other hand, you offer something to gain my trust and then sell it to the highest bidder, that's backstabbing. At that point, it's pretty irrelevant whether you know it's a mistake . . . it is. You are blacklisted, the trust is gone, and if you get a Christmas card from me I assure you it was a mistake.

6) The existence of a network is not limited by time and space, but by vision and commitment.
Social networks are a powerful foundation from which to develop group identity and cohesion. Social networks are often examined in the context of the small world phenomenon – everyone in the world is accessible through a "short chain of social acquaintances" (Milgram, S., 1967, as cited in Finin, et al., 2005, p. 422). For a social network to be relevant, it needs to be about something, it needs to have a purpose, but many social networks have limited practical use (Downes, 2005). To avoid such limitations, the suggestion here is to use whichever social network you already use. There's has structure, subscribers, and relationships, and you are not simply re-inventing the wheel -- it's round, and it rolls, why reinvent it? By capitalizing on the existence of our pre-defined social networks, we can catalyze the expansion of our larger network, gaining access to the social networks of others, where there are already established connections, which can be cultivated and developed for the betterment of all.

But, in this context, I still wonder whether we are networking for social purposes, or socializing for networking purposes . . . My understanding of the "social" part of the Cop Connection Network means that every police officer, sheriff's deputy, corrections officer, jailer, probation and parole officer, security guard, and anyone in a related field around the planet (and other planets if they have an Internet connection) is linked to one another someway, somehow. In the current application, that's just theory, but . . . Don't you think there are golf games, racquetball tournaments, shooting matches, parties, car clubs, and other activities going on between them?

The same connections we make on earth can be strengthened when thinking in another plane.

My understanding of the "network" part of the Cop Connection Network means that a parole officer in Michigan on LinkedIn could request an introduction to a police officer in Brazil via InMail, that travels via a Corrections Officer on Facebook (Mobile) in Sweden, who emails the message to a jailer in New Zealand he met on MySpace, who calls his retired friend in Arizona using jaxtr or Grand Central who sends an SMS text message using Skype to the guy in Brazil . . . in under an hour.

Yes, I realize this is a different approach. No, I do not understand how to monetize, googlize and all that stuff. I do, however, understand that we ought not build constraints in where none exist, especially when we are in a place where no one has expertise. Note the video in the previous post -- that was Malcolm Gladwell talking about a guy (Howard Moskowitz, a psycho-physicist) who told big-money corporations that their perspective, vision, and paradigms were out of whack -- and they (ultimately) paid him to do so! If you have no plan to check out the short video, here's a quick summary. Dr Moskowitz taught us first that consumers don’t know what they want. Second, he provided people the opportunity to choose the products that suit them, not settle for products they can learn to like. And third, he revolutionized the food industry by showing them how to make individuals happy without trying to please everyone.

My vision is not to replace or even compete with the linkages that are already formed. I do hope to strengthen them, though. If you have a full profile at LinkedIn and I have one at Facebook, is there any good reason why we would have to complete yet another to make contact in that forum? I think just a name and email would be adequate, at most, with a note that says "for more information, see" And, for those in the field who don't have a place (or would like another) where their profile is available for review, they can complete one at

I am not trying to build a social club, I'm aiming for a social cloud. :-)


Downes, S. (2005). Semantic networks and social networks. The Learning Organization, 12(5), 411-417.

Finin, T., Ding, L., Zhou, L. & Joshi, A. (2005). Social networking on the semantic web. The Learning Organization, 12(5), 418-435.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What is your CQ? (Connection Quotient)

Your Connection Quotient is the ability you have to grasp the importance of connections, and the understanding you have of your role in making those connections. In the context of social networking, the Connection Quotient is the crux of the social equation that provides you with powerful connections, or leaves you with relationships that have very little meaning. The Connection Quotient can be applied to an individual or a group of individuals. It often determines (or at least can serve as a predictor of) success.

An individual's Connection Quotient depends first on whether they understand the importance of human connections. Grab any Sociology 101 textbook from Amazon and you will quickly see why these connections are important. But do we understand our role in making connections? Have you ever met someone but could not figure out what about them interested you enough to stay in touch? Then, days, weeks, or years later, you found something in common?

We don't depend on our connections alone for success in our endeavors. We depend on those we know and who they know, as well. Our social networks may appear to form by accident, but they are really the result of a concerted (though perhaps uncoordinated) effort by many interconnected people. But why are they uncoordinated? What possibilities could result from coordinating these activities? I think the possibilities are endless, but first we must understand our role in the process.

I read a very enlightening book a while back. Even if you have read it, I encourage you to take a second look. It describes our roles in our social network, whether we intentionally engage in our network or not. If nothing else, it will let you know why others around you do what they do . . .

The book is The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Don't stop, even if you just finished reading for the Nth time (which you should)
-- step away from the back arrow or the X in the upper right corner of your screen . . ..

This is not a complete review -- it's focused (and short).

It's about the Connectors in your world . . .

Gladwell identified three primary roles in social networks (he referred to them as social epidemics, but we know what he meant :-).

Connectors: These have wide social circles. They are the "hubs" of the human social network.

Mavens: These are knowledgeable people, who are in touch with their surroundings (and ours).

Salesmen: These are charismatic people with excellent negotiation and persuasion skills. They provide "soft" influence rather than force when inspiring others to do things.

You may already know which you are, but do take a moment and read on. If you are not a Connector, please take the time to understand who that you know is. Connectors are an integral part of your social network, and knowing who they are and how they operate is critical.

So what makes someone a Connector? Obviously, a Connector knows a lot of people. Connectors seem to know everyone. Connectors bring people together. Connectors meet a wide variety of people. Connectors often have more friends and acquaintances, not just because they are more sociable, but because they are more willing to cultivate and maintain these relationships.

Connectors are:

* Specialists in people
* Have a knack for turning friends and acquaintances into connections.
* Manage to occupy many different worlds at the same time -- thereby bringing them together.
* Social glue: they provide a link for us to the rest of the world.

Gladwell provided a short test you can take to see if you are a connector. Visit his site [right-click, open in new window] and see if you qualify! Send the link to others you know to help them understand their role in your network! (send them a link to this post, too!)

There's more on the Tipping Point at Business Week. This is a must read (or re-read) book if you really want to understand why social networking is changing how everything is done!

What do you think?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Are cops social? Can they network?

I've been drawn to the social networking buzz, mostly because I think it's what we do naturally as humans. As an introvert (I am [right-click, open in new window] iStJ) I'm not necessarily an ultra-social creature, but I do appreciate a good conversation in between my 'deep' reflections. I have also seen and experienced the power of social networking for the social feature (especially in Facebook, which I much prefer to MySpace) and I have seen and experienced the power of the networking part with the LinkedIn site (which is my most favorite, but I think there should be walls for users to post on). The industry is evolving, and there's already been a huge amount of growth, but are we in the shakeout? MySpace, with 70 million-plus U.S. visitors, making it the largest social network, and Facebook, with 30-million-plus U.S. users, are the McDonalds and Burger King in this business. See Business Week. But there's room for more growth, and a redefining of the landscape, in record time.

But where's the profitability? Many of the regular MySpace and Facebook users are young, with limited incomes, and they aren't paying a dime for access, but they are spending lots of homework time online . . . teenage visitors spend an average 331 minutes on MySpace while Facebook gets 74 minutes with each visitor. I think the difference is due to the annoyingly-long load time because of all the 30 mb pictures and obnoxiously loud songs that blast out of my speakers before I can locate the off button(s), but my father would have said that if there were sites like these when I was a teenager.

Even as we examine the time teens spend on each site, we learn that these sites (and others) may be using the synergy effect that makes fast food restaurants populate all four corners at busy intersections (and Interstate exits). More time is spent on each when users are drawn to both, according to Jason Lee Miller's article in WebProNews.

A variety of big guns are adding networking features to their sites and online destinations, including Viacom (VIA) and eBay (EBAY), letting users create profiles, connect with others who share their interests, and socialize. Many people are using the term "social Web," rather than Web 2.0, to refer to these social-enabled sites. (I wonder of O'Reilly coined and copyrighted that term , too :-) There's more at Business Week.

I am personally a huge fan of the developing concept of Open ID (and related technologies - see TechNewsWorld), as I think we should be able to take our baggage with us and I have tired of copying and pasting "about me" from one to the next. I noticed, however, that my Big Three profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace) are subtly different, as are my networks in those areas . . .

Check for yourself:

I do think that we can be too open, and I am trying to determine just how much is appropriate to share.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's not what I think about social networking that counts, is it? I am smart enough to realize that my contribution to society is a direct reflection of 1) what I have to say, and 2) how large my sphere of influence is. So I defer to larger beings for their opinion. To my knowledge, God has yet to publicly weigh in on the current phenomenon (though he does have the largest group of friends - ever). Until I hear from Him, I'll keep an eye on the big guns in the corporate world. Here are some I am looking at:

There is some (fairly serious) talk that indicates Google is seriously into social networking - see ZNet. Farber and Dignan reported on Google’s venture into the collecting and distributing of social graph data, starting with Google’s social network - Orkut and iGoogle, and expanding to Gmail, Google Talk and other services. That's my pick for the winner in this adventure, just so you know, but I believe there will be at least 6 months between now and relative usability.

O'Hear has posted some discussions regarding this social graph system, which would enable every social networking (or related) site to be able to use existing public information about the social connections that a user has already made online. Can you imagine a time when you wake up to check your personal assistant and are offered a list of those with whom you should check out networking opportunities? I am excited about the introduction of technology that offers me a list of those whom I should offer a connection based on my previous preferences (think Amazon Recommends meets Open networking with RSS on steroids).

Check out Time magazine for their list of 25 Sites we can't live without. I think most of these are, for the most part, convenience providers . . . aggregators of otherwise obtainable information . . . and for now, the only sites on my short list are Google, Facebook, and YouTube . . . in that order. Check the list yourself, on Time.

But all in all, we are streamlining social networking (or at least hoping to), and many communities that haven't previously been excited about this "new" option are being offered their own walled community. There are social networks for doctors, advertisers, real estate agents, lawyers, and even federal spies. For a sampling of them, see Information Week.

And in case you don't think social networks are mainstream yet . . .Tim O'Reilly has written on social networking etiquette: the proper use of invitations - here, and the US military has found a use for social networks as a framework for understanding insurgencies (Reed, 2007)

And from - Charlotte,NC,USA
Most respondents considered social networking websites useful business tools.

  • 25 percent of respondents said yes, but that their company doesn't use them enough.

  • 19 percent were Undecided,

  • 19 percent voted "no, we already have enough ways to contact people and for them to contact us"

  • 17 percent said they use social networking sites as a business tool regularly

  • 7 percent said they use them for business, but that employees need to be monitored to be sure they are using them for company, not personal, business.

. . . and yes, I realize that only totals 87% . . . I'm thinking the others said work was not a social atmosphere and refused to discuss it. Actually, yes, for other reasons, and no, for other reasons, both received three percent of the vote, while one percent of the respondents did not know what a social networking site was - right!.

So what's next? Never mind the business model. Disregard the opportunity for revenue-generating activity. Imagine for a moment that there's no financial reward in the future. Is there a benefit - personally or professionally, for those in the criminal justice professions to engage in social networking activities?

I think so. I'm not quite sure of all the benefits, but I do know this. Police officers, corrections officers, those in probation and parole, and yes, even lawyers are naturally social creatures, and there's little each can do operating in a vacuum. If we surveyed 100 of these professionals, I think we would find that their job often becomes easier when they really get to know someone with whom they are working. And, I am confident that most have experienced the power of asking a trusted friend for assistance and receiving so much more.

But what will be the rules? Are cops and corrections people already on the social networking sites? Sure they are, but are they using them like everyone else (socially), or are they actually networking? That's the question of the week!

Reed, Brian (2007, Summer). A Social network approach to understanding an insurgency. Parameters, p. 19. Available at

Friday, September 21, 2007

Professional social networking - or is there more to it?

So I'm talking to a bunch of cops and I ask, "how many of you have a MySpace account?

About 25% said they did, but for investigative (or other nameless) reasons only. I asked if they thought there was some value to networking in policework (we were at a conference), and they looked at me like my nose was on upside-down. Of course networking is valuable in policework - like it is in every other "business" that depends on at least one other person to do business. And no, I didn't bother asking whether they had Facebook, or Bebo, or Xing, or . . .

That got me to wondering why more cops don't use social networking sites for their networking. It's not like the business cards that get passed around at conferences every year are ever organized. Don't for a moment think that if you meet someone at a conference or even a professional meeting tomorrow, you'll remember who they are and where they work in 6 months when you need to make contact with someone in that department. So why isn't it being done or done better?

I think there needs to be a reason -- beyond making contacts -- for us to take the time to follow through with the networking. In the regular world of policing, that reason is usually an investigation. Contacting someone from another department about a case you need information on includes the dreaded and hesitant phone call that starts out with an introduction and ends with a request for inconvenience.

That's not much unlike a cold call, so as you can imagine many are not real excited about making that call. Ultimately, though, there is some communication in the middle where those communicating find common ground and some trust is established. They informally compare lists of friends from various sections or departments and find they both like certain people and despise others. At that point, a connection is made and business can be conducted.

So . . . why wouldn't social networking work in this scenario? The trust factor is already built when we find out there are mutual acquaintances. The contact has been made when we realize we have a common interest. And, the framework has been laid when we . . . communicate!

Social networks were built for communication. Though some may enter false information about themselves (to protect their identities) as reported on Marketing VOX, for the most part we get honest with our posts, and downright personal with our private messages. Some are even using Snapvine, an online voice player, to add and receive voice messages directly on their personal pages. We as humans have the need to communicate, and it appears we will use a variety of mediums to do so. Check out Jay Deragon's post on how conversations are facilitated by social networks.

Speaking of communication, have you seen Jangl yet? There are lots of applications for Jangl (and similar solutions), including the saving of long distance and the relative privacy afforded by having someone click on an unidentified link to call you rather than using your direct phone number. Jangl has lots of uses in the social networking applications, and more in the rest of the world.

I'm finding a lot of usefulness for programs that initially seem to take a long time to set up but show their worth in the long term. I just got off the phone with a mortgage specialist who had a telemarketer call (it's OK, there's a relationship already with my bank) to ask if I wanted to look at the rates. Though I usually shun telemarketers and banks who don't have the patience to wait for me to respond to their traditional marketing methods, with the Fed's recent drop of the interest rates, I figured I could have that conversation while multi-tasking. I had a pleasant, not pushy, conversation with Ana, and told her that 1) if I decided to refi and 2) it was with her bank, I would 3) contact her first. I'm thinking about inviting her to join my social network . . .

[UPDATE: per my request, Ana emailed me her contact information. She's on LinkedIn. I've sent an invite . . .]

[UPDATE 2: We're connected, if you want to meet a hard-working mortgage specialist, check out my connections on LinkedIn]

By the way, I got that call while reading a blog on social networking . . . and learned so much more than I was prepared for. If you think you understand social networking, check out this overview from Jay Deragon.

What do you think?

Are we pushing against the rock?

. . . As I see the (daily) technology changes in our world, I often wonder why we are or are not inclined to adopt them into our lives. This past week, I was discussing my interest in social networking with some other professionals, and realized that there's some serious potential for this phenomenon in many facets of our lives. But do we treat social networking sites (not social networks) like the rock in the story that made the email rounds a while ago?

The parable goes like this . . .

A young man asks God what He wants him to do with his life. God tells him to push a rock near where they are talking. The man does as he is told for a very long time. With much frustration, the man says to God, "I've done what you've told me to do and I haven't even moved the rock at all." God replies, "I didn't tell you to move the rock. I told you to push it. Look at your hands and arms and how strong they are. Look at the strength of your body that you obtained by pushing on that rock all of these years." (more at

So are social networking sites a rock that we are using to hone our networking and communication skills? Are they a welcome diversion from our "real" lives, where the closest we come to socializing with our co-workers is the time between the parking lot and the cubicle, and we only see our neighbors as we drive by and waive while they are retrieving their mail?

Social networking sites have been referred to as everything from an "excellent time-saver" to a "a complete waste of time." I recall about a decade ago that this range of descriptions applied to something we now find fairly useful -- email.

I'm thinking we can and should use social networking sites for getting to know other people. We as humans need to have the perspective of others in our lives -- even if it's so we can get a periodic reality check from someone who doesn't think just like we do (and who is not scared of us).

I'm thinking we can, once we get to know them, use social networking sites to interact with people to see how we can work together (or in some cases, to determine how many miles we should separate form each other). It's not just the business-minded that work best when there is a collection of efforts working together. Those in the public sector can benefit from this interactive cvollaboration, as well.

And, I'm thinking once we get to know people and spend some time working with them, we may be able to use those social networking sites to find mutually beneficial, long-term activities in which we can collaborate. These may be personal or professional, but they ultimately are guaranteed to benefit all those with whom we are connected.
What do you think?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Get over it . . .

As we go through life, some of us wonder how long new technology will be new, while others wonder why we even bother. There have been several books and articles on how we accept new technology, but some (though fewer than even a few years ago) still won't come over from the dark side.

I am especially intrigued by those who won't even consider venturing into the social networking arena, whether it be Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn (or the lesser networking sites), 'cause they don't want the whole world to "know their business." That's not how business is done where I am from, and the last time I checked it's pretty easy to keep most people from seeing "your business" - close it.

I first got turned on to the social networks for the social part, but stayed for the network part. Many with whom I am connected are just there for the social part . . . but at least they are there.

I don't know whether it's a fear of openness that keeps others from venturing out, but I do know what they are missing. Just today, I met with three people for various reasons. Let's call them A, B, and C. I met with two (B and C) for the first time, and the third (A) I had not seen in years. I have A and B as friends in at least one social networking site, where I post a variety of stuff "about me." I saw a drastic difference in the communication between those with whom I was "friends" already (A & B) and one with whom I had spoken on the phone but never met (C).

The first 2 conversations flowed very smoothly, I thought, but at first I did not realize why. It wasn't until later that I realized each of us had reviewed each others pages, and noted things that were important to us. I think that genuinely improved the quality of the meeting. The third conversation went well, also, but we devoted more introductory time to the meeting than we did actually discussing the reason we met, and we'll have to do a lot more follow up to finish processing the things we talked about. After writing that, I figured I should go check to see if "C" has an account -- he apparently does not.

I'd better go let him in on the "secret."

Check out this video of some old guy :-) telling his peers to immerse themselves in technology. I echo his recommendations, and suggest that those making excuses just "get over it." He's actually Brian Kardon, the chief marketing officer for Forrester Research.

So send this link to all those you that still refuse to come into the 21st Century . . . and tell them to get over it!

What do you think?