Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
umair haque  


Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

aaagh. MediaBuddies is a new social networking service in London. Here's how the dot com game works in Europe:

1) Find cool business model for emerging technology (in US)
2) Wait 18-24 months
3) Imitate

Ok, that was a bit harsh. But the truth is very little original innovation is coming from Europe. Look, how long has it been since you knew about 'weak ties'?

"...In 1973 Mark Granovetter, Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, US published a classic paper called, "The Strength of Weak Ties," that analyzed how people found jobs. He found that most people - about 56 percent - found their job through a personal contact".

If the Europeans were smart, they'd think about networking software, and get what's becoming really, really obvious: it's evil, because it recreates the worst parts of social structures.

Look, with software, we have the ability to reconstruct our social worlds without costly effects like 'weak ties', which, if you think about it, are just the other end of the spectrum from, for example, getting your job by lying your ass off in ten rounds of case interviews. That is, 'weak ties' are a sociological mechanism - the other end of the (search and pricing mechanism) spectrum is a perfectly efficient market.

But neither is inherently 'good' - it's up to us to choose. And if you think about it, all social software does today is accelerate the process of living in real-world social structures. But surely networking to find a job is just as much a PITA as the ten rounds of case interviews. So why do we see only these two mechanisms? There's a universe of possibility in between them. Why use the same old structures instead of creating better ones?

I think the answer is because we're focused on the machine, not the humans - we still think it's so cool that we can do this, we haven't thought much about why we're doing it - despite Shirky and the gang - I think they're concerned with the what as opposed to the why. More on this topic hopefully soon.

-- umair // 11:49 AM // 0 comments


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