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December 29, 2017

Elon Musk Has Won his Bet, but What’s the State of Renewable Energy?

Elon Musk had agreed to the bet of the year: to build the largest solar battery in 100 days or otherwise he’ll give it for free to the Australians. The bet has started with a press conference and some social media teasing and though Musk had his fair share of failures over the years, the bold entrepreneur has won this one.

The 100 MW/129 MWh lithium-ion battery has 100 megawatts of capacity, it’s made of Tesla PowerPacks and it’s located in South Australia, where violent storms and heat waves have caused several massive outages in 2016. The project was supported by the $150 million renewable energy local fund and Tesla has won the bid, competing with other 90 companies. The system went through a series of tests, it was launched in December and now it can store enough energy from Hornsdale Wind Farm in order to supply 30,000 homes for an hour.

The world is turning its attention to clean energy

The Australian Government had made a constant effort to shift from coal-sourced power to renewable energy and in recent years, awareness has risen all over the world. In 2015, the money used for alternative energy production was double the amount of investment put into fossil fuel generation and according to the International Renewable Energy Agency report, clean electric energy is also more economical, so people have one more reason to choose it.

But many factors of action have to contribute in order to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions that are likely to cause further severe climate modifications on Earth. According to the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report for Policy Makers, oceans will continue to warm and acidify, sea level will rise, the Arctic region will be iceless during summer, heat waves and extreme precipitation events will occur frequently and will increase in intensity.

Besides the activity of environmental NGOs, citizens must push stubborn officials to act in their interest, like Australians have insisted on clean energy investments to continue despite the opposing position of its Prime Minister.

If people stick together for this vital common cause, more visionaries like Elon Musk will feel encouraged to use their financial and intellectual powers to research green technology. Though many projects of Musk are ethically controversial, like SpaceX and Neuralink, he came up with Tesla solar roof and home battery, which allows a property to go completely off-grid. He is also researching green and super-fast public transportation systems( Hyperloop and The Boring Co. tunnels) and his company has been hired to build batteries or solar farms to power islands, luxury resorts or colleges. But the most important thing is that his interests, no matter how eccentric, are centered on helping the human race survive and evolve.

Green energy pioneers

Many other entrepreneurs have also been taking the plunge into green innovation over the years and some have achieved remarkable results. Bill Staby founded Resolute Marine Energy Inc., a company which developed ocean-wave powered desalination systems to replace the diesel-electric ones. These converters are cheaper, easier to build and can help the populations living in coastal or arid areas cope with clean water deficiencies.

In Scotland, Scotrenewables Tidal Power installed in 2016 a newly developed a portable low-cost turbine, with a power generation capacity of two megawatts, the biggest of its type so far. If it affects local fisherman, the system can be deployed to another area.
Other types of initiatives, like Mosaic and SolarCity, are eco-innovative in a different way, helping people afford the investment of switching to solar power.

Companies are favoring eco-innovation

But not only new businesses make a contribution to green innovation. ABB was a company which focused on industrial digitalization but gradually adopted eco-friendly targets. It can now connect renewable energy sources to the electrical grid.

Moreover, three major truck manufacturers (UPS, Kenworth, and Toyota) have teamed up to fund development of fuel cells, which will power vehicles with oxygen and hydrogen, so they will emit only water and heat. By 2020, 20.000 fuel cells will be produced and the UK might become one of the leading countries which manage to bring green technologies to the masses.

Further on, huge companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo have decided to turn to renewable energy, not only to satisfy eco-conscious clients but also to lower their production costs. As a consequence, humankind is making big leaps toward a safer Earth, but it’s still every person’s duty to contribute to the big change.

December 20, 2017

An army of ants move as one and feel as one – collective intelligence in action

Are ants intelligent? Yes, say many academic researchers. An individual ant may not be that intelligent but a colony of ants is. A typical ant colony might consist of millions of army ants and together they become an intelligent super-organism. Among others, ants know when to keep their nests warm and do coordinated foraging for food with no single ant being a leader among them.

It seems their intelligence is a property of collective intelligence. It is a known fact that intelligence involves the rational processing and perception of symbolic information. The human consciousness itself has an extraordinary processing power and our intelligence stems from the truth of how we are able to access internal and external information from this processing power.

Ants seem to have accessed this enormous external information and they pass this information from one individual ant to another ant by reading and writing those symbolic information. They do this by leaving trails of pheromones, which act as stimuli to motivate other ants to make actions and make remarkable changes in the way they behave. This corroborates to say “ants have feelings”. For example, through the pheromone trail, ants get clues on whether they should go out for foraging or not.

Ants have two commendable properties. One is time keeping and the other is navigation. Ants maintain precise times and this shows up in their nomadic phase and stationary phase. The ants maintain a strict 15 days nomadic phase during which their larvae are growing. This is followed by a stationary phase of 20 days for the pupae to develop.

We are talking about Army ants here, which live in the amazon rain forests. There are about 200 species of army ants and they are known for their aggressive foraging behavior known as raids. How the army ants navigate into the South American rain forests is a mystery. To explain in a simple way, they all act as one and move as one. An interesting article on this behavior is on Scientific American. You can read the article here. You can also read another article on swarming ants here

During the stationary phase, they orient themselves and when they go out on raids, they separate each raid area by an average of 123 degrees. This separation of raid area allows new prey to enter their domain of previously raided areas. Interesting!

Compounding to this mystery is their eyesight. Their eyesight is not so powerful as the other species of insects who have multi-faceted compound eyes. The ants only have a single facet giving them a very normal eyesight. Now with this they are able to navigate into the dense forests, unhindered.

The answer could be in the fact that a swarm of army ants could be contributing to this remarkable navigation. Together the ants have thousands of compound eyes and they all act as one and move as one accessing and processing information together as one.


October 14, 2017

Customers are your true Micro influencers for branding in social media and elsewhere

Writing about web page https://socialnomics.net/2017/08/01/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-micro-influencers/

Here is a small story of a dog, which became a micro-influencer to millions. It was in those years when there was hardly any social network on the Web and Television ad campaigns were popular.

It was in 2005 that the advertising campaign in TV for the Vodafone brand came out in India. Vodafone was called Hutchinson Essar then and it was a company buyout. In the ad, a small dog (a Pug) follows a small boy wherever he goes, to all the unlikely places, the barbershop, playground, bath and to the school. It was hilarious and at the same time touching. It caught the interest of the TV audience across the country. Vodafone used the analogy, “Wherever you go, our network follows” and conveyed it through the advertisement. Ogilvy and Mather the famous advertisement company was behind that TV ad campaign.

The ad was a huge hit. The pug raised the popularity of the Vodafone brand in India. The pug was so much of an influence on the Vodafone brand that when people saw it on the posters they immediately recollected that it was the “Hutch dog” brand. The sale of pug dogs also increased during those years. In fact, customers had even downloaded wallpapers of the pug on to their phone screens further creating an indirect endorsement. The pug dog was a good example of a micro-influencer.

Now fast forward 10 years and what we have is the latest band of micro-influencers, who are actually users of popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The micro-influencers have thousands of followers, who send in their likes and comments for their posts.

Micro-influencers are different from celebrities. Micro-influencers in social networks are individuals with smaller fan base groups and they specialize in a specific vertical or subject area. There is usually high level of engagement on their activities from their fan base.

Infact, many of the digital marketing professionals agree that you cannot apply a blanket ad campaign across the entire population of the audience. Managing the millennial crowd is different. What professionals say is that it would be more effective if the ad campaigns were used on smaller groups with ranging consumer interests and lifestyles. This is exactly where the micro influencers play a very effective and important role in spreading the word and their role is cut out in the world of digital marketing.

In the above page from socialnomics, Philip Piletic talks about how product brands can leverage micro-influencers to their advantage. Offering free goods and services to your customers in return for good will is one excellent gesture. A restaurant on a brand awareness campaign can offer free dinners to couples on certain days. The couples most likely would spread the good word to their friends and relatives. This simple gesture not only increases the brand awareness of the restaurant but also will have a strong positive impression in the minds of people in that locality. Your customers are your true micro-influencers, says Philip. It helps build a loyal customer base.

We have been seeing the increasing usage of micro-influencers for brand awareness campaigns. They are genuine and sincere and they connect with their audience unlike celebrities who may sometimes be passé with changing times.

Please do comment on your perspectives. Cheers.

October 09, 2017

Social collaboration best practices in workplaces – Part 1

It has always been an established fact that companies have depended on the merits of employee social collaboration for the generation of new ideas and for innovation. Management needs to accept the chaos during the initial stages before they venture out to making detail product development plans. We can learn a lot from other companies on ‘how to foster social collaboration’ who have been trailblazers in this field.

Please find below some of the best practices, which we can adopt to make social collaboration successful in organizations.

Having a curated and facilitated collaborative environment

Often a regular feedback is that employees get overwhelmed and often get distracted with collaboration overload. Ton Davenport, the distinguished professor in Information technology, analytics, and knowledge management at Babson College in his interview for MIT Technology Review says that for collaboration to succeed, organizations need to have a limited use of it. This means, employees need to collaborate for a limited period to avoid getting overwhelmed. Social collaboration at work does not mean that everybody in the organization needs to collaborate. Sometimes, it would do more good if we limit it to people who are naturally keen and have intrinsic ability to collaborate.

We would see more and more organizations favoring curated and facilitated collaborative environments. In a recent research study, conducted at IBM, they found that the employees source of inspirational ideas were within the organization rather than outside. Employers insist that managers and their direct reports spend enough time to scan their own business function to assess and identify the business needs and gaps for collaboration before they venture out with their colleagues from other business units.

Organizations are keen on responsible action from their employees on collaboration activity. With a return to curated and facilitated collaborative environment, organizations can ensure that their senior employee’s time is prioritized and they can spend time on sharing their inputs and expertise in internal meetings rather than spending much of their time on external social networking.

This article piece first appeared in SAP by the same author.


August 01, 2017

Social collaboration for internal and external networking in workplaces

Writing about web page https://hbr.org/2017/07/a-study-shows-how-to-find-new-ideas-inside-and-outside-the-company

A new research study published in the Harvard Business Review talks about how ideas can be generated inside and outside the organization. Please find the link above. Most of the organizations allow employees to network outside the company walls for knowledge sharing and gain intelligence. Unfortunately, such exercises take up a lot of time from a senior employee’s day schedule. Networking externally is an art and requires lot of time to gain trust and credibility.

On the contrary, the senior employee's time and expertise is also required inside the organization for his inputs in meetings and other proceedings. There is opportunity cost lost when he or she is not able to balance the needs.

Need for balancing internal and external social collaboration

Further, the argument is that, such employees need to spend enough time inside the organization, the study and assess the innovation needs of the organization. This is far more important in the first place. They need to scan the internal environment before they venture out to meet their business partners and vendors.

Further, the argument is that, employees who spend time within the organizations are not devoid of ideas either. Valuable insight is gained only when they move out of their desks and meet colleagues of other business units, collaborate with them and have meaningful conversations. One cannot underestimate the need for effective internal conversations. One fails to recognize that good ideas are always across the desk.

The authors suggest social collaboration can occur for generating new ideas through internal and external social networking in workplaces. There needs to be a balance in how we approach the problems of opportunity cost lost when senior employees do not devote time internally within the organizations.

The authors point to some solutions as below.

1. Scan the internal environment:

Managers of employee teams need to assess their own organizational needs for innovation and its urgency. Not all the employees need to network externally. Only the employees who have the required skills can do that. The employees need to take up personal responsibility before they venture out for external social collaboration.

2. Conduct external networking meaningfully:

The employees need to understand that time is paramount. They need to strike a balance between internal and external opportunities and network accordingly. It is not necessary that they network externally all the time. They need to network for the sake of networking and take be responsible and accountable for their actions. The managers also need to understand that it is time taking to network externally.

3.Spread the learning within the organization:

Employees after they come from external networking need to spread the information and lessons learned to the rest of the organization. One good way to do this is through pairing an internally focused employee with an external networking employee. Together they present their findings to the rest of the organization. This way both will be able to learn from each other, which benefits the organization as well.


Internal and external networking for social collaboration among employees is mutually beneficial for both the organization as well as the individuals who are involved. As presented in the article, it is important for us to find the balance between them and realize the best of both worlds.

If you are still reading this post, I guessed you liked it. If you wish, you can share it. Thanks and cheers.

June 17, 2017

Criticism on Collaboration at work

In the recent years and months, there were a lot of criticism about collaboration at work. The most noted and the one that drew my attention was from a couple of articles from the Economist titled “The collaboration curse” and another one from Harvard Business Review titled “Collaborative overload”. The central theme in both of them was the same. Employees waste their time on non-value adding activities through collaborative exchanges through emails, meetings and on the company intranet. Value added collaboration come from only about 3-5% of the employees. Further, isolated and focused work gets hampered through collaboration activities.

Having spent my time working in the HR function in large organizations managing HR projects, the above arguments and contentions from the authors might be true. But we also need to understand that collaboration is a synergy and it is best represented by the statement from Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of parts”. We find meaning, new ideas and serendipitous discoveries in those gibberish non-value activities. Nothing wasteful is spent for a discerning and astute listener. Collaboration within large organizations is akin to how marriages happen. Just like how we plant seeds of love, trust, understanding, and cooperation in marriage, the same is with the social exchanges in collaboration.

One such medium which can make collaboration a symphony of sorts is the effective use of social media within large organizations. Just like the statement from Aristotle, no one person need have all the knowledge and expertise to solve the problems. More specifically, my research focus would be on how social media usage can foster strong bonds of social capital among employees for collaboration and those innovative ideas for problem-solving can spontaneously emerge from the bottom up.

Cheers, Ramkumar

May 15, 2017

Wikipedia’s teachable points on social media Collaboration

A wiki is an online collaboration tool which allows members of the public to collaborate, share and edit documents using a simple browser. Having said that, over the years, thousands of Wikis, have sprouted all over the world.
Way back in 1994, Ward Cunningham invented the Wiki. His original intention was that people should start collaborating and sharing their life experiences in a free manner over the internet.
A place where people can freely edit the documents with little or no knowledge of computers. True to his vision, the Wiki collaboration software was developed.
Wiki collaboration offers a common web space for people to work on a project. Wiki collaboration requires a sense of ‘stickiness’ for users to be dedicated and committed on the project they are working. Nevertheless, Wiki collaboration is an open invitation for anyone to edit and collaborate.

But, even after all these years of usage, wiki collaboration is still not seen as a social media tool. Even though it offers many lessons on how social media collaboration should function and work, there has been little take off.

In connection to this, I want to talk about the world’s best example for Wiki collaboration software, the Wikipedia and what it can teach us on social media collaboration.

Wikipedia has been so successful that it is the most referenced online content repository in the world. The Wikipedia is the 6th most popular website in the world. Wikipedia’s English version site alone has about a billion hits a month.
The Wikipedia is run by the Wiki foundation. The Wiki foundation manages the administration and infrastructure portions of Wikipedia. The content is written and edited by a bunch of volunteers from all over the world. It is the sheer spirit of community and freedom of expression that drives the volunteers to contribute and edit content.

There are many teachable points that we can learn from the Wikipedia. First and foremost, it is the concept of NPOV (Neutral point of view). Information presented on the Wikipedia may be drawn up from myriad sources.
There may be contentions and disputes on the sources claimed among the volunteers. But at the end of the day, all disputes are resolved quickly. The final content, that is presented on the site is neutral without any bias. There may be small differences. The volunteers set aside these differences and present the content in a most acceptable way. Such remarkable sense of comradeship, we do not even see it in closed group corporate social media collaboration setups in private organisations.

There is no centralized control. The volunteers manage all the information on their own free will without getting paid. Amazing isn’t.
Another teachable feature is the control on avoiding and rejecting vandalized information. As Wikipedia is in the public domain, there is every chance that, the information could be vandalized. The volunteers have a tight network among themselves and they quickly weed out unwanted information immediately within minutes. Such remarkable community spirit is rarely seen among members outside in any social network.

Many others leading publications wanted to emulate Wikipedia but were unsuccessful and had to be closed. Perhaps, there is much to learned from Wikipedia’ challenges and its successful journey so far that we have missed all these years.

Social media collaboration thrives on content being contributed and collaborated for the greater good. Wikipedia is the best example for this in the public domain not just for the technology alone but for the spirit of community and self-expression.


April 24, 2017

Social media benefits rely on a sense of collective identity in organizations

Off late there has been a number of instances and research studies on the benefits of social media in organizations. Many leading websites have written about it. The emphasis has always been on the benefits for the management of the company and very little on the employees of the organization.

A group of hands

Never, it has been told from an employee perspective. One thing we need to remember is that the success of social media lies in creating and nurturing a sense of collective identity among employees.

This sense of collective identity does not gel with the hierarchal organizations. Hierarchal organizations depend on the foundations of command and control with minimum risk.

Social media usage demands flatter organizations with no or very little hierarchy.

The senior management does not want to allow all the information to be spilled out in the corporate social media site for obvious reasons. This aspect has been clearly mentioned in the article 'Why no one wants to use the corporate social network' from Harvard Business Review. You can find the article here.

Here in this article, I would like to bring out three important areas, which builds on each other for realizing the true benefits of social media in organizations from an employee perspective. It would be a win-win situation for both the employee and the management personnel alike.

Apart from mere community building (an oft-repeated benefit), the aspects of building social capital among employees, sharing the context around critical information and successive iteration of ideas cannot be understated. In fact, they are the three most important benefits for the effective use of social media in organizations.

A good article from Work monkey labs highlights why is social media important in the workplace from an employee perspective. You can find the home page as well here.

Social capital is the bond that exists among employees. It exists unseen in a working relationship and cannot be forced.

Employees want to appear as hardworking and smart in front of their managers. They work in projects, to get the work done. In several situations, they are deputed or allocated to the projects as a resource. Such work situations can get the work done, no doubt, but only on a temporary basis. Long term success and continued progress in the achievements require special bonding among employees.

This bonding can be achieved through building social capital. Social media usage in organizations facilitates this bonding and provides a channel for building social capital naturally.

The second aspect, of providing context around critical information is often ignored by many. Context provides the human element to the information. For example, the information on 'How to' and 'know how' can rarely be found out on search engines. Furthermore, from an organization perspective, the aspects of 'What were the challenges', 'the pitfalls' and 'prior knowledge and expertise needed' are some of the golden nuggets, that context can provide to the information.

Perhaps, the biggest benefit of using social media in organizations comes from sharing the context of information. Context to information, where that information can be used by employees and they can immediately apply it in their working environments including a project or task at hand.

The third aspect is the area of successive iteration of ideas. Successive iteration of ideas can lead to greater insight. It is through collaboration among employees that successive iteration of ideas can happen. Social media usage in organizations facilitates such collaboration among employees. This tremendously helps in problem-solving. Successive iteration of ideas through collaboration leads to innovation. The senior management is happy and they can see the results.

As a fourth aspect, I would like to mention about employee advocacy. Employee advocacy is a relatively new concept but has caught up among global corporations.

Another important feature using social media in organizations is in the area of employee advocacy. Brand names, brand recognition, and brand endorsements are important for organizations all the time. They keep monitoring it. Employees can help them on brand endorsements and spread brand information through employee advocacy programs.

Employees are the brand ambassadors for the company. Social media in organizations can help them achieve that.


Ramkumar Yaragarla

April 01, 2017

Being an individual in a crowd – We learn and evolve as better individuals

Writing about web page https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/08/individualism-is-dead/

People crowd

Who is a Misanthrope?

A new word which made me look up the dictionary. I thank the author and the magazine. I learned something new today.

The Wikipedia states that,

' Misanthropy is a general hatred, distrust and the contempt for human species or human beings'.

A person who holds such feelings is a misanthrope or misanthropist.

Is there a misanthrope in all of us?

Maybe a tiny bit or maybe not all.

It was comforting to read that individualism is still intact. I am talking about the article from 'The Spectator' titled 'the rise of the crowd culture- a generation scared to do anything alone. You can find the link above.

The author presented a very good argument against the "crowd culture" that is ubiquitous in today's myriad social media systems. Where are the individual and individuality gone? is the question that the author asks throughout the article. A satirical approach and write up on the modern day British youth and their crowd behavior with a good dose humor added throughout.

The style of writing was engaging and cheerful. This post is not a critique of the article. In fact, I agree with the author in many ways. But then, I would like to add some points which would make it more wholesome and nourishing for all of us.

True. In a day and age, when we see crowds thronging everywhere and it would be natural for us to assume that individuality has come to an end and the importance of the individual is dead.

This is not the case. There is a big difference between showing your individuality and being part of a crowd. They compliment each other and synergistic. By being individuals in a crowd, we learn and we begin to evolve as better human beings.

Our offices and work environments are very collaborative these days. The millennial (The young crowd who have born between 1982 -2004) have adopted the collaborative mindset as their own. By being collaborative, it is not about "having to put up with your colleagues" in the office space. It is about shared understanding among people to accomplish mutual goals.

We can still retain our own individuality, have our own personal characteristics and preferences. I think this is desired.

What is required is to just do our part. Contribute to the entire process, in whatever small way we can. An interesting adage " The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" excellently summarizes this. Please read an article on the same topic about Office crowd collaboration and how we can motivate the nerds, here.

Office collaboration and corporate social media have huge office crowds as members. They interact daily with it. It would be ironical to say, that there is no space to express individuality in it.

Nerds, geeks, and managers are all different in their thoughts, interests and working patterns. And yet, they all work together collaboratively. They are the office crowd.

There is the bit of social capital in this crowd behavior as much as personal and private benefits that can be gained as individuals.

Advantages of being crowd is that simple. We may not have all the expertise and knowledge in the whole world. But then, when we work together, as in a productive office crowd we stand to gain from each other.

Another important aspect is that it is only through successive iteration of ideas, there is a new insight. New insight leads to newer ideas and thereby innovation.

Though it might appear that a single genius thought and idea has come from an individual, it is the successive collaboration among like minds and iteration that a path-breaking thought or idea emerges.

That way, the world is a huge crowd. I like to bring out an analogy, which I read recently in an article. Ironically, I found it in a much-crowded place called the 'Facebook'. There is an interesting article from Dr. Lipton and Dr. Deborah on the biology of love. The authors say that 50 trillion human cells work together to makes us who we are today. The trillions of cells work together to make the individual successful. The trillion of cells intelligently communicate with each other and send brain signals to regulate the thinking and thereby the actions we take in our lives.

50 trillion human cells is a crowd, isn't it?

The human cells are far smarter than the human crowd. In that, they (cells) communicate with other, keep all the cells important so that no individual cell is left out in the evolution process, reward each other based on the good work they do, store excess energy for later use and also help in the suicide or destruction of rogue cells. Interesting isn't it.

As individuals and as a crowd, we are far behind. Through the cells are innate to us. Our minds have much to learn from this crowd behavior. There is no escape from this crowd. It is up to us as collective humanity with collectivist values, we need to evolve to expand ourselves.

There is no lone genius. Human beings are social animals. Our human brain is social. We have evolved in groups. It is only because of our social nature and through our interactions, we have evolved to be the species who we are today.

There are sub-cultures among various crowds and the evolving crowd behavior where individuality is expressed and appreciated. It brings a sense of identity for ourselves, uplifts the morale and creates a sense of purpose that we are part of something bigger, productive and better.

Hope you liked this article. Please do send me your suggestion and comments.

March 29, 2017

How viral information flows in a Corporate social network–insights from Gallup Business Journal

Writing about web page http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/26770/power-social-networks.aspx

I just happened to search the internet on the influence of social networks and social media at workplaces. And I bumped into this article from Gallup business journal, which happens to be a gem not just from the insights that we can gain, but there is much to learn from social network experts like Dr. Jon Kleinberg.

The article that I am talking about is "The power of social networks" from Gallup business journal. You can find the link above.
The article interviews Dr. Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University. Dr. Jon is a professor of Mathematics at Cornell University and a recipient of many awards including the Rolf Nevanlinna prize.

The Rolf Nevanlinna prize (May sound new to many) is awarded every four years by the International congress of mathematicians for outstanding contributions in the field of Mathematics aspects of computational and information science.

Now, what interested me in this article, was Dr. Jon's expert views on information cascades and the contagion theory in the social network, that exists in the offices. Why certain messages go viral and how information flows and thrives in the social network.

I have mentioned about the fine synergistic relationship between Social media and Social network, in my earlier posts. Both exist to complement each other. The underlying structure of the social network, embedded inside the social media, makes it (Social media) more acceptable among the masses.

Social media is an 'attitude', it is the medium through which people interact and share information with others.

By sharing and by interacting with others, a social network is formed. We need a medium, a tool, in the form of a social media to control and better able to structure the network and fine tune it. We then leave it to be self -organizing.

We cannot enforce any strict rules on a social network. People's behavior, ties, and connections within the network is self-regulating and self-organizing. It is like an organism which evolves continuously.
Now having said that, it needs some incentive structures to be built inside it. We need to motivate the masses.
Incentive structures and benefits should be structured in such a way, that it mobilizes people for a long-term sustainable change.

That's exactly where Dr. Jon helps us understand, how information, ideas, and virtual communities spread and thrive in an information economy.
In his talks, Dr. Jon points us to the core, the underlying software algorithms, and the structure of the social and information network. A sort of background for us to make sense of the networked world and the world wide web.

These underlying social network structures give us a map to figure out the extent and density of the network when the information goes viral.

Dr. Jon, through his research on the information networks as well as social networks, provides value to the corporate world. It is on how to make use of their internal corporate social network.
In today's information economy, there is much to be reaped from the benefits of using social media as a corporate social network. We have been reading reports and articles that "all is not well" in how corporate social networks can be put to good use. There is enough social listening and monitoring by external companies who provide well researched information on this.

There are newer buzz words like 'enterprise social networking' and 'social collaboration' used in conjunction with a corporate social network. An article from Work Monkey labs on the subject throws a good light on making it(Corporate social network) successful. You can find the article here.

The current article from Gallup discusses much less talked about areas like, how to manage and contain information flow in an office gossip network and also managing the spread of key information during succession planning.

For now, I will cover the areas of viral information flow and information cascades within a corporate social network. Probably, I will have to do a part 2 of this post.

When people see something new and if that "new" has some good features, then they are bound to spread it within their friends. The friends, in turn, spread it to their friends and them, in turn, spread it to their friends. In this way, the spread of information flow goes up to three levels deep for critical mass to take effect.

Once people see their friends (who are three levels deep) already in a virtual community, they would be compelled to join it. Added to this, Dr. Jon says that there should be enough satisfying incentive benefits attached to the social network for people to get motivated.

When people follow the crowds or their friends without rationale or limited rationale then there is every chance, that an information cascade happens. Information cascades are the starting point for the information to go viral in a social network.

Viral information flow cannot be studied in its entirety, says Dr. Jon as it is complex and there are many independent sources involved. The best bet would be to spread in a group of well-connected people. These well-connected people would, in turn, spread it to their friends and so on. My understanding is that We need to release the information for spreading across many well-connected groups who are independent of geographical locations.

Hope the article was interesting. Please let me know your suggestion and comments.

Ramkumar Yaragarla

March 19, 2017

Crowd effects: How crowd behavior influences your social network

Writing about web page http://www.workmonkeylabs.com/social-collective-behavior-how-following-the-crowd-benefits-us/

Crowd at a religious gathering in India
The online dictionary defines a “Crowd” as a large number of people gathered together, in an unruly or disorganized way. People behave wonderfully well, when they are more organized and sane as an individual. But the same individual, when he or she becomes part of the crowd, displays a new behavior and is swayed by the opinion of the crowd. These are crowd effects.
Such crowd effects are seen in massive social mobilizations and social movements across the world.
There are many theorists and researchers who have given us enough in depth background on the sociological perspective of massive social mobilizations. Our point of discussion here in this article, relates to crowd behavior and crowd effects in social networks. After all, there are crowds in a social network as well.

A global statistics survey, from Statista and Global web index, points out that there are about 2.3 Billion active social media users in the world as of Jan, 2016. And that’s a massive crowd.

The question is: are they truly disorganized and unruly? Our popular culture and perception about ‘crowds’ may sometimes refer to them as people who belong to the masses. From a sociological perspective, there is huge section of research and exploration devoted to the science and the collective behavior of the crowds.

What constitutes a crowd, for crowd effects to take shape?

In this perspective, we will explore the article titled “Social collective behavior: How following the crowd benefits us”. As people, we are sometimes emotional and are swayed by popular opinion of the crowd. As the article points out, there are direct benefits and private information which we stand to gain, if we follow the crowd. Such private information and benefits follow a path of information cascades and spreads quickly as a contagion. We will explore this in a little while from now.
As mentioned earlier, it is essential to understand the dynamics of collective behavior of the crowds. There is an ongoing contention among researchers, that any group behavior is a collective behavior of the crowds and as such, there need not be a separate study for such crowd behavior. This leads us to ask what a crowd is then. Crowd is just any group of people. I would like to defer from the above definition from the online dictionary.

There are crowds gathered for religious movements, celebrations and office people gathering outside their buildings. The people who form these crowds bring in their own personal characteristics to the group. They follow a certain pattern. They all behave according to certain established cultural guidelines and structure. For example, crowds for celebrations, social movements and contests have established procedures and shades of cultural underpinnings and as such, understanding the crowd effects and collective behavior of such gatherings and group may not add value.

For us to understand collective Crowd behavior, within the context of crowd effects, the crowds should not have well defined cultural guidelines or organized with established procedures. Crowds should form at random, as in an event or an incident. For example, crowds that form at random on the roads, to watch a building construction or even a crowd that forms, when there has been a road accident.

Crowds have a mind of their own

Many theorists have pointed that crowds, have a mind of their own. A popular theory among others is the “Group mind theory”. Individuals exist apart but act as one in the group. Their thinking processes are stimulated by each other’s feelings and intentions. In other words, individuals are motivated by each other.

The explanation is that the minds of people, are acting towards a common cause and the individuals are cooperating towards the common cause. We have seen such behavior within the animal world. Animals which move together in a swarm exhibit such behavior. Nevertheless, understanding crowd effects and collective behavior is a complex phenomenon.

Crowd effects are unpredictable and happen in the NOW.

At this juncture, I would like to say that crowd effects are unpredictable. History is replete with incidents and events where the collective behavior of the crowds have been always unpredictable. For example, the crowd behavior during the FA cup, semifinal match in England in 1988, is still intriguing. What prompted the frenzied fans to behave in a manner, which resulted in a human crush is still not known. There are numerous reports from the police. Still another vivid example, is the stampede that had occurred during the annual Hajj at Mecca.

Experts and research practitioners are baffled and prediction can only happen after studying crowds in similar scenarios.

But then, how the crowd will behave at random during any event or gathering is still a mystery and unpredictable. Perhaps, the group-mind theory above can offer some help to understand it.

Collective crowd behavior in social media: The concept of information cascades

People in a crowd are sometimes emotional and are swayed to act and speak in a manner which is conducive to the common objectives of the crowd. There is no rationale towards such acts.

People gravitate towards a crowd, when there is beneficial private information or direct benefits involved.

When there is a direct benefit by being in a crowd and as result you stand to gain, a not so easily available private information, there is no rationale adopted. People just spread the network and join the crowd. This phenomenon is known by the term “Information cascades”.

People would want to align to a crowd and follow the crowd with no rationale or limited rationale. Sometimes, even where there is no direct benefit involved. This is information cascades at its peak.

We have seen many popular social media tools, which have raised to fame within a short period of time. For example, You Tube, had many good features which appealed to the masses for video sharing. There was information cascade and people just thronged to the site making it extremely popular. So is the case with Facebook and Twitter as well.
Another term used within this context is the ‘Network effect’, where people follow other actions and spread it, when there is something good and worthwhile happening.

For this reason, it would seem that the popular social media tools are powerful and cannot be displaced. But then, the same crowd behavior can be replicated by new comers as well, if we follow the popular opinion and make adjustments accordingly.

Finally, what I would like to say

It was interesting to note in this scenario, on how the incentive structures in social media tools can be put to good use to sway the crowds and inculcate the desired collective behavior among them. In essence, a desired crowd effect. Yes, it is unpredictable, but there is a chance of steering it in the right direction within the context of a social network, at least. The right incentive structures can motivate crowds in the right direction to bring in long term sustainable change. Incentive structures as pointed above can include both private information and direct benefits.

It goes without saying that the wealth is in the networks. Collective crowd behavior can stimulate and facilitate people to move in the right direction. Lastly, what I would like to say is that, it is no more a theory. We are seeing it practically, the crowd effects happening through the popular social media tools. It is in our best interest to follow the crowd.

Hope you liked this article. I do need your suggestions.

March 14, 2017

Social media model in the future – Learning from MIT Sloan management review

Writing about web page http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/beyond-viral-generating-sustainable-value-from-social-media/


We all must have used one form of social media or the other. This blog, which I am using to communicate my thoughts is one. Social media is an attitude. It is continously evolving and self-organising. The current model of "clicks, shares, retweets and likes" of social media and the social networks reflects the current world culture.

A culture where people are experimenting with new found freedom of soically expressing themselves and sharing across boundaries.

Social media through its embedded networks have made a mark in the world and are here to stay. It will slowly evolve into a much more mature model, where people will drive real societal and business change through social mobilization and standing for a common cause.

The article from the Sloan management review titled "Beyond Viral: Generating value from social media" emphasizes this aspect. You can view the article Click here.

I am not going to talk about the oft-repeated benefits and value of social media here. Having said that, sharing of expertise and knowledge, community building, sense of belonging and freedom of expression are seen as the biggest benefits of using social media.

Within an organisation perspective, the benefits include: successive iteration of ideas leading to innovation, sharing of information and creating the valuable context around that information.

Though there has been a spread and usage of social media across the world, the usage is more towards temporary mobilization of crowds and thought processes on issues. The authors point out that social media models in the future should engage people and garner action for long term sustainable societal and business change.

Introducing suitable motivational incentive structures built within the social media networks will be good solution to engage audience in the long term, say the authors.

True to the article, so far, we have seen only "Likes" and "Retweets" as the popular social media action and reciprocity coming from people using social media tools. This results only in temporary support, thought and social mobilization. These actions from a business perspective are more apt for new product introduction, quick dessimination of information and innovation diffusion.

The question is how the benefits of social media be used for long term business change ? the answer lies in designing the social networks of the future.

At this juncture, I would like to point out an article written on this subject. Please click here to read it.

A social network is always embedded within a social media. Social media is the technological layer on the surface. The underlying social network needs to be fine tuned for the three important components of structure, ties and connections between the partcipants and behaviour of the members within the network.

This is quite a challenge and understanding social networks is interdisciplinary.Creating real incentive based motivation and trust among members involves discipines like: Socialogy, Computer science, Psychology and Ethnography to name a few.

Once we are able to achieve this new social network of the future, then real sustainable change through social media and long term social mobilization is possible.

We need to go beyond the current "Likes". By the way, as I mentioned earlier, it is the current trend among people and it has become world social media culture. It is continously evolving.

We need to wait for the culture to change or even a better alternative would be introduce the new social network in trickles and see how people adopt to it over time and make changes.

March 11, 2017

The art of social listening: Going beyond data towards meaning and context

Social listening at a conference

There are conversations happening all around us. Obviously, the most easily accessible conversations are the ones that are on your smart phone. I mean, I am talking about the one that is happening on your popular social media app.

Having said that, listening to conversations are an important life skill. They help us to understand the world, understand others and build relationships. Listening is also an important attention building skill.

This time around, our attention is drawn towards a new type of listening which has surfaced in the recent years. This is “Listening to social media”. Within the industry circles, this is known as ‘social listening’ by some social media experts.

Social listening is all about gaining insight about yourself, your brand, your company and your products and services by listening to online conversations that happen on social media channels.

It is about making meaning and making the right response of your online social media conversations.

But then, for the common man the word ‘social listening’ will always mean: listening to others (the medium could be anything!) and being good and kind to others.

Exploring further on the business side, companies have begun to realize the importance of listening to social conversations online for understanding the customers. After all, “Understanding the customers thought and intention” has always been the holy grail of business.

This importance was captured well in an article from Harvard Business review titled ““How to get more out of social media-think like an anthropologist”. Click here for the article.

The article talks about how data managers and data scientists should jettison the traditional methods of analyzing data and look at finding meaning and understanding the context of online social conversations. Understanding the background and culture of the people involved in the conversations, also makes right sense.

It is only through understanding the context of the conversation that we begin to gain insight. A more qualitative analysis is required rather than a quantitative one. Context in an online conversation answers some most important questions such as “Who said it?”, “What is being said”, “What are the challenges?” etc. Sometimes online social conversations are amplified by the culture of the people involved.

Understanding the context in an online conversation, gives companies an opportunity to make the right response to its approach and strategy.

March 06, 2017

We thrive on social interaction –There is no lone genius

social media usage

A recent survey from the global web index showed that there are there are 2.3 billion active social media users in the world. We human beings are social animals. We love to form groups and socially interact.The use of social media has tripled over the last few years.

Our social brain is responsible for our evolution to whom we are today.

It is based on the simple knowing that a single person need not possess and have all the expertise and knowledge in the world. We can seek knowledge and expertise from others as well in areas where we are lacking.

Many scientists and researchers have agreed that there is no lone genius. It is through successive iteration of ideas and collaboration with others that insight happens. We need to collaborate and socially interact with others to make our hunches right and take it a conclusive understanding.

Apart from a few usages of social media within organisations for collaboration and chat messages, now called enterprise social networking or social collaboration, social media on the consumer side, is still in the realm of sharing jokes, photos and videos for entertainment purposes.

A recent HR survey from Bamboo shows that about 68% of employees in the United states, do not mind taking a break during the day for surfing social media sites. And about 40% of them spend about 10-30 minutes on the same.

Having said that, social media is an attitude. The underlying behaviour of the participants very much depends on the current prevailing culture of the place and the whole world in general.

Social media is self-organising and continously evolving. There are pockets within niche industry cirlces like advertising and the recruitment industry where professionals use social media for more productive purposes.

We thrive on social interaction. There is no doubt about it. Social media has provided a conduit. My concern is that this conduit needs to be used in a much more productive manner for professional collaboration as well not just for sharing jokes and photos alone.

There are sites like Linkedin groups which do a good job. But then, there is no much linkage and penetration among various social groups for its usage.