Saturday, June 24, 2006

Social network bandwidth

Interesting conversation today with friend and colleague Tom Carlson who's fast becoming a raving social network fan. Actually, it's always in our blood until we discover the framework that unleashes it.

Anyway, we were talking about rating the quality of our connections on a -10 to +10 scale. As it turns out, each of us, given everything on our personal plates, have finite bandwidth of time and energy we can give to the quality of our connections. It is our experience that our strong +9 and 10 connections often require more care and feeding than our more superficial +2 and 3 connections.

So we can visualize having a bandwidth of, say, 50 points on any given week on personal and professional scales. If we have two +9's, that leaves 32 points to distribute among maybe a few of +4's and 5's and a handful of +2's and 3's.

If people want to close triangles in our behalf, we may want to be intentional about honoring both the core and perifery opportunities in our personal networks. On the whole, keeping a balance of diversity and continuity serves us all.

I am also considering that there are other principles at play and it may be interesting to hold assumptions lightly, in the spirit of dialogue.

Maybe there's a bell curve of time and energy/effort along the quality continuum from 0 to +10, where investment is less required at the ends and more at the middle! Maybe up in the 9's and 10's, the trust equity makes this more self-sustaining, so we have the benefit of having many high quality connections, ranging in interaction frequencies from daily to once in a blue moon.

Just putting it out there for the dialogue, now that I am far more clear on what I don't know : )

5 comments:

scalefree said...

Study: Americans' Social Contacts Slipping

Valdis said...

Barry Wellman, who has studied soc cap for many years, says that the research is being poorly reported [i.e. not accurate with many nuances unreported] and that internet connections are being excluded.

Not as simple as these reports make it.

Yet, we as network weavers are glad that this suggests more of our work is needed! ;-)

Anonymous said...

s/perifery/periphery/

you can delete this comment when you fix the typo

SteveHabibRose said...

Good points, Jack. This is probably obvious, but different people will tend to naturally have different patterns of connection that make sense for them.

First of all, I don't believe our bandwidths are equal in the first place. As a "social connector," I have a MUCH bigger bandwidth in social interactions than my wife. Let's say the median is 50. She has 30 points to distribute, I have 70 points to distribute. (We actually both start out with the same number of "points" -- but hers are focused on activities like meditation and reading which are not social in nature).

The way that she distributes her 30 points will also be very different than the way that I distribute mine. She will distribute the vast majority of her points on her +9 and +10 connections.

On the other hand, I will tend to spend very little time proportionately with my +9 and +10 connections. Instead, my personal style of being a social connector is to have a fairly large number of contacts, with fairly common interaction. I do not have a HUGE number of contacts with minimal interaction. So, I tend to spend my 70 points pretty evenly distributed among my +3 to +10 connections, with a few points in reserve for new connections or those that are weaker.

Does this make sense?

rick davies said...

I frequently use a 100 point (bandwidth type)approach when asking people about their allocation of time across a given set of relationships (usually working relationships). People find it easy to use, and it enables me to progessively filter out some relationships, if I want to, during the analysis.

It also can add more nuance to the analysis of reciprocal links. Instead of binary possibilities (reciprocated/not reciprocated)there are more shades of reciprocation.