Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Network Weavers Use Twitter

Okay, so how do Network Weavers use Twitter to enhance not just their personal networks but community or common interest networks? I started trying to figure this out by watching myself, being pretty much a compulsive Network Weaver. First, I had heard about Twitter but couldn't figure out how to use it so the last time I was in Cleveland I forced Valdis and Jack to show me how to get on and away I went. Network Weavers are ruthless in searching out and learning great Web 2.0 tools to support their networks.

Last night, I ran into Michelle at the Village Bakery (one of the world's great networking hubs!). She and her partner are the leading edge of the Athens locivare network and are now growing quinoa, amaranth, corn and buckwheat for local markets (They already have all this year's crops sold because they have a great network). I asked her if she was on Twitter. She said "No, but I've heard of it. I'll try it." (She joined the next morning.) My next steps are to model clever use of Twitter and suggest she get the "growing local grain" folks she hangs around with on as well. Network Weavers encourage and coach folks to try new tools.

I used Twitter to ask my twpel how they thought Twitter could be useful. George Nemeth of the fab Brewed Fresh Daily suggested as a way to track your geographic community. Network Weavers ask and learn from others.

More Twitter...

Actually, you can follow all three of us -- Jack, June and Valdis -- on Twitter!

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform -- one and two sentence posts -- which allows you to quickly share ideas and discoveries on the WWW.

Twitter's original idea was that people post answers to "What are you doing?" I like to answer the questions "What are you interested in?" and "What are you paying attention to?" I tend to follow people that answer similar interest/attention questions in their tweets [posts to Twitter].

Here is a quick intro to Twitter and some musings about network mapping of Twitter data. The graphic below shows part of my Twitter graph in the first month of use -- who follows whom.


I'm exploring Twitteras a Network Weaver tool for building relationships. The Twitterers I most admire offer a combination of personal observations with "caught in the moment" flashes of insight and links to cool sites. If you Twitter, and want to get Twittered when I post something new on the blog, check me out at juneholley.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The Plexus Institute has a self-organized group that is reading the book Panarchy edited by Lance Gunderson and C.S.Holling.

You can dowload a chapter of their book at the Resilience Alliance web site or purchase the book and join us at our next call on September 10th at 11 AM Eastern. Check the Plexus website for call-in number.

The book is about ecosystems and humans, but I found it incredibly provocative about transformation in any sphere. One of the most interesting new ideas I gained was the concept of nested cycles--that some aspects of social systems work on very short timeframes--say a microprocess in a meeting--and some things work on very long timeframes--for example, deep structures that program how we see the world. They point out that small changes or shifts at one scale can trigger rapid shifts in other scales.

This made me think that an effective Network Weaver strategy could be to have people practice listening to another person quite different from themselves followed by a quick reflection on their internal reaction. Could this move them from a reactive stance to one of much-increased awareness? Done well and repeated several times, could such quick cycling activity trigger an important shift in deep structures from a we/they rigidity to an appreciation of networked diversity as the provoker of breakthroughs?

Nice Big N Network Paper

Nice new site for networking efforts in Maine. Includes case studies of several networks--what I call big "N" networks to emphasize that they are intentional and at least somewhat formally organized and to differentiate them from small "n" networks which is the lens that looks at all relationships among people, not just those in the formal network.

Of course, we need to be very aware of both lens when we are interested in transformation. And Network Weavers are important in any case. I'd love to see a Community of Practice around network enhancement. Anyone have any ideas about how we could get this going?

Weaving the Electric Grid

It is amazing how many of our current problems come down to the realization that it's the network, the connectivity, that matters. In most situations we know how to fix and enhance the nodes in the network. The links, and their patterns and structure, are the hard problem. How do you weave a better network, regardless of what is being distributed -- knowledge or electricity?

We are making progress in alternative energy production, but we still fail at energy distribution. Windmills and solar energy collectors have made great progress -- we just can't get the energy from where the wind blows and the sun shines to where the great population centers are. To do that requires a well-designed power distribution grid. Many critics of the current grid describe it as "third world" in design, quality and capability. Today's New York Times describes the power distribution problem well.

Above is a network map of a portion of the US electric grid. Life is great if you live in one of the densely connected clusters using electricity generated nearby. Things start to get real complicated if energy needs to transferred from one cluster to another cluster in grid. Distance destroys. Electricity does not flow like information or water or oil. It is not easy to direct, and much electricity is lost to heat when transferred over long distances. On the internet, 100 packets sent from Cleveland all arrive in New York wholly intact -- not so with a 100 MW of electricity generated in Cleveland and sold to NY. Even more electricity would be lost going to Miami, and forget about LA. It makes no sense to transfer electricity made in Cleveland to Los Angeles -- most of it would be lost during the trip.

Not only does physics get in the way, so do local interests. Then you have another power problem -- that of political power. Doing a social network analysis of the electric grid quickly points out key nodes and links that are highly between transfer points on the grid. They become gatekeepers/bottlenecks and either extract a toll for the transfer, or refuse transfer and require the buyer and seller to find a longer route to get from point of generation to point of consumption. And remember -- distance destroys.

Energy independence will take a lot more than just new technology at the point of generation. It will take the design of a much smarter network of distribution. On the other hand, just like we are learning about food production/distribution -- produce & buy local -- we may need to apply that rule to electrcity also.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weaving Journalists

The New York Times publishes an interesting story about "investigative journalists for hire". Via the concept of crowdfunding, a community that wants something investigated, will raise money from many local citizens, each contributing a small amount. This will allow journalists to self-organize around stories that are both interesting and have local grass-roots support.

Cleveland and NE Ohio have a big corruption story brewing, but the local paper -- The Plain Dealer -- is in the middle of offering hundreds of buyouts to reporters and staff. The PD has done a good job of reporting the beginning of the investigation -- rumor had it that 22 reporters were on the case -- but will probably have to reduce their focus as they downsize.

A local grass-roots effort -- Map the Mess -- has sprung up to gather public information about the Cuyahoga County Corruption Scandal. They are a group of local citizens that have day jobs and families that prevent them from fully diving into this intricate story. The effort appears to need some experienced investigative journalists willing to take the reigns and lead. Maybe a triangle needs to be closed between the local MtM folks and the Spot Us community in the NYT article?

Below is one of the early maps of the mess using the "indirect quid pro quo" concept. This map was published by one of the volunteer journalists on the MtM project. The red arrows show "flow of benefit". The diagram uses data taken directly from this Plain Dealer article.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stay tuned

Stay tuned for our 9 months of workshops on network weaving, sponsored by E4S.