Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cleese on Creativity

Serendipity is a great thing. Tomorrow I will be in the audience when John Cleese is on stage, and when I mentioned that at the lunch table today I was recommended to look for an old video where John Cleese talked about creativity.

Which I did. And I found several.

Two of the videos caught my attention, One shorter (approx 10 mins) and a longer one (more than 30 mins). Both are highly recommended, and I suggest that you enjoy them in this order. (Both videos are embeded at the end of this post.)

Cleese elaborates around two modes; open and closed  - and that creativity mood only can appear in the open mode.Suggestions on how to enter the open mode and unlock the creativity are given, and complemented with the note that actual creative insights sometimes (often) appears after the visit in the "tortois enclosure".

The shorter video is not dated, but might be from 2010. The longer video seems to be from 1991. It is fascinating to compare the overall messages and note how similar the stories are, but still performed differently - not only in the length of the talks.

There's a lot of take-aways from these talks, and I am sure you will both recognize some aspects, get ideas on how to move into the mood of creativity found in the open mode and - above all - enjoy the talks as such.

So - enjoy the videos, I did. And I will enjoy John Cleese live tomorrow, regardless if any lightbulb jokes are included. I am sure it will be a creative performance by a very creative comedian and public speaker.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Metrics; why Ratios are not always Rational

Here are 16 minutes you definately do not want to miss.

Clayton Christensen takes you on a journey to explain why the interest rates on eg our homes are so low. And indicates why the reason for them to be low should make us worried.

It starts of with a classification of innovation into three classes. Then hops into metrics and how we mesure things. Finally ending in the connection to the interest rates, after a brief detour over to Japan.

There's a lot of take-aways in here. But the importance of metrics, and how we measure things, is central.

It is rare to find a very complex line of reasoning presented in a very understandable way. It is even rarer to find a few of the simple rules that guides the behaviour of a complex system neatly identified and presented, in a way that makes the connection almost obvious.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Exploiting externalities exponentially

How can we ensure that exponential activities don't create and exploit  new and old negative externalities?

A while back I finished reading the book ”Exponential Organizations”.

If you haven’t read Exponential Organizations the “slide version” is here, and slide 32 is the one-slider that summarizes the concept:
To me the most fundamental part of the concept is on the next slide:

Instead, this post is about a passage on the very first page of the book, in the foreword:

Salim has studied and interviewed CEOs and entrepreneurs whose companies are leveraging a newly available set of externalities and, as a result, scaling their organizations at many times the normal rate of typical companies.
The key phrase is "leveraging a newly available set of externalities".

Even though externalities can be both positive and negative, the most infamous set of externalities are the negative ones. Like getting rid of waste by dumping it somewhere.

A few days ago I read a post by "the undercover economist", Tim Harford. That post also touches upon the potential externalities that a multi-sided, peer-to-peer, market with exponential characteristics may cause and explore, on both of the market sides.

Tim Harford further more hints on a way to view such markets; as an arbitrage game where the price differences in a specific market (and thus an inefficient market) are exploited.

But he also indicates the positive values for a broader community that peer-to-peer markets creates; the activity adds fluidity (and thus a more efficient market is the result) and it creates a mechanism that can take care of peaks, eg on the demand side.

However, the question around externalities remains. A near zero-marginal cost society will create more exponential businesses. And a key component in exponential activities is to leverage externalities.

How can we ensure that exponential activities don't create and exploit  new and old negative externalities?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Two cats, two antipodes and the Networked Society Gini

Describing a future scenario is tricky. Time travel is even harder than time management. Any predictions you make seems affected by quantum mechanics in the large scale. Both Heisenberg and Schrödinger are hovering over the keyboard, along with your own thoughts.

But the quantum theories also come to your rescue. Just like the poor cat of Schrödinger, who is neither dead nor alive but both at the same time, the future is in a dual state until the future unfolds and we observe and take part of it. In order to map the future onto the cat we only need to identify the two states the future could have. What is the “dead or alive” equivalent of our future?

The Networked Society
In order to find these states we will look into the core of the Networked Society, of which we are “at the inflection point”.

What is the Networked Society? As it is part of the future that already has begun, we would like to understand what defines it.

It started out as a statement of “50 billion connected devices”, a great business outlook for companies like Ericsson.

As the Networked Society unfolded, marketing took over and told a large number of stories. Stories that showed that the Networked Society was unfolding in a fast pace, and provided benefits for individuals and the society. Access to an all communicating world becomes easier and cheaper, and the flow of data and media become both faster and more enriched.

In short, the marginal cost of communications went down.

At this stage the next level of insight of a networked society strikes.

A networked society is a near zero marginal cost society. And not only in the IT and ICT areas, but in every aspect of the networked humanity.

Read the last paragraph again.

A near zero marginal cost society.
Sounds innocent, but at this stage another cat appears.  The Cheshire cat.

Entering a near zero marginal cost society scenario is like following Alice down the rabbit whole, or through the looking glass. You will recognize what you see, but the logic has changed. Completely changed.

In this strange world of a near zero marginal cost society, what is the “dead or alive” states of the future cat? What extreme endpoints will define a relevant dimension which will describe the potential state of the future?

For this I will not put a cat in a box, but a Gini in a bottle.

The Gini endpoints
Let’s use the endpoints of the Gini coefficient as the antipodes of our scale.
(Actually, I use the Gini term broader than the original one. I project the whole distribution and consumption of resources on the scale, and I also include other nodes than "individuals" in my mental compilation . I realize that this merrits a separate blog post. But that's for the future ;)

The Gini = 1 endpoint
As the transaction cost is included in the overall marginal cost, also the transaction cost will be close to zero. This will not only speed up the evolution, it will also strengthen the forces that powers the Pareto law.

This can lead to a well-known scenario in futuristic literature and movies; one or a few very large entities control everything. The entities could be a foundation, corporations or states.

This is a “Winner takes it all”-scenario. Imagine that as marginal costs gets close to zero, the market forces will bring down the prices. And as transaction costs for information also goes down the information will flow fast, and thus the only way to get a competitive advantage and be able to charge a premium is to establish a monopoly. And as the network effect goes across all industries the monopoly will not be in a niche market, but ultimately across the whole society.

The Gini = 0 endpoint
What about the other end of the scale? This is an "equal distribution" scenario. The same forces; close to zero marginal cost and close to zero transaction costs, could potentially power also this extreme end.

One way to view this is that “as marginal costs are almost zero the prices will be zero, and thus everyone can afford everything”. And the low transaction costs keeps that balance across the whole economic system, very much like the fact that the sea level is constant (well, almost…) across the ocean.

“Dead or alive”? For the cat “dead” is in most cases seen as the bad scenario, and “live” as a god outcome. On the Gini scale, which one of the extremes is the good, and which one is the bad endpoint? The answer for the Gini scale is not that obvious, and depends also on other parameters.

Also, in the case of Schrödinger’s cat the extremes are mutually exclusive. The cat ends up either dead or alive. The Gini scale is a continuous scale. Neither the “most likely outcomes” as nor the “most wanted outcomes” are found at the endpoints (I strongly believe). But where?

Well, we'll see
The future will tell. But we can shape the storyline and create our common future.

Given that the Networked Society is at the inflection point, that a networked society is a near zero marginal cost society and that it is all fuelled by transaction costs closing towards zero – a really interesting and challenging scenario - what shall we do?

As individuals and as part of a networked society we can, we must and we shall take an active part in shaping the future.

The future begins with us. Here and now.

Disclosure and disclaimer: I do work at Ericsson. However this post, and this blog as a whole, are my personal views and opinions, not those of my employer.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Facebook. The Feed, the Filter and the Firehose.The Flaw and the Fix.

Sometimes you see something that is interesting and useful. Occasionally it also explains both how to fix the symptoms of an issue, as well as trigger you to understand why the issue causing the symptoms is there in the first place. Something that triggers a strong "Aha-moment". In very rare cases such an Aha moment makes you finally write a new post for your old blog.

A few weeks ago I watched a four minutes long video by Robert Scoble . Now I am writing this blog post.

Facebook needs no further introduction. Not everyone has an account, true. But many have. Our feelings for Facebook could probably be categorized as a "love/hate paradox" to some extent.

Regardless - Facebook has a central role in many people's online activities. What we see or not see in our Facebook feed matter.

The Feed
Most of us the central functionality of Facebook is the endless feed filled with updates and shared content from our Facebook friends and from Facebook pages you "like". However, the feed does not show every update from your connections.

One reason for this is that not everything in your feed is interesting. Facebook wants to maximize your pleasure when you are facebooking, in order to enhance your urge to return and spend more time inside Facebook. One way to maximize your Facebook experience is to ensure that the mix of new updates you see contains as few uninteresting items as possible

The Filter
Therefore a filter learns what you enjoy the most. It identifies both which friends you are most likely to interact with, and what type of posts that are most likely to engage you. The filter then this learning to show you the items you are most likely to like.

Many users know about the setting to toggle between "Top Stories" and "Most Recent" for the News Feed.

However none of these will give you the firehose. Both of these options will give you a selection based on what the filter believes you want.

The Firehose
What is "the firehose"?

It is basically "all social updates from everyone". In most cases "something you don't want to drink from". Many social platforms only provide the firehose under certain conditions.

In the context of this blog post firehose refers to all updates from all your social connections on Facebook.

Even so, your personal Facebook firehose is very likely to contain a lot more than you usually see.

The Flaw
So, what is the flaw? Is there a flaw?

The risk is obviously that the filter filters out things you'd like to see.

And - as the filter gets more and more trained, it is likely to show you things it has learned that you like. From that position the continuous training of the filter will be based on things you see in your feed and interacts with. And thus things that the filter sorts out and doesn't include in your feed are less likely to get interacted with by you.

One scenario is that your feed content gets more and more monoculture-ish.

Now, the structure of the "filter" facebook uses (formerly known as Edgerank) is complex and for sure includes aspects to counteract the bias over time.

Nevertheless. The feed you see is only a subset fo what your social connections do on Facebook.

The Fix
In the case you want to enjoy your personal firehose there is a way to achieve this, as it seems. This is what's described in the video I mentioned in the beginning. If you haven't viewed it yet, now is the time:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Social graphs - scary and beautiful

If you are on Facebook you might have seen pictures from your friends where they post their "social graph"? These are indeed beautiful illustrations of your friend's network, and below I point to a few of the available "click and view" apps that will do this for you.

From all of these you will be able to quickly get an overview of your social network, and often you will be able to identify groups among your friends. As a bonus you will also find a tool that displays your social graph on LinkedIn.

But these are not only nice visualizations. They also invite to a moment of thought on how much a simple list of your friends, and how your friends know each other, can reveal. After presenting three visualization tools for Facebook I'll discuss a bit more about this. But first the tools:

This visualization is the simplest of the tools. No interactivity, but you can zoom and pan around in the picture. Individual nodes are colour-coded based on some centrality measurement - the more yellow/white, the more connected to the surrounding nodes.

All nodes are placed in a circular patten, and you can identify some of the major clusters among your friends.

You can try myFnetwork here (link).

Social graph
This tool provides some interactivity, and includes the image of each friend in the visualization. The clusters of friends are more easily explorable, and some of the more obvious clusters are highlighted with pink circles.

You can hoover over a node to see the name of that specific friend. A click on a node will bring you to the corresponding Facebook profile. By clicking and holding down the mouse button you can grab a node and move it around to see which other nodes/friends that are connected.

Try Social graph here (link).

The last Facebook tool to visualize you social graph is also the most advanced.

It does a nice job in colour-coding different clusters in your network and gives the nodes different sizes (which seems to be related to the number of friends in your network (degree)).

The graph is interactive, and can be configured and explored in a number of ways. Note that by default it also includes yourself as a node, but that can be changed in the advanced settings.

TouchGraph can be found here (link).

Some theory...
All of the graphs above are sometimes referred to as egocentric, level 1.5, social graphs. This means that the start form an ego (you) - but as you are obviously connected to all your friends it doesn't add any information to include yourself (rather, including yourself will in many cases make the network structure less obvious). 1.5 means that the network includes all of your friends (level 1), and how your friends are connected to each other (level 1.5). A level 2 would mean including all of your friend's friends, also those that not are connected to you. This has some further value, but on the other hand the Facebook API does not provide access to this information, and the number of nodes would quickly be very large.

It is quite obvious that by only looking at your friends, and how they know each other, you find some interesting patterns. Especially the groups (clusters) usually match very well to real life social groups.

The clusters are most often visualized by a combination of a layout algorithm, where groups will form, and by specific algorithms designed to calculate clusters.

With other tools you can take the analysis to the next level - there is a number of metrics that can be applied to these kind of graphs - but that is probably a topic for a future blog post.

...and the scary part!
Well, isn't the scary part clear by now?

Simply by looking at your friends, and how they are connected to each other, a lot can be seen. The relationship and context of a specific friend can be deducted in many cases. If you know one node that is in your family, you are likely to find the other family members in the same cluster.

Probably obvious to you, but as your social graph information is more or less openly available (on Facebook, but also on LinkedIn, Twitter and other networks) it is not that hard for anyone to have a closer look. And of course the network operator have a very nice picture of you - not only from what you "post and like", but especially from your social graph.

The bonus - a LinkedIn tool
Oh - yes - I promised you to also include a tool to visualize your social graph on LinkedIn. You can find the tool here (link). It is very similar to the other tools above, but instead looks at your LinkedIn social graph.

The main difference, besides the nodes and network as such, is that this tool include yourself as a node.

It does a good job in identifying clusters in your more professional network. (Note, you need at least 50 connections on LinkedIn to be able to use it).

Now it's your turn
Go ahead and try one or more of the social graph visualization tools I mention here. I'd love to hear your viewpoints, just leave a comment!

Also, if you know any other nice tool to visualize various social graphs I'd be interested.

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