Tag Archives: twitter

What is your Twitter Diversity Score?

How do we,  particularly us knowledge workers, expose ourselves to different views and perspectives? I’m asking this as a very practical question. I’m currently reading Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice and one of the most important concepts concerning justice is that it should represent fairness, and that in fact justice and fairness are separate concepts. (Except that many languages, including French, do not have separate words for justice and fairness.) But it occurred to me as I was reading that it is impossible to be fair if you are not aware of all possible views on a subject. (Now, of course, knowing all views probably is itself impossible for most complicated subjects…there would be a long tail of views that defied comprehension, so then you immediately get involved in deciding which views are relevant, etc., which puts you in another miasma of subjectivity. And this is one of the main reasons why I’ve always been rather dubious about the wisdom of authority and institutions, but I digress…)

To return to the main topic, diversity of thought is key to attaining justice and fairness in societies. And how can we hope to achieve such diversity of thought? Well, of course, one way is through the use of TWITTER. Roger Schank, a leading thinker in education and artificial intelligence, just wrote a piece in eLearn magazine on how Twitter  is capable of changing the very nature of what it means to learn from your peers.  Absolutely! The magic of Twitter is in how it has become a perpetual learning machine. But the question remains, is my Twitter stream diverse?

So I decided to do a manual check this morning of the people I follow. I only follow about 200 people so it wasn’t too hard to do it by hand, although admittedly my analysis is extremely primitive. (Is there a program that lets you analyze the diversity of your network? I just tried Google’s FollowFinder, which helps me find more people who are like the ones I already follow. I want the opposite. I want someone to analyze my network and provide me with links to people who are in the same intellectual domains but have different perspectives. Then I would like a tool that shows me other intellectual disciplines I should follow.) In any case here are the results of my Twitter Diversity Inventory. N=200 (Yes, I know the numbers don’t actually add up…I took several shortcuts which I can explain if you’d like…but the numbers are generally truthy.)

Companies/Groups 67
Male 68
Female 55
American 122
Non-American 25
Northern European 129
Not northern European 19
Internet/Social Media/IT Experts 64
Other Topics/Disciplines/Interests 77

Bottom line: I’m not very satisfied. Normalizing to a 100-point scale, more or less, my diversity score for American/non American and northern European/non-northern European is below 20. That can’t be good.  It must lead to personal blind spots in how I think about many subjects. The next step is to figure out how to fix this. More to come….

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Just a Few Last Thoughts about the Internet

Sitting here on a Sunday evening…the usual internet surfing on the laptop. Have about ten tabs open on my browser (using Chrome these days having just about given up on I.E.).

Absentmindedly click on the tabs sequentially, like flicking through the cable channels.

  • There’s my Facebook page.
  • Signed out on LinkedIn.
  • MNBC reports an Emirates flite dropped suddenly over India, 20 hurt.
  • Wikileaks still leading with the Collateral Murder story
  • Lead Tweet features the professional rabbit breeder I inexplicably follow, also inexplicably named the_turtle
  • Looking up information on Kay Ryan, the US Poet Laureate: Waiting is sustainable, a place of its own harvests
  • The bloggers are starting a comment frenzy over Stephen Hawking’s advice that we should not contact alien life. (and am struck that considering what we should do when we meet aliens is now talked about reasonably, without sarcasm or embarrassment. There’s a theory that somehow–intuitively, access to the multiverse, whatever–we develop a sense as a species for what is about to happen and without conscious thought begin to reflect it in our conversations, so that trending topics in forums such as Twitter actually can be used to predict the future.)
  • And the Houston Astros are recovering from their horrendous start

It took about 15 seconds to cover those topics. And just for a moment, the slightest tug of transcendence penetrated my consciousness, only to bounce away, like it was frightened by my material nature. The experience of soaring across topics in seconds is without precedence in human history. It’s become so commonplace that we usually lose sight of how shattering it is of our previous experiences and models of human behavior. What I know and am aware of at any given moment dwarfs, I think, what the White House Situation room in its entirety knew in 1960, 1970, 1980.

One of my favorite sayings is:

Quantity has a Quality all of its own.

The quantity of information and connections is changing the quality of the person, the society, and the species. Really, we have no idea of where this will end.

The Tale of Two Friendships

Drinks today with a friend of mine, someone I would call a work friend as in we’ve rarely done anything together outside of the context of work.  But this friend follows me on Twitter (milouness) and on Facebook and as we talked I realize she knows just about everything there is to know about me, or at least anything that I’ve been reflecting upon on Twitter or Facebook, which is probably 90% + of  what is meaningful to me.

My friend is a baby boomer like I, but quite different from most of my other baby boomer friends, who naturally form the bulk of my friendships given that they’re just as old and decrepit as I am. And as I drove back from our chat, I got to thinking about the odd state of my friendships, where most of my friends in real life, the longstanding ones, have no real-time connection to me because they’re not on Twitter, they’re not on Facebook, or if they are, they are there in the most perfunctory of ways. A handful are active on social networks, but for the most part they are absent and, unlike my work friend, have no real-time insight into me, and, of course, I don’t have that insight into them. It’s really odd because when I meet with these friends, maybe once a week, but for some very dear friends who are somewhere else in the country, much less often, I spend a lot of time updating them on what I’ve been up to, which is of course available for anyone to know, really. But my more casual friends, some of whom I’ve never even met in the physical world, are actually, if they care to be, part of my everyday life, and I part of theirs.

So, I wonder, which really are the most important networks in my life? It’s disturbing to contemplate that these lifelong friends actually may end up inhabiting some other, less intimate category, but it’s hard to avoid that conclusion. Social networks not only have the power to connect you to entirely new categories of allies and collaborators, they also indirectly can erode other ties that are  based on a powerful but, in the end, limited and, in some ways, arbitrary factor–physical proximity.

If this dynamic can develop in the context of lifelong friendships, imagine what it could mean to organizations that fail to develop social platforms among their employees? Sure, you may work alongside someone every day but, if you’re not allowed to access Twitter at work, as an example, you may not have the intimate insight into their thinking that develops trust. In fact, you may end up developing more trusting relations with “strangers” you meet who share your same interests. Some of them may even work for your competitors.

What to make of this funny dynamic? Can I make others, particularly those who don’t join social networks because they believe, sincerely, that they lead to shallow relationships, see what is really occurring? I wonder, because, you see, if you don’t participate, it doesn’t make sense to you. It’s a puzzlement.

We are Part of the Solution

At my car dealer this morning bringing the old 2001 Mazda in for service. (I need to give a shout out to Rosenthal Mazda in Arlington, VA. They provide free if somewhat poky WIFI. And I guess as a blogger I need to state clearly that Rosenthal Mazda has provided me no financial renumeration. Au contraire!! But I digress…) Anyway I was checking out my Twitter feed for useful leads to interesting information and found William Eggers, who just wrote a great book, If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, about making government better, providing a link to his new website Policy Design for Execution. If you pick up the book or check out the website, government workers will appreciate the  sympathetic analysis of what leads to government disfunction. As the website notes, “policy ideas go straight from the idea stage through the legislature without being subjected to the exacting design process that occurs in the private sector.”

Well, I don’t know that the design process in the private sector is always that exacting, but I think the general point is still true. Government workers are often asked to turn some incompletely (or worse ill) conceived idea into reality, and then get all the blame when it doesn’t work. You can’t even say it doesn’t work as designed, because it WAS NEVER DESIGNED!!! And then, most galling, the very individuals who generated the idea–the legislators–then enjoy beating up the incompetent government workers who can’t get it right. Really, it is time for us govies to stop accepting victim status and join the conversation about out what, other than our own performance, also needs to change to produce better government results.

At the start I mentioned that I checked my Twitter feed. If you don’t twitter and don’t use it specifically to gather a posse of smart people you turn to for advice and ideas, then you are really missing out on one of the real benefits of social networking. At least among the people I follow, Twitter has evolved from idle chatter to focused sharing. For example here’s a link that just popped up to an interesting article in Foreign Policy on the new rules of war: http://bit.ly/9TmAvb .

Give Twitter a try.