Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Web Secret 502: the best of iWebU - Krulwich Wonders

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am rereleasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders .

Why? Until 2014, there was an NPR science radio program "Krulwich Wonders" hosted by the brilliant Robert Krulwich. The episode I discuss in this post is about a profound and counter intuitive idea: "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet." Especially significant because of the rapidity with which tech evolves.

Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders - March 23, 2011

I have found the online equivalent of eating a chocolate truffle. Krulwich Wonders, an "NPR Science Blog" post written by Robert Krulwich.

Sounds kinda boring, right?

I had a hunch it would't be. Let me self-disclose. I was in the audience when Robert delivered the graduation speech at his high school. He must have been seventeen or eighteen at the time. I was ten. I have no recollection what he spoke about. But I remember clear as day that I was laughing and entertained during the entire speech.

Fast forward a couple (or more) decades, and most of Robert's posts literally make me squeal with delight. (Fortunately, I work from home, so I do not embarrass myself.)

One of my favorite posts was "Tools Never Die". I will quote:
"Kevin Kelly should know better, but boldly, brassily, (and totally incorrectly, I'm sure), he said this on NPR: "I say there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

Nothing? I asked. Brass helmets? Detachable shirt collars? Chariot wheels?

Nothing, he said.

Can't be, I told him. Tools do hang around, but some must go extinct.

... I told him it would take me a half hour to find a tool, an invention that is no longer being made anywhere by anybody.

Go ahead, he said. Try.

I tried carbon paper (still being made), steam powered car engine parts (still being made), Paleolithic hammers (still being made), 6 pages of agricultural tools from an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue (every one of them still being made), and to my utter astonishment, I couldn't find a provable example of an technology that has disappeared completely".

Robert's entire post is not much longer than the above passage, yet it is amusing, intensely thought provoking, and important. There is nothing trivial about the topic being discussed.

He posts about three times a week. Somehow, post after post, he delivers an intellectual bonbon.

Which reminds me, what are the implications if no technologies truly become extinct?

I am not clever enough to figure it out. But Robert's post makes me want to try.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Web Secret 501: the best of iWebU - Dunbar's Number

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #141: Dunbar's Number.

Why? In 1992, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. By stable, he meant relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Though Dunbar did not assign a precise value to the number, (it lies between 100 and 230), the commonly used value is 150. So 150 is referred to as Dunbar's Number.

In my presentations on social media for mental health and EAP providers, I always refer to Dunbar's number because the implication for professionals is that a handful of key colleagues are usually more instrumental in getting referrals, speaking gigs, or even a new job, than hundreds of random "friends.". True in 2011, true in 2018.

Note to my readers: Most of the links in this post - the important ones - continue to work.

Web Secret #141: Dunbar's Number - February 16, 2011 In all of my presentations about social media, I emphasize that the quality of one's friends, followers, readers, etc. is far more important than the number.

Well there is some hard core science behind my recommendation.

In 1992, long before the advent of social media, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. By stable, he meant relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Though Dunbar did not assign a precise value to the number, (it lies between 100 and 230), the commonly used value is 150. So 150 is referred to as Dunbar's Number.

Well, the 1990s came and went and nobody, except social scientists, were paying much attention to Dunbar's work, until....the social media explosion of the 21st century.

Consider:
One social media expert, Jacob Morgan, has even argued that Dunbar's number is irrelevant:
I have around 1k+ linkedin connections, 1k facebook friends, and over 4,300 twitter followers. A very tiny portion of these people are strong ties. What social networks have allowed us to do is to build massive networks of weak ties. I use these weak ties all the time to reach out to folks for guest articles, business requests, speaking engagements, or ideas and advice...

We shouldn't be trying to figure out how we can maximize the number of strong relationships we can build or how we can beat Dunbar's number... Build weak ties where you can because they are extremely valuable, more so than strong ties.
Well, I am not sure I entirely agree with Mr. Morgan. People are constantly asking me questions about social media. Should they have a Facebook? Be on LinkedIn? Do both? To these and other similar queries, I always answer with a question. "What are you going to use it for?" Once you can answer that question, making a useful recommendation is easy.

Say you want to use Twitter to be elected to public office, it would make sense to work very hard to get a million weak tie followers.

But for most professionals, Dunbar's 150 strong ties will do just fine.

A handful of key colleagues are usually more instrumental in getting referrals, speaking gigs, or even a new job, than hundreds of random "friends."


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Web Secret 500: the best of iWebU - The World Is Changing Fast

This is my 500th post - how fitting that it is the first of 2018. On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU.

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #121: The World Is Changing Fast.

Why? Because we are all struggling with how quickly events, scientific discoveries and changing social mores develop and impact us. My hip replacement in October was performed by a robot. I rest my case. In 2010, when I wrote this post, many of us were just beginning to realize that this was not your mother's world. And we were beginning to understand the importance of turning our devices off.

Web Secret #121: The World Is Changing Fast - September 29, 2010

Recently, I watched a brilliant TED India presentation on "6th Sense Technology." Basically, this genius guy created a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and a computer. He did this using the innards of two computer mice.

Honestly, I was kind of zoning out during his talk, (maybe because the air-conditioning in my house had broken and it was about 90 degrees in my office.) But, what caught my attention was the mice - because they looked, well, antiquated. I checked the date of the presentation - November 2009. Figure my guy did his work in early 2009, maybe late 2008 - from my 2010 perspective the mice looked old.

I started to think about how fast the world is changing. I came across a video that made that point vividly, Shift Happens 2.0:



The video pointed out:
  • The top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
  • Current students are preparing for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems.
  • The amount of new technological information is doubling every two years.
  • By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capability of the human brain.
What does it all mean?

Honestly, I don't believe anyone has a clue. This exponentially accelerated change is unprecedented in human history.

I do have one piece of advice.

TURN IT OFF. Your computer, iPad, smartphone, cable TV with 400 channels, satellite radio, Facebook, Twitter. One week per year, one day per week, one hour a day.

Whatever you can handle.