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Posts Tagged ‘green social networks’

Microsoft just released the results from its massive research on’Planetary-Scale Views on a Large Instant Messaging Network. Two researchers, Jure Lesckovec, of Carnegie Mellon University, and Eric Horvitz, from Microsoft, analyzed 30 billion conversations among 240 million users of Microsoft instant messaging, in search for significant patterns.   Their findings have far reaching implications for social networks in general, and more specifically, green mass persuasion initiatives:

1. The world IS a small-world:

Kevin Beacon‘s 6 degrees of separation theory was confirmed, with a slight correction. Microsoft research found that the average degree of separation between any two  random individuals, is actually closer to seven. This further validates the LinkedIn model, beyond business and professional search applications. 

2. People communicate more with others who are like them:

From the report: ‘We found strong influences of homophily in activities, where people with similar characteristics tend to communicate more, with the exception of gender, where we found that cross-gender conversations are both more frequent and of longer duration than conversations with users of the same reported gender.’ A confirmation of what you and I know from our daily interactions. Humans tend to hang out with people who are like them, in terms of interests, and demographics. The more virtual networks facilitate such connections, the more likely they are to succeed. Think Facebook with its educated college crowd, or lesser known Patients Like Me.  

Next comes the question of how to apply these findings to existing and future social networks. To date so called green social networks have failed to generate substantial and enduring followings. Maybe this will shape a new wave of networks, more effective and in touch with the reality of the people. 

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Green social networks are popping all over the place. This morning, I got word from Meryn, of yet another one, and another one. Frankly, I have stopped keeping track. They want us to become engaged, and to change our behaviors, fast. They claim to have all kind of tools to help us accomplish the impossible. How come then, I am not more enthused? I, out of all people, who spend so much time on the topic, should be an easy sell.

Here is what I think is missing from all these sites. A lack of understanding of basic psychology, and of the way real people change their behaviors. I do not decide ‘I want to be green’, and ask for someone to whip me into shape. Actually, I may, but the truth is, that kind of intention is not sustainable. I do not need to add yet another thing on my already long to-do list. I want solutions to my everyday problems, as in more convenient, cheaper, smarter.

Social networks I really dig:

How about you? What is your favorite social network? What are your primary motivations for joining? How do you feel about virtual versus ‘real’ networks?

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Featured on TechCrunch, Carbon Rally, the latest player in green social networking:

CarbonRally applies gaming and social networking concepts to environmental activism by challenging participants to take positive steps against carbon emissions. Boston based CarbonRally offers a series of carbon reducing challenges, such as not drinking bottled water, dumping shopping bags and leaving your car at home, whereby users can compete against others to become the most carbon friendly participant. Current users include Google’s offices in Boston and Pittsburgh who are openly aiming to beat one and other. The competition is all in good fun with no prizes offered, however CarbonRally is looking at corporate sponsorship of challenges in the future. If you’re passionate about carbon emissions, CarbonRally providers a fun and friendly forum from which you can join others in saving the world.

This is a great example of well understood green psychology translated into a brilliantly executed business idea. Americans love to compete, and play. Take those traits, apply them to real life micro-communities, with a twist of corporate pressure, and you’ve got a great recipe for inducing positively green behavioral changes. Fundamentally, human beings are pleasure seeking creatures. Let’s not forget that basic psychological truth, in our efforts to get people to green their lifestyles.

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I am an addict. And I need help. In the absence of a clear program, I am left on my own, to find an approach that will work for me. It’s been confusing, so far, and I can’t tell what’s helpful, from what’s not.

The Not so Green Zone
First, there is the danger of the not so green zone. You know, that fuzzy place where it’s pretty much up to you to decide what your green regimen should be. It’s very flexible, and understanding of your situation as a recovering consumer. Let’s set our expectations low, since we know the moon is out of reach. The problem is just that. Low expectations produce dismal results, coupled with the dangerous illusion that one is doing something. The not so green zone is where I dwelled until a few weeks ago, when I decided, enough was enough, and I wanted results.

The Absolute Green Zone
Second, and just as dangerous, is the absolute green zone. No room for error here. You are green, or not. There is a list of things you know you have to do, all of them, and there is no skipping any. The advantage is you know what is expected of you. Things are clear. Relapses are frowned upon, and you better get back on the train quick. Very much like going on a diet. You know what happens to chronic dieters, though. They follow the diet for a while, and then one day, they just get fed up, and say, the hell with it, I am going to eat as a please. I am a living testimony of why (green) lists alone rarely work. Lists are tools that need a context.

The Green Steps Community Zone
Outside of these two danger zones, lies a third space, one I am just starting to formulate for myself, and who knows, maybe others if they want. I call it the Green Steps Community zone. It borrows from the 12 Steps model and the community principle of social networks. 12 Steps was built on the notion that the support from other fellows struggling with similar addictions, coupled with accountability to the group and a sponsor, are essential to the success of the recovery process. People cannot accomplish recovery on their own. Couple 12 Steps with social networks, and you’ve got the beginning of a solution. Social networks are not the privilege of Web 2.0. There are many other different types of social networks, starting with families, neighborhoods, churches, schools, workplaces, all of which need to be considered for this idea of Green Steps Communities.

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