Social Software

Strong and weak links in a social network

After being many years very connected with information and communication (ICT) network, I still sometime get surprised by the speed of the network. And now I am not talking about the “bandwidth” only, but the combination of social networks and ICT. Here is an example:

I follow Stephen Downes’ OLDaily. This week I noticed that he is giving a talk in a conference in Bogotá. From his site I couldn’t find a link or any other information about the event. Because I have been in Bogotá several times, know a bunch of people in there, and have took part in several conferences in there I was interested in to know what was the conference about.

So, I sent an email to my sister in law in Bogotá. She wrote back to me with a link to the conference’s web site and told that she is going to attend the conference. She also promised to write me a summary of Stephen Downes talk.

Later same day my 2 year old daughter (she also has a blog, but the URL is given only for family and friends) wanted to talk with her grandmother who lives in Bogotá. My partner tried to call her, but she was not at home. However, my sister of law was there and told that Stephen Downes was having a slide saying: “Learning Objects Educational Concept Dies in Finland at 24 – Teemu Leinonen”. Hmm.. I was thinking while having a coffee and relaxed reading sessions in our WLAN garden: “Have I written something like this in some point”?

Later same day my sister in law sent me a summary of the talk – thank you – and also Stephen Downes post his slides and talk in MP3 to his site – thank you, too. I checked the slides and found out that the rant with the reference to me was not actual written by me, but was from an illustration of a blog post by Alan Levine. The image just happens to have my name in it as Alan Levine was making references to my blog post Learning objects – Is the King naked? in his post. I do not mind about this, however I think it is good that people know the story behind the picture, and do not for instance think that I wrote article like this to Washington Post.

I think from the social network perspective the story is pretty interesting. It seems to have a funny combination of strong links (family) with weak links (blogshere) working together. I was at first relying on my family network – the strong links. This is of course very Colombian: my partner, her sister, my daughter, even my partner’s parents were involved. To communicate over the Atlantic we use Skype, video conference, blogs, phones etc. To keep our strong links we need a lot of bandwidth.

The there were the weak links of the blogshere. I have never met Stephen Downes or Alan Levine. We have not even talked on Skype. We have “communicated” only via blogs. We do not need a lot of bandwidth to keep the weak links.

I want to have strong links (family and friends) and weak links (blogshere and professional), and hope that one to become another is difficult. There is also very little space between these two.

You may ask why? I am seriously afraid that the Finnish proverb “in a group stupidity condenses” (Joukossa tyhmyys tiivistyy) is once in a while true in blogshere. I am claming that “groups” are those that are build out of people whose relationship is something between the “strong” and “weak” links. This is not good. Weak links are better than “half strong/weak links”. Uhh..

One reply on “Strong and weak links in a social network”

Commenting myself:A better translation of the word "joukko" in that Finnish proverb would probably be "crowd" – not a "group". So, it should be: "in a crowd stupidity condenses".I see a lot of "crowds" and "crowd stupidity" in the blogshere. I think this is also the greatest challenge of the "personal learning environment" thinking.


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