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Friday, March 28, 2003

Tim Calls a Bottom

Tim Oren took time from a popping pills (caffeine) and closing deals phase to go out on a limb:

OK, I'm going to take an awful risk here. I have knocked on wood and rubbed my lucky VC's rabbit foot and that will hopefully ward off any jinxing effects of this post:

I think we're on the bottom. Maybe even headed up a teensy bit. This quarter we've been seeing more interesting deals and more motion in the private investing market. It's a little hard to tell yet if there really are more fresh companies out there, or they are just being passed around between venture firms at a faster pace. It certainly feels like there's a developing bias toward action from our side of the table; more companies pitching are able to (honestly) say they have one or more funds doing diligence, committed if there's a lead, etc. Still fragile, still vulnerable to outside economic shocks, but spring might be coming again. [Due Diligence]

Also, the guys at August Capital started a weblog: VentureBlog.  And for a good reason -- the absence of good content coming from the venture community -- looks like they are already changing that.

11:33:48 PM    comment []

Knowledge Relationships

John McDowall on Knowledge Management's shift to reveal relationships between consumers and producers of information:

Several companies (informal groups) are starting to appear around this space, Ross Mayfield's Socialtext, Semaview looking at relationships using FOAF, and Groxis. I feel that this is a sign the next wave is coming and its foundation is in the move from unstructured to structured information. Blogs are one of the key platforms for moving from unstructured to structured information....

The key change that structured data/metadata and hence relationship mapping brings to knowledge management is that it makes it easier to connect the loosely coupled relationships between producers and consumers....

11:52:40 AM    comment []

Social Software Devices

Stewart Butterfield makes a point I really should have made clear, that while social software could impact politics, its applicability is everywhere people are, which also implies the impracticality of precise definition.  He goes on to define it by devices;

So, what is social software? By me, it is software that people use to interact with other people, employing some combination of the following five devices:

  • Identity
  • Presence
  • Relationships
  • Conversations
  • Groups

Conversations can be real-time or asynchronous. Relationships can be as simple as “contacts” or can be more subtle. There's been relatively little group stuff (yet).

Andrew Wooldridge adds

    • Reputation 
    • Sharing

11:46:39 AM    comment []

New Punctuation

Postinternetual. Tim Bray notices the new punctuation: putting asterixes around *important* words, thus allowing me to make this sentence all postinternetual.... [Ben]

Coincidence that this convention makes words *bold* in Wiki Punctuation?

9:51:40 AM    comment []

Social Capacity of 150

In the Ecosystem of Networks, 150 is the defining limit of Social Capacity at the Social Network layer.  Steve Mallett  comments on the Rule of 150 and Communities, saying that recognizing this natural limit can enhance community design.

...The Tipping Point's take on 150:

Quoting Dunbar (pg 179): "The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us. Putting it another way, it's the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happend to bump into them at a bar."

There then goes on to be several examples of how social groups (religious and working) are a better unit if split whenever one group grows beyond that magic number of 150 members. To grasp the idea of 150 Gladwell suggest we think about our phone numbers. They are seven digits because seven digits is all we can handle:

Quoting Miller (pg. 176): "There seems to be some limitation built into us either by learning or by the design of our nervous systems, a limit that keeps our channel capacity in this general range"

At the time of reading Tipping Point I thought this was a pretty intriguing mystery, wondering why 150 in the case of groups of people? Or as Gladwell puts it as our 'Social Capacity".

I'm still reading through Emergence: The Connected Life of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, but I ran into the number 150 again when reading about human's natural tendency to imagine other people's mental states:

"That power (imagining other's mental states) came in the form of brain mass: more neurons to model the behavior of other brains, which themselved contained more neurons, for the same reason. It's a classic case of positive feedback, only it seems to have run into a ceiling of 150 people, according to the latest anthropological studies. We have a natural gift for building theories of other minds, so long as there aren't too many of them."

Steve goes further to observe the limits of Social Capacity in blogspace:

...I've found that bloggers are outpacing slashdot for innovative topics and conversation and I don't think it's the blogging mechanisms that achieve that as much as the natural selection of bloggers they connect with. The number of blogs that I read hovers around 150. Beyond that many start to contain the same voice as others and/or are equal replacements for ones in my list already and so don't add any value. I might swap some blogs out and others in as my interests change, but yep, 150 is about right....

This social channel capacity is something that online communities should strongly think about and play with to see what happens. I'm willing to bet that the conversations and relationships will be much richer and healthier for it.

P.S. Bloggers, go count Doc Searl's 'blogroll'. Give or take ten for link-rot and you'll find an interesting number.

9:33:20 AM    comment []

Decentralizing Again
Boom. Supernova 2003 will be held July 8-9 in the Washington, DC area. If you're reading this blog, you probably caught some of the buzz from Supernova 2002 in December. The 2003 event promises to be even better. Already, our confirmed speaker list includes:

* Reed Hundt (former FCC Chairman)
* Jonathan Schwartz (EVP of Software, Sun Microsystems)
* Joichi Ito (CEO, Neoteny Co. Ltd., Japan)
* Kevin Lynch (Chief Software Architect, Macromedia)
* Bruce Mehlman (Asst. Secretary of Commerce for Tech Policy)
* Craig Donato (CEO, Grand Central Networks)
* Clay Shirky (author and consultant)

We're holding this one in DC, the belly of the beast, to bring together the technology, business, and government communities. Such conversations are increasingly important as legal and policy issues ripple through the tech world.

I hope you can join us in July. Registration materials will be available in the next few weeks. [Werblog]

12:12:59 AM    comment []

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