The Bitcoin is a social money network and is as scarce as gold

bitcoin
The value of Bitcoin has gone up from zero to 120 billion USD in 9 years since its inception in 2008. Nobody knows who created the ‘Bitcoin’. The creator has handed over and disappeared since then and goes with the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”. As part of its creation, the world’s first ‘Block Chain’ database was devised. Image credit: Pixabay

Podcast special feature

“Bitcoin is a social movement” says The New York Times technology reporter, Nathaniel Popper, and author of a book on Bitcoin called ‘Digital gold’.

In the below embedded podcast radio talk, heard on ‘Fresh air’- NPR, Terry Cross talks to Nathaniel on how Bitcoin has emerged from an underground currency to a system where major financial institutions and banks are looking at using its decentralized network. Thanks to NPR org.

Please find the essence of the talk below. For those of us who do not understand what Bitcoin is, the below essence of the podcast can be helpful.

Bitcoin can be understood on a number of layers, says Nathaniel.  From its initial journey, where in participants were able to buy drugs, do black-marketing, shrouded in privacy and secrecy to its current recognition as the world’s decentralized cryptographic digital payment, Bitcoin has come a long way.

It is pointing to a direction where money is going; or needs to be.

Its origins can be traced back to the late 2008. Scientists, worried about the then internet privacy and the distrustful central financial institutions, created an anonymous digital currency for the public good.

Bitcoin is a digital token. It consists of a vast network of decentralized computers and it lives inside it.  People can use this digital token to buy, sell, and transact on the internet with a network of widely accepted places, just like any other currency.

It is a legally accepted digital currency in almost all the countries, except for a few. It is an independent entity and anyone can freely transact and support Bitcoin.

There is no central administrator and as such, the network  gives incentives to people to join it. People can volunteer to keep financial records and earn some Bitcoins. The transactions are transparent. A new block of Bitcoins are released every 10 minutes into the network and there are somewhere around 13,000 interconnected nodes to support it.

“A year ago, a Bitcoin was worth less than  $1000″ says Nathaniel and now it could be much more.  He says “it is not a bubble” and there is much speculation that its value will be much more in the future.

Just like gold, Bitcoin is created as a scarce asset, only about 21 million of Bitcoin can be released, and it is going to be only until 2140.

Cheers.

 

How context based social networks can bridge the gaps in organizational silos

Dolphins leap and have friendly interaction
Dolphins are very intelligent and highly social creatures. They bridge the gaps by teaching, cooperating and helping others. They frequently keep leaping over waves to save energy as there is less friction in the air. This helps them to explore their environment. Image credit: Pixabay

The National Geographic channel, was airing an hour-long program on what actually led to 9/11 or ‘The September 11 attacks’. Though it was aired several times in the past, I did happen to get a chance the other day to watch it until the end. Very interesting.

The program narrates a sequence of events that led to the attack. The prior intelligence that was available to the government agencies could have thwarted the attack (See Wikipedia).  However, it did not happen.

Why?

Clearly, there was no communication between the agencies. They agencies did not collaborate and they operated in silos. Even on the day of the attacks, there were gaps in communication and the right information was not with the right people.

Such gaps do exist in modern global corporations as well.

There is huge potential at the juncture of the business units for social collaboration to thrive and help. Nevertheless, is anyone taking notice?

With the constraints of history, cultural norms and work practices most of the established companies are not able to utilize the benefits of social networks in the workplace. The once siloed business units of these established companies are finding a way to harness the collaborative power of social networks that lie in the gaps.

Moreover, in the gap lies the panacea.

The authors, in their article  titled “Practical social networks“ published in the Harvard Business review, prescribe a very practical approach on how to derive value from social networks based on the nature of work performed within an organization. You can find the article here.

It could be a panacea for us to be more practical and move away from our constraints of cultural norms and history to look at collaborating with each other in new light. Though the solution is practical, it does offer a way out and move a step towards or navigate the murky waters for a more coordinated behavior for achieving our goals.

There are other benefits from an employee perspective, which cannot be based on the nature of work performed such as building social capital and the sense of belonging to be part of a community. Moreover, they cannot be ignored. Such aspects of social networking for employee interaction in workplaces are important to boost employee morale.

Still there are others, which are more critical from the organizational standpoint such as knowledge sharing within a context based on social interactions, collaborative problem solving, and the successive iteration of ideas leading to insight cannot be overlooked.

Having said this, the leadership team needs to think clearly on what goals they want to achieve through social networks, the pattern of connectivity and collaborative behavior that best suits their current nature of work.

There are work practice challenges, which pose many questions. The question of whether employees would be able to keep up with the relationship demands of their colleagues, lingers on. Keeping up with the emails, phone calls and meetings can take a toll on their productivity leave alone creating distractions and draining their own energy.

Based on the above challenges, the authors’ argument is that social networks need to be implemented where it is needed in the organization and that uniquely benefits the organization.

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The components of a social network

Components of a network

Understanding how social network operates within the context of social collaboration requires understanding of an interdisciplinary framework consisting of subjects as diverse computers, mathematics, Sociology, Psychology, and Ethnography.

In effect, it requires the understanding of the inter-relationships between people, organizations, and societies as a whole.  We can consider individuals, organizations, or groups as separate units.  The key is to understand the ties and interactions that happen within these units.

Implementation of a social network with enabling technology is complex.  It is complex because, the interactions and the ties between the units is continuously evolving and self-organizing.

Let us consider a social network model called the Albert Barabesi model to understand this.  The model is the fundamental principle on which current day ‘internet’ works through its associative links connecting one web page to another.  The model works on scale-free networks.  Meaning, the networks can scale by associating themselves with each other in the network and grow exponentially.  Scale free networks correspond to power law distributions.  It is similar to how the inbound links on the internet websites operate.

The Barabesi social network model has two parts to it.  The first part is the number of new nodes attached to it.  Nodes could be people or groups.  The second part is the number of connections connecting the new nodes.

The greater the nodes and connections, the more likely the social network will grow.  It is like a catch 22 situation, when there is greater social collaboration; there is every chance that the connecting social network will also grow.

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The symbiotic relationships of the Coral reefs – A model social network for the future

coral

Coral reefs around the world are great tourist attractions. Nature provides some of its greatest lessons in some of its unlikeliest places.

The coral reefs are filled with immense bio-diversity with millions of distinct species of tiny organisms all living in harmony and teaching us the virtues of being altruistic, helping each other in difficult circumstances, to adapt and collaborate for mutual benefit and sustenance.

Back in the 1980’s a very popular television video series called ‘The undersea world of Jacques Cousteau’ was aired on television. The series was telecasted every Sunday. Some of us would know it. The legendary Jacques Cousteau, a filmmaker, explorer, and researcher, hosted it. Jacques had received several awards including the National Geographic special gold medal.

As a middle-schooler, I was biding time for my parents’ nod just to watch the television series. Watching an underwater film with explorers venturing the depths of the ocean was rare and a treat during that time. The videos presented an incredible view of the marine biodiversity of our planet and the content was excellent. It was educational, informative and at the same time awe-inspiring.

At that age, the term ‘Bio-diversity’ seemed alien to me and I hardly knew what it was. However, the pictures and memories are still vivid.

Now with knowledge, advancement and the internet, our awareness has only expanded. It was not just for the educational content, such videos at a very fundamental level helps us understand how the marine diversity of our planet influences it. It is intricately connected to the natural cycles of the earth and helps regulate our climatic conditions.

The clown fish is normally found in the Coral reefs
The clown fish is normally found in the Coral reefs. I used Sketchbook to draw the picture.

We all know that 2/3rds of the earth’s surface is covered with water. A vast number of marine organisms live in the ocean. Researchers are still not able to come to terms with their numbers. It is so complex that there are unexplored depths of the ocean. Some are obvious like the ‘fish’ and still there are others hidden at the edges of the ocean that perform marvelous jobs.

These marine organisms actually help in building new land and some even extend the shorelines (Like the Atoll) by just recycling waste.

We are talking about the humble Stony coral, which creates new land on the ocean through its own excretion. Although its use comes after its death, the tiny marine animal grows in vast colonies at the edge of the ocean.

A theoretical state called the ‘edge of chaos’ prevails at the edge of the ocean . A state neither too rigid nor too loose, enabling molecules to collaborate for new life to evolve. That is exactly what happened to the vast colonies of the Stony coral. They collaborated with other species and evolved.

During its course of life, the Stony coral builds a calcium-based exo-skeleton. This exo-skeleton is so strong and stable that it can remain pristine for hundreds of years even after its host organism; the Stony coral is long dead.

In effect, the Coral reef is a stable ground – building new lands at the edges of the ocean. Thus, millions of these calcium-based exo-skeletons joined to form a Coral reef.

We just need to take a step back and look at it from an inter-disciplinary point of view. These tiny organisms were actually building a scalable network, a dense structure for millions of other organisms to thrive and evolve. This remarkable structure happens at the edge of chaos and that too in ocean waters that are not rich in nutrients.

There are millions of distinct species, which live in these coral reefs around the world. The ‘Great barrier reef’ in Australia is the greatest and biggest organic bio-structure in the world.

‘The tiny organisms and plants that live on the Coral reefs actually recycle the nutrients’ says Steven Johnson in his book “where good ideas come from’. You can find the book here. Scientists have actually studied this seamless flow of energy within the Coral reefs Eco-system.

A symbiotic relationship exists between the Stony coral and the algae that thrive in these waters.

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Users and followers in a social network are your true Micro-influencers

Micro-influencer

Here is a small story of a dog, which became a micro-influencer to millions. It was in those years when there was hardly any social network on the Web and Television ad campaigns were popular.

It was in 2005 that the advertising campaign in TV for the Vodafone brand came out in India. Vodafone was called Hutchinson Essar then and it was a company buyout. In the ad, a small dog (a Pug) follows a small boy wherever he goes, to all the unlikely places, the barbershop, playground, bath and to the school. It was hilarious and at the same time touching. It caught the interest of the TV audience across the country. Vodafone used the analogy, “Wherever you go, our network follows” and conveyed it through the advertisement. Ogilvy and Mather the famous advertisement company was behind that TV ad campaign.

The ad was a huge hit. The pug raised the popularity of the Vodafone brand in India. The pug was so much of an influence on the Vodafone brand that when people saw it on the posters they immediately recollected that it was the “Hutch dog” brand. The sale of pug dogs also increased during those years. In fact, customers had even downloaded wallpapers of the pug on to their phone screens further creating an indirect endorsement. The pug dog was a good example of a micro-influencer.

Now fast forward 10 years and what we have is the latest band of micro-influencers, who are actually users of popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The micro-influencers have thousands of followers, who send in their likes and comments for their posts.

Micro-influencers are different from celebrities. Micro-influencers in social networks are individuals with smaller fan base groups and they specialize in a specific vertical or subject area. There is usually high level of engagement on their activities from their fan base.

Infact, many of the digital marketing professionals agree that you cannot apply a blanket ad campaign across the entire population of the audience. Managing the millennial crowd is different.

What professionals say is that it would be more effective if the ad campaigns were used on smaller groups with ranging consumer interests and lifestyles. This is exactly where the micro influencers play a very effective and important role in spreading the word and their role is cut out in the world of digital marketing.

Product brands can leverage micro-influencers to their advantage. Offering free goods and services to your customers in return for good will is one excellent gesture. A restaurant on a brand awareness campaign can offer free dinners to couples on certain days. The couples most likely would spread the good word to their friends and relatives.

This simple gesture not only increases the brand awareness of the restaurant but also will have a strong positive impression in the minds of people in that locality.  It helps build a loyal customer base.

We have been seeing the increasing usage of micro-influencers for brand awareness campaigns. They are genuine and sincere and they connect with their audience unlike celebrities who may sometimes be passé with changing times.

Please do comment on your perspectives.

Cheers.

This article first appeared on Warwick blogs by the same author.

Poking fun and a collective sense of identity is important for social networks in workplaces

Social networks in workplaces

Converting tacit to explicit knowledge and providing context to information are two important areas, which are often overlooked when using social networks in workplaces.

The use of social media and social networking has become part of our daily lives as consumers. We use social media in myriad different ways from daily interactions, conversations to sharing pictures and videos.

From a personal point of view, social media keeps us entertained as consumers. But when it comes to a professional setting, the question that comes to our mind is that, is social media viewed in the same way from an organizational context as well?

We use the word ‘Social networks’ and ‘Social media’ interchangeably in this article. A detailed explanation on the difference between the two is found on this resource page.

Benefits of  social platform in workplaces

There are inherent benefits of using social networks in workplaces.

There are various sources and the Internet is replete with the of-repeated benefits of community building and collaboration. Often, the nitty-gritty’s of what actually works and makes the usage of social media worthwhile isn’t discussed often from an employee perspective.

Employees have a different perspective from the management of the company on the usage of social media. Employees love the spirit of community.

Active usage of social media within the work environment nurtures a sharing community. It is through this community that employees like to discuss their problems and issues and seek solutions. Social capital is built through such interactions. Social capital is needed for a strong bond among colleagues and employees within a team to get the work done.

A good article from our blog discusses the important benefits of social networks in workplaces. The article is all about viewing social media from an employee perspective.

In a study conducted by a firm called Dynamic markets, 74% of employees said that the two biggest benefits of social networks in workplaces is

1. Gaining knowledge to solve problems at work.

2. having a collaborative team spirit among employees.

Social media has always been about building a community.

But in the workplaces, the management would be more happy to see it as a form of collaboration among employees. The word ‘collaboration’ rings bells as it brings results and profits.  And this is the very reason why the social media software in big corporates are called ‘social collaboration’.

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The Human brain helps us to make intelligent decisions in everyday life social networks

pre-frontal cortex makes intelligent decisions

The Human brain helps us to unravel the complexity of the social networks.  It can spontaneously access information and help us make intelligent decisions and appropriate responses for acceptable social outcomes.

In a recent research paper published in  ‘Nature – Human behavior’ author Carolyn Parkinson of the University of California talks about how the brain seems to encode the messages we send when meeting familiar people and their position in the social network.  This may not seem like a breakthrough immediately but then the author says this has implications in the way of how we can use this information to understand an individual’s standing in the social network.

In addition, this research can help behavioral studies on how our knowledge of a person’s social standing in a social network can make changes in our attention, empathy, and trust on that person. The brain region where this information is recorded is the higher order pre-frontal cortex and there is a spontaneous access to it.

We interact with many individuals on a daily basis.  Keeping track of our acquaintances and our relationships with others is no mean task.  Sometimes our friends and relatives will have second degree and third degree relationships with their friends and relatives.  It becomes complex as we go on extending the chain.  Now in this complexity, tracking our own relationships and the extended relationships we have with others (not in a sense of self-interest) requires some degree of understanding the relationships.

The question is can the brain in its natural state help us?

Yes, says the research conducted by Carolyn Parkinson of University of California.  Thanks to the Mo Costandi of Scientific American to bring this information to light.

FMRI on 21 MBA Students

Parkinson and her colleagues from Dartmouth College surveyed 275 first year MBA students.  In the survey, the questions where directed specifically towards their social habits.  It included how they preferred mingling with the crowd and with whom they preferred to hang around with and visit their homes.  Their preference in attending social events and so on.

They measured the responses in three different ways.  The first one looked at the ‘degrees of separation‘ from one another.  The second one looked at ‘their closeness to well-connected individuals’ in the social network” and the third ‘the extent of their closeness with aloof individuals’.

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Challenges in analyzing Big data in social networks

big data in social networks

There are social interactions everywhere.  According to the Global Web Index, as of Jan 2016, there are about 3.4 billion internet users in the world.  And within that, there are about 2.3 billion active social media users.  Interactions through social media have become ubiquitous and so is the immense amount of data that is generated through it.

Many popular social networks like Facebook have begun to use this data to know about their users to deliver personalized feed to suit their interests and behavior and the situation is no different in Enterprise social networks as well.

Even today with the enormous amount of data that is generated through social media channels, leaders will have to struggle with the implications of big data.  Analyzing and gleaning information from the data will become key factor for competition as well as rise in productivity, innovation and increase in consumer surplus says the Mckinsey in their report  “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity”.

Many people from senior leadership teams to the people in the technology world talk about ‘Big Data’.  Big data is not a buzzword for smarter data analysis to gain insight.  Therefore, what exactly is Big data, what does is it mean for us and how can we use the insights gained from such analysis in the realm of social networks.  The data analysis and insights gained is significantly different from what managers might generate from regular analytics.

Big data in social media

Big data is all the voluminous and unstructured data from a wide ranging sources in the form of click stream data from  websites, social media data like ‘Likes’, Tweets and ‘Blog posts’ etc. and from video entertainment as well.  Just to give you an idea, Google processes about 24 petabytes of data and not all of this in rows and columns.  Sometimes organizations also take into account the real time information as it occurs in radio frequency identification systems and make changes as they happen.

The consumers as well as working professionals in the organizations have begun to realize the potential value and the intelligence that can be derived from the vast amount of data that is generated through social media conversations.

Big data applications largely depend on their ability to analyze this large and unstructured data and handle the scale of the geometric growth of the social networks.  Social networks generate conversations and there is context attached to these conversations.  It is this context to information from various expert users is what makes knowledge sharing through social media tools so invaluable.  Finding specific information in this vast sea of billions of conversational messages is no easy task.  Big data in social networks together with social analytics need to go hand in hand in finding out the specific information we need.

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