Saturday, January 01, 2011

Super-Connectors?

As librarians and information professionals, we've been strangely attacked within the past decade about web 2.0's necessities to "connect" with users and to "outreach" to our constituencies about our usefulness.  As a result, we've been busily preparing for the onslaught by integrating our working minds into social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.   Has it worked?   For the most part, it's helped align ourselves to the (albeit digital) world.   But other than that, there's been a lot of chatter that such social media tools have been just librarians talking to other librarians.    If that has been the measuring stick, then I dare say we've been one of the most active and successful professions in doing so.  And we haven't lost our jobs doing it, too.

Superconnect is a fascinating new book about the strength of connections, but puts the onus back in the real physical world.  It offers a unique look at what librarians (among many others) should be doing: reconnecting with one another.  Moving past just the tight, narrow confines of the library shelves and stacks.  Surging beyond the walls of library-think, and into other networks and spheres. I read this book with great interest, not only as a reference book, but ultimately as a book about humanity which we can all learn from.   Here are some highlights:


1. Strength of Weak Links -  When it comes to communicating from one person to a target in a different world, weak links far outperform strong ones.  Studies have shown that people tend to overuse family and friends, but "underuse" people they don't know particularly well.  It is casual acquaintances that are nine times better than friends at providing the connections we need or giving us useful information.

2.  SuperConnectors - Unlike our prejudged vision of slick, savvy, prominent socialites, super connectors are actually humble folks who just happen to connect with people because they have placed themselves at the centre of a social system, integrating into a number of networks and nodes that might otherwise have been isolated from one another.  Most importantly, a superconnector is willing to "connect" others.

3.  Internet - It's important not because it is a new world, but rather it is an old world.  It's given us terrific intensification of the communication and network that have actually been built decades and even centuries before its very invention. Social networks have given us tools to lubricate relationships, helping us record, organize, and manage our online connections, acquaintances, and memberships.  How's that for improvement?

4.  The "Third Place" - To live an interesting life means also the need to cultivate rich, meaningful weak connections.  The third place is a term which describe locations where one habitually relaxes and spends time.  Regular visits to third places, and irregular visits to new ones, are crucial to renewing and forging these so-called weak links.  Even going to the local park, and being among lots of people can be considered a process of connecting.  How's that for living a rich life?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Cyberport of the Future?

The Web 3.0 craze has already hit the shores of Hong Kong. Although Cyberport was meant to be Hong Kong’s version of Silicon Valley, it has a reputation for being a ghost town. The 95,000 square meters of office space on the west side of Hong Kong Island is a 15.8 billion Hong Kong dollar (US$2 billion) government-owned project criticized by some as being an unsustainable venture.

In a first of its kind Web 3.0 conference took place at Cyberport. As the organizers put it,
in the world of Web 3.0, the Internet should know I won’t be able to watch my favorite TV show. It should automatically record it and book a time slot for me to catch up on this show. This is an example of how the Internet and Web will become smarter. What is an example of Web 3.0 with today’s technology? Earlier this year, we transmitted live and in 3D the World Cup from South Africa to cinemas in Hong Kong with the help of the Internet.

In essence, Cyberport organised Web 3.0 Asia as part of its commitment to establishing itself as a leading information communications technology (ICT) hub of the Asia, region, pushing Hong Kong's creative digital enterprises and start-ups to prepare for the next version of the web.  What struck me was the depth of speakers for the programme, including: Simone Brunozzi, Technology Evangelist at Amazon Web Services; Jon Leland, President and Creative Director, ComBridges.com; and Kaiser Kuo, Director, International Communications of Chinese search enginge, Baidu.

With this conference, it's becoming clear that the next generation of the web will not be limited in geography, but will be a multiversity of ideas and concepts.