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May 2012
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July 2012

Minimally Invasive Education

One of the words I have a dislike for in marketing is 'educate'. Often, it is used in the context of an objective where we merely need to 'educate' our target customers/clients/prospects/colleagues of the benefits of our brand/product/service/idea and the scales will simply fall from their eyes. The people who know, simply need to show the people who don't. In my experience though, change happens more convincingly and powerfully if the person is able to get there themselves, perhaps alongside others.

I was thinking about this as I watched this quite remarkable talk by Sugata Mitra, an education scientist who has conducted a highly unusual series of real-life experiments around the world to remarkable results. Over a decade ago he began by digging a hole in a wall that bordered an urban slum in New Delhi and installing an Internet-connected PC, which he left there. A hidden camera filmed as children started playing around with the computer, learning how to go online, and then began teaching each other how to use it.

Since then, the experiments into self-supervised access, self-teaching and peer-shared knowledge have become progressively more extraordinary, and had progressively more extraordinary results. It really is worth watching to the end. Too often I think, we work from the assumption that creating change or affecting behaviour requires direct input. Sugata's grand vision (expressed by his theory that "education is a self-organising system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon") takes a very different view. It's one that I think we can learn a lot from. Amazing.

What Facebook Knows

Dont know

"This is the first time the world has seen this scale and quality of data about human communication" Cameron Marlow, Facebook

Social Networks are of-course giant data gathering machines, and Facebook is the bucket-wheel excavator of data. I wonder if we're even coming close to imagining the potential of how it all might be applied. 

This fascinating Technology Review piece by Tom Simonite at least hints at this potential in looking at the work of Facebook's Data Science Team, a team that is not short of raw material to mine. Facebook, he says, has 'the most extensive data set ever assembled on human social behaviour'. If it were a country, it may be the 3rd largest in the world but it would also 'far outstrip any regime past or present in how intimately it records the lives of its citizens'.

Facebook has not only the best mapping of human connections (over 125 Billion of them) we've ever had and the (sometimes in depth) profile data of almost a billion people, but data from the daily interactions and social activity of a large proportion of those users (and what Grant McCracken once called 'exhaust data'), the (now more than) 30 Billion pieces of content shared each month, the 300 million photos uploaded per day, the facial recognition, the location tagging, the historical time lines, the gaming, the app store. Then there's the 3.2 billion Likes and Comments generated by Facebook users every day and the huge distributed platform from the millions of Like buttons served up daily around the web (including, potentially, the capability to track the browsing history of Facebook users even when they're not logged on). And the frictionless sharing apps that have neatly switched the sharing default from active to passive and dramatically increased the data potential in the process. When an Austrian law student asked facebook to send him all the data they have stored about him, he was sent a CD with 1222 PDF files on it.

So Facebook knows a lot. What I find most interesting though about studies that are conducted using Facebook data is their sheer scale. The University of Milan 'four degrees of separation' study for example, that concluded that any two people on Facebook are, on average, separated by no more than 4.74 connections, was based on analysis of 69 billion friend connections among 721 million active Facebook users. Similarly, the "Gross National Happiness" behavioural model developed by the Facebook data team analysed positive and negative words in status updates from hundreds of millions of people to estimate the happiness of people on Facebook in a wide variety of different countries, with some fascinating results. And the Infomation Diversity in Networks work (that considered the role of strong and weak ties in the spread of information) used a large scale field experiment involving over 250 million people.

Clearly a big part of this is about developing new revenue generating models for Facebook so it's small wonder that the company is planning to double the headcount of the Data Science team over the next year. For me though, the really exciting potential around this unprecedented scale of data and Facebook's capability to store, structure and interogate it, is not just around the development of new kinds of business and communications models, but about how it might help advance social science and what we know about human behaviour itself.

Image courtesy

Post Of The Month - May 2012 - The Winner

It was run close by John Willshire's excellent post but in the end, the winner of Post Of The Month for May 2012 was Heidi Hackemer's deck for the Swedish APG on Planning, Creativity & Planning For Creative Campaigns. So well done Heidi. You get the props of your blogging peers and are entered into the Hall Of Fame. Thanks everyone for your nominations and votes this month, and don't forget to bookmark your good reads for nominating next month.

Post Of The Month - May 2012 - The Vote

Thanks for the nominations. Lots of rich thinking in the shortlist this month I think. So, our vote this month is between:

What Does Your Brand Need More Of? by Richard Huntingdon

Make Things People Want or Make People Want Things? from John Willshire

Planning, Creativity & Planning For Creative Campaigns by Heidi Hackemer

Advanced Persistent Opportunities: Building Brand Systems from Antony Mayfield

Seeing Behaviour Changes Behaviour by Faris Yakob

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Agency (and Client) from Martin Weigel

And you can vote below.

Post Of The Month - May 2012 - Nominations

I'm a few days late with this this month due to holiday (sorry) but it's time to open up for nominations for Post Of The Month - so please nominate your favourite posts that were posted in the month of May in the comments below. As always I've listed a few of my own favourites as a starter - a few decks included this time but it seemed to be a particularly good month for great decks. Please add to these and once I have a good list I'll stick them all up for a vote. So the starting four are:

What Does Your Brand Need More Of? by Richard Huntingdon

Make Things People Want or Make People Want Things? from John Willshire

Planning, Creativity & Planning For Creative Campaigns by Heidi Hackemer

Advanced Persistent Opportunities: Building Brand Systems from Antony Mayfield

And you can nominate your own choices below.