Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Managing your reputation online: an essential skill to develop?

Apparently so, not just for individuals, but for companies and their brands.  Click on the post title above to read more--essential debate preparation, I would think.

Merry Christmas to some and Happy New Year to all,
Prof. Tunnard

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Interesting article

The above link is about a social networking contest to find weather balloons. Check it out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

MIT wins the DARPA Challenge (no surprise)

News Release
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203-1714
IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 5, 2009
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team won the $40,000 cash prize in the DARPA Network Challenge, a competition that required participants to locate 10 large, red balloons at undisclosed locations across the United States. The MIT team received the prize for being the first to identify the locations of all 10 balloons.
“The Challenge has captured the imagination of people around the world, is rich with scientific intrigue, and, we hope, is part of a growing 'renaissance of wonder' throughout the nation," said DARPA director,
Dr. Regina E. Dugan. “DARPA salutes the MIT team for successfully completing this complex task less than 9 hours after balloon launch.”
DARPA announced the Network Challenge to mark the 40th anniversary of the ARPANet, pre-cursor to today’s Internet, to explore how broad-scope problems can be tackled using social networking tools. The Challenge explores basic research issues such as mobilization, collaboration, and trust in diverse social networking constructs and could serve to fuel innovation across a wide spectrum of applications.
DARPA plans to meet with teams to review the approaches and strategies used to build networks, collect information, and participate in the Challenge.
DARPA is the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). The Agency manages and directs research and development projects for DoD and pursues research and technology where the risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances in support of military missions.
“We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic.” -- E. Merrill Root
Media with questions, contact Johanna Jones, (571) 218-4512 or

Who's on the web, doing what?

The Global Web Index can tell you.  Click on the post title above.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chinese Guanxi versus Russian Swjasi

When searching for a good topic for my blog contribution I came across an article in HBR (1) dealing with a comparison of the networks of Chinese and Russian entrepreneurs. The author Bat Batjargal represents the results of his study evaluating ‘differences in the nature’ of the networks.

Mr. Batjargal characterizes the Chinese networks as those with higher density, higher trust small size networks. The author explains this by a grade of institutionalization (availability of procedures and organizations) and the kind of mentality. He sees China as a country with growing institutionalization. This provides a growing social stability. In addition to this, certain government restrictions reduce the mobility of the entrepreneurs. So the Chinese have smaller networks consisting of ‘family members, friends and colleagues’. In dense networks people are better connected with each other and seem to have entry barriers. The author speaks here about guanxi, saying “the rules of guanxi (informal connections) create barriers to network membership”. The Chinese way of thinking is concrete, characterized by affinity to harmony and balance, so the author.

The Russian networks represent the opposite, i.e. lower density, lower trust and larger size networks. The author explains this as follows. The institutions which used to execute a regulatory function of soviet government continually disappeared during the last 15 years. Low grade of institutionalization forces the entrepreneurs to build and strengthen their networks. Due to the mobility of the entrepreneurs the networks are larger, looser, the entry barriers are lower, as well as the level of trust. According to Bat Batjargal the Russians tend to be abstract thinker. They are quite comfortable to accept existence of contrary ideas.
I found the idea of comparison of the networks belonging to such different cultures very interesting, the way the author chooses the characteristics and performs his analysis quite persuasive.

I tried to imagine, how the entrepreneurs of such different networks and mentality do their business with each other. How they build the intercultural connections between their such a completely different networks. How challenging it might be for a Russian entrepreneur to enter a Chinese network, establish and maintain trust. This could be an interesting topic for a further, deeper investigation.

Agreeing with the results of Mr. Batjargal’s analysis concerning the part dealing with Russian networks I thought that analyzing the differences is a more thankful field. There must be also points of intersection, which may deliver some interesting insights. To my opinion, not only differences, but also certain common features exist between the Chinese and Russian entrepreneurial networks. So I tried to look for similarities.

The function of the social networks in both cases is to protect the group interests and to be able to resist the challenges of the entrepreneurial reality. This seems to be not the only point which both groups share. Discussion about Guanxi in this blog as a cultural phenomenon of “avoiding close Guanxi with outsiders of the family” (2) and mentioning Guanxi once again by Mr. Batjargal in his article (1) made me think about similar phenomenon existing in Russian networks in the soviet time and nowadays. The understanding and handling of the concept was similar in the vertical scale of connection and it was and is different in the horizontal dimension.
I come first to speak about the horizontal dimension of the phenomenon. The Russian ‘Guanxi’ was/is called Swjasi. A well-connected person, a man with ‘swjasi’ was a quite popular and appreciated member of a community in a soviet time (and is sill today). He could get almost everything and establish his life and the life of the members of his network according to the their perception. As you may know, under the soviet state-directed economy it was difficult to buy a certain range of products. It was a minor problem to pay these ‘rare’ products, the problem was to get access to buying them, e.g. to buy a car people waited sometimes for years. To avoid such situations, people searched for a connection to a man with ‘swjasi’. Here is the first difference to the Chinese Guanxi. The people looked for a well connected man and asked for a favor. Their motivation was to get a desired product or service. In such kind of networks certain entry barriers existed, they were defined by hierarchy levels or social status. Daring to ask for a favor was connected to the social status of the favor seeker. If his (favor seeker) connections and estimated value of repayment were strong enough, his wish was fulfilled in sometimes very short period of time. Otherwise a well connected man would not bother to do a favor to somebody, who, according to his estimation was not in the position to repay him on the same level (vertical differentiation according to R. Hanneman and M.Riddle), (4). The degree of estimated repayment should be comparable. This way the well connected people secured a repayment on the appropriate level. I define it as difference number two. The repayment was clearly required. Even more, it was sometimes discussed on thee early stage, when agreeing to deliver a favor to a favor seeker. If it was not quite clear to the point of agreement over a seeker favor, what the repayment should be, the social status of the seeker the warrantor of the appropriate repayment. A small example to illustrate this. A man with a good social status, a doctor, had as a rule connections in his professional field. He could ensure quick access to other doctors without need of waiting hours at the reception desk, which was the case for people without connections to a doctor. Another man, who works in the purchasing department can give a doctor an access to a variety of foods, which are not available for sale in usual supermarkets. So a doctor delivers a quick visit service to any doctor requested by a purchaser, as a repayment he gets foods for his family in the variety and quantity which outsider of the network do not have. Both of them consider each other to be on an appropriate social and are clear about possibilities of each other, so the repayment on the appropriate level is ensured. This connection enjoys long years of fruitful collaboration till one of them dies. No social dilemma of repayment. All important details are clear in advance.

This concept of ‘swjasi’ exist also now days. It has undergone certain modifications due to changes in the society. The level of institutionalization decreased, the social certainty, as it was the case in the soviet time in terms of certainty of getting working place according to qualification and corresponding living standard, is not existent any more. A survey done by Ruta Aidis, SSEES, University College London and FEE, University of Amsterdam andSaul Estrin, London Business School and IZA Bonn (3) reveals a “limited effectiveness of Russia’s networks for supporting entrepreneurial activity in its weak institutional environment.” But the core principle of ‘swjasi’ stayed the same. It does good to be well connected. Russian ‘swjasi’ function also in larger size networks with lower density and lower trust. The receiver of a favor do not consider themselves under a kind of pressure to repay the favor as soon as possible. The receiver would just ‘save’ a credit to the account of this network member and wait till he gets a chance to repay. This kind of understanding does not create a social pressure, like it is the case in the Chinese culture. The people do not tend to avoid connections. They accept favors as long as this happens on the same level.
As soon as it becomes vertical, i.e a favor seeker from a lower social level tasks for a favor somebody from a higher social level, then the things start to look a bit Chinese, i.e. it becomes more similar to the Chinese perception of Guanxi. The same reluctance to accept a favor request and also the reluctance to accept the repayment due to percepted inappropriate level of repayment(5).
In conclusion, I would like to come back to the topic of the HBR article mentioned above. The purpose of this article has a purely practical approach. Knowing differences in cultures and underlying concepts of networks makes it easier to find an appropriate way when trying to establish connections in the corresponding environments.

(4) Robert A. Hanneman and Mark Riddle, “Introduction to social network methods”. Readings delivered to the Course Social Networking at HHL
(5) Empirical research through conversations with entrepreneurs in current Russia, people having their working lives under soviet regime and my own memories.

The DARPA Challenge

If you ever wondered about the usefulness of studying social networks and the Internet, here's a compelling reason. Oh, and you can win US$40,000.

(From the website--click on title of post above to go there)
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet, DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense)  has announced the DARPA Network Challenge, a competition that will explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.
The challenge is to be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, 8-foot, red, weather balloons at 10 fixed locations in the continental United States. The balloons will be in readily accessible locations and visible from nearby roads.

The competition is open to the public and offers a $40,000 prize to the first person, or group, who can identify the GPS coordinates of all the balloons.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The uncertain future of Facebook

At first I was about to write about utilization of social networking knowledge in WOM marketing. It has been already a while since people from this business fixed their attention to Facebook. But when I went through a couple of articles I realised that it is not clear what happens with Facebook in next five years and whether it will be really the holy grail of marketers.
Facebook is generally acknowledged to be a huge success of today. Mark Zuckerberg is constantly publishing breathtaking numbers of new users (by this time it is more than 300 million of active users). However, certain doubts are arising due to persistent silence of Facebook management, when it comes to disclosure of financial information. Facebook has been also criticised recently by its users for design innovations and by experts for awkwared business strategy.
This leads to a question whether Facebook is a successful well strategically managed company or uncontrollably growing experiment going on the path of trials and errors.
What will we to have to stand in the future to remain connected with our personal social networks? Paying of user fees? Increasing amount of advertisements? Disclosure of our privacy? And will we be still interested in this way of socializing? And the last but not least, who will be more empowered concentrated and connected customers or data mining marketers?
Many experts agree that Facebook will remain a substantial part of our reality. However, there is an uncertainity about how is it going to attract us in the future and what will be the engine for its profits.
During negotiations about Microsoft´s investment into Facebook, the value of Facebook was estimated to be 15 billion USD.[1]
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, in her interview for Business Week ( ), assert that the company has already found its profit engine in advertising. Facebook offers to marketers highly personal connections with customers and enables ineractive marketing approach. Sandberg also confirmed that the company expects to grow revenue 70% year-over-year.[2]
In spite of this Michael Arrington in his article Facebook May Be Growing Too Fast ( ) claims that Facebook has a problem to keep up with growth and the communication platform will need money sooner than later.
He declares that “it costs a couple of hundred million dollars a year just to keep the lights on at Facebook“. Due to all of user-created translated versions of the website the number of users increases exponentially and there is not a possibility to restrict this trend significantly. Arrington assumes that Facebook spends millions on elektricity, servers, office and datacenter rent payments. Nowadays has Facebook 750 employees and this platform is growing. Arringtons estimates appear to be very likely and thus the question of how does the company plan to earn its profits in a close future, seems to be even more urgent.[3]

It is quite conceviable that Facebook will combine several strategies to finance that growth. According to Jeremiah Owyang ( there is a chance that Facebook will aggregate all digital media, so the company will be able to profit from the common knowledge that our decisions are highly influenced by our friends. Together with the real time search tool, which is already working, it will enable to deliver more relevant information to the customers, who will make their decisions while being influenced by their peers. Facebook will also able to provide more specific information to the marketers. Owyang also predicts that Facebook content will go more public. This is already happening (Friendfeed acquisition) and it was also confirmed by Mark Zuckerberg as a company´s future vision. Facebook might also colonize the other websites and enable any experince to be shared.
Personally, I believe that the main power of Facebook concerning profitability consits in the huge database of exact marketing information and in the number of contacts. The marketing practices on Facebook are already working very well, but mainly for lovemarks. However, some products are more suitable to succeed on Facebook than the others. Facebook is a big opportunity for emotional products such as (clothes, shoes, beverages, music, movies, etc.).
On the subject of marketing the proportion between public and private content becomes to be a question. I believe that Facebook has so many members because of quality of its privacy tools. But this key factor might also contribute to shrinking of the revenues from marketing.
Another thing is that main reason for the Facebook popularity is that you can get to know of your friends. Most of us go there to see what are our friends doing, what is new in their personal lives, to see the photos from the yesterday party, but hardly anyone is searching for marketing information. Facebook is about trust, but what happens, when you will not be sure who can see what on your profile? Or when everybody will be on Facebook, your boss as well as your grandmother? When strange people from your past will comment on your status more and more often? I think that managing this issues and achiving the balance between the privacy and public content are the biggest challenges that Facebook is going to face in the future. This will probably predetermine if we will meet each other on Facebook also in 2014.





“ This represents one small step for ICANN, but one big step for half of mankind who use non-Latin scripts”

A few weeks ago, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved that other, non-Latin scripts can be used for domain names. At the beginning of 2010 we can expect domains like: 首頁美.國政府門戶網站.正式, ввв.србија.срб etc.

But is it an outbreak of new revolution internet users all around the world will experience or just one more innovation that will make using internet to not-English speakers easier?

Perhaps, the best starting point to answer this question is looking at stat who are the internet users; according to the, about 1.733 billion people or 25,5% of the total world population use internet. When we compare percentage of people who use internet by language they speak, we will find no correlation. Languages with other scripts than Latin like Chinese, Russian, Japanese or Korean have the same or even higher percentage of users than those languages that use Latin language.
Therefore, my opinion is that statement from the Heading of this text; originally statement from one official from ICANN, is exaggeration.
I do agree that will be useful for easer communication to some extent; find webpage you want more easily, advertise your webpage in domestic market or apply internet technology to some prospective users. There is also a bed side; companies will have to register domains for each language which will make additional expenses for them, communication the e-mails will be limited with different scripts.

This article also induced me to find relation of internet usage by other criteria, age, sex, etc. The strongest correlation I found is between internet usage and living standard. Looks like PC and internet connection is still luxury for most of the world, allocating all those second-had PC to those countries would not be bad solution.

Switching to domestic non-Latin scripts will certainly make some changes but the answer to question stated above is INOVATION, it will not revolutionary increase usage of internet or change the way people use internet. My opinion is it has more symbolic meaning of equality that every language deserves and struggle of countries for national identity in globalized world.