I have worked for a provincial literacy network for the past 15 years so networking is dear to my heart. My network’s role is to link and share information, resources and training with 100 literacy organizations across Ontario. It is easy for me to see the great value provided by networks. However, concepts introduced by the course, such as network optimization and analysis, have caused me to think on a deeper level about networking. Perhaps at work we are too concerned about sheer activity and not enough about network flow, our strengths and dependencies, optimization of information, analysis and most of all patterns within the network. Something to think about when I am not so busy with the course!
It is hard to “see the forest for the trees” as the old saying goes. Analysing network patterns is a helpful way to see past your own assumptions and biases and obtain a different and often clearer picture. For example, I took my course blog, entered the blog content into Wordle (an application that creates word clouds based on the amount of times a word is used at: http://www.wordle.net/), and this is the pattern that emerged.Whew! Good to see "learning" was the biggest item!
Some examples of online networks are:
· LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/ - “The World’s Largest Professional Network”. LinkedIn not only links you with colleagues you have accepted, but in order to build your network, continually suggests other connections, based on your existing links. Recommended new connections are ranked on their relation to you (so by how many common connections your have and how many common interests). LinkedIn also searches out jobs based on your stated interests and skills. LinkedIn is also linked with Twitter.
· Amazon www.amazon.com - Amazon has developed an impressive online network. Typically, I buy books and e-books from Amazon. Amazon remembers what topics have been searched for, links that with other related topics and makes recommendations based on personal shopping preferences. They are typically very accurate in their recommendations! The more you participate in their network (for example reviewing books for them), the higher your rank is with Amazon. You can buy, sell, create a wish list and recommend items to friends. If you carefully look at Amazon's online network - you will likely either be impressed - or terrified!
Here are some network diagrams I found:
· Flow chart diagram of various social networking technologies: http://creately.com/diagram/example/gcg1e07q1/Social+Network+Flowchart
· Diagram of social networks from the New Testament: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2007/01/mapping-nt-social-networks/
· Applications for mapping one’s LinkedIn connections: http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/
The ability of online networks to help you to see what is going on in a total different way... now that is very powerful!