Archive for March, 2009

March 18, 2009

Kids Out of the Box

During the Purim school vacation I drove my 11 year old son with his classmate to the yearly conference of StartupSeeds. On the way the two boys spoke of their creative ideas, using phrases like “thinking out of the box” and giving a new meaning to fun.

I liked it. I like their creativeness, their openness and their ambition. The conference hosted some 80 kids or more. Formally it is directed at kids ages 13 and up, but there are individual cases where it appeals to younger kids too. The warmest part of the event for me was meeting Oz Ben-Hamo and Andrey Boukaty, two 17 year old kids, who started the http://joinmylife.co.il/en/ project during the last Gaza war. Their aim was to explain to the world what kind of life are the kids from southern Israel forced to live. I “met” them online, through facebook conenctions and gladly helped them translate texts and posts to English. The blog is still alive, though the frequency of posts declined and not all posts are translated to English.

One other story that came out of StartupSeeds and made headlines on the same week was the story of Yuval Shoshan, a 12th grader, who made his first ‘exit’. He started his web venture at the age of 14.5. He received mentoring through StartupSeeds from Yaniv Golan, one of the founders of Yedda, which was sold to AOL. Yuval’s venture is a rating site – www.opinion.co.il – allowing users to rate books, music, movies, blogs and restaurants. Users can sort opinions according to genres and rate the raters and the ratings. Shoshan sold the venture, among other things, because in a short while he will have to go into the mandatory military service for 3 years.

StartupSeeds is doing a great work, obviously. I just wish there was a growing awareness of the need to educate for entrepreneurship. Some kids have it like a natural gift, others need to learn it. But entrepreneurship is a must skill for life.

March 14, 2009

It’s The Social Networks’ Fault We Are Less Social

Social networks members only interact with 5-10 percent of their network, claims Facebook’s in-house sociologist Dr. Cameron Marlow in an interview with the economist.

“Dr Marlow found that the average number of “friends” in a Facebook network is 120, consistent with Dr Dunbar’s hypothesis, and that women tend to have somewhat more than men.”

Dr. Robin Dunbar is an anthropologist who now works at Oxford University. A few years ago he concluded that the cognitive power of the brain limits the size of the social network that an individual of any given species can develop. The limit is 150 connections and has become known as “the Dunbar number”.

The Facebook sociologist puts out numbers according to which the average male Facebook user with 120 friends leaves comments on 7 friends’ photos, status updates, or wall and messages or chats with 4 friends. Female users’ numbers are slightly higher.

It all connects to some recent studies which claim, that the social networks apparently didn’t create the expected increase in the number of our social connections. No one claims it’s the social networks’ fault but researchers do claim there is a decrease in the number of the real-life, active, social connections we manage today.

Are the social networks a disappointment? Not necessarily. They can contribute to the number of casual contacts a person has. They may contribute to better self advertising of individuals, the economist article claims, but don’t expect them to fundamentally change the structure of the brain, allowing human beings to manage actively a larger number of connections.

This article got me thinking. I thought about the Facebook findings and decided to check my own statistics and network behavior.

I am not sure they have what it takes to properly analyze connections management. For instance, 9% of my 289 people network on Facebook is made of family members. An additional 10% are close friends or business associates. With all of those I keep an active connection outside of Facebook. So for me at least, the Facebook activity is mainly aimed at nurturing and growing relationships that are “networking relationship” to begin with, what the statistics refer to as casual connections.

Going back to exploring the current state of our human networking conditions. The Dunbar number is probably correct. And it could be that people today manage less “real and active connections”. And yes, it could be the social networks’ fault. Because they are overwhelming us with opportunities that start off as casual connection, and given the correct grooming, can become a real-active-connection.

Let’s check back in 5 years.

March 9, 2009

Two ideas at the cost of one

March broke of with a set of terrible storms. Winds, rain and very cold for this area. It went down to 9c degrees. I didn’t feel like going out at all. But on Monday having pre registered to attend the ISOC and GamesIS convention I have decided to ignore the storm and just do it.

And a good thing I did. Heard some interesting talks. Met interesting people. Some were contacts I have been meaning to meet for a chat for a very long time. So finally we had the chance to do it.

I met a colleague who asked me why I came. I said I like these events because they usually get the wheels going. It’s always a push, no matter where you are. He was surprised. In his view this was too much an official venue. You need some letting go, some nonsense atmosphere, don’t you?

Well, apparently, I don’t. Not that I mind doing the unofficial events too, but I was really happy when at the end of the day I knew I had a new idea for a startup, and I also knew what is the next step on my current startup idea.

Of course, this has some good sides and some bad sides. I almost dared to think that perhaps I should avoid such inspiring events so that I don’t get distracted and can keep on my track, my current startup idea. Why did I have to get this diversion now? I was almost sorry.

But then, having a new idea is exciting. So you can’t stay “sorry” for very long.

So, now what?

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