juli 17, 2012

Networking: the strenght of weak ties


Just like in real life, when collaborating online with social software, you do not work alone, but in a team, department or group. Make sure you add your direct colleagues to your network in Connections because its the direct connections that will eventually connect you to others. When another colleague comes to your profile page, your network is visible to them. This information is valuable, because it adds context to who your are and what you contribute.

The strenght of weak ties

In fact your direct connections are the least interesting. You already know them, and what they do and what their expertise is. You are already collaborating. But every colleague in your network has a network of their own. These may be people you do not know, but could be having knowledge and epertise you need at some point. Every time you click through to another profile page from the network widget, another network is shown. The 'Do you know?' widget even shows colleagues that you have something in common with, based on what each of you has shared in Connections, such as being part of the same community or sharing the same bookmark. Through exploring networks you may discover colleagues you otherwise would have never met!
You can follow people in your network through your newsfeedpage. You might even discover an interesting colleague because they posted something on the board of a colleague in your network. Through serendipity you may discover interesting information and find out more about the colleague behind it.
When you do a tag search to find specific information you may not only find content in files, wikis etcetera, but maybe alsocolleagues that tagged themslves with that particular expertise. So now you can read up on the topic in the found content, but you can also get in touch with a matter expert! That expert could be separated from you by several degrees in the online network, and even fysically be very far apart (different floor, office, or even country). Yet now this colleague is at your fingertips through an email, chat or board message.
The colleagues in your direct network (strong ties) are the colleagues that you know well, and that you speak to or collaborate with regularly. You can keep them informed through statusupdates, and you stay informed through following their activity and collaborate with them directly.

Source: Granovetter: the strenght of weak ties
All of your direct colleagues each have their own network of olleagues. You are connected to them by one degree of separation (weak ties). Maybe one of those weak ties sees your statusupdate through the newsfeed by following someone who is a connected to you as well. Or discovers a file you and the shared colleague are working on. Maybe this weak tie decides to have a look at your profile and finds you might be useful for a new project and adds you to his network and you start collaborating. At that point the weak tie becomes a strong tie. And the network of colleagues of this new connection is instantly closer at hand than it was before. These former potential tieshave now become weak ties themselves!
Even when a colleague is seperated far from you, and you are not connected at all (none), collaborating openly could bring you closer together. All it may take is sharing a file with everyone (public) and tagging it well so a search may present your file to the unconnected colleague. And from that file it is only a click away from going to your profile page and getting to know more about you or asking you more about it.