Archive for the ‘Spotify’ Category

Social Network

August 29th, 2013

I’ve been thinking for the last week or so that I should write something to follow on from my post about how bureaucracy finds it difficult to engage with people  and other organisations. I was thinking about writing something about social networks. I was wary because even mentioning the words social network usually elicits three responses, either:-

I think the third  response is the only really legitimate one but having used the words social network you inevitably lose some people or disappoint others. I mean social network in the broadest sense of how society forms a network to facilitate social interaction. So, no more exclusively Twitter than the Church of England, both mediums for facilitating social interaction.

In thinking about how organisations can best use an understanding of how social networks function in order to engage with people and each other I came across an article that pretty well explains everything an organisation needs to understand. This article from Foreign Policy is the story of how Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal took control of Special Forces Operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. An unlikely source for inspiration in public engagement and the conclusions I drew from it were entirely unexpected. A word of warning about the article, it’s long, all of it is interesting but not all of it is relevant and Foreign Policy want you to pay for articles so you don’t get very many attempts at reading it.

I’d like to pick out some of the points that I found most relevant to how organisations get to understand social networks. When Gen McChrystal began operations in Iraq his instinct was to map the insurgency in order  to better understand what they were trying to fight. This proved difficult because the insurgents in Iraq didn’t organise themselves along any formally recognised military doctrine. Instead they were a loose alliance based about family and where people lived; there appeared to be no formal system of promotion, people achieved notoriety through self selection, either through perpetrated activity or  claimed activity. It was an exceptionally flexible system that could use existing lines of communication (and social media) to spread information throughout the entire organisation.

Well if you were looking for a military organisation then this might have come as a surprise but for many people that have worked in communities  you begin to recognise this is just the way that social networks inherently self organise. Society always self organises in order to coalesce around an idea, be this around shared social action or even to  build a military insurgency. The techniques that are used are very common, as a re the results.

One of the most interesting parts of this article is the response that was made to this new understanding. I think this is the point where we can really begin to learn, the US response was necessary because they had a very tangible consequence if the response was inadequate; when we fail to understand how our social networks work the consequence tends to be less explicit.

The first recognition is that the network is organic and changes form to suit situations. This renders the desire to constantly map structure pointless. We need to have a greater recognition of this, although our social networks are likely to be more stable, the desire to map means we are taking a snap shot in time. The resource implication of mapping means we tend to only recognise those established organisations that fit into a formalised service delivery model. We instinctively rail against the self selecting people (frequently discounting single issue topics) whilst  not recognising the influence they can have in the network. Thus our mapping is always out of date and lacks the sensitivity to truly appreciate what makes the network function.

There is a fantastic analogy in the article that it easy to understand an enemy when it marches towards you in good order and in plain sight. In many ways this matches our experience of engaging with people and organisations. We like them when they meet our preconceived idea of what a community should look like. They should have a formal structure, ideally being a traditional voluntary and community organisation that fits into the structures that surround that sector. It would be nice if this was the case but the reality for most communities is that their day to day lives don’t fit this neatly.

Gen McChrystal took a very interesting decision based on this understanding. Recognising the lack of influence he had over the way the insurgency organised itself, he decided to organise his resources in a similar loose network. I can’t imagine this ever being the response of a public sector organisation in the UK, merely because I think there will always be a residual belief  that there is a possibility that we can  force communities to organise themselves in a tidy fashion.

The network developed in Iraq had some very interesting properties that I feel are basically a blueprint for how we should organise ourselves to work with communities. Thus a  network should have:-

A shared purpose being the most obviously but I’d say the single point that is most frequently overlooked. A free flow of information, I think implicitly means a flow in both directions, all too often we forget that engagement is about building relationships and that only happens if communication contains some content that has value to both sides.

All too often when we try to get organisations to work together we instantly gravitate towards the mantra that representation should be by “decision makers”. I like the tacit recognition that although an employer might confer the ability to make a decision, this only actually happens if it is matched by the competency to make a decision, this isn’t always the case.

The last two point feed into themselves and really are the basis for most of this post. In order to react to situations raised by the public then all organisations must become more adept at working much faster. Harvesting views quicker and in a less formalised way, understanding the intelligence, formulating a response, implementing a response and beginning the cycle immediately.

The examples in the article can give you a real sense of how an organisational network can function efficiently; all parties engaging properly with the purpose of the network mean its cycle can replicate itself many times in a single night with planning being entirely informed by the previous cycle. Can anyone else that has worked in a public facing role say they’re used to working with that level of freedom to plan and implement with only a loose purpose to guide them? I doubt it.

This method of working is likely to be uncomfortable and needs good levels of safeguards but it is important to better respond to the challenge that complex social networks pose to us. Changing our understanding of the people we work for and the way we work for them will inevitably have massive implications for parent organisations but in a sense that’s the world we live in so we better respond to it.

The military comparison is inevitably difficult but I think the messages and the lessons are eminently translatable in the way that we work with people.



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May 3rd, 2010

It’s fair to say that as soon as I stated recording games I’ve finished I lost interest in playing games really quickly.

As nothing seems to have got completed in ages I decided to make a playlist.

I used to obsessively listen to Blues. It was the  music that started me playing the guitar because it was deceptively simple. Over the years I’ve lost most of the really good stuff I used to own, mainly because it was on tape and I don’t own a tape player.

I thought it would be plan to try and put together everything I could remember into one playlist. So here you go,  the blues, as remembered by a bloke from Eastbourne.


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December 27th, 2009

I’ve been mucking about with Spotify.

I’m not completely sure if it is that useful and I can’t really see a great deal of difference from Last FM Radio.

The playlists do seem like a good way of sharing stuff you’re listening to and, hopefully develop it a bit.  Unfortunately music in Spotify is limited to say the least. In my first attempt at a playlist I’d say about 50% of the stuff I wanted to use is missing.

Anyway I bring you the gift of Funk. It’s a collaborative list so feel free to add stuff that you think might fit. Please don’t dump whole albums in there. I’ve tried to plan this a bit with songs that do fit together.

The list is:-

Spirits Up Above – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
What-cha Feel is What-cha Get – The Wallace Brothers
This Time (I’m Gonna Try It My Way)  – DJ Shadow
Save Me – Wanda Davis
It’s Just Begun – The Jimmy Castor Bunch
Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker) – Parliament
Miss Kane – Donald Byrd
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Power of Soul – Idris Muhammad
Color Me – People in the News
Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder
Cosmic Funk – Lonnie Liston Smith
One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic
Reasons – Minnnie Riperton
Spear For Moondog, Part 1 – Jimmy McGriff
Omuti Tide – Fela Kuti
Up for the Down Stroke – Parliament
Pick Up the Pieces – The Funk Groove Connection
Afro Strut – The Nite-Liners
Hang Up Your Hang Ups – Herbie Hancock
Luv N’ Haight – Sly & the Family Stone
Starsky & Hutch – The James Taylor Quartet
If There’s Hell Below (We’re All Going to Go) – Lou Donaldson
Funky President (People it’s Bad) – James Brown

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