Balance Theory

Found it especially weird that podcasts advertising Zip Recruiter tend to talk about how they found people to work for them without using Zip Recruiter. We are supposed to believe that even though they did not use it, we should not leave it to chance to find a good employee like they did.

These bothered me for months until I heard it again while reading about Heider’s Balance Theory. (It came up in a discussion with a friend earlier today.) The idea of it is Person likes Other person but has neutral or negative impression of X. This imbalance creates a cognitive dissonance which is resolved by creating a favorable view of X. Person disliking Other person could create a negative view of X. Essentially celebrity endorsements exploit this function of our brains.

Basically, Zip Recruiter paid Malcolm Gladwell to talk about this product on Revisionist History in order to create a cognitive dissonance where I would get a favorable view of their product. Me (Person) liking Malcolm Gladwell (Other) should create a favorable impression of Zip Recruiter (X).

This effect can backfire. If I dislike Zip Recruiter more than I like Gladwell, then I might come to dislike him because of this.

TED Talk: Pursuit of the Perfect Spaghetti Sauce

This is an older TED Talk by Malcolm Gladwell just before his book Blink dropped. He tells the story about how the food industry figured out that there is not a single perfect product that meets everyone’s needs. Instead there are a number of different clusters that meets the majority of wants.

We find this in the Learning Management System world where there is no perfect product for every student, teacher, department head, dean, or administrator. Maybe just maybe the solution is many different approaches to tools for online learning that meet the needs. The LMS, the Personal Learning Environment, digital textbooks, publisher sites, synchronous communication tools, and anything else an instructor can successfully achieve students mastering course objects probably is good for students. This would suggest the rigor part of Laura Gekeler’s post on LMS Evaluations the most important. But not to arrive at a single LMS but to identify the clusters of needs and what tools best help meet their needs.

Even worse, people will self-report what they like as being what they think we want. So identifying their needs probably is not looking at what they say they need. Analytics probably tells a better story of what is effective.

The mind knows not what the tongue wants. — Dr. Howard Moskowitz

Halos and Circles

Facebook and Google+ both have ways of categorizing people for targeted sharing.

The first way I attempted to handle my Facebook lists was basic categories like Coworkers, Family, Friends, Internet, and Locals. Then I switched jobs. It became a little weird to gripe about the new job to both, so I went down the crazy path of splitting lists in more and more specialized so I could include and exclude very targeted photo albums and posts. I have four family lists: Dad’s family, Mom’s family, Sister-in-Law’s, and Extended (beyond aunts, uncles, and first cousins). I also have VSU IT, VSU library, and VSU other former coworkers, USG coworkers, and a random cloud of friends who happen to work at UGA. There are 64 lists. It surprised me it was not closer to a hundred.

A goal for a while was identifying the supernexuses of my clusters of friends. (Malcolm Gladwell in the Tipping Point described them as “Connectors“.) Many of my contacts were due to my social connection with a specific person or a couple people. We friends form a ring around these…. A halo. An example are the high school and college friends of my brother and his wife. Maybe an electron cloud would have been more appropriate? Anyway, the point is I used an allusion to a round object for naming some of my Facebook lists.

Google+ has circles instead of lists. It struck me as odd Google and I both would use a round shape for categorizing people. Of course, Google using “Halo” might invite lawsuits from Microsoft who owns Bungie, makers of the game Halo. More likely it is all coincidence.

Social Ghost Archetypes

I met Allie for the second time at a birthday party. The birthday girl is a Social Tech Ghost. Allie is a Pseudonym Surfer and former Dunbarian. Another person at the party is an Infrequent Checker. I decided these remain legitimate strategies to keep from getting drawn into spending too much time online. Since I like to label things, Social Ghosts, stuck in my head. From the perspective of someone relying on social network web sites to communicate, these are difficult people to locate, keep, or reach. Much like ghosts.

The Social Tech Ghost: This person entirely abstains from social network web sites. This is a person who wants to see you in person or talk to you on the phone. Email is grudgingly accepted. Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and Friendster are accused of ruining friendships due to being impersonal. They are fads to be resisted in order to maintain strong social bonds. Probably this person would be a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s article Small Change except they do not read my blog post about weak ties, Twitter, or Facebook so they did not know about me posting the article.

The Pseudonym Surfer Ghost: He or she participates online under fake names. You drop them from your friend list because you have no idea who they are. They might work in an environment hostile to employees getting tagged in photos of wild parties. They might be online to interact with a handful of family and close friends not any random acquaintance who feels they deserve to be friends.

The Infrequent Checker Ghost: This person has a profile. However, months can go by between logins. Peer pressure forced them to get an account, but there is no peer pressure to actually use it.

The Dunbarian Ghost: Too many “friends” causes this person to purge. The right number may or may not be Dunbar’s Number: a mean of 147.8. What is important is the person feels the need to be social with everyone on the list of friends and too many makes that too hard. Therefore some need to get lost.

I am sure there are more. What other social ghost archetypes do you know?

P.S. From the “In Real Life” perspective, I am a Social Ghost. So. Meh.

Weak Ties

Malcolm Gladwell wrote last fall how strong ties like friendships are how high risk opposition works. Weak ties like Facebook cannot sustain them. So it is interesting how stories about the Egyptian revolution mention Facebook and Twitter as tooks. Naturally, Gladwell responded by writing, “Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented.” Also, he made the point, “How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”

Both points are true-ish.

People have brought down governments with stones and swords before the American Revolution. Governments fell before the printing press. Yet we still study how the Americans fought the British both with militias armed with guns and through printed news. Both were astoundingly important to American culture.

Last time I checked, one did not have to pick between who, what, when, where, how, or why. There is not a zero-sum game between how and why. So why being more important than how seems like an odd retort. Maybe Gladwell means people should include the why people joined in protesting? If that is the complaint, then he should have referenced the articles to which he was responding.