Living Networks – Chapter 1: The Networks Come Alive – Free Download and Commentary


Download Chapter 1 of Living Networks: The Networks Come Alive

Every chapter of Living Networks is being released on this blog as a free download, together with commentary and updated perspectives since its original publication in 2002.

For the full Table of Contents and free chapter downloads see the Living Networks website or the Book Launch/ Preface to the Anniversary Edition.

Living Networks – Chapter 1: The Networks Come Alive

What the Changing Flow of Information and Ideas Means for Business

OVERVIEW: Connectivity is shrinking our world, and in the process transforming business. As communication between people becomes more fluid and pervasive, it is creating what looks like a global brain, in which ideas procreate freely and we collaborate to filter an ever-expanding universe of information. But just a small proportion of the planet’s population is connected. It is critical that we extend participation as broadly as we can.

Chapter 1 of Living Networks – Commentary and updated perspectives

As for almost all the book, the underlying messages in Chapter 1 are as relevant today as they were over five years ago. The five key issues outlined at the outset: collaboration with clients and partners; organizational performance; innovation and intellectual property; strategy and positioning; and individual leadership are still today the most relevant issues for business in our extraordinarily networked world.

The opening words of Living Networks were “Macromedia, the company best known for Flash software, is blogging.” In 2002 companies were already using blogs to communicate more effectively with their customers. After the launch of the book, in my speeches I used the story of how this initial foray into blogging evolved, with Macromedia (since bought by Adobe) aggregating now almost 2000 approved blogs, including those of its staff, partners, and customers. This entire community spanning inside and outside the organization is engaged in a conversation on how to use the software tools, bugs, fixes, and useful approaches.

In the second paragraph of the book I wrote about how instant messaging was being taken up by bond traders. Over the last years I’ve gone a lot deeper into how the financial services community is using new collaboration technologies, including real-time communication in trading and markets, and collaborative spaces in deal-making such as M&A. I ran the Collaboration in Financial Services conference in New York in 2004 and in London in 2005, and wrote a white paper on How Collaborative Technologies are Transforming Financial Services. Today, the best of the financial services sector is in the lead in applying Enterprise 2.0 approaches to building effective collaboration and communication inside organizations.

Early in the chapter I used an example of how I had made and met a friend on another continent though online forums. Today the soaring growth of social networks means these kinds of encounters are happening far more frequently. However the principles remain the same, especially in how digital connections often migrate to face-to-face relationships.

I then introduced the idea of “micro-messages,” illustrated with the example of SMS and instant messaging. This has certainly come a long way further, with today Twitter, Jaiku, Seesmic, and many other tools being used extensively for almost constant communication between the connected. In fact the term “micro-blogging” is now often used to refer to these services.

What I described as “the sexual life of ideas” has become a meme in its own right, with many people taking the concept and using it in new ways.

I have believed deeply since the mid-1990s in collaborative filtering. Iin Living Networks I went so far as to head the section on the topic “Collaborative Filtering Saves Humanity!” Today we can still understand much of Web 2.0 in these terms, as reflected in my Web 2.0 framework and other blog posts. In the book I used the example of Slashdot, which can be seen today as the forerunner of a host of similar sites such as Digg, Netscape, and Reddit that are becoming central to how people find and consume news. One of my phrases expresses what I have consistently communicated over the last years:

The highly interlinked nature of weblogs means that they are in themselves a powerful form of collaborative filtering. What is most interesting and worthwhile quickly becomes most visible.

The concept of ‘We, the media’ has come a long way since I wrote about it in 2002, with a book by that title coming out two years later, and a massive rise in what I already described then as ‘participatory media’. Our Future of Media Report 2006 contained a strategic framework that has been downloaded well over 100,000 times now, drawing on the original ideas by depicting the symbiosis of mainstream and social media.

The issues raised in the final section of Chapter 1, on the limits of the networks, are more current than ever. As value shifts to the connected world of the ‘flow economy’, there is an increasing risk that the gap between the haves and have nots will widen, based on whether or not people have access to the networked world. Initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child and Grameen Phone’s initiatives, that I wrote about in Chapter 1, are certainly helping. However there is far more to be done in ensuring as much as possible of the world’s population has the access and education to participate and truly benefit from the wonders of the living networks.