Saturday, June 23, 2007

Trust Metrics for Social Networks

Sam Rose on the Facebook for Business group suggested that trust metrics would be needed to assure that FB social networks in business could be measured providing management or social network members themselves a way to visualize the "strength" of Trust, Reputation and Security in making decisions about how to apply the key principles of Wikinomics in business settings.



In my several eLearning presentations on Wikinomics I used the diagram above to present the key themes of the book and to use it as a template(map) for audience interaction. Audience reactions to the map elicited comments from several in the audience such as the one from the Director of Worldwide Education for Genentech in which he said that at least for his firm issues of legal liability, risk of sharing trade secrets or other IP required a mechanism to control the amount of Open, Peering and Sharing and how broadly Global such a process could be.

This led me to consider the red circle in the diagram as a feedback system in which the visual of the circle would expand or contract( thus add or subtract value from collaboration) through the key elements of successful collaborations shown on the diagram.


For many years I used the Bell-Mason spider diagram ( example below) to visualize the vital signs of startup businesses, and developed an ontology of key elements of business to "populate" the diagram. What this does is to provide a Vital Signs chart similar to the way medical diagnostics pictures key health metrics. This charting approach offers a neat way to map from qualitative, subjective judgments to a quantitative metric that drives the spider on the chart. It can be used for snapshot assessments, or in time series to show trends.



I used these charts as a dashboard approach to venture portfolio project management as a VC and later as an Angel investor, and keeping in mind Korzybbski's dictum "the map is not the territory" I found metrics at this level of abstraction to be very helpful in gettting a quick diagnostic about startup progress, and to make investment or intervention decisions.

Price Waterhouse adopted Bell-Mason diagrams for a number of years to portray "paths to value" in the venture capital arena and I think they can be applied to measuring the vital signs of collaborative ecologies.

The key point here is ranking subjective, qualitative information into numbers-driven quantitative displays for decision-making. I plan to "crowdsource" the development of a vital signs diagnostic for social networks in business with Sam Rose and others in the Business group, and to encourage them to investigate the use of Wikinomics principles in their work.

3 comments:

michael j pastor said...

Oh how wonderfully this overlaps with the Room with Four Views and P2P reputation system!

Craig Hubley said...

Bell-Mason is cute and has the benefit of empiricism - it arose in practice and was used by actual VCs. However, it makes distinctions that are hardly objective or operational. That makes it very difficult to use as a basis of a dis/trust metric as commonly thought of.

Personally I have always thought that pairs of persons were more likely to be funded by VCs because all three styles or components of human capital were all more clearly on display: social trust between the pair, the ability to agree on (explicit) instructions (plans and presentations), the contrast between the two individuals and what each uniquely brings to the deal. I believe also, less personally, that there is no rational nor objective way to look at human capital that does not first require a division into social, instructional and individual factors, at least if one is not to commit the grave category error of assuming that a social bond can be anything like a human being can be anything like a series of bits. So there too is where you'd have to start to get any kind of social network metric.

papadavo said...

Craig: You said "at least if one is not to commit the grave category error of assuming that a social bond can be anything like a human being can be anything like a series of bits."

I assume you meant"that a social bond can be anything like a series of bits" so I would delete the first "can be anything like a human being" phrase.

that deletion done in my mind, as a VC my primary focus was on the "team" often composed of more than two people who had prior experience working together to establish the trust we are talking about.

The BM diagrams were much more that "cute" and while "the distinctions it made were hardly objective", it was immensely useful operationally as a collaborative communication tool between startup founders and VC project managers.

It later became the model for Coopers and Lybrand's "Path to Value" studies of the high tech venture capital industry.

This phrase "there is no rational nor objective way to look at human capital that does not first require a division into social, instructional and individual factors" got me to wondering if you could elaborate on these divisions as they apply to our Trust Metrics discussion.

They were clearly involved as vectors in designing spider diagram diagnostics for high tech startups, and might also be useful in mapping the trust metrics of social networks. Mapping abstractions from the "real world" can enable good navigational choices - knowing when you are moving from "reality" to an abstraction of it and understanding the difference is the key to designing and using such visual tools "operationally".

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