In a blog posted today by Spike Jones of Brains on Fire, titled

Social networks are not what you think they are

Spike shares some interesting facts that come out of a recent report conducted by Noshir Contractor,  Jane S. and William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University.

This group of researchers are studying nearly 60 terabytes (keep in mind 1 terabyte roughly equals 220 million pages of information) of data from EverQuest II (a popular Massive Multiplayer Online Games or MMOG) and interviewed 7,000 players of the game (which makes this one of the largest social science research projects ever performed).

Here’s an excerpt.

“Even though players could play the game with anyone, anywhere, most people played with people in their general geographic area.

“People end up playing with people nearby, often with people they already know,” Contractor said. “It’s not creating new networks. It’s reinforcing existing networks. You can talk to anyone anywhere, and yet individuals 10 kilometers away from each other are five times more likely to be partners than those who are 100 kilometers away from each other.”

This reinforces something that has started to bubble up to the surface and that is: social interaction is social science, not computer science.

Let me say that again.  Social interaction is social science, not computer science.

Technology, like the folks at BASF like to say doesn’t make it,   it just makes it better; or more far reaching or more efficient.  Which ever you’d like.

MMOG’s and even social networks like FaceBook and Linkedin, even specialty ones like MyShutterspace.com, match.com allow users with common interests to interact and organize around those shared interests and points of view.

Many drivers of points of view and even worldviews are fueled by geographic social trends.  For instance, if you go to Berkley, you may be a bit more liberal than say someone who attends say Texas Tech.  You are attracted to attend Berkley for the same reason; a more liberal thinking environment where you feel more at home to openly share your ideas an experiences without fear of reprisal.

Since 99% of people are social creatures, we crave face to face interaction, as well as the same thing: to be accepted by peers.  Therefore, online social networks and interaction is an extension of what we already do…naturally.

I have seen nothing in the research or programs I know of or am involved in that contradict this general human behavior.

Online environments as this study shows are extensions and amplifiers of social networks, not proxies.  I am posting a blog on this and will link to your post.

So what’s the aha here?  It’s the fact that you should not get caught up in the web 2.0 and social networking hype.  Employ the same planning and customer engagement best practices you would in a web 1.0 or a pre-web world.

It’s social science, not computer science!

Remember the New Economy replaced the Old Economy cry?  Remember, we were ‘reinventing’ everything.  Didn’t turn out that way.  It was just the economy (although we may wish we had a new economy.)  People work the same way.

Steve Hershberger
Steve Hershberger