Friday, January 25, 2008

Social Networks and Water Purification in Buenos Aires

In a previous post (Ultimate Networks, Jan. 8, 2008) I wrote about the role of social networks in B2B environments. Today I’d like to comment on a fascinating Clean Tech application developed by Rebeca Hwang, a friend and Stanford PhD student, as well as the Judging Chair for the California Clean Tech Open (Social Networks, Pizza and Clean Tech, Dec. 14, 2007).

Rebeca’s objective is to use her technical know-how in water treatment technology and her research in quantitative theory of social networks to improve water quality in the slums of Buenos Aires. The water in Buenos Aires’ sprawling slums carries birth-defect-causing nitrates and arsenic in amounts up to 10 times what is considered safe. Because of the lack of government resources, communities have formed water cooperatives to help provide clean water to their constituents. Unfortunately, many of these co-ops are small and not always well managed so water treatment and delivery services lack funding. Moreover, while it is cost-efficient to treat water for 100,000 households, these co-ops have only an average of 2,000 houses each and are therefore rarely profitable.

Rebeca Hwang believes that this considerable challenge can be addressed by applying social networks analysis to map out the relationships between decision-makers at water cooperatives. The idea is that the identification of patterns can pinpoint an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and in turn, may help that organization to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
The characterization of the structure of these 480 water cooperatives - servicing 700,000 households - is a massive undertaking. One that requires, through extensive surveys, the tagging of the co-ops by service type and managerial style, both formal and informal. Rebeca is using open-source software programs like Pajek and Ucinet to analyze and convert the raw data into meaningful information. Also, she anticipates that using another program like NetDraw to visualize the intensity of the relationships between the different constituents will reveal some key problem areas. Interviews will complement the study and bring qualitative color to the motivations and approaches of decision makers that may be influencing the various co-op operations but that are not formally represented in their structures.

The expected outcome of this “social network analysis” project is to formulate specific ways to improve the profitability of the cooperatives while increasing the volume of clean water produced.

I believe that innovative approaches, like this one, that leverage existing technologies and apply social network analysis theory can provide a significant boost toward improving people’s daily life while maximizing the use of natural resources. Such project does not require huge investment or new technology. It empowers local communities and enables greater sustainability. Please drop me a line if you know of other interesting clean tech social applications.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Soccer 2.0: Germany vs.Greece as seen by Monty Python!

A very clever video from Monty Python on Soccer philosophy... There are many more like this on Gary Ireland's vlog listed on the right hand side.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where in the World are Laure Manaudou and Hope Solo?

Laure Manaudou is a French Olympic, European and world champion swimmer. Hope Solo is a goal keeper for the US Women’s National Soccer team. Both are very successful athletes whose notoriety has reached far beyond their respective sports. Laure Manaudou‘s new found fame was generated by a humoristic piece entitled “Laure Manaudou Sex Video” on YouTube that drew more than 1M viewers. The joke is that the video was about monkeys and fortunately not about Laure Manaudou. Because of all the attention it garnered, Laure Manaudou was also in the top 5 searches on Technorati for quite some time…

As for Hope Solo, she gained tremendous publicity through her temporary exile from the U.S. Women’s National Team. Indeed, her exile became the dominant story line at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Unbeaten Hope Solo was benched by the coach in favor of veteran goalkeeper Briana Scurry just before a crucial semifinal game against Brazil that the US ended up loosing. USA today reported that this incident drove up ESPN’s ratings and filled blogs and comment pages with a passion not seen since the big USA win at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Brandi Chastain’s jersey toss. In addition, there was a back-story to this incident recounting Hope Solo’s relationship to her father and his tragic passing a few months before the World Cup.

I’m relating these two “soap” stories to illustrate how public attention – though ever so short term- is driven by what I’d call the phenomenon of “Tribal Voyeurism”. I believe that it is critically important for B2B marketers to research and understand the mechanics of “Tribal Voyeurism”. Indeed, the glaciers between the B2C and B2B worlds, if they ever existed, are definitely melting! They’re melting not because of global warming but because, as noted before, of the ever increasing use of social media tools in the enterprise. Moreover, the hyper-mediatized “prosumer” has been completely saturated and become indifferent to the un-imaginative, un-inspired gobbledygook prose dished out by the vast majority of B2B marketers, and is hungering for a more genuine and entertaining style of communication!

I’m by no means suggesting that B2B marketers should become unsavory, voyeuristic, and soapy, but rather that they need to learn to appreciate and accept how professionals access and evaluate information. There are many successful companies that have succeeded in attracting and keeping the public interest either through style, meaning or both. This includes the likes of Apple,, Facebook, PG&E (yes, the utility company), Interface and many others. So, break the mold. Create. Imagine. And have some fun!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Even the Moon Cried

“Come along now, we mustn’t be late,” my mother insisted as she tugged me forward by my hand. I quickened my pace; I did not want to upset her tonight. It was April 14, 1865, the night that Abraham Lincoln was to attend the show Our American Cousin, and the last person I wanted seeing my mother scold me was my own president. I caught up to her and began looking around. I saw so many people talking, mingling around, not too many children though, yet an adult accompanied every child I saw. I kept close to my mother: not wanting to get lost in all the chaos. I breathed in the chilled, night air and gazed up at the stars. They shone brightly in the dark night sky. The full moon hung, stranded apart from the stars. As I looked at it, my eyes lead me to believe a large smile crossed it’s round face. I smiled back at it.

“Jane, what on earth are you up to?” my mother asked, “would you rather watch the still stars than the performance?”
“No Mother,” I answered in a shameful, low voice. I forced my gaze down to my polished black shoes as they clattered along the stones on the ground.
“Then hurry up darling,” my mother instructed. I did as I was told.

We found our seats after much trouble, and happily sat down. I flipped through the pages of my program. The number of actors and actresses overwhelmed me. I read through the brief preview of the performance, and when I was through sat quietly in my seat. I was confronted with so much time and so little things to do. My fingertips traced the fancy letters on the cover of the program that read: Our American Cousin.

“Jane darling, look up there,” my mother said softly, nudging my arm and gesturing toward the boxes in the back, specifically toward box seven’s balcony. There, I saw no one other than Abraham Lincoln.

“Goodness gracious,” I said under my breath. I had never imagined myself so close to such an important man. I looked again at my mother; she smiled and widened her eyes at my thrilled face. I giggled slightly, and sat back in my seat. Every moment I wanted to look back, but I knew quite well staring was impolite. Finally the show started, and I did my best to keep my curious eyes on the stage.

The actors and actresses were doing a magnificent job in the performance, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Then one of the performers said something so humorous everyone broke out in laughter. In the midst of all jolly voices, an unmistakable sound shook through Ford’s theatre. It was the sound of a single gun shoot. It did not come from the stage, that I was certain. I swirled around in my seat in desperation, and saw my most dreaded thought in my mind.

The president’s head hung low, and he slouched in the seat in which he sat. A man stood behind him with a gun visible in his hand. Everyone had seen it. Suddenly a military major who I guessed to be Major Henry Rathbone, leaped onto the man with the gun. But the man with the gun got away after quite a wrestle, and leaped from the balcony. It all happened so fast my eyes could hardly follow. Screams rang through the audience, and what I thought to be chaos outside earlier, did not resemble this by any means.

People ran and yelled, they cried and held each other, some going absolutely crazy. I felt a comfortingly firm hold on my shoulder from my mother. Remembering her presence, I turned and flung my arms around her in complete fright. It was then I saw the man with the gun. He leaped onto the stage and began to spew off words in a language I could not for the life of me understand. Then he ran again and out of the theatre.

It took much time to settle everyone down, and rightfully so. After all, it was our president who had just been murdered, and not to mention practically in front of our very own eyes! Though after all were quiet, a man entered form the back of the room and began to make his way down the aisle. He walked with pace and purpose, and although I do believe he was fully aware that every eye in the room was on him and intended to stay that way, he took absolutely no notice what so ever. My ears would not hear the words that came from his mouth when he reached the front of the room and began to speek, but to the forceful blow of the gunshot I had heard so clearly about an hour before. As I realized he was leading everyone out in an orderly fashion, I obediently followed every step my mother took. I held her hand far more tightly than I ever had. When we finally reached the door, I stepped out in relief. I was alive and unharmed. But my president on the other hand, was certainly not.

Everyone around me wept, even my own mother. I felt tears trickle down my cheeks. I gulped in the crisp, late night air, and desperately looked up at the sky as if expecting a miracle. Of course, it didn’t come. I looked all around for the moon, and finally found it. I wanted to see it’s smile, thinking perhaps, just perhaps, it would comfort me. Though to my dismay, what I found across the moon’s bright face was not a warm smile, but many, many cold tears.

Zoe Pacalin #22

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ultimate Networks

For some odd reason (Facebook anyone?), I celebrated New Year’s Eve embroiled in a heated conversation debating the merits (or lack thereof) of on-line social networks. One side of the argument was defended by very accomplished academics and the other by very successful and pragmatic business folks.

I don’t intend to recant all the details of this rather entertaining argument, but instead I’ll attempt to net-it-out while sharing with you my vision of how to make good use of these networks in a - social media- marketing context.

Of course, this enlightened crowd was well aware of the fact that new media can generate a non-local community and that this phenomenon isn’t new at all! In fact, if Wikipedia has it right, scholars associated with the Royal Society of London had already formed a community through the exchange of letters in the 17th century.

My objective, in the conversation, was to move past the theory of social networks and explore the use of today’s electronic social networks as tools for business. I don’t know about you, but I have neither the interest, nor the time to write notes on Facebook’s walls or share my daily activities on Twitter. There is way too much clutter and noise as it is!

My interest in professional social networks was first triggered some time ago when I was deeply involved in designing customer satisfaction and customer reference programs at Oracle and Siebel Systems. Invariably, the results, of these then state-of-the-art programs were very structured, contrived and certainly not real-time… Yes, they made great slides and gave an impression of control, however, the fact is that such programs are expensive, infrequently conducted, do not always distinguish between buyers, users or other influencers, are of very limited use for timely fixes of problems or for product development, and most certainly are a huge pain to customers.

My vision is to replace these static, non-interactive, memory-less programs by leveraging modern social network platforms. [I’m using platform in the sense of open APIs that run in the environment created by the social network (Facebook, Linkedin)]. As we develop these newly conceived programs across multiple social networks we should be able to identify lurkers, novices, regulars or other change agents and leaders, as well as, implicit or explicit unmet customer needs. Imagine: No need to get IT involved, no extra budget, self declared participation, and always-on interaction with your customers, very cool indeed!

I got the feeling that several in the conversation thought that some of these needs were already being addressed via the traditional technical on-line support groups, as well as, by public forums like Dell’s “Idea Storm” ( and Salesforce’s “Success Force” ( Some also felt that the presently available tools like dynamic network analysis (DNA) and multi-agent systems (MAS) are only suited for very large networks. Perhaps my friends are correct and the currently available statistical tools do not lend themselves well to the analysis of smaller social networks. And certainly, “Idea Storm” and “Success Force” are steps in the right direction.

However, I’m still convinced that once social network portability takes hold we will be able to develop and use a suite of analytical applications that will help us better understand the quality and intensity of the relationships between network participants, as well as, brand sentiment and the role of influencers in shaping opinions. More important however, is that the potential benefit to business of such digital interaction optimization applications is huge! So, rather than waiting for Facebook, Linkedin and others to agree on a “Social Network Interop Protocol”and extend their applications, let’s use current web2.0 tools like Ning, Scout Labs, Umbria, Omniture, Google Analytics and other widgets to deploy the new CRM and create competitive advantage!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Soccer Rocker Poem

Hi! I'm Zoe and I love to play Soccer. I play half-back for a great club (UFC) in Palo Alto and love to watch games. Leave a comment to let me know if you like my poem!