The Emperor’s New Lunch Counter

October 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm

| Gabriel |

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on the Twitter revolution reminds me why I love him so much. Definitely read it, but the basic point is that the kind of weak tie social connections encouraged by these web 2.0 media are only good for cheap grace like hitting the “like” button for a Save Darfur page. For serious commitment, as in standing in front of a People’s Liberation Army tank and daring it to run you over, you need strong ties and dense communities — maybe even hierarchy. It’s actually very similar to the Centola, Miller, and Macy “Emperor’s New Clothes” model that intrinsically appealing / low cost ideas will spread through random graphs whereas intrinsically unappealing / high cost ideas require dense cliques.

There’s also a very good point about how we only believe that Twitter is important in Iran because American opinion leaders (especially journalists) are obsessed with Twitter and so that’s where they went looking for information. That is, a classic example of sampling on the dependent variable or, as Popper would put it, building up a list of white swans.

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