Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Coincidence and the Karate Kid

By BadgerGravling

(originally posted on

I’m sure there’s a linguiphile somewhere who will complain about my use of serendipity, but I’m willing to risk it to illustrate how microblogging not only gives a valuable return on the time invested - but sometimes incredibly quickly.

Like many other social media/technology writers and addicts, I’m also a bit of a stereotypical geek, with a passion for pop culture, comics and videogames. Unlike some though, I’m lucky that one of our London offices is right next door to Forbidden Planet, although it’s not good for my bank balance.

Commuting to work in London last week, I happened to tweet that I was going to try and get through a day of working next door to a comics mecca without spending any money - and within about 2 minutes I was advised to follow @Danacea - marketeer at Forbidden Planet! (The recommendation was via @DigitalMaverick).

Not only has it been great to chat around general geekiness and marketing, but I’ve already had some help tracking down a couple of books I’ve struggled to find - and the store now has a public face I identify with it!

And it’s only one example of getting put in touch with the right person, in a matter of minutes after I posed a question. And although I had an advantage by mainly looking for tech/marketing people, if you look at the sheer number of new people to Twitter every day, it’s becoming easier and easier to find someone for whatever niche you need. I wouldn’t be surprised to find local plumbers etc on there in a matter of weeks and months!

Plus I’m still proudly showing off the brilliantly trashy Karate Kid ‘Sweep the Leg‘ T-shirt I ended up buying when my willpower gave in -

Karate Kid T-ShirtSadly it’s out of stock online for you mere mortals…

Monday, 19 May 2008

Two wrongs make a Mr Right?

A very good friend of mine (sorry can't name her, let's call her Andrea) once lived in a small town in Kent. There she had a short fling with one of her neighbours (let's call him Andrew). The fling lasted a couple of weeks.
After their affair had ended she noticed a new woman in the neighbour's life. Let's call her girl Bridget. Their relationship lasted a little longer. Long enough for Andrea to notice Bridget's car when it was parked in the street.
Andrew ended up meeting a nice new fellah (let's call him Brian) and moving in with him in a small town north of London.
The new relationship lasted a lengthy period. But in the end it failed and Andrea and Brian went their separate ways.
10 years passed and Andrea was making a friendly visit to Brian for old time's sake. She recognised a car in the drive.
It was Bridget's... Not only did Bridget still have the same car all these years on, she has also married Brian.

Bridget has not yet returned to see what Andrew is up to.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The right wrong number

Tim Green

A few year's back I was listening to a Norah Jones album, marvelling at the quality of the musicianship. I decided to check the sleeve notes - as we nerdy men do - and note the names of the sidemen. I soon realised many of them were players on albums I already owned by Cassandra Wilson and other jazzy artists.

One name was Marc Ribot, a fantastically original guitarist. I hadn't heard of him before, but soon discovered he was a collaborator with Tom Waits on many great albums. I spent a happy few hours googling him.

Then I went on holiday for two weeks.

When I returned I checked my answering machine. The 14th message was from Marc Ribot, calling a wrong number (mine) and telling someone called Alex he was in London doing a gig.

By this time, the gig had been and gone. He didn't leave his number, so I never got the chance to tell him. I wonder if he's reading this?

Monday, 12 May 2008

The strange case of facebook puppicide

You couldn't make this stuff up.

One of my facebook buddies issues a series of amusing status updates about his strife with a new puppy. These culminate in a "jon is contemplating puppicide" status update.

The facebook cognisenti will know that you only get updates in your news feed from YOUR facebook friends.

So Jon couldn't have been reading updates by another of my facebook pals - Jack. That's because Jack and Jon are NOT facebook mutual friends. They don't 'know' each other so can't have been reading each other's news feeds.

Which makes this (right) just a tad bizarre:

The increasing incidence of coincidence

I had a great day meeting brilliant minds in London - pretty much back-to-back.
I found myself free (after emap meetings) at 4pm so looked up Jonathan Macdonald - a mover and shaker at Blyk. He was free so we met.
Turned out he'd come from a meeting with three emap people. One I had seen earlier the same day, too. Another, I'm seeing on Monday. I'd met neither of them before yesterday. Nor had Jonathan.And, after the previous day's facebook puppicide coincidence, I was thinking things were getting just a little strange.I went on from my meet with Jonathan (who I'm glad to say has agreed to speak with emap colleagues at a mobile seminar I'm organising next month) to have curry with social apps genius Stowe Boyd.
And our wide-ranging and fun chat included some time spent on Reed's Law.As a result I started wondering if the whole notion of being surprised by it being a 'small world' is gradually going to wash away.If networks allow groups of shared interest to self-form (and assuming - as I'll discuss in a white paper I'm close to completing - that these are collaborative groups of purpose) then it becomes increasingly likely that the people you 'stumble upon' will also be stumbling upon the same people you are.If I'm interested in the same things you are, the people you are interested in may well be the same people I am interested in.
We help each other expand this network of interest (our community of shared purpose, if you will).The group itself may grow exponentially - but the view from our node may not reveal this.In other words the likelihood of coincidence grows without us noticing it is happening.LinkedIn reveals something of the truth of this.
I have 72 contacts, 8000+ friends of friends and 865,000+ friends of their friends.I'm guessing if I am in contact with one of my 72 first-degree contacts it's likely that coincidental same-day meetings of the kind described above will come from the 8000+ friends of friends, or at the outside, from the third-degree circle.
Sure enough, a quick check, without naming names, reveals this to be the case in the coincidence of the people Jonathan had met, referred to above.People don't have to be on Linkedin for this to work, of course, it's just that Linkedin does offer a very graphic illustration.Serendipity could be fast becoming the norm. As more people touch the network - the more it'll happen for more of us.
Add on Stowe's own 'Boyds Law which (forgive me if I twist this round my neck Stowe...) is about the willingness of groups to contribute their time to respond with their efforts in real time (ie drop what they're doing and help you) and in groups where all those factors are in play doesn't it become the natural state of affairs that coincidence happens?You'll be helping each other out today - so the incidence of coincidence has to rise.
When you access the power of the network in self-forming groups of purpose - and where the group members are willing to contribute real time - it really is a small world. You are part of a global niche of shared interest.We're taking the tools technology is giving us and restoring the cooperative and collaborative power humankind always had.
Thanks to the exponential growth Reed's Law predicts - where once you could only access the power of the small group you lived among, now you can activate this on a global scale.The potential is truly limitless.

Coincidences in Cannes

I was at the Meffy Awards in Cannes last week and enjoying a conversation with a dining partner about coincidences.
As we're mid-flow, I get a tap on my shoulder.
"David Cushman?" he asked.
"The David Cushman of the Biggleswade Chronicle"...
That was the paper I started my career on 20 years ago.
It turned out that the man tapping me on the shoulder worked for ITN. One of his team had worked with me, in a team of three, in that tiny office in Biggleswade almost 20 years ago. He'd heard his boss referring to me in some way connected to the conference in Cannes we were both attending.
A coincidence among coincidences.
I have my theories about this kind of thing...

So I'm telling this story to a chap I meet on the bus in Cannes. We end up sharing a cab back to the airport. Turns out he plays rugby with the fella I was talking coincidences with at the awards dinner...