On the network effect and PLN’s

4 min read

As I work more with Mastodon, I am noticing more and more feature parity with Twitter, and a few features that I wish Twitter had (content warnings, for example). I’ll be writing more about specific features of the platform in coming weeks, part of my master plan to build a good, compelling reason to convince people in my network to begin using the service more (yes, I am looking at you).

I get it. Building networks is hard work. That has always been the Achilles heel of whatever new service gets introduced. Even Twitter. In the early days of Twitter many people came and went and it took a long time for Twitter to become a service that was of value to many people. Until the network effect began to kick in.

It is not the platform. It is the people on the platform that make the platform useful. It’s classic chicken and egg. Not enough users and you end up with a platform that is….

Tumbleweed blowing across and empty desert landscape

Which Mastodon can feel like, especially when compared to what you are currently experiencing in Twitter. So, there is little incentive for users to participate.

But it doesn’t have to be all or none. I’m not completely giving up on Twitter just yet, and neither do you. I am going into this with the realization that building networks takes time, and this is a long game, not a quick win. Which is why I am working hard to figure out a way to do little things like cross-post from Mastodon to Twitter. I want to continue to maintain a presence in Twitter as I begin to slowly cultivate a network in Mastodon. But I also want to work on ways which make me think Mastodon the default and Twitter the platform I only check once or twice a day. And then once or twice a week. And then once or twice a month.

I am looking at this as a long term project. A slow weaning from one platform to another. Yeah, it means working in both for awhile. But I am ok with the trade-off as I know that building networks takes time. I’ve been around this block before. It takes effort. It takes time. But most importantly, it takes people. So, I am willing to put in the work as I want to provide some value to others who put in the effort. As Digenti (1999) notes, building PLN’s is a reciprocal affair.

To have a truly valuable PLN, investments in time and resources are essential. This requires an extension of the typical transactional business mind-set. If, as a business manager or change agent, we “do the deal” and fail to consider building our PLN, we have lost much of the value of our interactions. This is particularly true in the activities of collaborative learning, where each project we engage in should enhance and broaden the PLN of each member.

Where each project we engage in should enhance and broaden the PLN of each member.

I know better people than me have tried and failed to convince people to start using Mastodon

And I know that there are many valid reasons to keep with the status quo. But I feel like I have to start somewhere. We have to start somewhere. If we are concerned about the effects of the commercialization and monetization of our personal data, we need to start making efforts to move away from platforms that use us as the product. For me, that means decentralized federated services that are controlled by people and not corporations.

I see my main role in the network right now is to try and provide value-added information to my network in the hopes that someday others may be convinced to begin doing the same. This is how PLN’s are built, one person at a time adding value with intent. Participating. Contributing.

How do you build a PLN? First, it is important to overcome the hesitation around “using” people. If you are building a PLN, you will always be in a reciprocating relationship with the others in the network. Ideally, you should feel that your main job in the network is to provide value-added information to those who can, in turn, increase your learning (Digenti, 1999).

This will be a long process. But then again, relationship building always is.

Source: Digenti, D. (1999). Collaborative Learning: A Core Capability for Organizations in the New Economy. Reflections, 1(2), 45–57.

 

Clint Lalonde

 

2 thoughts on “On the network effect and PLN’s

  1. I use https://queryfeed.net/ to push the Twitter accounts I want to remain connected with to my RSS reader. It is rate limited to update only once very 3 hours, but I find that more than adequate to keep connected to conversations there ++ filter out the noise.

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