Is Twitter Like Going Out for a Smoke? - And Other stories

September 3, 2009 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

Bill Ives posted an interesting post Is Twitter Like Going Out for a Smoke?, responding to a Twitter / Water Cooler analogy by Arie Goldshlager and a smoker's network analogy pointed out by Stewart Mader and Gil Yehuda in Lessons from New York Smokers. I commented: Bill -- An interesting post and topic! I think there's likely an interesting history (and sociological studies) of how informal groups form and cross-link in businesses and other organizations.

The most interesting groups seem to be cross-functional and distributed - with some difficulty before the Web and email, with less difficulty now.

A few examples:

1) Watercooler - physically collocated, somewhat cross-functional (but often cube neighbors)

2) Smokers - physically collocated, cross-functional and cross-hierarchical

3) IT Tech support, Admin Assistants - folk who talk a lot with a wide variety of others in the enterprise, and have their own network or grapevine of contacts with their peers.

4) The NCO / Chiefs network - Anyone whose been in the military knows that NCOs (Sergeants and Chief Petty Officers) use an informal network of local - and globe spanning - contacts who know what's up and how to make something happen. This probably dates to Roman times.

With the advent of cheap and ubiquitous Web technology, it has become easier for networks to form, keep in contact, and scale beyond previous limits of space and number of participants.

Is there a Doctor of Sociology in the house with a few good references?

A few of my notes with links on

Connections & McAfee Bullseye model of strong, weak, potential ties

Twitter: world's largest floating cocktail party, coffee break, and trade show happy hour
Explaining Twitter - One of Three Places for People

[ In the interests of non-smokers and former smokers everywhere - no smoking photo with this post! Join the followup conversation on Twitter ]

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