Monday, November 30, 2009

Who will win the 2010 Oscar – Early predictions?

March 7th, 2010, the 82nd Academy Awards, commonly known as Oscars, will be given out for best picture, for best actor and actress, and in 21 other categories.
Two years ago we successfully predicted who would win an Oscar Award, almost two months before the Awards were actually given out. This blog post contains our first predictions for the 2010 Oscars, more than three months before the Awards will be actually given out.

There are other places on the Web also making Oscar predictions, for example movie site moviefone and Internet betting site intrade:

While the above predictions are made by experts (moviefone) and people placing bets on the outcome (intrade), our approach simply measures what the Web (this means all of us) thinks. It works by multiplying the “how many” with the “who”, i.e. multiplying what somebody says with her/his influence.
Below are our combined coolhunting results, based on evaluating the buzz in the Oscar Forum in the Internet movie database and on running queries for [moviename] & “Oscar 2010” on the Web and in Blogs.

The light blue bar in the above chart is based on the buzz in the Oscar forum in (see table below)

The second half of the prediction in the bar chart above is based on the betweenness of the movies on the Web and on Blogs. To illustrate this approach, below is the Blog network for the query [moviename] & “Oscar 2010”. If we wanted to drill down and predict which Oscar a movie might get, for example “Best Picture”, we would rerun the query as [moviename] & “Oscar 2010 Best Picture”.

To resume, the top predictions as of November 30, 2009, are:
1. nine
2. 500 days of summer
3. julie & julia
4. precious
5. hurt locker
6. lovely bones
7. Up in the air

Here are the predictions for best actor/actress, based on the discussion in the Oscar forum on

Obviously, 2009 is not over yet as some films are only coming out in December, and so things might still change. We will rerun the calculations at the end of 2009 to get more accurate predictions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Taoism and COINs

The principles of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism have many parallels with the ways how COINs operate.

The way is the goal - Tao means “way”, and “way” is the cornerstone of Taoism. This is very different from Western philosophies, where the “being” and “truth” are in the center. In Taoism, on the other hand, “the way is the goal”, this means it’s not the solution, which is important, but the way to get to the solution. COINs achieve their big vision in many small incremental steps along the way. It is the way, the joy of completing small incremental steps together, which are the main motivators for COIN members. Working extremely hard in the company of likeminded people and reaching a goal together is immensely rewarding. This way of working under positive stress is similar to the concept of “flow” defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. According to Csikszentmihalyi, people are most happy when they are in the state of flow – a state of complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one.”

Let go – one of the core principles of Taoism is “wu-wei” or “non-action”. The main point is that one has to know when NOT to act. The underlying concept is that things basically will take care of themselves, if they only get the chance. For the individual, applying this principle is quite hard, as it means letting things go, and let them take their own way. We need to achieve a high level of self-assuredness and self-awareness to apply this principle. If we have reached this level, we will feel a sense of inner tranquility and self-emptiness that will allow us to let go. On the highest level, we will get rid of our own ego - becoming one with our activity - and do things for the sake of things, and not to further our own ego, reaching the state of flow. Among Linux opensource developers, Linus Torvalds, is famous for non-action and just “letting things taking care of themselves”. For individual COIN members it means that they are ready to let go of their individual idea and let the team take it over and bring it to completion. Because COIN members participate out of their own will – and not external pressure - they get the liberty to do whatever they think is right, and not what the boss or the company tells them to do.

Ethics – the three jewels of the Tao are compassion, moderation, and humility. The first one, compassion, also means kindness, and undemanding love like the love of a parent for her/his child. The second one, moderation and frugality, frees us from being driven by desires. If we are happy with what we have, and do not always want more, this will liberate us. The third one, humility, will help us recognize and be grateful for the contribution of others. In a well-functioning COIN, all three concepts come together. COIN members treat each other with respect, and respect the contribution of each member. They take care of each other, and through their focus on reaching their goal first and obtaining external recognition second, they are quite frugal in their demands. The last principle, humility, is the hardest to follow. This was already recognized by Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography, when he confessed how hard it was to acquire it “I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.” He then goes on to describe how much easier it became to convince others when he presented his ideas in a humble way. The same should be true for COIN members, who respect the opinion of others and are grateful for the contribution of each member.
The principles of Taoism give us a great framework of how to work together in a COIN for the highest benefit of both the COIN and the individual members.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reflections on COINs2009 - Towards a Science of Collaboration

I am writing this blog post on my way back from the first Conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks COINs2009. It was a cool event, taking place Oct. 8-11 2009 at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. SCAD was a fitting place and perfect host for this conference, with its mascot the bee, paragon of collaborative swarms. The themes of the COINs conference cover a wide range of interdisciplinary fields such as social network analysis, group dynamics, design and visualization, information systems and the psychology and sociality of collaboration. Thinking about these topics in the plane on the trip back to Boston, it dawned on me that the time has come to put these topics into a solid scientific framework.

While it has been scientifically recognized that swarms of bees are better thought of as one big superorganism, it is only now that similar insights are coming up for the human superorganism. Slowly this human superorganism is starting to become self aware with the indivuum seeing its identity defined not in isolation, but through its connections. We therefore need a new science of collaboration, recognizing that each human is not just an individual, but a product of his and her connections to other humans.

Why is the Science of Collaboration relevant now? For thousands of years people have collaborated, from the first tribal bands hunting for large game to the feudal states in the middle ages to the large multinational companies of today. But only now with the emergence of the Internet and the Web do we have the means to solve tasks collaboratively at a large scale, with anybody, about anything, at anytime, and anywhere. Anybody planning a totally crazy project has the chance now to find the few other people on the world who care about the same topic with the same passion, and form the COIN, the Collaborative Innovation Network, to tackle the issue and collaboratively develop a solution.

While at the COINs2009 conference we got some great examples of co-located teams working on the same task, most of these collaborative tasks happen long-distance. Whether it’s designing a new piece of furniture, collaboratively writing an article, or authoring a flash movie, COINs pop up all around the globe, creatively collaborating over the Internet to solve their task.

Collaboration Science has many facets, ranging from analyzing and measuring collaboration by dynamic social network analysis, through making teams more collaborative by applying principles of group dynamics, to developing new Internet-based software tools and methods for collaboration. The COINs2009 call for papers lists the following subjects as parts of collaboration science:
• Dynamic Social Network Analysis
• Semantic Social Network Analysis
• Social System Design and Architectures
• Social Behavior Modeling
• Social Intelligence and Social Cognition
• Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Dynamics, Opinion Representation, Influence Process
• Trust, Privacy, Risk, Transparency and Security in social contexts
• Virtual Communication and Collaboration
• Measuring the performance of COINs
• Patterns of swarm creativity
• Collaborative Leadership
• Design and visualization in interdisciplinary collaboration
• Group dynamics and global teaming in virtual collaboration
• Organizational optimization in COINs
• The psychology and sociality of collaboration

Collaboration Science therefore includes principles and methods from many fields such as Network Science, Coordination Science and Web Science. The strongest contrast for me however is between Collaboration and Competition, i.e. using the power of the swarm for the egoistic benefit on one single individual. While people collaborate for egoistic goals, for me collaboration includes an altruistic element. While free markets are based on utilitarian principles, i.e. everybody being in it for his or her individual benefit, members of collaborative innovation networks are in it not just for themselves, but for the benefits of their community, knowing that if they do good to the community, the community will pay it back, leaving everybody much better off in the end.

Dustin Larimer, a conference participant from SCAD, allowed me to share the following three tag clouds. The clouds reflect feedback from conference participants after the first conference day, where three different workshops on the subject were offered, very cool:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bundestagswahlen in Germany - Who will be the next Federal Chancellor

Tomorrow September 27th, 2009, there are elections to the German parliament. It's the conservative (by German standards) CDU/CSU led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, against the social democrats (SPD) led by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, with the liberal democrats (FDP,Guido Westerwelle) and the Green party (Jürgen Trittin) as minor players. Predictions still seem to project a win of CDU, although it is not clear if CDU and FDP together will get a clear majority.
A quick coolhunting in blogs seems to speak a clear language:

Angela Merkel seems the clear leader, being in a sphere of her own, and her competitors huddled together in the other corner. SPD candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a large support network, although of lesser influence.

But wait! What we are looking at above is what the WORLD thinks and blogs - and there Angela Merkel, as the incumbent Chancellor, has a huge advantage. If we zoom in on German language blogs, using the German title "Bundeskanzler" as attribute, to make sure we get the German bloggers, the picture changes dramatically:

Now Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the leader. But there is still hope for Angela Merkel, together with Guide Westerwelle's FDP, she gets a majority, at least in the blogosphere. The situation worsens for Angela Merkel, if we factor in the other candidates from farther left, the Greens (Jürgen Trittin) and Gregor Gysi from the Left Party:

In this constellation, the left wins (size of the font of the politician's name is proportional to percentage of votes). As of yesterday, the long-term trend in the blogosphere still predicts victory for CDU, although the lead is shrinking:

But this was the general coolhunt, which as I explained at the beginning of this post, measures what the WORLD says. Let's wait until tomorrow evening, to see if German Bloggers and the German population agree.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Coolhunting for the next Swiss Federal Councilor - yes it works

In the last three posts I have looked at what the crowd on the Web was saying about the chances of the 3 main candidates for Swiss Federal Councilor in the elections of Sept. 16 to succeed Bundesrat Pascal Couchepin. And note that we had to predict what the crowd was thinking what the 248 members of the Swiss National Assembly would be doing. The ranking was (see three previous posts):
1. Urs Schwaller
2. Christian Luescher
3. Didier Burkhalter

If you look at the voting in the Assembly yesterday, it is (from Wikipedia)

So the crowd PERFECTLY predicted the voting pattern in round 1!
The group dynamics in the Assembly in the succeeding rounds, and in particular the behavior of individual people like the withdrawal of Christian Luescher after round 3, the crowd can NOT predict, that's up to Mr Luescher - there are still good uses for the crystal ball.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who will be the next Swiss Federal Councillor - Final update

Tomorrow Sept 16 will be the elections for next Swiss Federal Councillor in succession of Pascal Couchepin. Here the latest coolhunting results on the blogs for the four main candidates:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who will be the next Swiss Federal Councillor - 2nd update

The elections for the successor of Swiss Federal Councilor (Bundesrat) Pascal Couchepin will be this Wednesday, Sept 16. Here is a new update on the trend prediction, as of this evening, Sunday Sept 13.
Again the disclaimer is that it is not the Swiss population who is electing the Bundesrat, but the 248 members of parliament, which of course makes it much harder to predict the outcome. Nevertheless, here first the general trend for the currently three official candidates, Christian Lüscher, Didier Burkhalter, and Urs Schwaller, and three other candidates based on the "electoral votes", i.e. Web Betweenness of the Swiss German bloggers for the last three days.

Christian Lüscher lost his lead, Urs Schwaller is the leader, Dominique de Buman is number two. This is based on the accumulated coolhunting in the German language blogosphere over the last week:,, and are the most influential Blogs - the kingmakers - to promote the candidates.

Doing a combined coolhunting for the German language Web and blogosphere and adding the French Swiss (by including tracking the prominence of Web sites talking about "conseil federal urs schwaller", etc.) gives a slightly different picture:

Now Dominque de Buman is the leader (betweenness 0.31), ahead of Urs Schwaller (betweenness 0.29). It does not look good for the two candidates from FDP, Lüscher and Burkhalter.
I also included the social Web networks for the queries "Nachfolge Bundesrat Couchepin Ständerat" und "Nachfolge Bundesrat Couchepin Nationalrat" to accomodate for the fact that Ständerat and Nationalrat (the Swiss National Assembly) will elect the "Nachfolger" (successor) of the Bundesrat. One side result is that the Ständerat (betweenness 0.04) has more influence on the election of the successor than the Nationalrat (betweenness 0.03) - at least on the Web.

Here is also the content map of the German language blogs about the four main candidates Schwaller, Buman, Lüscher, and Burkhalter. The size of each square denotes the betwenness of a term.

The term cloud is nicely split into an FDP and a CVP side. What stands out is that Christian Lüscher is haunted by his lawyer colleague Poncet who is representing Gadaffi in his dispute with Switzerland. On the other hand it seems that the FDP has a slightly larger claim (higher betweenness) on the vacant seat than the CVP. Blocher, another politician from the right-wing SVP also comes out prominently as an influencer, together with FDP president Pelli. There is speculation about Bundesrat Merz stepping down soon also.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Who will be the next Swiss Federal Councillor - appended

After I did my first automatic coolhunting yesterday, I got feedback that I had forgotten to include one of the main candidates, Christian Lüscher (FDP, Geneva) into my coolhunting. So I repeated the process for both the German and French speaking parts of Switzerland. Here are the results:

Web in French speaking Switzerland:

Blogs in French speaking Switzerland:

Web in German speaking Switzerland:

Blogs in German speaking Switzerland

To resume: The French speaking Swiss favor non-candidate Fulvio Pelli, both in long term recognition (Web) and prospects for tomorrow (Blog). For the German speaking Swiss, Christian Lüscher is the clear favorite, particularly on the blogs.

Looking at the social network on the Swiss German Web confirms the central position of Christian Lüscher:

So what are the main lessons: automatic coolhunting needs to be complemented by human coolhunters - thank you for pointing out my omission of Christian Lüscher. The automatic coolhunting system is only as good as its input.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Who will be the next Swiss Federal Councillor

Sept 16, 2009, the Swiss Federal Assembly will elect the successor of longtime Swiss Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin, who will step back after over ten years in office. The Swiss Federal Council is the executive seven-member council who serves as the collective head of state of Switzerland.
Although this means that not the entire Swiss population, but the Swiss Federal Assembly - an admittedly biased subsample of 246 mostly male (75%) members of the Swiss establishment - will vote for the next Federal Councillor, it will still be very interesting to see what the entire swarm of all Swiss thinks who will be the next Federal Councillor.

For my coolhunting I looked at the popularity of 8 leading candidates (Martine Brunschwig Graf, Dominique de Buman, Fulvio Pelli, Urs Schwaller, Daniel Brelaz, Jean-Francois Rime, Pascal Broulis, Didier Burkhalter). I ran the queries both on the Web, and just for blogs. I also checked who is the most popular candidate among the Swiss Germans by adding the word "Bundesrat" (this is the title of a Swiss Federal Councillor in German) to the name as well as "Conseil Federal" - the French title - to coolhunt among the Romands, the native French speakers of Switzerland.

The results are quite interesting. Here is the percentages on the Web for the leading 7 candidates:

On the Web, Dominique de Buman (CVP, 21%), Martine Brunschwig Graf (FDP, 19%), and Jean-Francois Rime (SVP, 17%) are the most popular. As the Web reflects the election history until now, this means that these three candidates have the widest general recognition today.
Just for fun, let's also see if there are some alliances among the politicians on the Web, based on the linking structure on the Web:

It seems as if Dominique de Buman is in a category of his own, while Martine Brunschwig Graf (FDP) and Jean-Francois Rime (SVP) seem to overlap really closely. That's not too surprising, because FDP and SVP in many isues align themselves. Didier Burkhalter (also FDP) is the candidate in the center, close to Fulvio Pelli, (non-)candidate and president of the Swiss FDP.

Now let's see what the blogs are telling us - the network below tells the story. Again Dominique de Buman commands a large share of the vote of the Swiss bloggers. Jean-Francois Rime is much less central here. Daniel Brelaz is even more popular with the bloggers, but wait a moment and look his position in the social blogging network:

The explanation for his popularity is that he is also frequently quoted by bloggers in his role as the mayor of the city of Lausanne, as well as an active member of the green party, which puts him into quite a polarizing position. Not a place to be in to become the next Federal Councillor in consensus-loving Switzerland.

Now let's look what the French speaking Swiss think. Here is the Web ranking:

Martine Brunschwig Graf leads, with Dominique de Buman and Pascal Broulis tied for second place.
The German speaking part of Switzerland shows a different picture on the Web.

Here official non-candidate and president of the Swiss FDP Fulvio Pelli leads ahead of Daniel Brelaz and Dominique de Buman. In the Swiss German Blogosphere, Pelli is out, while Jean-Francois Rime is in the lead, ahead of Didier Burkhalter and Martine Brunschwig Graf.

It is also interesting to see what Web sites are the most brand-building for the candidates (i.e. they have the highest betweenness centrality in the networking pictures). Here is the list:
1. Swissinfo
2. Youtube
3. Wikipedia
4. Facebook
5. Reuters press releases
6. LinkedIn

The first Web site is an official Swiss news Web site, but the next ones are the Web 2.0 sites popular with teens and tweens., the leading Swiss newspaper, is only number 7. The lesson is obvious: social networking rules the world, at least on the Web!

Back to our original question: who will be the next Federal Councillor: It is still very hard to tell as the leading candidates seem almost tied. Nevertheless, here my try based on the coolhunting insights:
- Dominque de Buman, the leader in two categories across all of Switzerland is my front runner.
- Martine Brunschwig Graf is a consistent third on most charts, so she might take the lead from behind.
- as a long shot, I would nominate Didier Burkhalter (current favorite among the Swiss German bloggers, representative for the largest group in the Swiss Assembly)
Check back in a week, to see how the positions will have changed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coolhunting Today's Iranian Presidential Elections

This weekend the Iranians are electing a new president. Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad competes against reformist candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaee. It seems that Ahmadinejad's fiery rethoric did little to help him improve his chances to win the elections, at least on the Web.
Coolhunting with Condor today for the frontrunner on the Web and the Blogs, once on the entire Web, and once restricted to the "ir" Iranian domain brought a clear picture: not once was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leading.

First the global analysis, searching the entire blogosphere

and then the entire Web.

It seems as if Mehdi Karroubi would be emerging as the clear leader, at least on the global (uncensored) Internet!

Now restricted only to blogs within the Iranian domain:

And finally all Web sites within the "ir" Iranian domain:

Inside Iran, the three reform candidates are tied with Mir-Hossein Mousavi slightly ahead on blogs, and Mohsen Rezaee the clear leader on the Web, Ahmadinejad is again coming in last. As the blogosphere is the better short term predictor, Mousavi would be the leading candidate this evening inside Iran.

Just for fun, here is also the linking structure of the global Web sites talking about the four candidates:

Note the central position of Karoubi and Mousavi, with the large blue (Karoubi) and brown (Mousavi) Webs. Ahmadinejad has a far flung, but very thin Web (green). Mousavi is in the center, and Karoubi has a tight network, reflecting his well-organized support network.

Based on this coolhunting, Web Buzz today seems to favor Mousavi and Karroubi. Tomorrow we will know more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who innovates better - the small or the tall?

Today's New York Times has an article by Steve Lohr "Who Says innovation Belongs to the Small?" which makes the argument that "These days, more than ever, size matters in the innovation game".

I beg to differ.

While it might be true that it takes the resources of large companies to implement fundamentally new things, large companies are extremely bad in recognizing the value of these fundamentally new things. Managers like to preserve the status quo, which means that new ideas inside a large company have a much harder time to succeed than if they are set free in the ecosystem of small startups reminiscent of the wild wild west. Other articles in today's NYT give compelling examples, such as bestselling author Jim Collins and Daniel Carasso, founder of Yoghurt giant Danone. It would be hard to envision for both Carasso and Collins to have found any traction for their groundbreaking ideas in large organizations. People with radically new ideas have a hard time to succeed in large organizations. Rather, they follow what I call the three-year-rule: Once they come to a new organization, they identify and try to implement new ideas inside their company. After three years of trying and being frustrated multiple times they usually leave the company and start afresh at another organization. Or, like Messrs Collins and Carasso, they don't join any new organization anymore, but start on their own. But they might still leave some of their creative ideas behind which are then picked up by the large company, leading to success stories like the ones described in Mr. Lohrs' article, such as IBM creating a large datamining system, or (even!) Microsoft starting some social software applications.

So, to put it in a nutshell, it does not matter at all if the innovation is promoted by a large or a small organization, what matters is the collective intelligence and creativity of the creators of the innovation, how well they are embedded into a support network, which can be inside or outside an existing organization. All things being equal, I'd rather say, in agreement with Clayton Christensen's arguments, that chances outside of organizational boundaries and restrictions are much better for a new idea to succeed. Sorry, Mr. Lohr.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Creative Ideas as Galactic Black Holes

“Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo (loose translation)

When following the diffusion of a cool new idea in a social network, an interesting similarity with the structure of our universe and its stars and galaxies can be recognized. Readers of “Swarm Creativity – Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks” know that a cool idea runs through several stages before becoming widely influential and accepted. At first there is a creator who has a brilliant solution for something. Then, his idea attracts a small group of people who consequently work on spreading the word – until it eventually makes its way into a general known concept which is adapted by a larger crowd in the social net. The final stage is the interest network – this is when the idea has been widely recognized and most people in the social network already know about it or even use it.

How does this compare to the structure of stars and galaxies? A common theory of cosmologists nowadays is that every larger galaxy has a black hole in its center, holding together the stars of the galaxy with its ginormous gravity. So, if we consider the black hole center being a creator who attracts people (stars) with his gravity (idea), how would the whole process of an idea’s evolution be reflected in these terms? Of course it would compare to the creation of a new galaxy.

When a star with a certain minimum mass “dies”, meaning its thermonuclear fusion processes run out of hydrogen, it is the birth hour for a new black whole. Thus, the fusion processes can be considered to be the creator “brainstorming” his new idea. When emergence of the idea has reached a certain stage, the creator starts spreading it to other people – the birth of the black hole. A black hole’s nature is to never release anything which went past its event horizon, thus agglomerating mass and consequently increasing gravity. For our creator/black hole analogy this is the phase of where the creator elaborates and develops his idea further and thereby increasing its attraction potential (gravity in terms of black holes).

At a point, the mass of the black hole will become so great that it actually starts drawing other stars in its surrounding area, bringing them to orbit around it. This is, as for the analogy, when the creator assembles a group of believers who begin working on further developing and spreading his idea. Because the orbiting stars themselves also draw further stars with their own gravity (the believers spread the word), the few initial ones will be joined by more after a while. Over time, a local system of stars (the learning network) and eventually a whole galaxy (interest network) is formed that way, with a galactic black hole in its center.

This is not where it ends. We could now examine what reflects ideas which did not make it beyond the second stage (the black hole could not draw enough mass – the idea was not “cool” enough, or the creator was a bad communicator of making it plausible to other people) or how new black holes form inside the galaxy (new ideas emerge in the interest network). I invite you to give your own thoughts in the comments for now.

If you would like to know more about the evolution of galaxies I recommend the Wikipedia links below.




Sunday, May 10, 2009

It doesn't look good for the Republicans, or does it?

Today's attack of Dick Cheney against Colin Powell, who 'd rather choose Rush Limbaugh over Powell prompted me to check what the Web buzz is saying about the Republicans against Democrats, using our CoolTrend application. At first, checking Web buzz at large, I got the expected result:

The Democrats lead on the Web, with 53% over 47%. But then I took a closer look at the spiderweb of web links deciding on the percentages of Web buzz. Compared to older pictures, where the Republican Web sites always were closely clustered, while the Democratic Web sites were widely spread out, the Republican Web these days is similarly scattered:

This means that a lot of discussion and soul searching is going on in the Republican parts of the Web, with many dissenting opinions, as reflected in today's comment of Cheney on Powell.
I then repeated the same query restricted to the blogosphere, because what is said by bloggers today, frequently becomes mainstream opinion tomorrow. I got quite a surprising result, the blogsphere was evenly split: both Democrats and Republicans got exactly 50%. And the Blogger network structure reflects that result also:

So no need to write off the Republicans prematurely. They are undergoing a lot of discussion and goal setting, with a network structure which right now looks surprisingly similar to the Democratic one, but at least in the Blogosphere, they are even with the Democrats.

Friday, May 08, 2009

ORF Swarmcreativity Podcast (in German)

This week I participated in the EduMedia eCreativity Conference in Salzburg, Austria. The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) was also present, and put togethera very nice online interview and podcast describing the foundations of Swarm Creativity (in German)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Predicting the Iranian Presidential Elections?

Recently I was asked if I could predict the outcome of the Iranian Presidential elections on June 12, 2009, based on what people are saying on Blogs and the Web about the candidates. Unfortunately this is a much harder task than predicting the US Presidential elections, or the Zurich Mayoral elections, as our system is not set up to parse and rank Farsi Web sites.

Nevertheless, I was curious what I would find out. I took the leading candidates from the Wikipedia page. They are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current incumbent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who is running as an independent, and Mehdi Karroubi. There is a whole list of other potential candidates listed on Wikipedia, which I ignored for my tests. I included Mohammad Khatami, former President of Iran, who has endorsed Mousavi.

Below is the Condor/CoolTrend picture of what the English Web said for the last four days:

Mehdi Karoubi leads the Web Buzz in the US/English Web.
In the US/English Blogosphere, the picture is different:

Current incumbent Ahmadinejad is leading. Based on prior analysis of many other elections, Blogs predict the trend fairly well, so things look bright for Ahmadinejad, at least today.
BUT, this is only on English blogs. So let's look what Iranian Web sites and blogs say. As we don't have a Farsi analysis system, I just entered the same query into CoolTrend, limiting it however to the "ir" domain. A very different picture is emerging. Inside Iran, on the Web, Mousavi and Kahatimi, who is supporting Mousavi, are leading:

The same picture is true for the blogosphere, Khatami and Mousavi are leading. This is confirmed by a poll from late March, which puts Mousavi ahead.

The final picture shows the social network of candidates and their shares today (April 13, 2009), restricted to Iranian Web sites. As our system can not handle Farsi characters, only the candidates' names are displayed, the URLs could not be shown:

So, on the Internet, we know who the next Iranian President might be, at least for today: Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Panopticon or Bee Hive – living in total transparency

People need to be watched, otherwise they will not do their job. That was the idea of Jeremy Bentham, who designed a prison, the Panopticon, where every prisoner could easily be watched by much fewer guards.

Today there is software that does a similar job. For example, LiveJobs, a company that operates virtual call centers all over the US, distinguishes itself from competitors by meticulously tracking performance of its call center agents. Whether it is selling insurance, transcribing documents, or taking pizza delivery calls, LiveOps software monitors individual performance on the most granular level, and delivers it to both LiveOps management and the individual employee.

So, in a sense, big brother is always watching. People are “operating in total transparency”. At least for LiveOps employees, this does not seem to be such a bad thing. They continuously check their own performance every day. If they don’t perform, they will not be fired, but they will not get more work from LiveOps.

For knowledge workers, monitoring e-mail does provide the role of the panopticon. When we do a knowledge flow analysis of an organization, we provide the same function, offering individuals a “virtual mirror” based on their communication behavior. But other than the Panopticon, we only offer a condensed view of the organization to management – transparency for the individual, but guaranteeing their privacy to management, only releasing individual information at the request of the individual.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Creating iPhone Apps - the Swarm takes over

Today's NYT describes a list of computer programmers turned entrepreneurs, creating cool apps for the iPhone. With the barriers to entry as low as they are here: one basically just needs a computer to download the app developer kit, plus of course programmer skills, this is the perfect opportunity for swarm business. People like Ethan Nicholas, a (former) Java developer at Sun, making $800,000 with a shooter game, are the new members of the swarm. Apple, handling sales and marketing including money collection though its App store, proves once more superb coolfarming skills.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Interview on "Open Innovation and Swarm Creativity" on "World of Possibilities" Radio Show

Today the "A World of Possibilities" Radio Show published my interview with host Mark Sommer talking about Open Innovation, Swarm Creativity, COINs, and the role and inspiration of bees.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Predicting Zurich Mayoral Elections - It Works!

In a blogpost on January 8 I spoke about the CoolTrend prediction system for the Zurich mayoral elections I had set up. At that time candidate Corinne Mauch was already ahead of candidate Kathrin Martelli. In the meantime our Coolhunting system collected the statistics from the blogosphere every day (see picture below:

Until the main elections on February 8 things were fuzzy, with Corinne Mauch and Kathrin Martelli changing the lead a few times. In the elections February 8 - again as predicted by our tool - Martelli had a slight lead over Mauch, but not enough to overcome the absolute majority threshold, which means that a second round became necessary. After February 16 things became clear in the blogosphere, Corinne Mauch always had a solid lead.

Towards the end, Kathrin Martelli's buzz went up also - not surprisingly, as in the final days bloggers from both sides became more active. But it was never enough to challenge the lead of Corinne Mauch, and so she easily won the elections in Zurich today! Congratulations, Corinne Mauch!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Web Science 2.0 – Online Analysis of Entrepreneurship Activity at German Universities
Which university is the place to go to become a successful entrepreneur? Where do I find a strong entrepreneurial network and prosperous environment to start off my business? By mining and analyzing online social networking sites we found interesting answers to these questions. Out of representative samples of alumni students from eleven German universities we retrieved company and startup founders as well as other executives. We looked at the largest universities including high potential institutions (LMU Munich, TU Munich, and University of Karlsruhe) and top ranked private business schools (European Business School (EBS) and WHU Vallendar). On average we identified 1,070 people that match the entrepreneurial profile. Through our sources we were also able to get internal and external relationships for every entrepreneur. By loading this data into our powerful social network analysis machine Condor we constructed the social network for all eleven universities.

Picture 1: Social network of entrepreneurs of eleven German universities

Picture 1 shows the network of entrepreneurs of all eleven universities. There are significant differences of how the various schools are connected and located in the overall graph. While some universities (Hamburg (green-brown), Munich (purple), and Cologne (light green)) are very central and dense connected clusters others are peripheral and almost isolated from the rest (e.g. University of Mannheim (dark purple), Karlsruhe (dark green), and Hannover (grey)). The two analyzed private business schools (EBS Oestrich-Winkel (blue) and WHU (dark blue)) form very dense networks, too. As opposed to EBS which is fairly peripheral and loosely connected to University of Hamburg, WHU is totally located in the center and seems to be the ultimate connector of the overall network. The top ranked schools for mechanical and technical engineering (RWTH Aachen (pink) and TU Munich (light blue)) both are located on the very right side of the graph depict some interconnections. Some people from RWTH Aachen are very well integrated while others are isolated completely and only related through their peers. TU Munich is not a coherent network and is mostly overlapped by University of Munich which might be on the one hand a result of their co-location but also an indication for a close cooperation between both schools. However, there is no interconnectivity between the high potential institutions University of Karlsruhe and LMU or TU Munich. Based on these results we can conclude that Munich provides a very strong environment for entrepreneurs and is also well connected to other institutions. We also see that WHU is the place where founders and potential entrepreneurs find ideal conditions to ramp off their own company.
A content analysis of the founder’s attributes brought up some interesting insights.

Picture 2: Popular industries for entrepreneurs from different universities

Picture 2 shows most popular industries for entrepreneurs from different universities. While the consulting business is strong across all institutions some sectors are particularly centralized on one school. Marketing is prevalent at University of Cologne which reflects the fact that Cologne is the capital of media and ad agencies in Germany. Karlsruhe dominates the IT sector whereas Banking is most popular at European Business School Oestrich-Winkel which is closely located to Frankfurt, the mecca of European banking.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Swarmcreativity Essentials Video on I-Open Education

Wednesday afternoon I had a visit by Betsey Merkel from I-Open Education, in its own words "...a community that shares best practices in collaborative leadership, networks and Strategic Doing to strengthen Open Source Economic Development". She did a really nice video interview that gives an overview in a nutshell of the principles of COINs and swarm creativity (you will need to register first).

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Predicting the results of today's Swiss vote on freedom of movement and residence

Today the Swiss voted about extension of the right of free movement and residence with the rest of the European Union. The vote was brought by the extension of the right of free movement and residence (Personenfreizügigkeit) to new EC member states Rumania and Bulgaria, which had previously been approved by the Swiss government. The right-wing people's party collected enough votes against it to ask for a referendum. The vote was today, and according to early polls it started looking good for the supporters of the right of freedom and movement. I wanted to know what the Web and Blog would predict, and here are the Coolhunting results:

on the Web:
Yes (Personenfreizügigkeit Annahme) 73%
No (Personenfreizügigkeit Ablehnung) 27%

on the Blogs:
Yes (Personenfreizügigkeit Annahme) 58%
No (Personenfreizügigkeit Ablehnung) 42%

By now (Feb 8, 4 pm), the final results are here, and the right on freedom on movement and residence (Personenfreizügigkeit) has been approved by the Swiss voters with a 59,6% yes vote - the same as the coolhunting predictions on the Web and Blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to make Washington cool - followup

Recently (see my previous blog post) I was interviewed by a journalist from the Washington Post about how cool Washington is. Her conclusion was that DC is not cool. This led to a backlash of negative reactions - I got my share of it also, see the post here and the comments on the original story.

I would like to point out there are very cool places in Washingon. There is for example the hotel I stayed in one of my last trips to DC, the Tabard Inn, a very cool boutique hotel. But there are also less cool things in DC, like when I was scheduled to give a presentation on Collaborative Innovation at the World Bank, and was not let in for 45 minutes because security was so tight they could not find anybody with the right credentials to identify me.

But actually it would be quite easy to make Washington very cool. Cool places are made by cool people, and one of them just started in his new job last week. It’s now up to all of us to get more of the same to Washington!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to make things and places “cool”?

Yesterday the Washington Post published a timely opinion piece on “how to make D.C. cool”, pondering the question whether Washington D.C. could ever be cool. The journalist had interviewed me for this article, and the discussion with her got me thinking about what it takes to make a place “cool”.

Why is it that NYC, SF, or Boston are cool, while D.C, a popular tourist destination, seems in dire want of coolness? Let’s first look at what makes things cool.

“Cool” things have four properties. First, they need to be fresh and new, we don’t want yesterday’s stale old ideas, but radically new and better ones. Apple is cool, Microsoft is not. Why? By ushering in a new era in computers with the Macintosh, in music players with the iPod, or in mobile phones with the iPhone, Apple has shown a unique knack in coming up with beautiful new things. Microsoft may be more profitable, and having grown to much bigger size with its copycat strategy, but nobody has ever accused it of being cool – that’s reserved for creators of radically new things. Microsoft’s technology does the job, but it’s clunky, arcane, clogged with features that nobody wants. Apple, on the other hand, consistently defined new markets with superbly designed innovative products.

Second, cool things make us part of a community, they help us be with people like us. As psychologists and sociologists have found out, if we have the chance, we would like to be with as many people “like us” as possible – the more the merrier. Why was it that two million people trekked to Washington, to the inauguration of President Obama? Why did people stand in line for eight hours to get to the Mall to Obama’s inauguration, and not just watch it on TV? Simple answer: other people. It was the chance to be part of something cool and new, to witness change, jointly with two million likeminded souls. Even something as simple as owning the latest iPhone or Blackberry makes the owner part of a community, a sister and brotherhood , with the token of entry being the iPhone or Blackberry.

Third, cool things are fun. Owning an iPhone is fun, because it looks so well-designed and cool. Going to a musical on Broadway is fun and relaxing. Making calls and surfing the Web on an iPhone is fun, playing music on an iPod is fun. Drinking coffee in Starbucks is fun too, not the least because every Starbucks customer is in good company with other people who are enjoying a good cup of coffee in a relaxing atmosphere. It’s not for nothing that Starbucks carefully selects and trains its barristas to provide a superior customer experience.

Finally, cool things give meaning to our life. Cool things make people happier and feel good. Owning a cool thing can become a goal all by itself, whether it is the new iPhone, the bag from Adidas, or the car we always wanted, or joining an activist group fighting global warming. For many people the thing that gives meaning to their life is making the world a better place – the ultimate in cool.

Now that we know why something is cool or not, the next question is what makes up – or does not – the coolness of a place like Washington. The main thing that makes a place cool is cool people. For cool people to show up at a place, they must find cool things there, not the least other cool people. Once a place is bustling with stars, actors, models, artists, movie stars, or star entrepreneurs, more of them will show up.

What are the external landmarks of a cool city? There are three parts to it: a recreational, educational, and a business part. Recreational components of a cool city are funky cafes, elegant boutiques, artistic shops, art galleries, all sorts of restaurants from cheap and greasy to organic and healthy, theaters, museums and parks to stroll around. The second ingredient of a cool place is educational institutions such as universities, colleges, or art schools, bringing the droves of students who provide the social glue of the cool city. A third mark of a cool place is a dense organic mix of business life, scores of startups combined with larger well-established companies. The more of these three things – recreation, education, and business – there are compressed within a city, the cooler it is. That’s why NYC is cool, or Boston and San Francisco.

One of my recent favorites among cool places is Savannah, a port city in Georgia, which until just a few years ago was in serious decay. But when I was visiting Savannah last fall, I found a city bustling with life, full of artists, students, and tourists. Talking with locals I found there is one institution that heavily influenced this conversion to coolness: SCAD – the Savannah College of Art and Design, founded in 1978, with 9000 students as of today. SCAD has renovated many of the old mansions and historic buildings that had been rotting for the last fifty to hundred years into lecture halls and student dorms. During my visit in Savannah I noticed all components of a cool city – coffee shops and art galleries, theaters and music festivals, educational institutions, and an active business life, ranging from numerous startups to Gulfstream Aerospace, a large manufacturer of jets.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who will be the next "Stadtpraesident" (mayor) of Zurich?

There is a hot race currently between the two ladies Kathrin Martelli and Corinne Mauch for the succession of the popular mayor of Zurich, Elmar Ledergerber, who stepped back recently. I was curious to see what Web and Blog have to say about the chances of the two candidates.
Here is the Coolhunting result of Condor for today on the Blog (Jan 8th, 2009) - Corinne Mauch leads with 53%

Repeating the same process on the Web, to get the more long term trend, leads to the same result - it looks even worse for Kathrin Martelli who gets only 35% of the Coolhunting vote.

We will know Feb 8, after the election. The only thing certain: Zurich's next mayor will be female.