December 12, 2007

Assessing Social Capital

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:17 pm

Social Capital has been a termed explored and pursued by two of my posse members, Heather and Rick. They both talk about it quite a bit. I may be butchering the definition so I hope they forgive me if I miss the purest definition or better yet, add to the conversation with some insights.

To me, social capital, or perhaps there’s a better term, is a quantifiable measure of contributions to one’s social network. So a few things have arose as of late that sparks an interest in this for me.

  • Will’s recent post on Pocket Texting and the idea of “knowledge power” points. We have seen the use of ratings on sites like experts-exchange and other sites where the usefulness of one’s answers ranks them higher and in some cases produces economic benefits.
  • Tweeterboard. I hadn’t even heard of this until this tweet a few days ago. So for the past few days I’ve tried to figure out how in the world this works and what’s the significance? First of all it appears to be a random sampling of twitter so that needs to be considered but the idea is basically a combination of quantity, shared links and exchanges with others.

    They’re calculated using some algorithmic mojo that resembles the link analysis algorithms used by search engines. Your reputation points are based on the conversations you’ve had over the last 28 days, which means your score can jump around a lot.

  • A conversation I had with Ewan Mcintosh about a company, (maybe Ewan can add the link) that is developing their own algorithm that measures social capital within their business. He mentioned things like identifying writing and work that has been reused or tagged several times and looking at the usefulness, sharing,commenting of one’s work inside a company. Ewan’s thinking about how this might be used to measure the work and value of Scotland’s student bloggers.
  • My continued pursuit of a higher commpost rating.

So while tools like Technorati provide some degree of measure, there’s so much more than comprises social capital. How might we assess, our total online portfolio? The fact that many are involved in dozens of communities from flickr, youtube,facebook,blogs,wikis, the whole sha-bang would require some fancy mathematical calculations. I’m guessing it would include things like: the number of communities you’re actively involved with (which means “active” must be defined) numbers of tagged pieces of content by others, number of other’s work you’ve remixed, comments, IM’s…the list goes on.

Teachers are excited when I show them simple things like the history feature of wikis that track student work. The sophistication of some of these tools to measure the depth of conversations and contributions seems to be increasing.  While in many jurisdictions the importance of standardized testing seems to preclude many discussions around the value of social capital I think there is some real ripeness for some of our schools to utilize tools that could measure social capital. I’m guessing that so would many businesses. Not that that is the ultimate goal but like Will watches his gas gauge on his Prius perhaps our kids could get excited about watching their social capital points rise. Or does that miss the point totally? I’m just wondering.

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