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March 19, 2008

Purists and corporatists -- you respond

by Josh Bernoff

Thanks for all your responses on the scale I posted. Recall that 10 is an extreme purist (power to the people!) and 0 is an extreme corporatist (power to the corporation!). I saw people coming in all over the scale.

Here's what I learned:

1. Nobody likes to be pigeonholed. I loved this from frymaster.

When I'm drinking [which is most of the time], I'm a 10. When I'm at the client I'm a 5. Unless I had a little nip, and then I'm a 7.


I also enjoyed Mark's attempt to add a dimension. People just can't get comfortable living on a line segment.

2. A lot of people seemed comfortable in the 5 to 7 range (or couldn't tell my definitions of 5 and 7 apart). Here are the definitions again.

7 The groundswell is powerful, but companies have a role in it. Groups of people inside of enterprises can get together and make themselves heard. Even so, the groundswell will always prevail over their interests.

5 Companies belong in the groundswell. They have interests just as the people do. They will set up corporate efforts -- presences in places like Facebook or their own corporate blogs -- and connect with their customers. They can't shut down or co-opt people in the groundswell, but they can form meaningful relationships with them. And they can accomplish goals like marketing or collaborative innovation, if they respect that they're not in charge.

Given the fact that our active readers are probably the biggest believes in the power of social, this shows an amazing tolerance for corporations. Maybe because to make a living doing this stuff, you have to give the corporation a role. I'm quite happy myself at 5 and expect to sell a lot of books to others who are comfortable there.

3. I was intrigued by the perception that people were moving. I especially liked this comment:

The last number [average of businesspeople you meet] is the one I see movement in every day...one at a time I'm seeing people who used to be 2 or 3 become a 4 or 5.

So here's the interesting question. Is the business world slowly creeping towards the middle, or headed towards the purist end? Are we going to end up with a balance between enlightened corporations and powerful people, or are the people just going to overrun the corporations and take over? I think how you answer this says a lot about everything you do while working in the groundswell.


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Mark Johnson

In any good scale, people should be distributed heavily towards the middle, otherwise you have haven't made your extremes extreme enough. Then again, people reading this blog are, by selection, biased towards a belief in the power of the groundswell. Before your post, I would have expected that most people would have placed in the 7-8 range. Since the consensus was much lower, that suggests that reality has moderated the original idealism and purism of social media. That's a good thing. Corporations are important players in this game: they spend lots of money on R&D and deliver products that we buy.

The axes on my 2D version aren't perfect; I wonder if there are any other suggestions for possibilities?

BTW, this discussion reminds me of Chris Shipley's post earlier today about analysis that goes deeper than superficial commentary. I'm so glad that you are trying to distill these problems down to their fundamentals.

Tom O'B


Where is the chart? The data visualization?

C'mon ;)


Mac Randall


I believe that corporations will slowly move toward the middle, but it will take many more examples of success from partaking in the groundswell or failures from trying to ignore it. Sales revenue is the ultimate metric and corporations need to be more confident that partaking or ignoring the groundswell will affect the bottom line before moving to the middle.

Kris Rzepkowski

I really think that 5 on the scale typifies where mainstream corporate is headed as a result of social media. It is the online strategy baseline of the current times much the same as the drive to the internet and e-commerce were in the late 90's. That means you got the scale right and if many of us get proficient at being a 5'er, we (and our customers) will be VERY happy.

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