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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Tipping Point : How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference

I just finished reading the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. On the surface this does not seem to be a book on programming, and it is not.

I really liked the book because it assembled a number of political and social theories into a readable and digestible items. The Broken Windows Theory, which makes hypothesized that if a vacant building gets a broken window, you should fix it as soon as possible. The consequences of not-fixing it result in people assuming that no one really cares. The result is the rest of the windows getting broken. If you fix the window, then it is likely that no further damage will be done. This policy was implemented in New York in the 1990s. The result was a dramatic reduction in crime, and vandalism. This is the case of making a small change which results in further downstream effects. The explanation in the book is insightful and makes these theories easy to understand.

How does it relate to software and technology? It covers a methodology for making trends and social behaviors "stick". The ideas covered in the book speak in terms of epidemics. Those who understand viral expansion loops (viral marketing) will be able to understand the book and its underlying premises. If you are looking for some material on viral expansion loops (Viral Marketing), there is a really good one on Fast Company which is very well done. Fast Company had a cover article for May 2008 on CEO Gina Bianchini of Ning. They mention the use of viral expansion to attempt to grow Ning into a social powerhouse.

The book details items on how to make things stick, and how to spread the word about something. My stickiness factor is how to make social networks stick. For example, why is Facebook becoming more popular than MySpace. Why do people use LinkedIn? What benefits are there to blogging. This book can provide a wealth of information into social and environmental factors which make software and technologies popular.

The book is a real quick read, and I would recommend it with 4/5 stars.

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