Project n^2: Why CIA? Revisited

April 13, 2006

I showed the post below to my roommate Chris, who suggested to make this more personal, and to go deeper. To address those points, I will “rewrite” the post below.

I’ve been fascinated lately with Sudoku. Playing Sudoku has changed my routine enough that I’ll usually visit even before eating breakfast. Last month, I was waiting at the doctor’s office, and I noticed an older woman pull a Sudoku book out of her purse and start playing. That’s when I knew it became a movement. Walk into any bookstore, and you’ll notice all the books dedicated to this simple crossword game. Besides playing, I’ve attempted to become a student of the game, playing only hard puzzles and learning about X-Wing and Swordfish, some of the more advanced Sudoku strategies.

Why is Sudoku so popular? There are probably a ton of factors at play here. Clearly, the game is addictive because like most great games, the rules are simple yet the puzzle is challenging. Solving the game requires only logic and patience, not a great memory of pop culture. When playing the game, there’s definitely a sense that finding the solution requires skill. The game is foreign, originating from Japan, where the Western style of crossword puzzle doesn’t really work.

With most fads, it’s easy to point out some factors that appear to trigger success. Figuring out beforehand whether a trend will take off or not is much harder. Thus, what I would like to get out of CIA is a framework for analyzing current trends. More specifically, at the end of the quarter, I would like to see what appears to be a “trend”, go through some step-by-step analysis and then finally be able to have a sense of whether that trend is sustainable.

Project n^2: Network and Asking for Support

April 12, 2006

The way I've approached analyzing my network is still in progress. I've tried drawing out some of my network:

 My Network
I have however, began asking for support. What I did was create a Facebook group where I'd explain to people that I'm taking this class, and that I'd like their support. All I ask is for them to join the group and if they want, post a message explaining what fads they're currently into.

At first, I personally asked people to join. Here's a copy of an e-mail I sent out to a few friends:

Subj: Help!

Hey everybody,

I'm taking a class titled ME 228: Creating Infectious Action, which is all about studying and executing efforts to spread behavior. My first assignment is to identify my network and ask for some support. So what I've done is create a Facebook group called: "Infectious Action", and all I want is for you to join it. If you could take even a little more of your time and describe what fads you're currently caught up in, that'd be even better. I'll also be sending you Facebook invites, just to make it a little easier.



Another approach I used was to message people on AIM. Typically, a conversation would go as follows:

me: hey _____, may i ask for a super small favor? it's painless i swear

friend: sure, what's up?

me: so i'm in this class called Creating Infectious Action, which is about how trends and fads start

me: and my first assignment is to analyze my network and ask people for support

me: so i created a facebook group, and if you could join it and maybe post a message about what fads you're interested in, i would appreicate it. I'll send the invite now.
friend: sure, no problem

Both approaches worked well, and I got up to about 20 members this way, and quite a few of them posted on the message board. My next technique is to actually just send the invite on Facebook without "asking for a favor" first. This seems to be cheapest way to do this, and hopefully since it's just a Facebook Group invite, it won't piss anybody off.

Edit: As of 1:56PM, my Facebook group has 60 members and 23 comments on the message board.  So far, what I've concluded is that I get a better yield when I personally ask someone to join the group and explain why I'm doing this.  However, this takes more time.  It's cheaper for me to just send Facebook invites and hope that they read the group description and are compelled to join.  However, when sending Facebook invites, I get a lower yield (not sure what %, since Facebook doesn't report any data back to me, and I didn't record how many I sent out), and of those who do join, less are likely to actually post something.   Another drawback of using Facebook is that only people who are within my college network can actually join the group.  I knew this when I created the group, but I figured asking people to join a Facebook group would be an innocent enough request.  Furthermore, my Stanford network consists of the connections I eventually want to leverage the most, so I might as well learn more about this set of people.