After a lovely dinner with some friends and a half a bottle of wine, I was snuggled up with my dog and my laptop, thinking about some upcoming presentations and the assumptions I had in my approach. These assumptions are:
- For those who share their personal lives online, the majority aren't too concerned with privacy as we understood it previously (concerns about security, etc.) and will freely trade privacy for the benefits of openness
- The benefits of openness are mostly to do with connecting with other people - both friends and friendly strangers - but also growing one's social capital (increasing network, access to resources, goodwill, trust, etc)
- The idea is that the more open we are, the more we personally and professionally benefit, but sharing - in itself - is seen as positive
- Things seen as 'inane babble' to those who don't share (what we are eating, where we are going, random thoughts) are highly important to those who do share and are part of the fabric that connects us
- Above all, those who share want to be heard - this is not seen as narcissistic nor egotistical, but rather as a contribution to the greater good that is connecting, building trust and creating community
Poking around the web, this type of information was philosophically waxed upon, but not really quantified. Most surveys were centered in buyer behavior and tool usage. There weren't any questions being asked about human to human connection. At the same time, I received a survey from Cindy Kelly who I thought asked some great in-depth questions, so I clicked a link at the end of her survey to make my own.
The results? In just 24 hours, the survey spread through Twitter, Facebook and email and over 1,200 people took the time to answer the hacked together survey (questions formed unscientifically and from my heart).
Now I get to look at the data, which on first glance is WOW. People truly expressed themselves in amazing ways. I'm already publishing the results openly and raw for anyone to see (and here is the pdf of the summary results). The survey, itself, was completely anonymous, but I've glanced through to make sure nobody said anything too revealing to identify themselves. I'm releasing the data under a CC-attribution license so anyone can use it in their own work. This much value cannot be kept under wraps!
I'm going to take my next steps unconventionally as well. It's not going to be one of those reports where I have some graphs and type out paragraphs reiterating the graphs. During the survey, I had several people pass along amazing resources that align with my questions:
- A fantastic New York Times column by John Tierney on what nytimes.com articles people shared via email over a one year period - great stuff forwarded by Matthieu Guyonnet-Duluc
- A great survey of a similar nature to mine (but asking slightly different questions) by Samir Balwani - forwarded by Tamar Weinberg
- danah boyd's talk from SXSW Interactive this year that brings up some interesting points about the new privacy being control. - discussed on the Project VRM List
- A 2003 Paper by Jonathan Haidt and Dacher Kelter on awe that was referenced in the Tierney NYTimes column as the thing most likely to incite sharing articles.
I'll be using some of this material (and some of my other research/experience) to analyze and interpret the data. If you have any additional resources, I'd be very open to including them in the report/analysis.
--------------------------------------- A few people have expressed their concerns to me that this is research being done outside of an academic institution or not following a recognized research methodology. FWIW, I did an undergrad honors thesis, was on the Dean's List, loved writing papers (always got A's) and ended up doing a stint as a research assistant to masters and ph.d. students - many of whom followed the letter of the law when it came to research but ended up with really boring outcomes. I may not be doing this 'right' (meaning scientifically or under any rules), but I am doing this with the right level of curiosity and openness. Perhaps recognized research methodology is another one of those old skool dinosaurs that needs to get a little more creative. ;) Either way, the raw data is open so feel free to interpret it in the way you'd like!