Archive for November, 2010

80:20 Communications Golden Ratio – EMail Proof

In the 2-weeks since I have been back from my 2-year exile and got into corporate work mode, I have attended 2 seminars/conferences which irrespective of the context and intent, eventually become back-scratching sales expos of one kind or another. I digress but if it is all about fresh change and change is constant then by association, everything is constant, no? What will be has always been and such quacks with some weird Murphy law pertaining to conservation of change or constancy or something. Don’t believe it? Let us put it to the test shall we? An example is needed and email is as good an example as any given that it is still the primary means of corporate communication. I said it and meet me offline to debate.
Now it may be the case that I have been away from email research for a while with my finger-in-pie projects of Soylent, MIT Media Labs’ Social Network Fragments and IBM Remail gotten archived serving as footnotes in information sciences research but we made a starkling discovery half a decade back that email is the most sticky social network of all and 80:20 (or Pareto Law or Rich-get-Richer or Power Log or Long Tail Graph etc.) is the golden ratio for communication patterns in any circumstance. Ergo, as a quick thought experiment, if you take all your contacts and conversations in your inbox and chart them by age and activity, it will be a classic long tail. Not only do you communicate with 20% people for 80% of the time but the 80% of the activity will happen in the first 20% timeline of the relationship. A corollary was that if you broadcast something, 80% of it gets lost in the ether and this is what I will put to the test today for your greymatter exercise pleasure.
I am not a people person but having missed the chance to experiment in Amazon Web Services Cloud Computing Event in Bangalore, I thought I’d gather data in the NASSCOM Product Conclave and Expo 2010. Oh, the things I do in the name of research. I managed to gather 31 visiting cards (this has to be outmoded BTW for green and convenience reasons – where are vCards, BlueTooth, semacodes, Bump, digital IDs, card scanners in smartphones et al.) and the next day while memory is still fresh, broadcasted an LoL-inducing cute long mail saying hello and spouting philosophy. Note that the sample was quite diverse with some whom I interacted with deeply to some whom I had lunch/coffee and some from whom I got a visiting card without making any verbal contact whatsoever. All bases covered.
Results and Conclusion:
Enough talk. Let us look at a snapshot of a spreadsheet with a pie-chart –

I guess the data speaks for itself. (Silence + Bounce = 25) is 80% and any scientist would be happy to be proven right and plug ‘I told you so’ but am not really religious err… I mean as a real scientist (who is often seen as a heretic in the circles), I take great thrill in being proven wrong in the best interests of progress. Alas, life has been dull! I salute thee who replied back, pursued the line of inquiry, called up, glued on LinkedIn etc. who make up the 20% because without them, there would be no 80% split now, would it? Yin and Yang. As a parting trivia, funny/serious thing is that those who responded did it 80% by email as mode of communication. No wonder Facebook seems to be getting into email as per chirps on the interwebs.
Le Why?
The quick answer to this, I don’t know nor do I have the skills/education to pursue this other than half-baked observational theories which are dime a dozen. Maybe, someone will pick this up and explore but for that to happen, more data is needed and more people should report back broadcast/response ratios in their email.

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    13 November, 2010 at 19:00 2 comments


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