This whole reflection started with a question I formulated at TED Active with the Social Networks awesome-sque team. Since then, the reflection branched out, collided and got enriched by new ideas. It ended up forming a large puzzle imbricating all the useful encountered ideas that can actually take a tweet to street ... Or almost. Enter the thought puzzle :
This article however is about the missing piece. Which I found today. Thanks to, yes, Malcolm Gladwell. It's a New Yorker article called "Small Change" and it's a small reflection surprisingly :
This pattern shows up again and again. One study of the Red Brigades, the Italian terrorist group of the nineteen-seventies, found that seventy per cent of recruits had at least one good friend already in the organization. The same is true of the men who joined the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Even revolutionary actions that look spontaneous, like the demonstrations in East Germany that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, are, at core, strong-tie phenomena.
And there it was: the flash. Strong-tie phenomena are at the basis of high risk activism, and by extension at the center of any new endeavor, social breakthrough. Diffusion is a weak tie phenomena (the Granovetter kind), initiation is a strong tie phenomena. The way this fits into the puzzle is the following :
I knew groups formed like boxes of atom when a system was preparing to go from disorder to order, in a hub-like way. The behavior of that hub then spread, just as in a complex ant-like system through stygmergy which is a phenomenon enabled by a pheromone in animal species, typically. The human equivalent of pheromones can be empathy in some situations (mainly non-commercial and of an intellectual order) and profit in market-related events. So I knew the diffusion's how, but I didn't know the why. Why do hubs form around that particular cause ? Why did the first social hubs in Egypt, the ones that were going to unleash the power of the crowds at exponential speed, form ? Strong-ties.
They had a stronger kind of connection. It reminded me "La bande à Baader", Rirette Maitrejean's anarchist group, the black panthers' head chiefs, The two Steves that started apple ... Friends, strong acquaintances. Yes, Granovetter proved that you find a job thanks to weak ties and people you've met once, but you don't start a revolution with strangers. You start it with people you know, with a rock-band-like group of friends. People you truly trust. Trust. The vital pheronomone maybe.