Social Enterprise

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Social networks

Force for good or bad?

Written at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, and dispatched via a free wi-fi service

One of the great features of the internet is the unpredictable nature of the technology and the public. Right now the media seems to have a downer on social networking because of its implications for data privacy.

My only experience of this side of social networking has been the appearance of photographs of family and friends via an unexpected route. Beyond that I have only had positive experiences.

So where are social nets going? No one knows for sure. But I reckon they may well emerge as a new social force for those seeking justice and fair play across the board.

They seem an ideal fit for everything from social action groups and information sharing, to influencing retail, services, employment conditions, politics, and law and order.

So far in the UK the only big example I can cite of the power of social nets is the attempt of one big bank to introduce charges on established and new student accounts.

The viral campaign that ensued via Facebook was dramatic and quick. The bank in question had to relent, and no other bank has since walked the same path.

I suspect that this is just the thin end of a very thick wedge and there is much more to come, especially when the commercial people get to grips with the technology.

Word of mouth influence and pressure has always been very effective but slow. This time around it is viral - much bigger and very fast.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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