What’s the true impact of social media? Here are ten questions I put together for a discussion at Monkeys Tweetup on Friday 10 February, as part of Social Media Week London.


1. How relevant is Metcalfe’s Law to social networks?

2. If we apply modern neoevolutionary principles rather than C19th, deterministic ones, accidents and free will have an important part to play in social evolution. Does social media enable these and, if so, does social media therefore enable social evolution?

3. How are social tools changing our behaviour, if at all?

4. Are we seeing a new type of hero emerge and, if so, what does that signify? Craig Newmark (pictured), along with the politician he champions, Barack Obama. Lauren Luke, and (our local hero in London) Lloyd Davis. All these people have built their careers by building a community first.

Society and culture

5. How instrumental is social media in creating less hierarchical organisations?

6. What is the long-term impact of the type of self-organisation identified by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody? (We can blog on WordPress, customize our Myspace page, set up a community on Ning…)

7. As various factors (environmental, social, political) push for an end to the consumer age, does social media have a role to play in bringing other values to the fore (or does it simply accentuate consumerist values?!

8. How realistic is Jamais Cascio’s idea of the participatory panopticon – can we attempt to control surveillance through sousveillance? Does the Carter Ruck/ Trafigura shambles prove we’ve turned a page, or simply that the censors will pay more attention to Twitter next time round?

9. What do we think of the UK Conservative Party’s attempts to embrace the social web? David Cameron has talked about storing NHS records on Google, his advisor Steve Hilton (partner of Google’s Rachel Whetstone) has coined the phrase post-bureaucratic age, former New Labour new media advisors like MySociety’s Tom Steinberg have swapped sides…?

10. We could argue that the many-to-many structure of social networks enables a ‘long tail’ of human opinion to be heard. But can any diverse, ‘bottom-upness’ be sustained, or will it be back to ‘business as usual’ once the Web 2.0 dust has settled? Can the durable Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) ever truly be inversed?


Although I put these points to everyone at the Monkeys Tweetup, we didn’t manage to resolve many of them. Clearly food and free beers got in the way! But hindsight is a wonderful thing. You might like to see my thoughts on the actual impact of social media, ten years on:

Goodbye 2010s: the decade of selfies, fake news and data abuse