Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

In Defense of the Periodic Table of Social Media Elements

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

I’m amazed by and appreciative of the overwhelming interest in the Periodic Table of Social Media Elements. While the majority of comments were positive, there were also some comments that were critical of the concept. I use the word critical in a positive way – they forced me to think deeper about the concept and hopefully this will lead to improvements and a more elegant version 2. 

The main criticisms seem to fall into three catergories:

1. This has no direct correlation to the scientific Periodic Table of the Elements.

Guilty as charged. I took algebra 2 in summer school… pass/fail. I broke out in hives if I got near the science buildings in college.  I can’t tell you the difference between inert and noble gases (I don’t even know if that is a fair comparison). I used the periodic table because it’s something we all have at least passing familiarity with and I thought it would make for a compelling and eye-catching visual.

I think I succeeded on that count, but realize now that the more scientific-minded of you out there would have liked to have seen a stronger correlation to real science if I was going to use that visual. Fair enough, and I’ll see if that is possible for a version 2.  But ultimately this was meant to be a little more light-hearted than that.

2. Isn’t this just link bait?

I won’t deny that there is an “element” (see what I did there?) of that here. But here’s where I draw a distinction: A lot of the people who follow me on Twitter, and who read this blog, are not Social Media experts. I felt the table would expose them to people and applications they may not be familiar with, so I wanted to include links, allowing them to jump right to that person or tool.

To me, linkbaiting is when you make an outrageous or overtly provocative statement and link to someone in order to get a reaction out of them. Like saying, “Chris Brogan is clueless about subject x.”

I don’t expect the people I linked to to come here and comment or post a link to the Table – it would be great if they did, but that wasn’t my intention – I posted the links so people who did come here could easily discover new things.

3. Why did you include so-and so?; Why didn’t you include so-and-so?

The AdAge Power150, Viral Garden and Junta 42 all provide fairly scientific, analytical methodologies for determining the important and relevant people in Social Media. I was merely providing my perspective and while I completely agree that you could have added another 116 people and things, I don’t think anything/anyone that did make my Table was wildly off the mark.

The one thing I think that is unique and interesting about the Table is that it isn’t just a list of people or a popularity contest. It includes behaviours and practices and tools along with people. Some of the comments note that it is a snapshot of Social Media in early 2009. I think that is a nice way of looking at it.

This wasn’t meant to be some sort of Bible of Social Media, to be used as a substitute for getting involved or learning on your own.  I hope people will use it as a tool for discovery and ideally make their own Tables.

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged.

  1. Rick —

    If people come away from the exercise with a resolve to analyze what they see and develop their own paradigms, then you have succeeded in ways beyond what you imagined.

    If readers come away feeling gun-shy about sharing their ideas because they are fearful of criticism, then help dispel that fear. Criticism and outside input help make ideas better, not worse.

    If people still want to take shots at you, let them. Just get back into the idea factory and tinker a little more. Your persistence and willingness to share will result in stronger analogies that will help others learn.

    My quibble was with those who wished to hold it up as a Perfect Holy Object – with no analysis or discernment of their own – for the purposes of teaching others. It’s not ready, and proclaiming it as such would do a great deal of harm to many reputations.

    Thanks for helping put all this in the proper perspective, and ensuring a meaningful takeaway for everyone.

  2. As for the junk-bait idea, yeah I can see that. There are a TON of lists BUT I think there is a HUGE difference between throwing together a list to try to get links/tweets, and putting some thought into it so that others can draw some value from it.

    I think you tried to do that with the Periodic Table. So well done!

  3. Rick,
    Thanks for the follow-up. I have to admit that you’ve won me over this time. Though I didn’t criticize the first time around, I fall into that category of science-minded folks who was trying to draw a comparison to the original periodic table. But as someone who took two years of college chemistry before switching into the social sciences, I’m glad you steered away from a diagram of technicalities. What you’ve produced is simple, engaging and original (well, kinda, but you know what I mean).

    Also, Kudos on catering to the SM novices out there (including me!). I’ve seen links to the table in my inbox, on tweetdeck and via txt, so I’d have to say it’s a success. Most notably in my world, you’ve motivated at least one of my friends to come out of SM retirement and provided a tool for many others entering the SM world.

    I appreciate your effort in pulling all the elements together. Thanks again.

  4. Chris

    You bring up a good point that I also should have highlighted further. To the novice, a lot of Social Media can be very confusing. People who deal with it every day can get caught up in “The Curse of Knowledge” to use a Heath-ism.

    I think that if I had tied specific people to certain gases and tried to make tighter correlations between different elements it would have generated a lot of blank stares or worse, confusion.

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. Rick, I loved the table, and not simply because my name was on it. As you were careful to point out, the list was entirely subjective–people who happen to be on *your* radar as contributing to the social media scene. It’s a very creative, and fun, way to illustrate a point and get your readers thinking.

    By the time I saw this, all the naysayers had weighed in. It boggled my mind that some people would even think you were attempting to equate this with the actual periodic table. Lighten up, people. It’s *social* media, not *scientific* media!

    Thanks for all your time and effort in making this.

  6. Rick,

    I admire your forthrightness about this matter. Even though I may have been critical of it, I read very clearly in your blog post your own admission that it was intended to be fun, and not an actual abstract comparison — my criticism was more out of frustration at the commenters that, as Ike pointed out, accepted it as whole-cloth and not challenge the issue of whether or not it was a correct paradigm.

    I’m a chem major (in addition to being a web developer) so I guess maybe I’m just a bit sensitive about it. 🙂

    That said — I have some ideas (see my lengthy comments on the OP) about how you could adapt this to a working functional model. I don’t know if it is ACTUALLY feasible due to technical reasons — but theoretically, it could work.

    You’ve got my email, if you’re interested.


  7. […] último, el propio Rick realiza una nueva entrada analizando las críticas que su tabla periódica ha suscitado, explicando su punto de vista sobre las mismas y continuando […]

  8. Hi,

    Just came across this. I really like the lateral thinking on display. It’s a neat way of showing how things fit together without invoking hierarchy, which is what usually makes people howl. I’m not sure how far the metaphor can extend, but it’s nice just the way it is. I like.


  9. […] ltimo, el propio Rick realiza una nueva entradaanalizando las crticasque su tabla peridica ha suscitado, explicando su punto de vista sobre las mismas y continuando la […]

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