Harvard Business Online

Social Networks and Meatless Weekdays


Posted on Harvard Business Review: February 11, 2010 5:05 PM

Harvard professor and expert on social networks Nicholas Christakis powerfully showed the impact of social networks and how they relate to our everyday lives. Christakis explained why obese people increase the probability of other people in their social network becoming obese. While intuitive at a macro-level, the notion that you may be responsible for a friend's weight gain brings social networking down to a very concrete level. Our positive and negative actions have a multiplier effect in our pervasively socially networked world.

Graham Hill, the founder of Treehugger.com, gave a compelling three-minute talk reminding us not to think in extremes. In considering whether or not to be a vegetarian, he came up with the simple idea that people should consider "meatless weekdays" (that is be a vegetarian from Monday to Friday) and eat whatever you want on the weekends. For vegetarian diehards who are trying to educate the carnivore world on the merits of vegetarian diets, including better health, lower carbon footprints, and cruelty to animals, a more balanced and likely more effective campaign would be to get people to be a vegetarian 70 percent of the time. See more at Treehugger.

Christopher "moot" Poole, the 21-year-old creator of the often-controversial site 4chan.org. The site allows complete anonymity and does not create a permanent archive of comments. Poole is willing to accept the trade-off of dealing with vast amounts of offensive content in order to offer what he believes is a more risk-free forum in which people can say whatever is on their mind. His goal is a comprehensive view of people's true sentiments.

TEDx. One of my favorite parts of TED Day 2 was a short video illustrating how much TED has grown. TEDx was an experiment this year in which the organizers of TED offered a one-day franchise opportunity to use the TED name to people who wanted to organize their own local TED event—from Boston to Dubai to Africa. The video reminded me again of the innovation that can occur when content that not so long ago would have been considered proprietary intellectual property is made openly available (in this case the TED talks which have been viewed by 200 million people) and how that content leads to the creation of self-organizing communities. Like great traditional franchise networks, I suspect that these new communities from local TEDx events will provide a fertile source of innovation for how the TED can improve and innovate as it grows.

Anthony (Tony) Tjan is CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of Cue Ball, a venture and early growth equity firm investing in the information media and consumer sectors. Tjan holds an A.B. degree from Harvard College, M.B.A from Harvard Business School and was a Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. You can follow Tony Tjan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/anthonytjan

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