There are people who already utilize their social network to the utmost, and who expand it strategically, adding people just to enhance the diversity of available viewpoints. But I will take a chance, and state that most of us probably don’t. And as a result, we aren’t able to recognize all of the resources available to us, to optimally use those we do recognize, or to realize optimal strategies for approaching our goals.
From Sympathetic Minds:
Who is the most formidable, among the human kind? The strongest? The smartest? More often than either of these, I think, it is the one who can call upon the most friends.
There's a lot more where that came from, but you get the point. Your social network could be the biggest, most valuable resource you have. I think we should spend more time and thought on strategies to optimize our social networks.
We have dabbled lightly in the importance of social skills, fashion, and so on, but I haven't seen discussion of *explicitly, strategically optimizing social networks*. If such discussion exists, please link me.
Anyways, after being hit by subtle hints like the above all through reading LW and other resources, and reading Dale Carnagie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, I have realized that I should work explicitly and strategically to optimize my social network. I think the rest of you are probably in the same boat, so we could all benefit from a good brainstorm on this topic.
Clubs. I belong to the local hackerspace, where technical-minded people hang out, talk about cool stuff, share ideas, help each other with projects, and share tools and resources. I also try to keep the local LW meetup in good repair, partially in the service of having a bunch of rationalist friends. I only just realized that the useful properties of these clubs probably apply to a good portion of possible clubs.
The useful property of clubs is that the relationships take drastically less overhead to maintain than more unstructured social networks. Instead of having to stay close to each friend individually, you hang out in a place where you end up dealing with them a lot, so you can get full benefit with way cheaper social bonds. Think of the difference between a bunch of objects individually tied together versus a bunch of objects in a bucket.
Being Valuable. When you give stuff to people, they feel obliged to give back. It might be a good idea to get that mutual help vibe going on in your social networks. When you have an interesting converstaion with someone, send them some relevent links afterwards. When you hear that someone has some interest, try to hook them up. Give people gifts, buy them lunch, etc. I don't know how effective this is at cultivating good relationships, but it's one of the major lessons in How to Win Friends and Influence People, and seems like it ought to work. It's also a nice thing to do that has benefits for your own well-being. Need more discussion and especially experimentation on this front.
Crowdsourcing. Be transparent; let everyone know what you are interested in, ask for help, etc. Need more experimentation to see what works and what doesn't, but wow what a good idea. Not as useful for improving your social network as for sqeezing it, but maybe there are some atmospheric/social-vibe effects to take advantage of, too. I would like to see more discussion of this.
I haven't done much research and I'm not particularly good at this social stuff, so your ideas are probably worth more than mine. What ideas or knowledge do you have for optimizing your social network and sqeezing it for all it's worth?