A few days ago I took a look at my LinkedIn data, and realised while writing it that I exported my Facebook data in the fall of 2017 when I first strongly reduced and then later closed and deleted my original October 2006 account (I do keep a new account with limited interaction and much fewer contacts). The Facebook data also has a list of contacts with the date they became a contact.

From that export I therefore created the same data I did for LinkedIn: the number of added contacts per year and its gender balance, and the cumulative number of contacts and its gender balance. This in response to Rick Klau’s description of his ‘do-it-yourself contact management‘ Between 1 October 2006 and 30 October 2017 I added some 650 people on FB, of which 161 women (25%)
Those numbers are even more out of balance than with LinkedIn, although in recent years it improved in much the same way per year as on LinkedIn, though it comes out slightly below LinkedIn for the total. I suspect for Facebook a social aspect is in play more than on LinkedIn: for a larger social distance I suspect it is socially more likely I’d add a male contact. To test that I would need to arrange the contacts by my perceived social distance, which is an interesting experiment for another moment.


cummulative per year


new contacts added per year

I’ve held for a long time that whenever someone says “we’d like to hire women but we don’t know any” or “we really want women as speakers on our event but we don’t know any and if we do they say no”, it is really down to the lack of quality and balance in their network of contacts. When I organised international conferences myself, with our team we made sure to invite speakers while conscious of the lopsidedness of our own networks, overcompensating in our invitations to get a result closer to a 50/50 balance. Now that my company is hiring new people every now and then, that too is an opportunity to counteract such imbalance.

Last week I wrote about ‘homebrew CRM‘, in which I mentioned Rick Klau’s post on his contact management routines. One element that jumped out when I was reading his post was that he had taken a look at his contact lists to see how the men/women ratio was in his network. There’s nothing in LinkedIn that let’s you explore your contact list as a single data set. It’s only a rolodex still, no way to visualise the data in that list in any way (e.g. geographic or sectoral distribution, or other cross sections of the list). Rick mentioned he had downloaded all his LinkedIn data and all his Twitter data, and then used that data export to work on. I requested the same data from LinkedIn and Twitter.

It turns out that LinkedIn’s export contains a list of contact names (but not the link to their profiles, as that isn’t ‘your data’), and a key piece of information they normally don’t show you: the date you connected. (Interestingly LinkedIn offers you nothing to record the context and reason you connected. The Xing-platform, heavily used in Germany, does do that, and I find it very useful)

Having names and dates, I manually indicated someone’s gender, and then used the dates for basic insights into how my recorded network developed over time. (Typing this I realise I still have the export from Facebook when I deleted my original account 2 years ago, and I could do the same there)

For now I looked at two measures: the balance between women and men in contacts I added each year, and the balance between women and men in the total number of contacts each year. Currently I have some 2150 contacts, of which some 600 are women, for a percentage of 27%. That is significantly lower than I had intuited. I think such overestimation is a known effect.

Looked at per year for the contacts added that year, the balance over time has improved from 10% in 2003, to between a third and 40% in the last handful of years. That last number is in line with the overall percentage I had intuited, so apparently I am using my perception of recent years as the estimate for the entire period. That low 2003 starting percentage has a lot to do I think with the general imbalance of the early adopter crowd that came into LinkedIn when they launched in May 2003 (I joined in June ’03) and the low number of people I connected to those first months on the platform (11 in 6 months).

Getting closer to a 50/50 balance on LinkedIn isn’t completely within my control I realise (unlike in my feed reading), as it also depends on who I actually meet in my work, and each working environment has its own existing gender distribution. It is also not completely outside my control. There is agency in new situations and contexts, such as whom I seek out for conversation when participating in an event. Yet, getting to a 50/50 balance for the total would mean connecting only to women for a few years, adding about a 1000 new contacts that way. History does keep one back clearly.

cummulative per year

new contacts added per year

In the past two years, Lilia Efimova, Sebastian Fiedler and I have been organizing a number of day long workshops / salons under the name BlogWalk. With ten sessions on three continents, in eight countries, we brought together roughly 200 people for day long dialogues on different weblogging related subjects.
To me it seemed that the energy I felt at the first two, three sessions was less present in the later sessions. Not because the newness of it all for me was gone; meeting groups of interesting people face to face is always inspiring. I think for me at some point my collector’s attitude kicked in. My focus shifted a bit from doing great days of dialogue, to adding another city, another country, to the list of our travelling circus of BlogWalks.


Windows Wiki During BlogWalk London, Sept. 2004

Sebastian Fiedler expressed some of the same doubts I felt in the last six months or so, so when he visited us earlier this month for Lilia’s and Robert’s wedding, we took it as a great opportunity to have a little rethink of the BlogWalk concept.
Over at Seblogging you can read the notes Sebastian took, and the conclusions we arrived at. But before looking forward, I like to look back at the things that got in the way of my personal ‘original BlogWalk experience’.

  • Eagerness sometimes resulted in hastily organised sessions, leaving too little time for inviting the right people, and too little time to collectively prepare the day.
  • A number of sessions were only done by one of us three, making it much less a collaborative experience
  • Doing BlogWalks in conjunction with major conferences works good for getting a broader group at the day, but distracts as well: people flying in or out during the day, a few just looking to kill some spare time in a nice and useful way.
  • Loosing sight of people, and especially of the spin-offs and effects meetings had for us.
  • Staying at people’s homes around a BlogWalk adds a lot to the experience, but takes time to prepare, and thus we ended up in hotels more and more.

Snowball Fight at BlogWalk Chicago, Jan. 2005

So, looking forward Sebastian and I would like to re-energize our BlogWalk efforts:

  • BlogWalks are facilitated by us as a team
  • Themes will be chosen from the whole of social media, and not so much tool-centered as opportunity or problem focussed
  • Three BlogWalks a year creates the needed preparation and follow-up time
  • Choosing two fixed European cities lets us build on previously found local resources
  • One BlogWalk will ‘travel’, and we’ll look for local groups and institutions to help host it. For these meetings we will be looking for support for basic travel costs for our team
  • These three BlogWalks will be stand alone events. If opportunities arise to do something in conjunction with a conference it will be considered, but the three stand alone events have priority
  • We want to continue to voluntarily spend time and effort on organizing and facilitating BlogWalks
  • BlogWalks will continue to be by invitation only and free of charge
  • We want to track and document more of what BlogWalk meetings help spark.

Magic of the Screen During BlogWalk Innsbruck, Jun. 2005

All in all I think the ideas and thoughts we formulated help us create new energy and organize BlogWalks with a renewed sense of fun. It also means that to me this is no longer an experiment, it is something we do as part of our, mine at least, efforts to knit a wider European network of thinkers and doers from different fields. Something we need to help leverage our European diversity as fuel for innovative thinking.
A first practical result of leaving the experimental phase behind is that we will start moving the current BlogWalk wiki and BlogWalk website from their current subdomains to two new urls, blogwalk.net and blogwalk.eu.
I’d appreciate any thoughts or comments you might have concerning BlogWalk.

Photo credits: Windows wiki London by Riccardo, Snowball fight by AKMA, Magic Screen by Sebastian Fiedler, all under Creative Commons.