Back in 1999 Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for The New Yorker, Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg, an article that factored prominently in his book The Tipping Point. In the article Gladwell profiled Chicagoan Lois Weisberg, a person seemingly at the centre of every crossroads in that city. Gladwell coined the term “connector” to describe Weisberg:
Why is it, for example, that these few, select people seem to know everyone and the rest of us don’t? And how important are the people who know everyone? This second question is critical, because once you begin even a cursory examination of the life of someone like Lois Weisberg you start to suspect that he or she may be far more important than we would ever have imagined — that the people who know everyone, in some oblique way, may actually run the world. I don’t mean that they are the sort who head up the Fed or General Motors or Microsoft, but that, in a very down-to-earth, day-to-day way, they make the world work. They spread ideas and information. They connect varied and isolated parts of society. Helen Doria says someone high up in the Chicago government told her that Lois is “the epicenter of the city administration,” which is the right way to put it. Lois is far from being the most important or the most powerful person in Chicago. But if you connect all the dots that constitute the vast apparatus of government and influence and interest groups in the city of Chicago you’ll end up coming back to Lois again and again. Lois is a connector.
I have never wanted to be an astronaut or a race-car driver or a politician or an artist, but the life of a connector, since I read Gladwell’s article more than a decade ago, has always seemed like something to aspire to.
Living here in Prince Edward Island is both bad and good for this aspiration: good because there are fewer social strata here than elsewhere and so it’s easier to connect across them; bad because, as a relative newcomer, I can never possibly hope to catch up with connectors who have been connecting all their lives. So I am an amateur cross-pollinator at best.
But, by applying Prince Edward Island-style learned behaviour to the broader connected world, sometimes it’s possible to make connections that resonate. And when they come together, it’s a great feeling.
Five or six years ago at the reboot conference — a conference that was instrumental in helping me confront the effects of connector-disabling shyness — I met Alex and Eric, two Swedes who shortly thereafter moved to Berlin and founded SoundCloud.
When I was in Berlin last February to the Cognitive Cities conference (organized, in part, by reboot alumnus Igor) I renewed my aquaintance with Eric and visited the SoundCloud office; when I went back to Berlin last summer I visited again, and ended up meeting David and Parker after being misdirected to the remote SoundCloud enclave office that houses the Community Team.
Fast-forward to this spring: my old friend and occasional Prince Edward Islander Cindy was going to Berlin with her son Cal. Cal, among other things, spent a year in Norway studying snowboarding and video production, and I knew he was interested in music and had a SoundCloud account so I reasoned he might be a good person to connect with SoundCloud, so I sent off an email to David and this morning, it seems, Cal dropped by.
(Full circle: Parker introduced me to Natalie at the SoundCloud party I made best efforts to attend last summer.)
I love it when a plan comes together.