Networks: They are more than just an IT thing

One of the benefits of living in the smart phone internet and IT age is the availability of podcasts.  I walk to work and most mornings and afternoons, I spend that 15 minutes listening to somebody smarter than me (many people) tell me something I don’t know (which is a lot).

Recently I listened to an interview with a guy named Bob Metcalfe (genius).  Metcalfe helped pioneer the internet through the invention of Ethernet. I think of the ethernet as the blue cable that comes out of your computer and links it to the wall and then other computers so that all the computers and all the people using them can communicate as part of a network.  Ethernet requires computer chips, cables, and software.  Revolutionary technology when it started about 1973.

Around 1979 Metcalfe sold an Ethernet pack which allowed 3 computers to be connected together.  The pack cost about $3,000, which was a lot of money.  You could link a printer and then all 3 computers could use the same printer.  You could also send email to the other 2 computers on your network.  Imagine how good it would be if only 2 people could send you email 😊  Ah the serenity!

The new ethernet technology worked perfectly, but Metcalfe’s business stalled because it just wasn’t useful.  What could you do when you were linked to just 2 other people and they were sitting in the same office anyway?  Little.

To counter the mounting opinion that linking computers was a costly waste of time Bob came up with an idea which came to be known as Metcalfe’s Law:  The cost of a network is equal to the cost per connection (a node)  multiplied by the number of connections ($ x n), but the value, utility and functionality of a network is equal to the number of connections squared (nxn).

Another way of thinking of the idea is that the price or effort is a linear function, rising in a straight line, but the potential value and usefulness of the network is a quadratic function, increasing dramatically for everyone with each new connection.  Once networks got large enough they become worth the effort.

Metcalfe’s idea turned out to be true, and not just spin.  Today we live in a world with lots of connected devices, and together they generally deliver us a quality of life which is many times what they cost.  We have email, we have Facebook, we have Netflix, we have Spotify, we have Zoom etc etc.

There is a social lesson here for us.  In IT they call connections a “network”.  In real life we call our connections to each other a “community”.  And if your community is large enough and strong enough it will deliver to each individual benefits which are many times greater than the cost of being part of the community.

Metcalfe’s Law applies to living in a good Body Corporate.  The more connections we make the better, and once the connections exist the possibilities expand exponentially.

Apartments can be, and should be, more than just dwellings stacked on top of each other.  There is great value in living in a well connected community.  There are opportunities for relationships to initiate environmental and social programs, to drive property value, and create harmony on many levels.  SSKB tries to be the ethernet of the owners.  We endeavor to link and navigate the complexities of the body corporate regulations, so the committees make great decisions and deliver great amenity for all owners and occupiers.

Stay Strong, get connected and build networks.  Learn from podcasts.


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