8 December 2010

How many messages is too many in cyberspace?

How many messages is too many in cyberspace?: "

Over the past week we have been sending out quite a few messages on several different social media channels to help create and support the interest in the Festival of NewMR. One thing that has worried us is the balance between making sure the message gets out there on the one hand and annoying people on the other.

Today I have had nine interesting messages that relate to this question. I have received two messages from people who think they have received too many messages, one of whom has already bought a ticket to attend and is planning to take part in one of the activities on the website. Which suggests there might have been too many messages.

On the other hand, I have had five messages today from people thanking me for reminding them about the Festival, or for highlighting some specific aspect, such as the Research Liberation Front page in the Fringe.

And finally, there were two messages from people who were thanking for telling them about the Festival, because they had not heard about it before today/yesterday’s message.

So, how many messages is too many?

I suspect part of the problem is due to the scale-free nature of social networks. If I send out some form of message so that it reaches everybody who has asked to be in contact with me, across a range of social networks and channels, then people who connected to me in many ways are likely to receive that message many times. I suspect the ratio may even be ten-to-one, i.e. if the occasional contact is reached once, the close contact is reached ten times. And, the real challenge is that it is probably more important to reach the distant nodes in a network than the closer nodes (sorry, by nodes I mean people, but in the context of being in networks), as the more distant people are have fewer shared knowledge pools.

So, if you are one of my closer contacts, please accept my apologies. I will try harder not to bombard you, whilst not at the same time leaving the rest of the network in the dark.

So, to come back to the question in the title, how many messages is too many? How should one reach one’s network with a message that might be of interest to them without bombarding the close contacts? What is the right balance between receivers filtering what they receive and senders holding back on what they send?