Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

As Justin and I prepare this web site for our July 1 launch and I port over all of the old columns from Japan Inc. I am reminded about an issue that has been haunting my online and real life style. Most of the people who read my Japan Inc. column liked it because it presented a unique view, but several people commented that it was just a bunch of name dropping. I've also heard that people inside of a Japanese government agency call me a name dropper.

Name dropping is an interesting thing. I suppose it is annoying when someone is doing it for some sort of gain such as better treatment or just plain bragging. My Japanese elders often tell me that a true Japanese does not disclose one's contacts and that it is not cultured to talk about "who you know."

The problem is, I think one of the most interesting things about me is who I know. When I meet other people like me, we usually do a quick brain dump of who we know and try to zoom in on a few mutual friends. More like name "dumping." This is a sort of standard protocol for me. For instance, I recently met David Smith we instantly bonded through our mutual relationship with Michael Backes and our similar view on how crazy and wonderful he was. ;-)

I'm also fascinated by interesting people. I have my views about other people and am very interested in other peoples' views about people. Trading list of "people you should definitely meet" is a very important part of initiating friends into my network. So I can't imaging not talking about all of the interesting people I meet.

Anyway, I guess I am trying justify myself. Maybe I shouldn't worry. Actually, I've never had anyone I truely respected be bothered by my "name dropping" so maybe it is an attribute of people who are concerned by their own lack of friends. I guess I don't need to respect of people who confuse me with the petty businessman who waves the name card of a politician when dealing with bureaucrats...


I thought this was funny when I read it because I started dropping your name...

Haha! That's very funny. There is some lesson here. If you drop someone's name, but they don't drop yours in return, you're a name dropper or you're confused. If neither of you drop each others names, it wasn't meant to be. And... If you both drop each others names, you should be friends. ;-)

In our world, sharing contacts is not a liability -- unless it's unwarrented bragging -- and that's definitely not you, Joi. It's an asset! Just read "The Tipping Point." It's the connectors that make things happen -- and you are a connector, Joi. This is another example of the pragmatic Western world coming up against the traditinal Japanese world. The world is changing and this is obviously one area that will also continue to change in Japan.

Thanks for your kind words Beau. I recently read The Tipping Point. (Thanks for turning me on to it Howard!) I loved the book and it was useful from a variety of perspectives.

There is a great paper by a guy named Granovetter's called the "Strength of Weak Ties" which talks about the idea that your "strong ties" are people like co-workers and family and that "weak ties" are links across groups. He shows that "weak ties" create the most value in situations like job finding, etc. I think these "weak ties" are the core of networking trying to scan each other for these relevant weak ties is a very important protocol.

I can't seem to find a link to the actual paper, but the reference is:
M.S. Granovetter. The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78:1360--1380, 1973.

Here is Granovetter's site:

Your "name dropping" and the defense of it is truly annoying. So are your friends. Good luck in life!

Ok, I've got at least three friends who have Name Dropping Syndrome, so let me explain. Name dropping is when you drop a first name or a whole name without any description of that person and generally, when you drop the name, you could have continued on the sentence without the incorporation of third-party names. If you drop a name in a convorsation with one or more people, and the recipants of your name dropping have no idea who you're talking about, you just name dropped and solidified their perception of you as an annoying turd.

Matthew: Name dropping turd. ;-)

Then there is dropping your own name. "By the way, I'm Bruce Dickinson. Yes... THE Bruce Dickinson..." From the More Cowbell SNL skit.

Don't forget the Queens of the Stoneage/Cowbell bit: OMG! Teh Cowbell!

your link to Granovetter's site is broken, but there is a link to a review of the hypothesis: