This researcher has studied 400,000 knitters and has discovered what turns a hobby into a business

When he visited Ravelry.com, a social media and pattern sharing site known as "Facebook of knitting", MIT's PhD candidate Hyejun Kim realized that he was watching the journey from the hobbyist to the "big time". entrepreneur in real time. With the data.

"It's impossible not to study it," he thought.

The resulting analysis of Kim sheds light on the early stages of difficult-to-measure business and on the social and economic forces that push someone to pass the transition from "fun" to "profit".

He analyzed nearly 100 interviews and 403,168 profiles of knitters and crocheters in the United States. He found that even on one of the big niche social networks of the Internet, offline encouragement and feedback helped the most talented fans to recognize their skills and take their first steps towards monetization. Success on the Internet has been driven by interactions in real life.

His work has been brought to our attention through an enthusiastic endorsement by the influential blogger and economist of George Mason University, Tyler Cowen.

Kim, who tried to knit but never noticed, calculates that about 96% of Ravelry's users are women. At a time when online hustle and bustle multiply, his work helps us to understand the forces that encourage experienced women to get out of the margins and participate.


A look inside Looped Yarn Works, a knitwear shop in Washington, DC, on November 13th. (Lexey Swall / FTWP)

Many entrepreneurs emerge from a group of passionate enthusiasts, but it is difficult to study this transition. You should meticulously monitor years of activity, interests and achievements of each person participating in a hobby. Surprisingly, Ravelry's design encourages its users to do almost exactly that.

The 8 million and more people who have joined Ravelry since 2007 represent a different cross-section of the world's jerseys. According to the website, Ravelry earns most of his money through "yarn advertising".

Together, these sweaters have built that kind of detailed and long-standing data that previous generations of economists could only dream of. They publish the projects they complete, the models and the yarn they use and the groups of the real world to which they are united. They even link their accounts to personal showcases where they sell models to other users.

"It's great for knitters to keep records," Kim said. "For researchers, it's nice to look at every knitting activity of every knitter."

To better understand what transforms model users into model sellers, Kim reviewed 99 interviews with knitters on a niche newsletter and three blogs. The most common answer, by far, was that they had been encouraged by people they knew, like husbands and friends. Many had already modified the models and designed their gnomes of yarns and costumes for cats, but until they heard the others, they did not have the confidence to go out alone.

"For many entrepreneurs, I think the biggest personal challenge is believing in yourself – that what you're creating is something that is desired and appreciated by others," said designer Luise O & # 39; Neill to the Patternfish newsletter in 2015 .

The analysis of Kim's data on 403,168 individual knitwear from 2007 to 2014 supports this. The people who joined the so-called "stitch n & # 39; bitch" group to create socially were 25% more likely than the identical knitters to take the big step towards entrepreneurship. This is also true in correcting geography, experience, skill level and productivity.


Offline social networks create online entrepreneurs

The transformation begins immediately, which implies that the knitters realized their talent immediately after meeting their colleagues, comparing their work and receiving feedback and encouragement.

Kim found that the effect was stronger among those who were already the most experienced knitters. This suggests that in many cases social networks such as groups of puppies and puppies create entrepreneurs by encouraging those with more talent, rather than educating those who lag behind.

The University of Virginia economist Eric Chyn has defined the creative and effective approach of Kim. "It's a very convincing proof that it uses new data," he said.

"It tells us something about how peers are important," Chyn said. He was not involved in Kim's research, but he studied similar social effects in different contexts.

Chyn said that Kim's analysis suggested that your colleagues could influence you in ways that academics might not consider. It is often thought that your social connections can push you to entrepreneurship by providing information and resources that allow you to start a new business.

Women tended to be skillful seamstresses and pattern makers before joining their puppies.

But the offline social network of the meetings gave the shirts something they did not have before: trust.

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