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Efficient Knowledge Transfer in Social Graphs: Meet the Flying Gurnard

Last week while strolling down the Ala Wai with my 2yo son we stopped to look at the crabs that collect around the stairs that decend into the canal. I was glancing down at my iPhone when my son suddenly yelled "BIRD FISH!" and started pointing. I looked over and saw this:

In the thousands of hours I've spent walking up and down that canal over the years, I'd never seen anything like it. As if looking like a giant moth wasn't weird enough, it grunted like a pig, and had tiny finger-like appendages at the end of those pectoral fins that where probing the bottom of the canal.

Like any dad, I wanted to tell my son about his his discovery, but I had no idea what it was. I looked for lists of fish commonly found in the Ala Wai. The Mothra fish (Bob Matcuk's characterization) was nowhere to be found. I expanded to Hawaiian reef fish. Nothing. Step three: Tap Facebook for answers. I posted about the fish and tagged fishing meister Hoʻala Greevy and AquacultureHub's Professor Benny. Within minutes my friend Karen, who I wouldn't have thought to tag, identified the fish as a flying gurnard. Minutes later additional information came in from Hoʻala, Professor Benny and others - state records, information about the use of its pectoral fins that was not on Wikipedia, the answer to "can it glide like a flying fish?", etc. Days later other videos of gurnards were attached by a Tokyo-based friend. I had plenty to share with Kai.

I was struck by the immense power of FB's ubiquitous brain cloud. There is no other resource that could have provided that much information at that speed. FB friends: Thank you for restoring my son's faith in my ability to identify animal species! Now every time we walk along the Ala Wai he looks in and inquires "flying gurnard?"

Second photo by Beckmannjan, provided under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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