Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Social Network Analysis

Hang on. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that this topic is far too technical for you. But stay with me here. This ain't so bad and it's got a very practical application in non-technical life. It's always interesting to me to see where machines reveal something about us as people. Then again, it's really people that make the machines. I guess they reflect their makers.

I read this statement in a technical on-line article:

It's said that any two people in the U.S. are, at the maximum, only four degrees of separation apart, so don't overlook the neighbors, the parents of your kids' friends and the aunt of the person you meet every now and then at the grocery store. (From the article "So, You Want to Be on the Board"

Now, think about this for a minute. Let's say I give you a sealed envelope with someone's name on the outside. I tell you to give it to someone you think may know the person. In just five hops of people (you plus five others for a total of six) it will find it's destination.

This is exactly what several researchers did. Now expand this to the entire world. We are linked by just six people to everyone on the planet. I know it sounds incredible. It sounds too wild to believe but this is what research has found. Now there is lots of discussion around the test cases, the measuring approach, and the number of persons used in the test. But that's not the point I'm making here.

My point is: If this is true for global comunities, think of the impact this could have in your comunity. Someone you meet at the store in the check out line is likely to know someone you know. Interesting stuff.

It kind of adds weight to the expression: What goes around, comes around.

Some interesting references:
Socially Translucent Systems
Social Network Analysis

“Where do most people hang out socially at home?  The kitchen.  No more maids, no more servants.  Today, most of us live another lifestyle entirely, in which we’re all in it together, and that’s the fun.” – David Allen, Getting Things Done