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Close Encounters of 6.6th Kind

Posted by feww on August 3, 2008

It really is a small world!

According to Microsoft employees who studied the addresses of 30bn text messages sent during a single month in 2006, any two people are linked by a maximum of seven acquaintances.

Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933 – December 20, 1984) who was a social psychologist conducted the small-world experiment which was the source of the six degrees of separation concept.

Six degrees of separation: If you’re one step away from everyone you know, and two steps away from each person who is known to your acquaintances, then each person is a maximum of six “steps” away from anyone on Earth. Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. Credit: Laurens van Lieshout (User:LaurensvanLieshout).

In the MS study, two people were considered to be acquaintances if they had exchanged at least one text message.

To find out the minimum chain lengths that would connect all the users in the database [30bn text messages sent in June 2006,] they found the average length was 6.6 steps and that about 80% of the pairs were connected by a maximum of 7 links.

Internet and computer networks

In 2001, Duncan Watts, a professor at Columbia University, attempted to recreate Milgram’s experiment on the internet, using an e-mail message as the “package” that needed to be delivered, with 48,000 senders and 19 targets (in 157 countries). Watts found that the average (though not maximum) number of intermediaries was around six.

A 2007 study by Jure Leskovec and Eric Horvitz examined a data set of instant messages composed of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people. They found the average path length among Microsoft Messenger users to be 6.6 (some now call the theory, “the seven degrees of separation because of this.)

It has been suggested by some commentators that interlocking networks of computer mediated lateral communication could diffuse single messages to all interested users worldwide as per the 6 degrees of separation principle via Information Routing Groups, which are networks specifically designed to exploit this principle and lateral diffusion. (Source)

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