A New Idea from Six Degrees

Six Degrees is a book by Duncan Watts about the science of networks.  Here is a tidbit from a Guardian review by Stephenh Poole

… the success of a pseudo-viral phenomenon, such as the massive sales of the Harry Potter books, may depend not at all on the intrinsic quality of the product but on its luck in dropping into a particularly “vulnerable” area of the network. If you manage to seed only a tiny part of the network, but that part has the right structure, the network will do the rest of the job for you. We may already have suspected something like this to be true, but Watts provides a persuasive model of how it actually works.

Interesting stuff! Here is a more basic idea about networks that I took from the book today.

Networks don’t sit there. They are descriptoins of activities that connect people over time. Conversations, for example, can be the activity. What characteristics make those converstaionsmore effective in synchronizing a network? There are two

  • the relative velocities which the network actors are expeiencing
  • the degree of coupling force that holds them together.

We are used to the “weak networks” idea of social networking. But the veolcity idea is worth thinking about as well. It describrs whetherthe activities of the members of a network are in tune or out of tune with each other.


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