Monday, November 24, 2008

what a small world!

The reading for November 24 was from a book written by Clay Shirky titled, Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. The reading discusses the concept of six degrees of separation. This concept says that almost everyone has a connection in some way to people that they do not know personally. Though they do not know each other chances are that they have friends or acquaintances in common. One factor of this is homophily, which is the grouping of like with like. This increases the likely hood of running into someone that you know because it acknowledges the fact that people friend people that share commonalities. Like living on the same block, working together, having similar interests, etc. This increases the likelihood that when you meet someone the two of you have a friend in common.

Shirkey says that large groups are impractical and unbuildable. The best networks are those of many small tight groups that have a couple people from each group connected to a few people from other groups. This gives you the advantages of both the large and small scale.

In the reading Shirkey gives a good example of six degrees of separation through a personal experience of his. He was going to a bar and wanted to let his friends know what he was up to. He sent a message through Dodgeball, a personal network service, to his friends. In a matter of minutes he got a message back telling him that a friend of a friend was at the same bar. This allowed him to introduce himself and indentify how he knew this gentleman.

I feel that everyone is familiar with the small world pattern, even if they do not know the specific terms involved with it. Everybody has used the phase, “What a small world!” One instance where this happened to me was when I was catching up with a friend who I had not seen in a while. I was giving him a description of a girl who I had been seeing and he not only knew her; he also dated her as well. The reason that this was particularly interesting to me is that the girl lived an hour away. I could not believe we both knew and dated the same girl who lived so far away. If that is not the epitome of a small word story I do not know what is.

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