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< 6 Degrees of Seperation

For those who are unfamiliar, “Degrees of Separation” is a term that refers to how distant a person is away from someone else (in terms of number of acquaintances). For example, if Person A has a friend (Person B) whose lawyer (Person C) knew Bill Gates, then there would be three degrees of separation between Person A and Bill Gates. While many people have heard about 6 degrees of separation (people are separated by no more than 6 degrees), Facebook research shows that on average, it is actually less – 4.74 degrees. On the other hand, when Microsoft conducted a similar study (but using Instant Messenger as ties opposed to Facebook friends), the results determined that the average degree of separation is 6.6. The disparity between the significantly lower number provided by Facebook is due to its more liberal definition of “friend”. People often have Facebook friends they have not interacted with for years, while generally only talk with closer acquaintances on Instant Messenger; hence the more optimistic results yielded by Facebook.

Linking this back to class, it can be seen that Facebook uses a graph that considers both strong and weak ties – close friends and acquaintances respectively – as the edges between each node (ie. each person) whereas Microsoft filtered these ties and only considered the strong ties (people that would converse frequently) as the only relevant ties.  Because there are obviously much fewer strong ties than edges in total, some paths taken by Facebook would not have been able to be taken by Microsoft because of the lack of that edge in Microsoft’s graph and thus, would have to find a different, and most likely longer, path.

Regardless of either study, results show that the world is very connected and further asserts the notion that there is not a division between the people on earth (ie. there are not two distinct networks that are completely unrelated to the other). Regardless of where someone else is or who they are, chances are that both of you have a network of friends and acquaintances. All it takes is for one node (ie person) to know someone in both networks to create a bridge and connect the two people together.






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