Saturday, August 23, 2008

It is a small world

A social graph derived from billions of instant messages validates folklore that there are about six degrees of separation between any two strangers on the planet.

A research team at US software giant Microsoft studied 30 billion instant messages sent by 240 million people in June of 2006 and determined that, on average, any two could be linked in 6.6 steps.

"We've been able to put our finger on the social pulse of human connectivity - on a planetary scale - and we've confirmed that it's indeed a small world." Microsoft told AFP

The "6 degrees of separation" premise stems from an oft-cited 1969 study by Stanley Milgram and Jeffrey Travers.

Milgram and Travers asked nearly 300 people in the US state of Nebraska to send a letter to someone in Boston through acquaintances.People were considered one degree apart from a friend, two degrees away from a friend's friend and so on.While most of the letters didn't make it to the designated recipient, those that did arrived with an average of 6.2 degrees of separation from senders.

"We used a population sample that is more than two million times larger than the group studied earlier and confirmed the classic finding," Horvitz and Leskovec concluded.

1 comment:

a very public sociologist said...

Ah, I used to spend hours in my student years doing this sort of thing. Turns out I'm only three steps away from Hitler - yikes!