6 degrees of email.
January 23, 2002 7:29 AM   Subscribe

6 degrees of email. A project is going on to test the 6 degrees theory. And it occured to me that something like this could be done on the web. Is it possible to go from any web site to any other in 6 links? (More inside)
posted by Steven Den Beste (27 comments total)
 
So here's how to test it. Go to Google and enter something chosen at random (e.g. "buttercup") and then take the 50th result (which would be the bottom entry on page 4).

Then enter something else chosen at random (e.g. "rainstorm") and do the same. Now, can you get from the first to the second in six clicks?

In my case the answer was "no". I couldn't figure out how to get from a fan page
for a character from "The Powerpuff Girls" to a page talking about Japanese disaster relief for
flood victims in Venezuala.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2002


While we're on the subject of stupid surveys, how many web loggers do you know whose surnames are on this list? Are you a "connector"?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:34 AM on January 23, 2002


Um, no. Thank god. I tend to think of myself as "the brick wall".
posted by gloege at 7:46 AM on January 23, 2002


my, those Sun servers are running overtime today! (nb. getting 504 errors when loading http://sorry.metafilter.com/there_is_no_spoon.mefi, if that's of any interest)

i assume you require six clicks and no typing...

so, i cannot see this working for any but the largest of sites, or the sites with the largest 'links' section, or any search engine and any site. an interesting exercise, nonetheless. it's good way of encountering some random, er, s(h)ite on the internet - do you feel lucky?

the list of surnames is very 'american'; ie not braithewaite or jones or mccafferty. also, no haughey!

i'd say having a lot of names in your address book doesn't make you a 'connector', keeping in touch with people does.

from that list of 250 surnames, i score 1. so probably not a connector!
posted by asok at 7:52 AM on January 23, 2002


not my website. - maybe 60 clicks.
posted by Spoon at 7:55 AM on January 23, 2002


six degrees of kottke.
posted by moz at 8:05 AM on January 23, 2002


I remember something like this mentioned somewhere a long time ago... Similar rules, no typing, etc. I think you were allowed to start from Yahoo, maybe? But I don't remember what/where it was, exactly.

Here's an interesting article that claims the diameter of the web is 19; that is, it takes an average of 19 clicks to get from anywhere to anywhere else on the web. The original paper (.pdf) is here. This was 1999, but it claims that the diameter doesn't grow very quickly.

This professor at Cornell has written or co-written many papers about the subject of connectivity and web topology it seems.

One should be able to find more resources through a Google search for terms like web, link, topology, connectivity, six degrees, diameter, etc.
posted by whatnotever at 8:06 AM on January 23, 2002


This is kind of what I'm trying to do with a project called Everything is Connected.

And this conversation is now part of the database.
posted by jragon at 8:14 AM on January 23, 2002


Oh, and don't forget that the six-degrees theory was proposed by Stanley Milgram, who is most famous for his experiment (more) in which he got ordinary people to commit murder (as far as the subjects knew) simply by telling them they had to (plus four dollars and fifty cents).
posted by whatnotever at 8:15 AM on January 23, 2002


A big part of what makes the six degrees theory work (as far as I remember) are the few people who have massive amounts of friends and connections, especially those that break geographical, cultural, and class boundaries. So a place like Yahoo is perfectly valid. Someone smart told me that once.
posted by thebigpoop at 8:49 AM on January 23, 2002


I'm a weblogger and my surname (Gilbert) is on that list.
posted by brittney at 9:03 AM on January 23, 2002


I got an invite email about this a couple months back, but the experiment is badly flawed. Their web application is done very poorly, making their collection of data impossible, and when I tried to alert them to the problems and ask for helps, all their contact emails addresses ended up bouncing. Ed wrote about his experiences and mine are in a comment there.
posted by mathowie at 9:29 AM on January 23, 2002


Uh, I hate to spoil the fun, but the 6 degrees thing is a myth according to some recent research. Looks like the Small World project is trying to test the hypothesis in a real world setting. Kleinfelds review of Milgrams results show that the world is only small if you're rich.
posted by daver at 9:39 AM on January 23, 2002


See also Andy Ihnatko's classic Web That Smut!
posted by jjg at 10:04 AM on January 23, 2002


That's it, jjg! I couldn't for the life of me remember what exactly it was, but that's what I was thinking of.
posted by whatnotever at 10:28 AM on January 23, 2002


From The New Yorker: Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg, by Malcolm Gladwell.
posted by Tin Man at 11:04 AM on January 23, 2002


Here's my test for the six degrees thing: I'd like to be able to ask Janeane Garofalo out on a date so that she can reject me. Now, from the thousands of people who access MeFi, there must be one of you who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows Janeane Garofalo. So just pass my email address along to her. If she ever emails me back and says "no," then we'll all know this six degrees thing is authentic. If not, we'll know it's a load of crap. And if she emails me back and says "yes," then somewhere in those six degrees between here and there, there's somebody doing some major drugs.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:51 AM on January 23, 2002


zach, that looked like seven degrees... so i don't think it'd work out. i propose another test:

I'd like to be able to ask Laura Prepon out on a date so that she can reject me. Now, from the thousands of people who access MeFi, there must be one of you who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows Laura Prepon. So just pass my email address along to her. If she ever emails me back and says "no," then we'll all know this six degrees thing is authentic. If not, we'll know it's a load of crap. And if she emails me back and says "yes," then somewhere in those six degrees between here and there, there's somebody doing some major drugs.


mwahahaha! it's a plan beyond evil!
posted by lotsofno at 12:27 PM on January 23, 2002


i think that we have to have everyone we know pass zachs' email addresses to everyone they know, etc. you don't have to know that you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows jeanine garafalo - you just probably do - none of us is more than 4 degrees to hollywood - i'm sure of it...

and jeanine is one from there...

but laura prepon: i can't help with that...
posted by goneill at 2:07 PM on January 23, 2002


Is it possible to go from any web site to any other in 6 links?

In a world where Memepoolitis has been contained probably not.
posted by skallas at 2:14 PM on January 23, 2002


While we're on the subject of stupid surveys, how many web loggers do you know whose surnames are on this list? Are you a "connector"?

Gee, don't you think that Malcom Gladwell is Christopher Walken's non-Celebrity Lookalike?
posted by y2karl at 2:29 PM on January 23, 2002


Well, I know Chelsea Clinton through a friend, so from there you all have a pretty good tie in with the world. Hurray.

Oh, and I know the female musician Poe personally. Like that means anything ;)
posted by jragon at 3:32 PM on January 23, 2002




Zach - I used to work for Stiletto Entertainment. They represented Joey Lawrence who I met as a result. Joey has been on the Tonight Show where he met Jay Leno. Janeane has been on the Tonight Show as well. I believe that makes just 4 degrees separating you.

She said no.
posted by willnot at 5:51 PM on January 23, 2002


There was a company called SixDegrees during the whole dotcom hullabaloo that was trying to do this through their database. Of course, they're dead now.
posted by owillis at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2002


*cries for Zach
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:26 AM on January 24, 2002


jragon: Oh, and I know the female musician Poe personally. Like that means anything ;)

not her. her brother on the other hand wrote a heckuva book
posted by juv3nal at 11:31 PM on January 25, 2002


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