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Six Degrees of Separation

FROM: Steven M. Croteau

What NEED does this meet?
“It’s who you know”

The aim is to associate people who have a “weak” connection with each other through an Internet database. From the article “The Connectors: Meet the Hyper-networked Nodes Who Secretly Run the World.”, by Jeff Howe, Wired Magazine, November 2003:

“In 1974, a Harvard sociologist made a seemingly unremarkable discovery. It is, in fact, ‘who you know’. His study asked several hundred white-collar workers how they'd landed their jobs. More than half credited a "personal connection." Duh. But then it got interesting: The researcher, Mark Granovetter, dug deeper and discovered that four-fifths of these backdoor hires barely knew their benefactors. As it turns out, close friends are great for road trips, intimate dinners, and the occasional interest-free loan, but they suck for job leads and blind dates - they know the same people you do. In other words, it's not so much who you know, but who you vaguely know. Granovetter called the phenomenon "the strength of weak ties." He had discovered the human node.”

What is the APPROACH?
Create local groups by getting three “weak” acquaintances/friends to agree to input limited information about themselves, such as where they live, work, went to school, etc. into and online database. (Close friends, family, co-workers are not recommended. In fact it’s the person who has a diverse background and worldly experience that short-circuits the network.)

Next, have each of them also get three similar people to do the same, etc. etc. Everyone in the database must agree to op-in and input their information and to be part of the retrieval system. All participants can then search the database for relevant information, but you cannot just search for Say,President Bush, and get his e-mail addres.

Once a connection is made the length of the trail to your goal is revealed, but only the e-mail of the person closest to you will be revealed. Each person can only be connected to another point on the network by traveling through the chain of acquaintances that connect them. That way you will only receive e-mails from people within your local group asking you to make the next connection for them and vice-versa.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
”I didn’t know that my old high school buddy’s wife is the head of H. R. at Pepsi, and that’s where I’m applying for a position!”

“Your English professor’s brother is the Dean at Stanford? I’m trying to get my daughter in there!”

“Your brother-in-law works at Euro-Disney? Can he sell me his employees passes?”

What is the COMPETITION?
None that I know of...?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Web server space, database software, SQL code,...?

November 7, 2003 in Connecting People | Permalink


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Posted by: anonymous at Nov 7, 2003 9:01:26 AM

Would't the phrases you mentioned under benefits become completely
ineffective once the database has become widely used? Along the lines of:
What, your nephews's plumber is my wife's tennis partner? Interesting,
but hang on a moment, haven't I heard this line from the other job applicants?

Posted by: Timo at Nov 7, 2003 12:57:17 PM

1.) I am aware of Friendster, but I am not a member. Does anyone out there use Friendster and is it effective, or just an extra large chat room?
In my outside opinion it seems to be more of a dating/social service, rather than a way to get ahead in the business/work/academic arena.

2.) I'm sure that people hear these kinds of com-ons and statements to try & make connections for them on a regular basis, and not all of them work out or are accepable. In the end the best way to find people is still through personal recommendation, and you only need one!

Posted by: Steve C. at Nov 7, 2003 4:16:54 PM

I think a variation on this where you just set up a peer-to-peer network version of an Employment Connection would work really well and stay very focused. First you would make a list of all the other peers you know directly (strong or weak). Then you could post job categories you are searching for and that would show you a list of results ordered by strongest (least distance from direct relations) to weakest (many indirect relations down). Obviously whenever you had a position come up or knew somebody look for somebody, you could add this to allow job-seekers to match up with it. Technically you could already do this within existing peer-to-peer applications. Other than the strongest-weakest assessment. Could easily modify limewire.

Posted by: Tyler Zetterstrom at Nov 8, 2003 6:40:18 AM

"Your English professor’s brother is the Dean at Stanford? I’m trying to get my daughter in there!"

Surely we want people to get into Stanford based on their academic ability rather than personal connections.

While this project may be quite fun, nepotism is hardly going to bring about a public benefit.

Posted by: Stewart Morris at Nov 13, 2003 12:24:39 AM

LinkedIn is like friendster but aims more at professionals and job seekers etc. http://www.linkedin.com

Tribe.net is pretty cool too. It you're connected to someone, it shows you many links and through whom. http://www.tribe.net



Posted by: Josef at Nov 16, 2003 12:12:44 AM