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Wolfe, Alvin wrote:
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> Joshua made an interesting comment that the "new" idea that we reach one
> another in 4.5 rather than 6 steps in the small world will be picked up
> by the media and become a much-quoted factoid. What difference does it
> make, except in a public relations game? Milgram's study was obviously
> very general and imprecise anyway.
Actually it was me who made that comment, but never mind. My angle on
this, and the reason I mentioned it in the first place, is that a couple
of degrees of separation out from the original research, it is, as
you're all well aware, the kind of 'news' that gets picked up and
actually USED to make decisions -- I consult into advertising in the UK,
and beleive me, I KNOW that I'm going to be hearing that factoid every
week for the next few months, when their 'quantitative' (which has a
slightly different meaning in advertising, believe me -- error bars?
never!;-) research people get hold of it
So I was interested to hear whether I was missing something, and whether
this really does MEAN anything. My initial suspicion was that it really
doesn't, without, as others here have said, details on methodology that
are missing -- and even then, as I think Michele pointed out yesterday,
possibly the most important *qualitative* result from the original
research is that the shortest distance between nodes is incredibly small
compared to the size of the network -- not that 6 is somehow a magic number!
Anyway -- are those of you who commented happy if I summarise (without
direct attribution, unless you actively want it, and no cut and paste
quotes, unless anyone wants to go on the record, in which case a
succinct debunking quote would be much appreciated!), the conversation
here on a blog posting (at http://www.bigshinything.com) as something like:
'In informal conversation over the weekend with professionals in the
world of SNA, the consensus was that (a) without details on methodology,
this claim is unsubstantiable, and (b) 6 isn't really a magic number in
the first place -- the qualitative importance of Milgram's research was
that even huge social networks have very short distances between
randomly chosen nodes. And that no-one should think that this article is
really offering evidence of a difference that makes a difference (magic
number 4.6 vs magic number 6)'?
Although I'm sure it will be worded better than that after some coffee ;-)
Thanks again for your thoughts over the weekend.
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