Peter Cochrane's Blog: Three clicks away from eight million people

The power of social networking

...and I have observed some interesting features. With just 1,690 primary contacts added by me one at a time over four years, I now have access to more than eight million professionals spanning 150 countries and numerous technology, engineering and scientific disciplines. This is powerful stuff!

I am also a member of a number of special interest groups with access to online debates, conferences, tutorials, briefings and news feeds that I can observe or contribute to at will. Again, all of this has been within my evaluation, choice and control.

So how does this type of network grow? Well, it looks like a mini-internet that is only three clicks deep but with more than eight million selected contacts and a total (potential) population of more than 40 million, it could be close to exponential. The really interesting feature is that the logistics growth curve leads to a plateau of limiting interest. But as the total population of candidates grows, so do the members, and this leads to a distortion of the original static assumption model.

The accuracy of the growth model can be judged by the points logged from my own social network account, which looks like this:

What is the takeaway here? Networks and connectivity models are most powerful when we consider the weighting of the individual contacts. And so I would posit that a network of hand-picked and capable people is far more powerful than a network where we have no control of the growth.

To be connected to the entire population of the planet, and the ability to link to every device and website is nothing short of a miracle, but to achieve any level of optimisation of utility seems to be impossible. However, the social networking of people and things is the exception!

Interestingly, it is the concatenation of selection by people that continually optimises social networks and not the technology. For me this is the secret and the big advance we are currently experiencing. The ability to contact more than four billion mobile telephones and more than three billions devices with browsers is impressive - but not as professionally powerful compared to my eight million hand-picked contacts!

A measure of the advantage that social networks bring can be gleaned from the model depicted below, which is a gross simplification by the way!

If I assume a weighting per contact averaging at '1', I suspect that the equivalent weighting per contact for the entire mobile network and the internet approximates to '0'. Anyway, for sure it is extremely small!