Monday, January 07, 2008

Six Degrees - an application

Okay, so I was really stuck on this whole "six degrees of separation" thing, so I figured I'd do some googling. I've heard of the idea many times over the years, thought it was interesting, and left it at that. Well, I've still left it at that but I've found an actually interesting Facebook application related to it.

The application is called "Six Degrees" and actually DOES something, unlike the Facebook group I mentioned earlier this afternoon (can you tell I'm getting a lot of work done right now?).

In this application you can see how many degrees of separation you have from the application creator via your Facebook friends. You can also search for other people on Facebook and find how many degrees of separation you have, but of course if you search for your friends you will only have 1 degree of separation. This is an interesting concept, and I'd be very interested to see how exactly he did this algorithmically since I can see a few different options.

Once again I'm not sure I agree with the premise that it tests the six degrees of separation though. I agree that it finds your degree of separation from the creator via your Facebook friends (assuming the algorithm works right), but I don't see how that is a true test of the six degrees of separation theory. One problem I have is that many people have "friends" on Facebook that they've never met in real life, have barely communicated with, and/or just added randomly. I don't think that really counts as a degree of separation, since it's akin to just using a person passing you on the sidewalk. Thus you could be shown to be closer than you actually are, giving an erroneously low count. On the other side, many people's friends and family are not on Facebook or are not yet linked to them via Facebook, so an incorrectly high degree of separation may be found instead.

I just really don't think any result from this experiment can be trusted scientifically, although it is definitely an interesting idea to try out. It's at least fun for the person who created the application, since it's main purpose is to see what the average degree of separation is between him and each individual Facebook user. I think I might actually try this one out.

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