Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Yahoo! Uses Facebook to Test Six Degrees of Separation

San Jose Mercury News (08/15/11) Mike Swift

Facebook and Yahoo! researchers have embarked on an experiment to determine how many online connections it takes, on average, for people to communicate a message to a person they do not know. The outcome could address lingering issues about the degrees of separation between people. Each member of Facebook has an average of 130 friends on the social network, which is visualized as a person's social graph. The current Small World experiment is designed to test people's effectiveness at transmitting a message from friend to friend to measure the actual level of connection between people, according to Yahoo! scientist Duncan Watts. The Facebook-Yahoo collaboration could cover a much wider participant population than Stanley Milgram's famous 1960s-era experiment, whose results were based on just 64 out of 300 letters that reached their targets. University of California, Berkeley professor Phil Cowan says the validity of the current experiment would be reliant on whether it is representative of the general populace, especially since users of social networks tend to be younger.