Wednesday, 11 January 2012

# 11 Statistics and The 6 Degrees of Separation

I can't resist checking my Blogger stats. Yes, I know it sounds egotistical but it's my OCD nature packaging things up into neat little bundles that gets the blame this time. I guess it's why I still have a filo-fax. You know, that diary thing all yuppies and office workers used to have.

Sadly statistical information like this excites me especially when it's something I've done that might impact on something outside of my little world. I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of hits although the Thatcher posting damaged my ratings a little on Monday (oh well I guess we can't always write on popular subjects).

Not surprisingly, most of my readers are in the UK but it's a little surreal that people are reading in the USA, Germany, Russia, France and Saudi Arabia. My visitors are predominantly using Windows, Internet Explorer (narrowly overtaking Firefox yesterday) and mostly linking in through Facebook which I guess is just useful stuff to know. I know it probably sounds insignificant or pointless to a lot of you, but I've only been running this blog for a week and half. It sometimes blows my mind that out there in etherworld and often quite literally on the other side of the world, bits of my life and work are floating about being read by random strangers who may or may not have something in common with me.They could be anyone. Housewives. teachers, teenagers, celebrities. Who knows?

This information serves a useful purpose as well. I can monitor traffic peaks by the type of post I've published and this helps me add new work that will appeal to a wider readership. Post #5 Words Are Only Skin Deep has consistently been the most popular posting so far. Lifestyle seems to interest you all and there's clearly a tattoo fascination going on.

I was reminded how small we have made this world by connecting us all up with the internet. But you don't have to go to such extreme lengths to get that experience of 'everybody knows somebody who.....'. A few recent events have made me think how closely we are all interlinked without even being aware of it.

I've only been living in Lincoln since 2008, but it does seem to have some strange vortex pull. I've never seen it anywhere else I've lived - the number of people I know who have close connections to bits of the country that I am closely connected with. And they're random bits that normally noone you would meet would have ever gone to or heard of. And since I have moved here and developed relationships within various friend groups, it's even more worrying how embroiled you become in their lives purely because everybody seems to know everybody else give or take a connection. Sometimes it can be awkward. I keep a lot of secrets.....

It got me started on the Six Degrees of Separation (to quote Wikipedia) 'Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.' If you want to get really geeky about it, here's the mathematical equation:

Average Path Length = (ln N / ln K) where N = total nodes and K = acquaintances per node. Thus if N = 300,000,000 (90% US pop.) and K = 30 then Degrees of Separation = 19.5 / 3.4 = 5.7 and if N = 6,000,000,000 (90% World pop.) and K = 30 then Degrees of Separation = 22.5 / 3.4 = 6.6. (Assume 10% of population is too young to participate.)

It's not a new concept either. They were theorising on this stuff back in the 1920s as communication and travel technology began advancing in leaps and bounds.  Of course we all know why it's 6 Degrees - social networking. But in 30 years time, 4 Degrees, 3??? Will there ever come a time when we are all linked so closely that there is noone else left to know?

Whilst I am a complete advocate of the internet and spend far too much time on it, I'm not sure I want to know everyone by '6 Degrees'. I like to know there are bits of the world that are isolated from human contact, that there are places I shall never see and that there are people I shall never have any contact with. Because I like to believe that the world is still big enough to get lost in.

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