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Yahoo, Facebook Test "Six Degrees of Separation"

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the small-world dept.

Facebook 228

An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo has partnered with Facebook to test the iconic social experiment known as 'six degrees of separation' (everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth). The goal of the Small World Experiment is to determine the social path length between two strangers by tapping into the world's largest social network and its 750 million users, each of whom have an average of 130 friends." Looks like a fun project, but not quite as useful as knowing how close you are to Kevin Bacon.

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228 comments

its a scam (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37106862)

neither of these two do anything except for cash...guess now what they do with such knowledge.
AND WHY are i not being paid to do this?

Re:its a scam (0)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106998)

WooHoo! Now I'm only one step away from you, Anonymous Coward.

Re:its a scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107474)

Not any more! I unfriended you!

Re:its a scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107514)

Now you're in an AC sandwich!

Re:its a scam (3, Insightful)

wiedzmin (1269816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107462)

I know it sounds like trolling, but you may have a valid point - Facebook knows exactly who is connected and how - they should be easily able to pull a report and see if 6 degrees of separation is true (sure there may be privacy concerns, but they can just add that as an opt-out feature again, not a big deal). This seems like an elaborate/obscure marketing campaign in wake of Google+ :)

facebook yahoo data sync? (2, Insightful)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106864)

So does this mean that even though I have explicitly not given my yahoo account to my facebook account, they're about to sync with eachother anyway? Great.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106904)

I know there's little to no chance that my Yahoo accounts will know about my other accounts. I haven't updated any of my personal information (such as where I live) in either of them. One has a location from 3 moves ago, the other from 4 moves. There's little to no chance of the accounts syncing with each other, much less with anything I might have on a social networking site.

The key is that all of these social networking sites and email providers only have the information you give them. They can guess at a few things but really, they won't have the information if it's not provided to them in the first place.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106946)

you forget about all the facebook web beacon javascript, all the major websites have them. (noscript ftw!)

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107012)

you forget about all the facebook web beacon javascript, all the major websites have them. (noscript ftw!)

And about everyone he knows who has him in their address book and friends list.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107094)

Yep. Even this site uses google-analytics. It's scary how much information is picked up from your surfing habits almost anywhere on the web.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107314)

Noscript, Adblock, Flashblock, Cookie Monster, Better Privacy. Flush browser cache on exit. New email address for every site I join. A few other tricks...

Makes the web a much nicer place and my habits much harder to correlate between different places.

I mean except panopticick type stuff browser fingerprinting, but then I'm not sure how much of that data can get back to the site without various forms of scripting.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107544)

Noscript, Adblock, Flashblock, Cookie Monster, Better Privacy. Flush browser cache on exit. New email address for every site I join. A few other tricks...

I'm waiting for the day when that list gets amended with "manually render HTML/CSS on paper, inspect each bit as it comes over the network cable, turn off the computer, bury it in concrete, lock doors, hide from world". Because to the rest of the world, that's what it sounds like you're working towards.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107210)

they don't use the "personal information" fields (too many people same name, same age, same city), that's not how the game of internet marketing and tracking is played. 3rd party javascript on the websites you visit, 3rd party cookies, your browsers cached data compared between successive sites with common 3rd party content, pixel beacons in emails and web pages, friend lists, social networking profiles used as shortcut for registration.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106952)

yes, and more importantly, they'll have new opportunities for selling marketing data and data mining services.

        win-win all around for the both of them

Everyone should drop the facebook, and get their own virtual host website for less than $5 a month, and put pictures and have comments / blog there. Or set up a web server at home and use a free dynamic dns, it's good geeky fun. plenty of my-website-in-a-can packages out there.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107250)

"Everyone should drop the facebook, and get their own virtual host website "

Uh, right.

The value of a social network is determined by the number of users it has. Facebook has 750 million. Your own private server, EVEN IF people know how the hell to set one up, which they don't, will only have a few. Thus, it will be nearly useless compared to facebook.

Not to mention that people have NO IDEA how to set up and run their own web host, they don't want to know, and shouldn't have to know. Computers should not be that difficult to operate.

What you want only works in your fantasy world, not in the real one. This is a common thing with slashdot geeks: they don't understand that they're in a tiny tiny niche and most people want very different things.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

Scaba (183684) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107538)

Likewise, everyone should drop their phone company and set up their own CLEC. Or maybe everyone else isn't a socially hostile and ultra paranoid geek and are willing to trade information that's publicly available anyway for a convenient and centralized site for social interaction.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106960)

FTFA:

Anyone with a Facebook account can participate to verify if everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth. You’ll be asked to select one of your Facebook friends whom you believe is most likely to know the “target person” that has been assigned to you. A message will then be sent from friend to friend until you get it to the “target person.” The goal is to do this in as few steps as possible.
[snip]
Yahoo and Facebook hope to attract many times more participants than has ever been attempted before. The study is intended as academic social research and will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Seems like a really poor way to go about doing it. Might as well just do the calculations themselves. Much faster, and will produce a vastly more reliable answer.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

geogob (569250) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107028)

This seems like a totally absurd way of doing it... it will only use a minimal fraction of the information available, and that in the most inefficient and unreliable way possible.

If this is really how they hope to achieve results, they might as well walk on the street and ask people.

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107236)

Seems like a really poor way to go about doing it. Might as well just do the calculations themselves. Much faster, and will produce a vastly more reliable answer.

I also enjoy the constant use of the adjectives "average" and "approximately" whenever the magic "six steps" are mentioned. I can tell you right now that everyone is on average, approximately 6 steps away from everyone else. (for certain large definitions of approximately, and for a certain averaging method which will be named later.)

Re:facebook yahoo data sync? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107556)

The whole thing is irrelevant anyway. It assumes that everybody in the world has a Yahoo or Facebook account. The challenges for the degrees of separation theory are people in remote areas who have never seen a mobile phone, never mind a computer. So at best it's just a Yahoo/Facebook marketing trick. Everybody who matters is within n degrees of separation, where "matters" is defined as "has a Yahoo and/or a Facebook account."

Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (2, Insightful)

foobsr (693224) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106888)

TFS: " each of whom have an average of 130 friends "

... where the validity of hitherto common concepts vanishes.

CC.

Re:Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106926)

i'm at about this number. doesn't mean i hang out with everyone but i've known these people at some point in my life. some people i haven't seen for years

i'm less than 6 degrees from an old country music star and a dentist in florida who's in jail for killing his wife 20 some years ago.

Re:Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (1)

V-similitude (2186590) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107264)

Well, the 6-degrees hypothesis isn't actually concerned with friends, but rather with any acquaintances at all. So facebook's version of "friends" fits the bill pretty well. Though if I were doing this, I would certainly try to exclude people who have over, say, 500 or so friends just on the basis that they're likely to be faked somehow (either due to social gaming, or whatever).

My question though, is why can't facebook just run a simple algorithm to test the max degrees of separation between any two people? The method described in TFA seems like a rather contrived and not-particularly-valid way to test the hypothesis. In fact, it almost feels like it's more of a publicity stunt than a real scientific study . . . .

Re:Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (2)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107354)

The idea is that you provide meta-data along the way (I know this person through school, this person is a good friend, etc).

Re:Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107440)

My question though, is why can't facebook just run a simple algorithm to test the max degrees of separation between any two people?

I think it would be both interesting and hilarious for FB or G+ or any of those social networking sites to offer a "penpal" service where you get to meet the dude on the social opposite/antipode of the planet from you (who none the less has a common language with you). Kind of like a grown up version of writing to pen pals when you were a schoolchild.

My "social antipode" would probably be a bilingual Pakistani Imam, or maybe a neolithic-era African tribesman (essentially, I'm thinking of their continent's version of our Amish) with a smartphone, or someone really far out like a Floridian Tea Party member. I think it would be weirdly interesting to talk with people like that, rather than the "yes man echo chamber" that is most social networking sites.

Re:Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (1)

bratloaf (1287954) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107542)

This is a really neat idea... I think you should probably submit it to Google and/or Facebook. Wouldnt it be possible to write an app that would do this? I mean, yes youd have to somehow have access to the FB/G+ data, but in a possibly generic way? Like your code determines the "anitpode" characteristics, and queries FB/G+ for some matches, which you anonomize and display to choose from somehow?

Pretty cool idea, I gotta say....

Re:Artificial Test in an Artificial World ... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107290)

Wait, so you're telling me the people that I play Mafia Wars with aren't really friends?!?!!

"connected" by facebook, really? (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106902)

How do they determine real connections vs just having browsed some random strangers' cute/funny/whatever profile and saving it just for that? I'm pretty sure the original theorist would scoff at the notion that's a real social connection. LinkedIn would be much better but even then you'd have to filter out all the recruiters.

Re:"connected" by facebook, really? (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106958)

Oh come on, everyone knows that a "friendship" based on Farmville is just as deep and meaningful as a traditional friendship. None of my "real" friends cared when I got the Golden Tractor...

Re:"connected" by facebook, really? (2)

mfh (56) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107134)

Real science is always scoffed at buy businessmen because it often gets in the way of profit. Profit is only generated by bullshitting people, and science is the act of making people see the facts. No businessman wants you to see the facts or even consider them.

Think about it. Someone buys something ridiculously cheap and resells it for insane profit. That's crazy! But it happens every day and even SCIENTISTS buy things at five times the standard material price, or more! Except of course, DIY people. These are the purist scientists who not only know how to put things together but they also know how to create things with their hands that are better than marketed versions of the product for a number of reasons.

Re:"connected" by facebook, really? (4, Funny)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107336)

Get help before you end up like Kaczynski.

Re:"connected" by facebook, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107732)

Help with what? Our society is bullshit and everyone needs to know it.

Sounds Great! (3, Insightful)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106906)

Oh whoops while we were performing this test we accidentally shared a whole bunch of private information with our partners.

Re:Sounds Great! (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106988)

Oh whoops while we were performing this test we accidentally shared a whole bunch of private information with our partners.

...and transmitted your wifi ssid and geolocation, provided access to your account to a 3rd party without a password, and inadvertently disclosed to law enforcement that you were browsing news articles that favored hacking as a form of right to free speech.

But it's okay we fixed all that recently.

Paul Erdos (4, Insightful)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106920)

The editor should be banished from /. for mentioning the Bacon number and not the Erdos number.

Re:Paul Erdos (1)

beef3k (551086) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107006)

Yes. Slashdot - a place with noone but maths geeks with no other purpose in life than achieving the highest possible Erdos number. (who's this Kevin Bacon anyway...?)

Re:Paul Erdos (1)

szo (7842) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107070)

Smallest. Shame on you for this!

Re:Paul Erdos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107128)

To be fair, he did not say "largest". You could say for example I got the highest place in the test, meaning the 1st place...

Re:Paul Erdos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107306)

You could say for example I got the highest place in the test, meaning the 1st place...

That would be because your score on the test was larger than any other score. Nit-picky, yes.

Re:Paul Erdos (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107554)

Smallest. Shame on you for this!

Anybody can get a low erdos number. I have a semi-distant acquaintance with a "3" so it would not be terribly difficult for me to score a "4". Perhaps I could help her prove something on a compute cluster, to get credit on one of her papers.

The real challenge is getting a high number. You must publish or perish. To publish you'll probably have to collaborate, what comes around goes around and if you want to be listed on 10 papers that you didn't do much on them, you've gotta accept ten freeloaders on your paper... Practically everyone in academia is somewhere from an erdos of "2" to I'm guessing at most maybe a "5".

I could postulate a theorem that it is impossible to be listed as author in more than a dozen published papers and have an erdos above 6. I think it would be pretty difficult if not absolutely impossible. Of course maybe in 1000 years erdos numbers like 50 will be commonplace...

Re:Paul Erdos (2)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107676)

Anybody can get a low erdos number. I have a semi-distant acquaintance with a "3" so it would not be terribly difficult for me to score a "4".

That's because of your definition of "low". A 4 is low for the number of kittens in cat lady's house, or the magnitude of an earthquake, but it is not low for an Erdos number, with the median being 5 and the average 4.65. So 4 is, as you too realize, very common and thus is far from being considered "low".
Low Erdos number means 1, 2 or at most 3.

Re:Paul Erdos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107198)

Bacon is delicious.

Re:Paul Erdos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107090)

Kevin Bacon is no more than 6 steps from Erdos, maybe as few as 3.

Travelling Salesman (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106940)

I wonder how they get around computational complexity of this kind of thing. I bet it doesn't try to find the smallest number of degrees of sepperation. Or since it is between you and a stranger it just does a random walk and returns who ever is at the 6th position who isn't in either of your fiiends list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem [wikipedia.org]

Re:Travelling Salesman (5, Informative)

Ragondux (2034126) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107118)

It's not a travelling salesman problem, it's a shortest path problem, and as such is much easier. For the distance between two specific people, you'd need the Dijkstra algorithm, and for the distance between any two people, you could use Floyd-Warshall. This one is in O(n^3), where n is the number of users; that's a big number, but it's nowhere near the (supposed) complexity of the TSP.

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107376)

Right. Probably the best way to do it is to randomly draw a couple thousand UID's and run Dijkstra. Then you can do all sorts of neat stuff like geodesic distributions.

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107402)

..and it wont actually have a runtime of n^3 steps if the 6-degree theorem is correct.. O(n^3) is the worst case, while it would actually perform like O(n^2) when given high levels of interconnectivity

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107438)

The fact that it is undirected and unweighted makes it even faster -- sub O(n^3) by at least one or more log factors depending on the density of the grpah. The shear size of the graph would make for a fun implementation, but it is entirely doable.

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107458)

Ahh, I remembered the problem wrong. I should read my own links lol. To make it a traveling salemen problem you could do the following. Assuming everyone who is friends with someone on your friends list will accept a friend request. What is the shortest amount of friend requests such that you would become friends with a set of people on Facebook.

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107496)

Even that is not the same because with the traveling salemen your options for the next step is smaller with each move. Where as this your options for friend request would grow with each request. Not the same at all.

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107126)

Travelling salesman doesn't seem to be an issue here, as the six-degrees of separation thing is a simple exercise of finding the shortest path between two people, not finding the shortest path crossing N people (with large N). And path finding isn't very complex, just throw some Dijkstra's algorithm [wikipedia.org] at it and be done with it.

Of course what they are doing in the "experiment" (ad campaign?) isn't actually finding the shortest path, its about letting the users themselves try to find it by sending messages via their friends to a target person and then looking at how many friends it took.

Re:Travelling Salesman (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107230)

This has been done before. There used to be a site called Six Degrees, which was a social network that showed your contacts at various distances.

Re:Travelling Salesman (4, Informative)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107430)

This has been done before. There used to be a site called Six Degrees, which was a social network that showed your contacts at various distances.

Which was swallowed by Orkut. Which was swallowed by Google.

By the way, the original theory is that six degrees is the _maximum_ distance between any two living humans, not the average.

Re:Travelling Salesman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107776)

I wrote an algorithm which does this for Wikipedia pages. The easiest (least computational) way is to use a bi-directional search and alternate between the start and end halves, evaluating the most recent layer for either side when looking for matches.

Facebook (1)

mfh (56) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106964)

Facebook doesn't know anything about me. I have subscribed there and posted there for a long time.

They sell the information they have collected on me to other companies and they make a tidy profit for it, but the funny thing is that what they are selling has nothing to do with me. It won't help someone market better to me. It won't help someone convince me to buy something.

The reason this kind of thing doesn't work is pretty easy. I'm the kind of person that makes purchasing decisions based on the actual products or services and my perception of them, along with my decision of whether to trust them. Anyone working with Facebook I automatically distrust. I never trusted Yahoo to begin with, especially when they had the overgrown mess of a website back when Google was starting its journey.

So it really doesn't surprise me that Facebook has partnered with Yahoo, but to be honest I couldn't give a shit about it.

This is just ivy league idiots passing money around. There is nothing more going on here.

Re:Facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107042)

pls sir, will u suck my penis? ur big post made my peen hard

Re:Facebook (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107144)

Isn't the theory that by amassing giga-libraries-of-congress, of personal data you'll get relevant and personalized ads?
Nope, turns out they are just as irrelevant as the least targeted ads, such as TV.

Re:Facebook (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107320)

Facebook doesn't know anything about me. I have subscribed there and posted there for a long time.

They sell the information they have collected on me to other companies and they make a tidy profit for it, but the funny thing is that what they are selling has nothing to do with me. It won't help someone market better to me. It won't help someone convince me to buy something.

The reason this kind of thing doesn't work is pretty easy. I'm the kind of person that makes purchasing decisions based on the actual products or services and my perception of them, along with my decision of whether to trust them. Anyone working with Facebook I automatically distrust. I never trusted Yahoo to begin with, especially when they had the overgrown mess of a website back when Google was starting its journey.

So it really doesn't surprise me that Facebook has partnered with Yahoo, but to be honest I couldn't give a shit about it.

This is just ivy league idiots passing money around. There is nothing more going on here.

How do you know for sure that your purchasing decisions are made by *intentional* perceptions of products, and not by the subtly controlled environment you subject yourself to when engaging in things like Facebook? Heck, by your own admission all I would have to do (as a marketer) is somehow dis-align my brand with Facebook and I will be excluded from your circle of distrust. After that it's only a matter of time before that distinction creeps into a purchase decision. People put so much more unconscious thought into purchases (and other things) than they tend to admit, and often its the ones going around saying "no that's not going to influence my purchases!" that are the most susceptible.

Re:Facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107482)

How do you know for sure that your purchasing decisions are made by *intentional* perceptions of products, and not by the subtly controlled environment you subject yourself to when engaging in things like Facebook?

Because if he's anything like me, I take my time and actually shop. I look at Consumer Reports, ratings on websites (everything but the 5 star reviews - they're all shiils and people who know no better) and talk to people who do know better.

See, I'm a cynic. If it's online I automatically have doubt about it and do my own investigations to the best of my ability; which is why I never signed up for Facebook to begin with.

Re:Facebook (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107642)

I'm the kind of person that makes purchasing decisions based on the actual products or services and my perception of them, along with my decision of whether to trust them.

Your mistake is missing that you only make decisions on the products you know about, or where you can burn thru the confuseopoly to get real info.

Thru aggressive narrowcasting, its possible to avoid entire swaths of not just pop culture, but even science and technology. Ye olden glory days of everyone watching the same TV broadcast and reading the same best seller are long gone.

You rarely need six (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107000)

My friend and I used to play this "connections" game, mostly with movie stars, and always with funny variations like "Connect Tim Burton to Orson Welles, using the movie The Cannonball Run." We almost never needed six degrees to make even the most obscure connections. My favorite example was one we did when Rob Morrow played John Wilkes Booth in a miniseries: "Connect Rob Morrow to John Wilkes Booth." Seems hard no? Not really:

John Wilkes Booth's brother Junius was married to Agnes Booth, who was in the Palmer Theatre Company with Maurice Barrymore, who was the g-grandfather of Drew Barrymore, who starred with Ben Stiller in Duplex, who was on The Ben Stiller Show with Rob Morrow.

Re:You rarely need six (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107408)

I love using Orson Welles with the Transformer movie. (With Leonard Nemoy, Robert Stack, Eric Idle, et al)

"average of 130 friends" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107018)

Do normal people really have 130 friends?

I don't use facebook, don't even have an account, but just counting the people I'd call friends i can think of 15, maybe 20 depending on how you count. If you want to count acquaintances I probably get to 250, but *friends*? I'd say 15.

I guess the facebook generation is a lot more social.

Re:"average of 130 friends" (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107150)

facebook "friend" doesn't mean the same as the usual word frield. It includes friends, family, acquaintances, and people who were friends a decade ago.
 

Re:"average of 130 friends" (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107766)

Before I deleted my FB account a year or so ago, I had:

A kid I sat next to in study hall in my sophomore year of high school in the 90s.

A kid who ate at "my" lunch table in 8th grade in the 80s.

A girl from college who supposedly lived in my dorm in the 90s, although I don't remember her at all.

A salesguy from a satellite office who I met once at HQ back in 2002, but I couldn't not friend him without offending a real local friend

A recruiter who never got me a job, but I didn't want to offend her by defriending because someday, in the distant future, she might actually get me a job. Well, probably not, but its kind of like playing the lotto for free.

And finally I believe I had my wife's lifelong dentist friended. Don't remember for sure about that one.

Re:"average of 130 friends" (1)

cs668 (89484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107586)

People always seem to call acquaintances friends. A friend is someone who will drive 1200 miles overnight to bail you out of a jail in Mississippi, or give you the pillow treatment when your family won't let them disconnect the feeding tube. So, I might have 200 FB friends but, in the end really only 3 or 4 that would pass the friendship test in the previous sentence ;-)

Graph theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107036)

I always thought that this was a result which was known through graph theory of what happens when you get a large number of nodes each with an arbitrary number of unique connections between them, that it would always tend towards the case that you got an average of no more than six degrees of separation for a sufficiently large network. You wouldn't need to test the theory by experiment since it could be demonstrated mathemetically.

Having said that, supposed you had 100bn people in the world. You'd have to each have an awful lot of friends for it to be applicable then, ergo the same might be true of the much small number on Facebook. Maybe I shouldn't post comments when I don't know what I'm talking about.

Re:Graph theory (2)

snorb (109422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107366)

Yes, if you have 1,000,000 nodes and there are at least 499,994,500,020 edges out of a possible 499,999,500,000 (ie. a bit more than 99.999% of them), then yes you can conclude the diameter of the graph is no more than 6. But no, simply counting the number of edges is not particularly useful. You need to make further assumptions about the graph to get a useful bound.

Re:Graph theory (2)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107516)

"I always thought that this was a result which was known through graph theory of what happens when you get a large number of nodes each with an arbitrary number of unique connections between them, that it would always tend towards the case that you got an average of no more than six degrees of separation for a sufficiently large network."

Not really, no. It's about scale-free networks (Networks that have preferential attachment, IE, people with tons of friends are more likely to get new friends than people with no friends. Their degree distribution, IE, the number of friends, is power-law distributed as opposed to exponential distributions, which come from friendship being totally random). You can model social networks fairly well as scale-free networks empirically. Roughly speaking, the average distance between two random notes is proportional to the log of the log of the number of nodes.

I know everyone (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107046)

In real life as soon as you know a person who has met the Queen or the Pope, you then know a lot of people via them. How strong does this connection need to be?

The "friends" fallacy (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107360)

I understand your idea, but it mistakes meeting someone with knowing them. Just like Facebook males the mistake of calling people "friends" just because they have something (imaginary or real) in common. While you might think you "know" the queen, just because you've met her there's no reciprocity in the relationship - she does not know you. So the premise falls down.

Re:The "friends" fallacy (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107530)

I thought that was about it. The Facebook data doesn't prove a thing if they take into account all those people who have 500+ friends.
Just to point out I've never met the Queen and have I never "known" her.
the Pope £uc$ed me once.

key gateways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107190)

This makes migrants key gateway persons. Say you are originally from Iran and live in the USA, but have facebook friends in both countries, you are the gateway between the USA and Iran. A somewhat important thing, since most
migrants are often deemed "not that important" which affects their social and economic status. Finding key gateway persons can lead knowledge of a diaspora and can bring people together, like the 6 degrees. These key gateways are often highly vulnerable to outside factors once identified. I do hope nothing bad comes from this.

What is this Facebook thing? (1)

Skyshroudelf (2031210) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107246)

I think these new technologies will never succeed... I will wait till it is stable and secure, yeah that's the ticket.

Seems kind of dumb. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107258)

Using Facebook to test this theory seems kind of dumb. I'm Facebook friends with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, so it would appear that there is one degree of separation between me and his All Holiness. And because Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is acquainted with Pope Benedict XVI, then there are only two degrees of separation between me and the Pope -- or between me and any number of world leaders or other important people. But, of course, I have never met the Ecumenical Patriarch, so you can't really consider that much of a connection.

That's exactly the original purpose of Orkut (1)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107268)

That's exactly the original purpose of Orkut, the (almost defunct) original Google social network site. Orkut Buyukkokten (the Google employee that came with the idea on his 20% paid "free time") was the "Kevin Bacon" and the breadcrumbs of the site used to show the smallest paths between you and Orkut.

It was a fun experiment in the beginning because not only the path between you and Orkut was drawn, but the path between you and anyone you looked at the profile.

But then, when the first batch of geeks (who else, considering Orkut invited his geek friends of Stanford and Google first) started inviting the first batches of "civilians", in a couple of generations the experiment was not viable anymore because of the sheer amount of processing power needed to calculate the paths, the expansion of the network and the commercialization of the content.

Fun days were those when a social network by geeks, for geeks thrived (with lasers!).

Re:That's exactly the original purpose of Orkut (1)

787style (816008) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107588)

There are markets other than America. Orkut is huge in Brazil and India, over 60 million users and one of the 100 most trafficked sites in the world.

The flaw with the notion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107406)

The flaw is, of course, that people *not* on facebook probably have a systematically higher degree of separation, so the test systematically produces numbers that are too small.

Cue the lawsuits in 3...2... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107410)

(potential employer, after reviewing the social "map" of said candidate and seeing they're only 2 "degrees" away from a convicted sex molester...) "Well, we would like to hire you, but it seems that after further review, we don't feel you're quite a solid fit for the position."

Yeah, tell me that kind of abuse ain't gonna start happening...

I thought... (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107466)

I thought that the 6-degrees was a MAXIMUM, not an "average" as the article suggests. if we step it back to an "average" value then it isn't really very impressive.

further, maybe they should employ someone with a brain (you know, those people you pay as little as possible) to do the actual webcrawl + math to determine this more thoroughly than having laymen guess at paths to random people...

Kevin Bacon? (2)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107522)

I guess I'm 2 steps from Kevin Bacon; I fixed his dad's VCR while working at a shop in Ardmore, PA, back in '91. (it was more interesting however that on the same job, I met Patti LaBelle, and talked to her in her own house - very nice woman)

Re:Kevin Bacon? (1)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107626)

I have a personal Kevin Bacon number of 4. I worked on a student film with a friend who later did costuming on a movie featuring Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd was in 'Chaplin' with Laurel Whitsett, and Laurel Whitsett was in 'Super' with Kevin Bacon.

did anyone read the article? (3, Interesting)

jarkus4 (1627895) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107658)

Everyone here is bitching about privacy breach, algorithm complexity etc. Actually it has nothing to do with this experiment. From TFA
"Anyone with a Facebook account can participate to verify if everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth. You’ll be asked to select one of your Facebook friends whom you believe is most likely to know the “target person” that has been assigned to you. A message will then be sent from friend to friend until you get it to the “target person.” The goal is to do this in as few steps as possible. "

Basically they are just repeating the old mail experiment, but with a new way of passing messages
- unless you (or one of your friends) participates nothing happens to your privacy
- no computer algorithm is involved
- no problem with celebrity profiles linking thousands of people that now nothing about each other

MOD PARENT UP! (2)

michaelwigle (822387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107800)

I actually signed up for it because I'm like that and it turns out you have to provide the information you want to share and you have to send a message to a Facebook friend you think might get you closer to the end target. You do have to let the Yahoo app have access to your basic information on Facebook to sign up for it. If you want to be a target you have to let the app have more access to your information and provide some additional details. So basically, I doubt this will go anywhere specifically because it's not automatic or in the background. It takes actual intentional steps on the part of the participants.

Djikstra's Algorithm (0)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107718)

I took a Data Structures class this summer and we solved a similar homework problem to this using Djikstra's and min heaps. Of course, this is a pretty irrelevant question since your Facebook friends are just any random yahoo you clicked "Confirm" with.

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