Tag Archives: small world effect

Facebook Playing With My Mind

Took a look at the homepage for my Facebook account and I notice something new, below the birthday announcements. Some profile summaries with a mention that I might know these people. Nothing really awkward there, probably just a new feature. Although, Facebook has this strange (and potentially annoying) habit of changing features without warning us.

But still not mindblowing, or even mindplaying.

There’s a “Show All” button in that box and, when I click on it, I get to a Friend Finder page where I see a series of profile summaries with the heading: “People You May Know. Found based on your existing connections. Do you know any of these people? Add people you know as friends to make these results even better for you.”

Next to each profile summary:

You both know: [links to mutual friends]
Add To Friends|(View Friends)|Message

Again, nothing really weird. (Without warning,) Facebook browsed my connections and found some mutual friends. Some applications do things like these.

But, here’s where things get a bit less obvious: the first time I look at this page, I see a list of people I don’t recognize with mentions of some of my contacts (friends and acquaintances). Overall, these contacts are people I had assumed were unconnected. Granted, they all live or have lived in Montreal (my hometown). And some of them are somehow involved in music. But even the musicians among them are working in quite separate music scenes within Montreal’s music landscape.

According to this list, Richard (one of my contacts) has eleven connections in common with twelve of my friends and acquaintances. These twelve friends and acquaintances of mine presumably have little in common with the people that both Richard and I know. None of these twelve contacts of mine are connected directly to Richard on Facebook. They all know some of Richard’s contacts but my connections to them are very diverse: former students, former bandmates, a childhood friend, a fellow brewclub member, etc. I’ve met these people at very different stages of my life and I just couldn’t assume any of them would know one another. Again, all of these people have some connection to Montreal but given Montreal’s population, I find it quite surprising that my network would cluster so much across contact types.

I felt compelled to send a couple of messages about this. To Richard (this acquaintance of mine who seemed to have many mutual acquaintances with people I know). And to two of the people who were listed as possible acquaintances of mine (one of whom I probably did meet, a number of years ago).

Fascinating stuff for a social scientist like me.

But where it gets mindplaying is when, coming back to the Friend Finder page, the list of possible acquaintances is radically different from what it was the first time. This time, most of the people in the list belong to YulBlog, Montreal’s blogging community. That community has a relatively high clustering coefficient so I basically assumed that many of those YulBloggers are friends with some of my blogging friends. I did meet with several of these bloggers at blog meetings but I prefer letting them judge whether or not we should be linked through Facebook. So, this new Friend Finder page looks pretty normal, Which makes the first Friend Finder page seem more unusual. Playing with my mind.

It’s possible that the first Friend Finder page was a glitch. Facebook has been known to have some bugs recently, as they implement (some would say “impose”) changes in the way they handle things like privacy and contact lists. But, looking at Richard’s contact list, it does seem that these people really are all connected, albeit indirectly.

Lest you should mistake my enthusiasm for flabbergastment, I must say that while I find these connections surprising, I still understand that they’re fairly easy to explain. The effect, though, is one of puzzlement at the extent of the Small World Effect. I feel as though my world were much tinier and much more clustered than I had ever assumed. Especially the Montreal portion of my social world. And I thought my friends were diverse… 😉

Yes, I know. I should just draw the network chart and let people reach their own conclusions.

Ah, well…


Austin FOAFs

It surely is a small world. Especially between similar regions of the same continent.

My friend Jenny Cool tells me about her friend Jordan Weeks, a fellow blogging Austinite. And a fellow expat. Interestingly enough, he’s also a fellow beer aficionado and knows fellow Austin brewclub member Charles.

Where it gets even funnier is that Jordan is apparently a fellow ze frank fan.

So I feel the need to reach out to the fella.

Problem is, his blog doesn’t seem to allow for comments and I have no direct way to reach him. Oh, sure, I could ask Jenny or Charles for his email. But writing a blog entry just to ping someone is much more fun. 🙂


Small World? More Than an Experiment

Should have known this would happen eventually. One of my wife’s good friends’ ex-boyfriend had been on my mind for diverse reasons. Had pretty assumed that he might be blogging as he’s a technical writer and had been at the Montreal Mirror for a while. As Montrealers might know, the Mirror is a good source of bloggers (and fiber). Turns out, he’s not only a cool blogger (putting words into The Tinman’s Thoughts) but he also knows Blogmeister Blork quite well (despite some hiatus in the 1990s, it seems).

Also spent time talking with, among others, open-minded music educator Prof malgré tout, intriguing Cameroonian political scientist Waffo, enthusiastic and rational environmental geographer Benoit, outgoing and friendly Houssein, as well as a bunch of people I had already met (and blogrolled 😉 ).

Possibly the funniest interaction for me, during this blogparty, was when I went to talk with someone who was just leaning at the back of the room. The usual introduction to a new blogger is “So… Where do you blog?” (in French, «C’est quoi ton blogue?»). I do use it fairly often during blogging events but it’s the first time I get “Yup!” as an answer. Turns out Robert blogs at the equivalent of a site which would be called “Where Do You Blog!” Of course, “CKOI” is both the name of a local radio station and an IM-like way to say “What is it?,” in French.

Speaking of languages. There was probably a higher proportion of French-speakers at tonight’s party than at the usual Yulblog event. This was the 7th anniversary celebration of this local blogging community.

Again: bloggers have more fun. Than whom? Erm, I don’t know. But they have fun. Good, extrovert, talkative fun.

Shan’t we all be on Facebook, now?


“It’s A Small World After All” (Blogging Edition)

Blogging is fun. Among the neat effects of blogging is that, though bloggers aren’t at all alike, they tend to be “like-minded people,” despite striking individual differences.

Cases in point, from last night.

Went to an event organized through Montreal Linkup, an event organisation system with obscure ties to Craigslist. At one point Saib, one of the participants, was talking about a blog post he had read. Turns out, he was describing my ramblings (and open letter) about Montreal culture and the Linkup system. I did feel quite proud. Not that he had read my post (or that he remembered anything about it), but that the post had exactly the kind of effect I wanted. Though blogging can feel awkward in my case, and I often feel like I’m writing in a vacuum (for several reasons, feedback to my entries has been extremely limited), it leads to those situations where different parts of your life are linked.

Also present at the Linkup event was Shiraz, a fellow YulBlogger. Thanks to the Yulblog Confessions from the August YulBlog gathering, I had went on Shiraz’s blog and even used her technique of blogging different topics in the same post, right here. Before the Linkup event, I didn’t know Shiraz personally, but chances are now that we might link to each other.

Which is a major issue among bloggers. Been thinking about it myself, thanks in part to Sylvain Carle (yet another YulBlogger). And it has influenced my blogging philosophy (whether I notice it or not). No wonder network analysis has been growing steadily. (Man! Do I love putting my academic hat in the middle of my ramblings…)

On occasion, I will insert as many outgoing links in my blog entries as possible. Several reasons for this practise, including the fact that it’s easier to find links if they’re on my blog. But there might be more of a wish to get comments from other bloggers by teasing them with links to their blogs (thanks to pings and trackbacks).

Yes, posting about blogging is allegedly uncool, and linking to your own entries seems silly. But I’m having fun doing this… 🙂

In fact, if you think this whole blog is lame, do comment here! 😉