Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Orkut Community

Logged into Orkut as of today. Rather late in the day to be waking up to this phenomenon, but then I am a bit slow in the head anyway!
What struck me within the first half hour of navigation was Orkut's astonishing demonstration of the relavence of the 'Six degrees of separation' theory.
The Six Degrees of Separation, of course, is the famous Stanley Milgram theory of how people on this planet are connected. Milgram conducted numerous experiments to arrive at his conclusion. Those, however, are unimportant in the present discussion. What we're interested in, is his final conclusion. And this is roughly how it can be inferred as
'Any person in any corner of the world can be tracked/found/communicated with by another person through a chain of intervening individuals in a maximum of six steps.'
As an example
I have a friend called Jay Parikh living in the US of A. I don't have any information of his whereabouts other than this. How will I contact him?
I'll start with finding out someone who I think might know Jay or somebody related to him. This could be another friend, lets say Pratik, who studied in the same school as Jay. I hand over to Pratik, my letter addressed to Jay. Now maybe he doesn't know the exact location Jay is in either. In that case, he'll pass the letter onto somebody else who he thinks might know.
The theory is, that the letter WILL reach Jay in a maximum of six such steps. On most occasions, the 4th or 5th step is sufficient. The key, of course to the whole exercise is, that the letter must be handed over to someone who you think might be connected to Jay. Handing it over to a passer by or any unknown person isn't going to work.
Coming back to the point, Orkut shows just how true this theory is. I was connected indirectly to over 20 million people in the community by the time I added a 2nd friend in my 'list'. What further corroborates the theory is the fact that the addition of three other friends subsequently didn't register the smallest change to the larger number.
Its unusual how one can find solutions/ideas to concepts to something while attempting to do accomplish something entirely different

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