Small World Networks, Scale Free, Kevin Bacon

My riff in response to Brian’s comment that the 80/20 stuff isn’t what really matters in the reading.

  • the internet is scale free – you can add and add to it and it doesn’t fill up (unlike a room, a book, film, and most other of our media)
  • it is made up of nodes (in social networks outside the internet these are people, in social networks inside the internet like Facebook these are generally people), which are small ‘things’ that can have connections to other similar things (friends, acquaintances, links from one web page to another)
  • preferential attachment means that some nodes are more likely to want to be connected to other nodes (in my academic hypertext essay one node got more links in and out because it turned out to the heart of the argument I was making, because it is was an essay this was why this one node was preferred, in a blog you might link to a blog that is authoritative (you value) in the field that you also write about, you might just link to a friend’s blog)
  • as a result of these three things hubs form, which have lots of connections in, and often out
  • interestingly hubs have very weak connections – you don’t know them (a strong connection)
  • and so a small world network arises

So it isn’t random, it isn’t disordered, it isn’t chaotic. A structure emerges that is understandable. But it emerges, the shape isn’t known in advance. This too, in many ways, is the opposite of what we think the world is.

A small world network means that because there are links, and hubs, it is quite simple to get from one point in the network to any other. Because there are densely connected hubs links follow a power law. A power law tells us that a few have a lot, but also that most of the material is in the tail, which is why niches now really matter.