My First Re-Post of Ross Mayfield on Magic Numbers

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Ecosystem of Networks.

My post on Distribution of Choice was a little long winded, so let me sum up:

  1. Not all links are created equal
  2. Conversational relationships are not scale-free
  3. Applying these principles reveals a Network Ecosystem Model that helps us understand the political economy of weblogs

Network Size Description Distribution
Political Network ~1000s Blogs as mass media Power-law (scale-free)
Social Network ~150 Blogging Classic Bell-curve (random)
Creative Network ~12 Blogs as dinner conversation Dense (equal)

A link to a site you read isnt the same as a link to someone you know through their blog or someone you actively collaborate with.

After reviewing data of work relationships, information flows and knowledge exchanges from hundreds of consulting assignments inside Fortune 2000 organizations Valdis Krebs did not see much evidence of power laws in this data. His data is of confirmed ties [both persons agreed/recognized their mutual interactions/flows/relationships] from a worldwide pool of clients dating back to 1988. Of course he found some people were better connected than others, but the extreme hubs found in power law networks just were not evident.

Adapting a famous line from the movie “Blazing Saddles” Valdis concluded: “Power Law? There ain’t no stinkin’ power law in this data!”

This conclusion fits well with Duncan Watts observation that the more you ratchet up the requirements for a link, recognized connections diminish, and the less you see power laws.

Which makes all the noise about Power-laws off target.  I had the pleasure of having a dinner conversation with Clay last night.  Yes, he should start a weblog, but he has his own reasons for not doing so yet, which I’ll let him explain for himself.  But studying the structure of the weblog ecosystem does not have to be an anthropological exercise.  Its a wonderful testament to the energy of blogspace that Dave Sifry created a new index to reveal the neglected tail of the Power-law distribution of a Political Network.  But we don’t have to screw the Power-law or use statistical techniques to reveal a different distribution.  This approach has tremendous value in allowing new cream to arise to the top.  Both innovations are still attempting to filter the wrong set of data and to generalize all of blogspace.  What matters isnt breaking these laws, but the perspective that weblogs, aside from the Political Network publishing dynamics, are communication tools for group forming in Social Networks and Creative Networks.  Meg asks the right question: what if these tools can expand our capacities? What if 12 and 150 become averages instead of limits?

Other people are thinking in similar terms from an anthropological perspective as participants.  The Social and Creative Networks are where the new and valuable interpersonal connections are being made.

In the coming days I will build upon the Network Ecosystem Model to explain the Distribution of Influence and Distribution of Social Capital.  My head hurts, but this is getting interesting.


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