We tend to assume that social networks are represented by destination sites or through asynchronous interactions via e-mail. Instant Messsaging, VoIP and other interaction patterns can also help us understand social structures.
Six degrees of separation in instant messaging
According to Nature in ‘Six degrees of messaging,’ computer scientists at Microsoft Research Redmond lab have logged a full month of instant messengers using — logically — Microsoft Messenger. ‘The compressed dataset occupies 4.5 terabytes, composed from 1 billion conversations per day (150 gigabytes) over one month of logging,” according to the researchers. The dataset which was collected in June 2006 contains summaries of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people. And they were very surprised to find that the average number of jumps to get from one random user to another was 6.6.” This is very close to the old ’six degrees of separation’ idea which states that everyone on Earth is six ’steps’ away from anyone else.
Six Degrees Of Messaging
In 2003 Duncan Watts, then at Columbia University and now at Yahoo! Research in New York, did a large email experiment that also confirmed the six degrees of separation idea2. His study involved 61,000 volunteers, compared to Leskovec and Horvitz’s 240-million sample. Watts is impressed that the trend that both he and Milgram saw has now been confirmed on such a large scale, and without having to set up a specific experiment: “They are using communication data, so the links do represent something real,” says Watts.
Horvitz and Leskovec saw a number of other trends in their data. Over long distances instant messenging between just two people, rather than groups, is more popular (the application allows up to 20 people to chat at once). People prefer to chat to the opposite sex, and tend to stick to talking with people in the same age group, especially when they are young.