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March 15, 2008


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Andy Green

It's great to see that Milgram's 6-degrees idea validated in messaging networks. There's an interesting article in the January issue of Discover magazine--"If Osama's Only 6 degrees away, Why can't we find him?"--that takes a closer look at the original experiment. The completion rate for the Milgram chain letters were shockingly low--about 5%. When Duncan Watts repeated the experiment using emails instead of letters, he noticed similar attrition rates. When taking that into account, he did arrive at an average path of about 6 hops. He also came to the same conclusion that Milgram had about what it takes to complete the connection: people in the chain have to be motivated to find the next recipient. In other words, it's more than just knowing someone who knows someone to have a working social network.

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