Six Degrees Of Separation Already Cut To Three? Not Really…

from the read-the-fine-print dept

It was just a couple weeks ago that we pointed to some research coming out of Microsoft suggesting that the somewhat-discredited theory of “six degrees of separation” may be accurate, though those degrees may have changed over time, thanks to increasingly powerful communications technology. Of course, if it’s true that communications tech is decreasing our degrees of separation, then it should continue to decrease at a decent pace. But could we have already made the jump down to just three degrees of separation? That’s the headline that’s going around following a study released by UK mobile operator O2. Except, when you read the fine print, it’s not quite accurate. The three degrees of separation are only true within “shared interest networks.” So, for example, among folks who are fans of a certain sport, or jazz aficionados or whatever. Basically, the researchers changed the details of the experiment a great deal, narrowing the overall population for each “connection” — so it should be no surprise that the degrees of separation are a lot smaller.

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Comments on “Six Degrees Of Separation Already Cut To Three? Not Really…”

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Sean (user link) says:

Re: Ummm...

Well yes, wouldn’t it be great to know that if you needed an Irish guy who speaks English, Gaelic, German and Italian, is studying Computing with Open University, is CISSP-certified, is living in southern Europe, is remote working for companies in Northern Europe, and likes to read Techdirt when he should be focusing on work instead, that I’m only 1 degree away?

JJ says:


“That’s the headline that’s going around following a study released by UK mobile operator O2. Except, when you read the fine print, it’s not quite accurate.”

Heh… fine print? you mean the article itself? Since when is that the fine print? I always thought that was the content! Maybe I’ve been wasting my time here on Techdirt, reading the articles themselves when everything I need is just in the headlines!

Yesterday, I thought that guards were attacked by a wild animal when I read this Techdirt headline: “Fox Tries to Kill Watchmen.” Fortunately I went on to read the, uh, fine print, and learned that in fact a movie studio is claiming to own the rights to a story.

Likewise, when I read the article (ok, press release) from O2, it clearly stated in the first section: “the O2 study reveals that within a shared ‘interest’ network (i.e. hobbies, sport, music, religion, sexuality etc), the average person is connected by just three degrees.”

jack says:

lol wow i was just thinking about this the other day when i met a guy who was close personal friends with bryce avary the lead singer of the rocket summer he also knew the guys from tickel me pink and the flobots and 3oh!3 and i was wondering how many degrees it was cuz i had herd 3, 6 ,10, 12 and a few othere so i just thought this artical was funny

danny (profile) says:

what is a contact?

What I’ve never understood in this “degrees of separation” thing is: what constitutes a contact?

Is it someone in my address book?
Is it someone who, if asked, would say, “yeah, I know him”?
Does it have to be present tense? What about a co-worker from 19 years ago I haven’t been in touch with? Is he still a first degree contact?

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