Monday, April 20, 2009

On The Train (Getting to understand the Dunbar's Number), April 13, 2009

I decided not to go cycling and it did not matter as it was raining when I got home. The reason I was late because I wanted to do my e-filling which I did with not too much of a problem. I was lucky that the online system helps you along the way now as I am not good with numbers. Talking about numbers today I read an article titled Primates on Facebook. Of course my initial interest was on the subject of social network and Facebook being one of the more popular platforms. After reading the first paragraph I understood that the article was talking more from the perspective of what is the right number for an effective social network. My thought went straight away to Dunbar theory about numbers. I must admit I did not understand the concept well enough but having read this article I understand a little bit better now.

Dunbar is of course Dr Robin Dunbar an anthropologist who now works at Oxford University. Dr Dunbar suggested that in any form of social networks, due to the capacity of our brains, the stable number is 148. Ok now it was reported in January 2009 that there were 124 million users of MySpace and 276 million for Facebook. The numbers keep on increasing by the day. What interesting is that out of these millions of people how many networks are there and how many of them are really effective? I for one have around 300 friends in my Facebook and as far as I am concern all of them belong to different sets of social networks attributed to certain part of my life. Depending on what hat I am wearing at given times I would be very active and participative.

To test the Dunbar numbers theory, as stated in the same Primates on Facebook article, a sociologist at Facebook studied their numbers and ‘found out that the average number of “friends” in a Facebook network is 120.’ Although ‘consistent with Dr Dunbar’s hypothesis, the range is large, and some people have networks numbering more than 500.’ His other important finding is that ‘the number of people on an individual’s friend list with whom he (or she) frequently interacts is remarkably small and stable.’

Based on my own experience this is true. Only a small portion of my friends are active participants. But then again this is not conclusive as there are many factors of why this is happening at least in this region. To my mind the contributing factors are improper understanding of the concept of the tools and access to bandwidth.

The other interesting finding of this study is that no matter how big the number of ‘friends’ that any network has the core of the network is stabilize at a small number. This is consistent with the issue of promoting and developing non virtual CoP.

Go here for another explanantion on Dunbar's Number.

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