Microsoft just released the results from its massive research on’Planetary-Scale Views on a Large Instant Messaging Network‘. Two researchers, Jure Lesckovec, of Carnegie Mellon University, and Eric Horvitz, from Microsoft, analyzed 30 billion conversations among 240 million users of Microsoft instant messaging, in search for significant patterns. Their findings have far reaching implications for social networks in general, and more specifically, green mass persuasion initiatives:
1. The world IS a small-world:
Kevin Beacon‘s 6 degrees of separation theory was confirmed, with a slight correction. Microsoft research found that the average degree of separation between any two random individuals, is actually closer to seven. This further validates the LinkedIn model, beyond business and professional search applications.
2. People communicate more with others who are like them:
From the report: ‘We found strong influences of homophily in activities, where people with similar characteristics tend to communicate more, with the exception of gender, where we found that cross-gender conversations are both more frequent and of longer duration than conversations with users of the same reported gender.’ A confirmation of what you and I know from our daily interactions. Humans tend to hang out with people who are like them, in terms of interests, and demographics. The more virtual networks facilitate such connections, the more likely they are to succeed. Think Facebook with its educated college crowd, or lesser known Patients Like Me.
Next comes the question of how to apply these findings to existing and future social networks. To date so called green social networks have failed to generate substantial and enduring followings. Maybe this will shape a new wave of networks, more effective and in touch with the reality of the people.