Monday, October 25, 2010

You can only know so many people well

Following on my last post on the difficulty of being a node or a connector in a social network, let's discuss your second big hurdle. You can only know so many people. That number is generally believed to be somewhere around 150. This is Dunbar's Number:
Dunbar's number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.
That's it. One hundred and fifty people. If you don't like that number please find me another based on any sort of scientific determination. These 150 people are organized into some sort of social relationship-- a network or community if you will. (See: Social Network Analysis)

Christopher Allen in his research on online guilds found:
This all leads me to hypothesize that the optimal size for active group members for creative and technical groups -- as opposed to exclusively survival-oriented groups, such as villages -- hovers somewhere between 25-80, but is best around 45-50.
You belong to some sort of social network. We all do. We don't engineer these networks. We don't network hop . Our networks are volatile and dynamic, but they aren't all that maleable. They reorganize a few nodes (people) at a time. We exercise little conscious control over these networks. What is is.

If mass is dead and social is the future-- then what is the sphere of your influence? In the next post we'll do the math.

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