Posts Tagged ‘Social Networking’

150 = Magic Social Network Number

August 12, 2008

That’s according to Professor Robin Dunbar, who writes a fascinating short article on the link between brain size and social grouping sizes in the British Academy’s latest Review of research. Here’s an extract from “Why Humans aren’t just Great Apes“:

This figure of ~150 appears frequently in many aspects of historical and contemporary human organisation. It was the mean village size recorded for almost all English counties in the Doomsday Book as well as during the eighteenth century, and is the typical size of the company in most modern armies, the number of recipients of a typical Christmas card distribution list in Britain, and the size of the social network in reverse ‘small world’ experiments, amongst others.

A few things are interesting about this. First is the fact that this 150 “limit” is structured differently in modern networks (both in the real world and virtual world). In modern society, social groupings are fragmented and diverse – if you and I are in the same social network, the 150 people in my network will overlap with, but won’t be identical to the 150 in your network. Whereas in traditional hunter-gatherer and pre-industrial society, the 150 in a given community tended to all know each other.

The second interesting facet is concerned with different hierarchical “levels” within this 150. According to Prof. Dunbar’s research, our most intimate grouping will contain roughly 5 people, the next level of social closeness has 15, then 50, 150, 500 and 1,500. But beyond 150 the social network degrades to the point where we typically have little to no “personal” knowledge about the people in the group.

Third, and central to Dunbar’s argument, is that the social grouping number of 150 correlates with brain size (specifically neocortex size). This, he argues, is related to “intentionality” or theory of mind, i.e. I think that he believes that she supposes… etc. Most humans are limited to five orders of intentionality, though some can hold six in mind at once (some autistic people, of course, never develop theory of mind).

Social Networks

Social Networks

I wonder whether our varying ability to hold five or six levels of intentionality in mind – and, relatedly, our brain size – might be reflected in the size of our online social networks. I suppose I’m fairly average, judging by the size of my Facebook network (180). Most of those I would say I know reasonably well (or have known at some stage in my life).

However, as predicted, there are clear levels of intimacy within that group. There are probably 4 or 5 people I message and interact with regularly on Facebook, and another larger group that I will send a message to once in a while. Beyond that, my network is definitely “fragmented and diverse”, composed of a range of old school and university friends, work colleagues, as well as friends from church.

I’m sure that there are endless competitions of who can add the most friends on Facebook and other social networks, but does this reveal anything about advanced theory of mind of the competitors or are they just trying to up their stats to compensate for something else? Hmm…


Lostmoya on Swurl

June 21, 2008

Ah, the endless search for that perfect web 2.0 application which will aggregate all my online content once and for all and let me get on with my bleeding life for a change instead of searching endlessly for that perfect web 2.0 app… etc.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Swurl!

It says it’s in beta at the top of the page, so it’s clear we’re firmly in web 2.0 territory before we even start. Swurl claims to make your life easier by bringing together all your online stuff in one place, kind of like Friendfeed.

In fact, there’s really not a lot of difference between the two that I can discern after a brief play-around with Swurl over the last half hour. Swurl does appear slicker, particularly when it comes to adding friends: it automagically finds all the friends from the services you add (e.g. twitter, youtube, and sticks their updates in a separate tab. Whereas on Friendfeed you have to find and follow friends using that service.

Bizarrely, Swurl even accepts Friendfeed as a source for your consolidated online presence, which probably makes it some kind of meta-meta-mashup. My head’s hurting…

Anyway, here’s my Swurl profile if you want to check me out or whatever it is you kids do these days.

Friendfeed: Aggregate All Your Feeds Into One

May 7, 2008

In my ongoing quest to find the ultimate Web 2.0 utility I’ve just started using Friendfeed.

Friendfeed logo

The idea is simple: you subscribe for an account then add the feeds for a bunch of social bookmarking and networking services you already use, like, reddit, youtube, twitter,, etc. Friendfeed then monitors all your activities and publishes them in one place. Here’s mine.

If you’ve ever found it difficult to keep track of everything you’re doing online then that’s useful enough. But it doesn’t stop there. What’s even more interesting is that you can add friends see all their feeds alongside yours.

At the moment I don’t have any Friendfeed buddies 😦 so my Friendfeed actually looks identical to my individual feed. Over the next few months I’ll be working on my Facebook buddies who already use social bookmarking sites to try and get them to adopt Friendfeed too.

Incidentally, it’s also really easy to add people already using Friendfeed since it automatically publishes everyone’s activity into one mega-feed. So you can scan through (or search for something/someone in particular) and quickly add them.

Official Facebook App Cleaner Coming Soon

January 14, 2008

I blogged about the Clean Profile app last week, but now Facebook have made their own announcement:

Hide Facebook Apps: Official Tool Coming Soon (Read/Write Web)

This is the official response to the growing user base which feels Facebook has become far too cluttered of late, with new applications springing up every day, and many people adding indiscriminately. The sheer number of new applications — in conjunction with the dubious spamming tactics used to proliferate them — has become a well-documented nuisance among the Facebook community.

Although it’s obviously welcome news that something is finally being done, I can’t help but feel that Facebook is coming at the problem from a strange angle. Instead of allowing the end user to decide how much clutter they want to view on friends’ pages (as per Clean Profile), the official response puts the onus on the clutterer. It’s an opportunity for users to “clean up their mess” effectively.

The idea is you will create an “extended profile” into which you can shove all the application junk you rarely use, leaving the default profile as a clean, quick-loading summary page. That’s the plan anyway… I suppose time will tell how well this works. What’s certain right now is that application developers are (understandably) not impressed, since this move will inevitably curtail their market-spread.

Clean Up Your Friends’ Facebook Profiles

January 5, 2008

Clean Profile LogoClean Profile (found via Mashable) is a new Facebook application which allows you to view any of your friends’ profiles without hundreds of crappy applications cluttering everything up, slowing things down and generally making life unpleasant.

Let’s face it, although I love wading through reams of forwarded posts on Super Wall Pro Elite, growing flowers, fish, ninjas, pirates, zombies, vampires, hugs, gifts and on and on as much as the next guy, I would hate to think I was in any way imposing my lack of style or design prowess on any of my good Facebook buddies.

Facebook application bloatEnter Clean Profile, which has the potential to silence all those boring old farts who can’t cope with today’s brash, bold profile pages crammed full of application goodness.

It’s not quite there yet, since you can’t currently view mini-feeds. You’ll also have to click a link to view wall posts, but there’s no denying that this could become a lifeline for all those contemplating leaving Facebook because of the epic levels of bloat on some profiles.

By the way, you can click here to visit my clean profile. Enjoy!

Facebook Mobile: The End For Twitter?

December 16, 2007

Facebook logoThis week, I started using Facebook’s excellent mobile service. It’s really simple to set up — just enter your mobile number on the website, then confirm with the code Facebook texts you.

Using Facebook mobile, you can write on any one of your friends’ walls, send a private message, or update your status wherever you are from your phone with simple text messages. You can also visit Facebook on your mobile for free until the end of 2007 at Best of all, the service is completely free besides the standard network charge for a text message. The downside is that it’s currently only available on the O2 network in the UK.

I wonder whether the massive (and rising) popularity of Facebook might unseat Twitter as the leading way to update friends on your status when you’re on the move… If Facebook mobile is to catch on, though, it will have to spread to other UK mobile phone networks.

MySpace Finally Collapses Under The Weight Of Its Own Supreme Ignorance

September 8, 2007

That’s it! From today, I will endeavour never to visit again!

MySpace logo

I’ve just spent the best part of the last hour trying to listen to a few local bands on MySpace only to have my internet connection deluged by millions of A4-sized gig promo leaflets which appear in the comments section on Every. Single. Page. It’s not as if I have a lame connection speed, either: 5Mbps here. All I wanted was to hear a few tracks to help me decide which gig to go to tonight, but instead I have to spend 10 minutes downloading flyers I never even look at.

This reminds me why I stopped using MySpace in the first place: every time you log on you get a swarm of spammy friend requests, usually from some lame 16-year-old band who’ve used their Dad’s Macbook to record a wack-sounding 15-minute demo. Their profile pages are filled with self-aggrandizing statements like: “IndieKid4000X formed in August 2007 after a profound meeting of musical minds down at the local KFC. Lead singer Michael “Micky” McRiff is the new Jeff Buckley crossed with Slash. Oh, and by the way, we sound like nothing else, ever, and we’re better than the Arctic Monkeys. Add us plz!”

After several months of rejecting requests like this you start losing the will to live. So I upped sticks and moved to Facebook, which, despite its numerous flaws, is a veritable land of milk and honey compared to the internet car wreck that is MySpace.

It’s a shame, too, because MySpace seems to be resting on its laurels as the champion social networking site in terms of pageviews. But they’ve given users too much flexibility in designing their profiles, and as a result you see some of the most eye-achingly awful internet design abortions on And that’s before you get to the comments section, which everyone else abuses royally by sticking 800×600 multicolour flyers in every other post…

To all those great local bands trapped in the MySpace fog. Forget MySpace: FTW!

Facebook Opens Up

September 6, 2007

Okay, everybody and their uncle has blogged about this, so why not? It’s even on the Beeb:

Facebook Opens Profiles to Public (BBC)

Facebook2Facebook has made its search function public. What does this mean? Well, right now, it means that anyone can visit and search for members. Previously, you had to register to view search results, but Facebook now wants to give people who have never visited before the opportunity to stalk “find their friends”.

But that’s only half the story: in just under a month, people will be able to find your Facebook listing from widely used search engines like Google and Yahoo. At a stroke, Facebook has cut out the middle-man “people search engines” I blogged about just a couple of weeks ago.

They’ve also added fuel to the fire of the long-running debate about online privacy. Blogger Om Malik has weighed in with his opinion — his feet are firmly in the “bad idea” camp:

“Think broadly however, this is yet another small step in the overall erosion of personal privacy, thanks to the ever growing popularity of the social networks. I don’t like the direction where all this is headed… We are slowly leaving digital litter all over the web, and some day it is going to cause problems.”

To be fair to Facebook, they do allow you the option to opt out of any of this. In fact, by tweaking a few options on the privacy page, you can make your profile so private that not even your friends can see it! Personally, I’ve opted for a halfway-house: I’ve removed the ability to search for my profile from Google etc., but left it open to anyone visiting Facebook’s homepage. However, I think Facebook’s decision to make the default option the least private is highly dubious: i.e. if you do nothing, then in one month anyone can search for your profile from Google.

Videos In Plain English: The CommonCraft Show

August 30, 2007

I’ve just become a big fan of the CommonCraft Show’s series of Videos In Plain English:

The CommonCraft Show

They are a sort of “…For Dummies” series for the YouTube generation: short (3-5 mins), witty and straightforward, they give you a good bite-sized overview of a number of web 2.0 topics.

Social Bookmarking In Plain English is a case in point. This is the latest — and by far the most enjoyable and effective — of the four videos produced so far. It concisely presents the benefits of using social bookmarking tools such as, as well as giving a quick tutorial on how to get started:

Also notable are Social Networking In Plain English and RSS In Plain English. These aren’t quite as slick as the most recent offering, but are well worth a look.

Social Networking… is entertaining, but it concentrates too heavily on the functional benefits of networks like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn (e.g. finding contacts to get a better job, house or relationship). While important, I think most people use social networking sites just to stay in touch with friends, rather than to achieve some life goal. Similarly, RSS… is good but it’s also the least polished of Commoncraft’s videos, so don’t expect the high editing standards shown in Social Bookmarking…

Nevertheless, this is a great resource which could be equally useful for introducing technophobe friends or work colleagues to the wonders of web 2.0.

How’s Your Online Visibility?

August 9, 2007

Everyone who’s spent any amount of their spare time on the Internet has run a Google search on their name. My first result is:

Yep, this guy can play two recorders — at the same time. I’ve no idea how, but perhaps a passage from his homepage can give us a clue:

“[David Young’s music] offers you an invitation to take a journey to the deepest, most precious place inside yourself. These melodies fill you with gentle, relaxing peace and healing energy while drawing you inward and upward, like a soft relaxing breeze.”

Relaxing breeze? Deep inside yourself? I’m not sure I like where this is going…

In related news (and here’s the point of this post), social networking blog Mashable last month posted a road test of six new “people search” engines:

6 People Search Engines Tested: Can They Find Me?

People search is a hot new area, particularly with start-ups, as social networking becomes increasingly mainstream with the exponential growth of sites like Facebook and MySpace (not to mention the dozens of other niche networking sites). With more and more of these sites available — and with the potential rewards of using them for business — any search engine which enables you to find your friends and colleagues fast is undoubtedly going to be in demand.

People search is also, apparently, several steps beyond the simplistic world of “find yourself on Google”; whereas Google trawls the entire Intarweb, these search engines are specialized, and many use data from the big social networking sites, as well as other, more business-oriented networking sites, such as LinkedIn.

But could I find myself on any of the sites tested at Mashable? Not a chance! Peekyou, Wink, Spock and yoName all drew a blank on my name, even when I filled in extra details… Like age, location, hobbies, where I was on July 24th 2004… Talk about a let-down. So maybe my online presence needs a boost? Nah, I’m happy being mistaken for a guy who can play two recorders simultaneously.