Tag: social networks
Everyone knows about the six degrees of separation, or at least knows somebody who knows somebody who does.
To put it in its simplest terms — as opposed to the manner of the bubbly graphic above — it’s the theory that you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody who is lucky enough to know me.
In this small and growing smaller world, only five people stand between us — usually tall ones who block the view.
While the six degrees of separation may be an accepted algorithm, I have found it holds truer in your big cities — your Tinsel Towns, your Windy Cities, your Big Apples — moreso than in places like the one I’m living now, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In Winston-Salem, there is only one degree of separation, if even that. More often it seems, there is no degree of separation.
Then again, as you’ll recall, I recently moved into the house where my parents lived when I was born. In doing so — returning to my birthplace after 40-some moves and 57 years of separation — quite possibly I altered the algorithms of my six degrees of separation beyond repair.
In any case, in Winston-Salem, everytime I go out I run into either somebody who knows me (and I only know about three people here, having moved away at age 1), or someone who knows my mother.
That translates into a degree of separation of zero, or one, at the very most two. Take my recently moved-in neighbor here in College Village. Her grandfather lives in the same retirement community as my mother. That same neighbor and the neighbor on my other side went to high school together, then ended up, after attending different colleges, two doors away from each other. The neighbor on my other side has a brother who used to date my neighbor four doors down.
A lot of great brains have wrapped themselves around the six degrees of separation, including actor Kevin Bacon, who some people think invented it. All he did though was come up with a game version, which he has since refocused on philanthropic purposes.
In actuality, the six degrees concept is even older than him.
Mathematicians, sociologists, and physicists alike have long been captivated with the field of “network theory,” which, contrary to what you might think, existed even before Facebook. In 1929, Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy published a volume of short stories titled Everything is Different, which included a story called “Chain-Links.” The story investigated and elaborated on his belief that the modern world was shrinking due to the increasing connectedness of human beings.
Since his time that connectivity has increased exponentially. With the advent of telephones, and advances in transportation, the world got smaller yet. And when the Internet came along, the world shrank, shrunk, shrinked a little more, as did correct use of grammar.
Indeed, thanks to the Internet, Facebook and the like, the world has become so small that I sometimes get claustrophobic. There’s a study that shows the degree of separation between two users of social networks such as Twitter averages 3.43, under an optimal algorithm.
Of course, that is why we are signing on to Facebook, and Twitter, and Linked In, and Genealogy.com and Match.com — to connect.
We humans — like dogs, who do it mostly by peeing — have an insatiable urge to connect. Whether it’s with old friends, dead relatives, new friends, potential business associates or hotties of the opposite sex, we want, and maybe we need, the linkage.
My personal belief is that — with all those websites that link us, at least superficially — we will all become so connected that something is going to short out. Either that, or we will all bore each other to death with details of last night’s dinner and how it was prepared.
What we often fail to realize, amid our quest for connections is that, when it comes to degrees of separation, sometimes more of them is better. Sometimes, having a hermit side to me, I get in a mood where six is not enough, where I would like twelve or fourteen of them instead.
If you’ve been following Travels With Ace, and our dispatches on resettling in North Carolina, you know that, while I’ve somewhat sequestered myself, I’ve also grown interested in reconnecting with my past, and exploring my family tree — both my father’s side and my mother’s.
Zonja Woestendiek is, or was, a German model who was also featured in a series of commercials for Volkswagen called, “Unpimp My Ride.”
Believe it or not, I once owned a Volkswagen — not a beetle, which makes the world seem even smaller, but a van with a pop-up roof, which makes the world seem larger, unless you are driving behind one.
Between exploring family trees and researching degrees of separation, I’ve been marveling at all the small world coincidences I’ve come across, especially in the past week since getting two teeth pulled.
They lived next door to each other, separated only by plaque in what, according to my dentist, was a deteriorating neighborhood.
The pain pills prescribed by the dentist, while blurring some things, have allowed me to focus clearly on others, like the six degrees of separation, and Zonja.
In researching the six degrees of separation, I came across something interesting — something I’m sure I have some connection with as well, given the similarity in names and other eery coincidences.
There is a Flemish television production company named Woestijnvis, that produces a show called “Man Bijt Hon,” or, in English, “Man Bites Dog.”
(My last name is Woestendiek, and, though I’m not biting much of anything these days, I do a dog website.)
The production company gots its name from a wrong answer provided by a contestant on the Flemish version of Wheel of Fortune, called Rad van Fortuin.
(I used to watch Wheel of Fortune all the time, and was very good at it.)
In the game, the following letters were showing: W _ _ S T _ _ N V _ S.
The correct answer would have been “WOESTIJNVOS,” or desert fox. But the contestant answered “WOESTIJNVIS,” or desert fish — humorous, to the Flemish at least, insofar as one rarely finds fish in the desert, or for that matter in dessert.
Anyway — stay with me now — on the show “Man Bijt Hond” there’s a weekly feature called Dossier Costers, in which a recent event of worldwide significance is linked to Gustaaf Costers, an ordinary Flemish citizen, in 6 steps.
I was able to find this episode on YouTube. It’s in a different language but — either because of my European roots or my Vicodin — it made perfect zippety-do-dah sense to me.
Let’s see if it does to you.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: algorithm, associates, chain links, claustrophobia, coincidences, connect, connecting, connections, connectivity, conspiracies, degrees of separation, dossier costers, facebook, family, family trees, flemish, friends, frigyes karinthy, gustaaf costers, internet, kevin bacon, linked, linked in, links, man bijt hon, man bites dog, networks, north carolina, ohmidog!, pain pills, past, peeing, rad van fortuin, relatives, shrinking, six degrees of separation, small world, social, social networks, twitter, unpimp my ride, vicodin, volkswagen, wheel of fortune, winston-salem, woestendiek, woestijnvis, woestijnvos, zonja woestendiek
It’s not often that I share the personal frustrations of being a dog-blogger — especially one who tries to stand out from the crowd by keeping a lid on the pablum and fluff, and presenting from time to time some stories of depth about important dog-related issues.
Yesterday was a case in point.
I posted three items — about the daily average for ohmidog!
One was a mention of an upcoming motorcycle ride, sponsored by a motorcycle club and Baltimore’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, to raise money for abused and abandoned dogs.
One was a story about a day of global protest against eating dogs in South Korea.
One was an update on a story I wrote a few years back after meeting in Los Angeles a homeless man and his three legged pit bull (her fourth leg was lost as a result of a police shooting). Both have fallen ill and need help.
I was especially proud of the latter two, as they both contained some original reporting, and original photographs, and displayed a little first hand knowledge I had gathered, mostly during the year and a half I was working on my book.
Checking my Google Analytics, as I do from time to time, I saw this morning that the dog-eating post (of global significance) drew 116 views; the post on Michael and Topaz (of national significance) got 46 views; and the post on the fundraising motorcyle ride (of local significance) got 16 views.
What drew most readers to ohmidog! yesterday — 676 of them — was a post, nearly 50 days old, about Jennifer Aniston getting her dog Norman’s name tatooed on her foot.
Thereby showing you the significance of celebrities. It blows my mind.
How people try to remember and memorialize their dogs is a legitimate story — and a large part of the book I wrote — and the fact that more people are going the tattoo route, as the New York Post reported this week, is worthy of note.
But let’s face it, it was Jennifer Aniston that brought me those readers — and while I appreciate her, and those readers who dropped by, it bugs me that her foot tattoo so overshadowed two stories of deeper importance and deeper humanity. But, despite all that’s in the bowl, they chose only that.
My little corner of the universe, or the Internet, serves it seems as a microcosm of what’s happened to the news media, which, to survive, has caved in to the pressure to give readers easily consumable, barely newsworthy bits of what they want, rather than fully fleshed out stories on topics of greater importance to the species, be it human or dog.
Looking at my Analytics — and I think it’s OK to share this proprietary information, given that I am the proprietor — a total of 435 pages and posts were viewed yesterday, 1,941 views in all.
The vast majority, though, were focused on Jennifer Aniston’s foot.
For those consumed with numbers, and getting them to increase, and paying the bills, the thinking would reasonably follow: We need more Jennifer Aniston, more tattoos, more feet, or more of whoever or whatever else is, at this given moment, “trending.”
Here’s one of the things that has happened. News organizations, and bloggers, see what’s “trending” and base their coverage on that, thereby making it “trend” even more, while items of higher significance — worth some digging up — fall unseen by the wayside.
Add to that the fact that those who write strictly for the Internet, often, are no longer writing for humans. Instead of writing for quality, instead of writing, even, for readers, they’re writing for robots — those search engine Peruse-a-trons that scan our words, mathematically determine their import and influence how many readers come our way.
Add to that the fact that average online writer now spends more time touting what he has written via social networks and elsewhere than actually writing what he has written. Time once spent on research and the craft of writing is now mostly absorbed by shouting about and hyping what one has written, even if that “writing” was little more than a cut and paste job.
We’ll even admit to doing some of that — what is now called “aggregating,” what was once called plagiarism. We’ll admit to touting stories we’re proud of on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll even admit to, once in a while, posting a story because we think it will draw a crowd.
Were ohmidog! a true money-making venture — which in some ways would make more sense than being poor and principled — we might follow the route that so many have, bringing you a steady diet of the cute, the happy, the adorable and the celebrity-related.
But, Jennifer Aniston aside, we plan to continue to vary our fare — presenting the cute, from time to time; the uplifting, as often as we can find it; but also the cruel and depraved acts of humans that lead to animal suffering.
If, in the three years we’ve existed (did I mention we’ve just turned 3?) and in the 3,000 posts we’ve posted, ohmidog! has shown anything, it is this: the depths to which humans can sink and the heights to which they can rise when it comes to dogs.
We’re going to keep doing that.
And you can tattoo that on your foot.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggregating, analytics, animal rights, animal welfare, animals, blogging, blogs, cute, dog, dog inc., dog stories, dogs, eating dogs, facebook, fluff, foot, google, internet, jennifer aniston, korea, michael, news, news media, newspapers, norman, ohmidog!, online, page views, pets, readers, robots, search engines, social networks, tattoo, topaz, tout, touting, trending, trends, twitter, visits, websites, writing