Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The value of random friends: Just another reason why open will beat closed

I've spent a few days out of the office discussing things as diverse as fashion, aggregation, how companies function, mobile communities, pervasive computing and the future of marketing and advertising. Talked about football, too - but that was on my own time...

Many of these discussions get heavily skewed by notions of openness. Facebook is our reference for closed (I-tunes and Apple offer another version).
And I've often said open will always beat closed. So here's another reason: the value of random friends.
You'll have heard of small world theory, or six-degrees of separation. The reason these are possible is because random friends are introduced to networks - people outside of your usual experience. For example, someone you meet on holiday, or at a party - who opens up a whole series of new connections for you.

These do not happen when you are in jail.

Some people I have met in this open way are among my closed facebook friends. But I didn't find any of them on facebook - it's closed nature prevents just this kind of random connection (this and the suspicion you feel when you receive an unsolicited friend request, which perhaps is part of the paranoia of the closed).

Random friends are the parts of your network which allow its value to grow exponentially (see Reed's Law). Remove them and your network has considerably less value.
And perhaps this is why my facebook connection's value will never be as great as, for example, those acquired through this blog.

The blog is the medium through which connections are made (those self-forming groups of shared interest and purpose I believe create so much value) while facebook becomes the habitat in which SOME of those random friends are caged.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?