Six Degrees Of Separation (Not Pixels) Stands Up – Get Ready For More Connectedness

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The small world experiment (also known as Six Degrees of Separation) has been validated by researchers.

According to the article, Proof! Just Six Degrees of Separation Between Us, in The Guardian yesterday, "researchers announced the theory was right – nearly. By studying billions of electronic messages, they worked out that any two strangers are, on average, distanced by precisely 6.6 degrees of separation. In other words, putting fractions to one side, you are linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances to Madonna, the Dalai Lama and the Queen. The news will come as no surprise to film buffs who for years have been playing the parlour game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, in which they link other actors to Bacon in six films or fewer.

Researchers at Microsoft studied records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people in various countries, according to the Washington Post. This was ‘the first time a planetary-scale social network has been available,’ they observed. The database covered all the Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging network in June 2006, equivalent to roughly half the world’s instant-messaging traffic at that time.

Eric Horvitz and fellow researcher Jure Leskovec considered two people to be acquaintances if they had sent one another a message. They looked at the minimum chain lengths it would take to connect 180 billion different pairs of users in the database. They found that the average length was 6.6 hops, and that 78 per cent of the pairs could be connected in seven steps or fewer."

My guess is that this did not include spam 🙂

If any one of us is connected through about six degrees of separation, my guess is that the small world experiment is about to get even smaller because of our inter-connectedness in these digital channels. I’m not just talking about the rise in popularity of online social networks, but with more and more of our personal information online, we won’t need "degrees" to connect to one another anymore, all we really need is a search box (hence the title of this Blog, Podcast and my forth-coming book, Six Pixels of Separation).

These changes will (and are) going to have a dramatic effect on how Marketing connects. Each node (connection) is a link in a very powerful chain of communication. These links are also going to further strengthen some new marketing channels like peer reviews, mobile marketing and more.

Just you wait and see.

(hat tip – Robert Cotter).


  1. You’ve just given an example of the characterizing condition of our time – Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate, or UCaPP. We live in a UCaPP world, and everything has already changed. It’s just taking us some time to notice it.
    And “Six Pixels of Separation?” Cute cliché-probe, but not so great as metaphor (it’s too screen-oriented, and so tends to direct attention to the technology itself, rather than the changes in patterns of human dynamics and social interactions).
    P.S. I’m a friend of Leigh’s. Good choice.)
    (I’m a friend of Leigh’s

  2. Welcome to the chat Mark… and thanks for adding your comments.
    Obviously, I’m pretty happy with the saying Six Pixels of Separation. I see it less as screen-oriented and more a cause of this technology.

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