Tag: Facebook

Facebook & Dunbar's number

By Razib Khan | October 13, 2010 2:32 am

About 20 years ago the evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed his eponymous number:

Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number. It lies between 100 and 230, but a commonly used value is 150

Dunbar’s number was first proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who theorized that “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.” On the periphery, the number also includes past colleagues such as high school friends with whom a person would want to reacquaint themselves if they met again

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
MORE ABOUT: Facebook, Sociology

The folly of the crowds

By Razib Khan | October 10, 2010 2:52 pm

With the big hullabaloo around The Social Network I’ve been reflecting a bit about my incorrect intuition since ~2008 that the Facebook bubble would burst at any moment. The bubble may still burst, or a new competitor may come out of the blue, or Google might actually release a comparable offering, but Facebook is still surfing on the crest of victory (which may be a sign that it has “peaked”). But along the way I stumbled onto this article about the marginalization of Digg:

According to Quantcast, an online audience measurement firm, Digg’s domestic traffic has dropped sharply in recent months, from 27.1 million unique users in April to 13.7 million in July. By contrast, Facebook had 145.2 million domestic users in June, according to comScore. While not giving specifics, Mr. Desai of Digg attributes the decline in domestic traffic to changes in Google’s search function that resulted in fewer Digg stories showing up in Google searches.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
MORE ABOUT: Digg, Facebook, Technology

You have no privacy, deal with it

By Razib Khan | June 24, 2010 12:36 pm

The Washington Post‘s blogger-journalist Dave Weigel has a post up where he preemptively apologizes for stuff he posted on an “off-the-record” e-list,. Extracts are going to be published by a gossip site. Journalists are the tip of the iceberg; privacy is fast becoming a total fiction, remember that. We’re slowly drifting toward David Brin’s model of a “transparent society”, but it’s happening so fluidly that people aren’t even noticing. And yet as I have noted before, people are resisting the push to merge all their personas into one. Interesting times.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Technology
MORE ABOUT: Facebook, Privacy

Another perspective on Facebook

By Razib Khan | June 19, 2010 1:25 pm

From Ruchira Paul, who analyzes her own friend network. One issue which I think is relevant is that many people have several Facebook accounts for several different purposes. It’s an interesting window into the psychology of different individuals, as some seem happy to go along with Facebook’s preference of a unitary identity, while others resist it and suborn the intent with Facebook itself.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
MORE ABOUT: Facebook

Death of email = death of Facebook

By Razib Khan | June 17, 2010 10:09 am

Reihan Salam points me to a presentation by a Facebook executive who claims that “E-mail…is probably going away….” Well, remember Google Wave? I assume that email-as-we-know-it will evolve. But one thing I pointed out to a friend the other day: remember when you were excited to get “new mail?” (perhaps the reference will be lost on younger readers, but there was a time when it was cool and special to have an email account, and be able to receive messages from people who lived in Ecuador at digital speed) Now it’s more like, “now what!?!?!” Email is a utility through which your boss may contact you. The excitement factor has now shifted to Facebook, where old friends you’ve lost touch with may request to be your friend. But if Facebook becomes as ubiquitous as email, as taken-for-granted, you might start getting wall messages from your boss. And at that point Facebook will become a utility you’ll want to not log into, not because you want to avoid wasting time procrastinating, but because the “real world” has infected it.

Technology has been one reason we humans have by and large broken out of the Malthusian trap. But a key difference between innovation on the physical dimension (e.g., the combustion engine) and technologies which have social utility is that human psychological faculties can shift only on the margins by much smaller degrees. In theory you can have as many Facebook friends as Facebook will allow you to have; it’s a scalable phenomenon. But in reality a small circle of friends become Facebook “friends” who you barely know, because your mind isn’t geared to really keep track of so many social relations.

Of course the people who run tech companies are smart and many know this. But their jobs hinge on you becoming invested in the idea that their firm is going to Change Everything. So they’re not going to emphasize too much the fact that human utilization of technology is substrate constrained, so to speak.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Technology
MORE ABOUT: Email, Facebook, Technology

The end of ages

By Razib Khan | April 26, 2010 9:48 am

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has a post up, The Age Of Facebook. Facebook having superseded Google having superseded Microsoft. Unstated that Microsoft superseded IBM as a firm which defines an age through reach, power and influence. Two thoughts that come to mind:

1) It seems that each “age” has been shorter than the previous. IBM was computing for decades. Microsoft probably ten years or so depending on how you define it (I put the second derivate maximum at 1995). Google’s real ascent seems to date to around 2000, but its monopolistic plateau of the mindshare didn’t seem to last for very long as Facebook was already generating a lot of buzz by 2007 (the same principle operates across human history, the civilization of Pharaonic Egypt spanned 2,000 years, the same length as from Augustus to our own time!)

2) It also seems that the extent of a definite age of ascendancy for a particular firm is more muddled now, as creative destruction and innovation allow for many domains of excellence and supremacy, as well as the resurrection of bygone brands. Consider the revival of Apple’s fortunes. And if we are on the verge of the Age of Facebook does anyone believe that Google’s brand will collapse? Arrington notes that Microsoft is perceived to be passed its peak, but it has many years left of its cash cow products, perhaps at least another decade. IBM has reemerged as a software services company. And so on. On a relative scale Arrington’s argument seems to have some merit, but secure domination doesn’t seem to be what it used to be (also, one might need to distinguish between buzz and influence, and concrete metrics).

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Technology
MORE ABOUT: Facebook, Technology
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