1. Connectors

Dated Jul 8, 2016; last modified on Thu, 02 Sep 2021

The Midnight Ride

Afternoon of April 18, 1775: Paul Revere, a silversmith, got word of British planning to raise hell the next day.

Revere goes out informing people. Churchbells and drums. Those informed by Revere send out riders of their own.

In Concord, the colonial militia soundly beat the British, kicking off the American Revolution.

Wiliam Dawes also had a ride. But the local militia leaders weren’t alerted. Few people came out to fight the British.

The Small World Problem

Milgram’s mailed 160 people in Omaha a letter that was supposed to get to a stockbroker in Boston. The letter reached the stockbroker in \(\approx\) 6 steps!

In those 6 degrees of separation, not all degrees are equal. 50% of the 24 responses that made it were delivered by the same 3 people.

That only 24 out of 160 responses got delivered makes the small world hypothesis less impressive than I perceived it to be.

A small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

For example, Mary Pickford was in Screen Snapshots with Clark Gable, who was in Combat America with Tony Romano, who was in Starting Over with Bacon. Therefore Pickford’s Bacon number is 3.

The average Bacon number for actresses in television films or major motion pictures is 2.8312.

Of the most connected actors, Bacon ranked 669th. Steiger is #1, having featured in multiple worlds, subcultures and nich├ęs.

Because Connectors have a foot in so many different worlds, they tend to bring them all together.

Weak Ties Over Strong Ties

Majority of personal connections that lead to jobs are “weak ties”.

Acquiantances, by definition, occupy a different world, and are more likely to know something that you don’t.

Why Revere, but not Dawes?

Revere was a Connector: a fisherman, hunter, cardplayer, theater-lover, pub patron, successful businessman, clerk of the Boston market, founded Massachusetts Mutual Fire Insurance Co., founding President of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, etc.

Dawes probably had a normal social circle. He probably didn’t know what doors to knock on outside his hometown.

References

  1. Paul Revere's Ride. Hackett, David; Fischer, David Hackett. 1994. ISBN: 9780195088472.
  2. The Oracle of Bacon. Brett Tjaden; Patrick Reynolds. http://oracleofbacon.org/ . 2000.
  3. Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers. Granovetter, Mark. 2018. ISBN: 9780226518404.