Challenging The Dunbar 150

Kids

Today, Facebook announced it’s new search tool called Graph Search for locating information on people, places, interests, photos, music, restaurants, and more. 

Graph Search is still in beta, so you have to sign up in Facebook to get on the waiting list to use it. 

But Facebook is throwing down the gauntlet to Google by using natural language queries to search by just asking the question in plain language like: “my friends that like Rocky” and up comes those smart ladies and gents. 

But Graph Search is not just a challenge to Google, but to other social media tools and recommendation engines like Yelp and Foursquare, and even LinkedIn, which is now widely used for corporate recruiting. 

Graph Search uses the Bing search engine and it’s secret sauce according to CNN is that is culls information from over 1 billion Facebook accounts, 24 billion photos, and 1 trillion connections–so there is an enormous and growing database to pull from. 

So while the average Facebook user has about 190 connections, some people have as many as 5,000 and like the now antiquated business card file or Rolodex, all the people in your social network can provide important opportunities to learn and share. And while in the aggregate six degrees of separation, none of us are too far removed from everyone else anyway, we can still only Graph Search people and content in our network.

Interestingly enough, while Facebook rolls out Graph Search to try to capitalize on its treasure trove personal data and seemingly infinite connections, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (10 January 2013) ran an article called “The Dunbar Number” about how the human brain can only handle up to “150 meaningful relationships.”

Whether hunter-gather clans, military units, corporate divisions, or an individual’s network of family, friends, and colleagues–our brain “has limits” and 150 is it when it comes to substantial real world or virtual relationships–our brains have to process all the facets involved in social interactions from working together against outside “predators” to guarding against “bullies and cheats” from within the network. 

According to Dunbar, digital technologies like the Internet and social media, while enabling people to grow their virtual Rolodex, does not really increase our social relationships in the real meaning of the word. 

So with Graph Search, while you can mine your network for great talent, interesting places to visit, or restaurants to eat at, you are still fundamentally interacting with your core 150 when it comes to sharing the joys and challenges of everyday life. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Mind Mapping, Social Graphing, and Enterprise Architecture

>

User-centric EA uses visualization techniques like mind mapping to brainstorm and develop information products that are useful and useable to the end user.

Mind map—“a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing. It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within…The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge, may aid recall of existing memories.” (Wikiepdia)

Mind maps are all about linking information and portraying it in a simple, clear, and easy-to-read way for people to understand and use.

Similar to a Mind Map that visualizes linked items to a central idea, the Social Graph is “an image of a person’s connections to friends, family, and colleagues,” where the person is in the center and his connections (or links) span outward.

MIT Technology Review, on 28 December 2007 reports in “Mapping Professional Networks” that “IBM‘s Atlas tool aims to help businesses visualize connections between colleagues…[it] works in conjunction with its Connections software, [and] aims to help professionals network more efficiently within large companies. Its My Net component helps people visualize how closely they’re staying in touch with professional contacts. The closer a contact is to the center of the circle, the more frequently the user communicates with her.

The Atlas tool “collects information about professional relationships based not only on job descriptions and information readily available through the corporate directory, but also through blog tags, bookmarks, and group membership. Atlas can be configured to look at e-mail and instant-message patterns, and to weigh different types of information more or less heavily.”

“Atlas’s four features are Find, Reach, Net, and My Net. Find and Reach are both focused on finding experts in particular fields. Through Find, a user enters search terms and receives a list of experts, ranked based on information gleaned from social data, the level of the expert’s activity in the community, and any connections he may have to trusted associates of the user. Reach then helps the user plot the shortest path to make the connection, suggesting people the user already knows who could put him in touch with an expert. Net and My Net are primarily meant to help people analyze their existing networks. Net shows patterns of relationships within particular topic areas at a company-wide level. For example, it might analyze data on people interested in social computing and produce a map of how those people connect with each other through blog readership and community involvement. My Net allows individuals to analyze their own networks, showing them who they are connected to and how frequently they stay in touch with those people.”

The Atlas tool is a cool visualization technique that organizations can use, for example, after a merger or acquisition to see how well two organizations are integrating or that an individual in the organization can use to locate and stay connected with the subject matter experts they need to do their jobs.

Mind maps and social graphs are two interesting examples of how information visualization can be used to enable better organizational information understanding, analysis, and decision-making. User-centric EA maximizes the use of information visualization to communicate effectively. This is especially true when it comes to senior executives in the organization, who with their busy schedules, frequently look for a quick snapshot of actionable information, which summarizes lots of information for them, and helps them hone in on problems areas or opportunities, and options and recommendations for addressing these. In User-centric EA, Profiles (like mind maps or social graphs) are the high level products that portray a satellite view of information. Profiles capture a broad, strategic view of information and visualize it for executive consumption and decision-making. Further, user-centric EA links profile-level products to more detailed information products in the architecture, like models and inventories, so users can easily navigate up or down the hierarchy of information to get to what they need. Similarly, a mind map or social graph could also be a navigation mechanism to get to more detailed information on the objects or people linked to those products.