Sunday, February 11, 2007

The number of Nazis approaches 150?

While musing on Annika's post on using social network theory as a tool in counterinsurgency, I found an article that cited both Godwin's Law and Dunbar's Number. The article itself concerned possible hindrances to "Comment is Free."

CIF has not been an unqualified success. Worst of all, insiders think that this social media experiment (and this is the kind of dread thought that keeps media execs up all night) has attracted THE WRONG KIND OF COMMUNITY....

CIF is quite open. Although that might be laudable, with such a large audience there is a tendency for civility to break down. The Guardian seems to be an example of a phenomenon on the Web captured by 'Godwin's Law' which suggests that as more people join an online discussion the likelihood of someone calling someone else a Nazi approaches one....

Among those that I've been discussing this week there was a surprising consensus that social media may confrom to 'Dunbar's number' which comes from anthropological studies of the optimal size of a tribe. Dunbar thought the human cortex could only handle relationships with around 150 individuals. In the context of the Web, we're talking here about active contributors to a site which might mean just one per cent of the total readership giving a broad community of 15,000.

These thoughts, especially the latter, may influence the marketing of this blog, or perhaps I'll just publish any Anna Nicole Smith thing I can find instead.

dunbarsnumber godwinslaw

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