Friday, September 01, 2006

Dunbar's Number

Dianne and I have both mentioned our use of the MyBlogLog site recently. The site has some nice tracking tools, but also a social networking aspect. You have the option of enrolling in communities that are associated with a particular blog. There isn't any commitment per se associated with enrollment. It does serve a few purposes: it conveys interest to the blog writer (it's nice to know people are reading); it allows networking by giving the option to establish a fan/friend/admirer relationship with the blog writer; helps you find other MyBlogLog members with similar interests in the blogs you're reading regularly; and the site organizes your communities so it's easy to surf blogs of interest (perhaps not as efficient as a news aggregator).

It's the networking piece that is intriguing -- especially after reading this entry about the monkeysphere on the How to Split an Atom (HTSAA) blog. I wasn't aware of that term or the concept of Dunbar's number. There is a good Wikipedia article about Dunbar's number. There is a funny read about the Monkeysphere here. In short, Dunbar's theory is that there are a limited number of relationships that humans can maintain at one time. A rough estimate of the group size is 150. It seems like a reasonable idea and something that would have work/office implications. The interesting idea brought out in the HTSAA blog entry is how does the Dunbar idea apply to the blogosphere or social networking sites. When you're at a social networking site, how many 'relationships' can you maintain? Or how many can you maintain on top of your other family, friends, and coworker relationships? What implications does that have for social networking sites? All very interesting questions.

I haven't jumped on the Myspace bandwagon. I guess I'm not in the right demographic for Myspace. Most of the sites I've seen there have a 'friends' list and on many blogs the number of friends well exceeds Dunbar's number. Are these folks able to maintain relationships with all these MySpace friends? I somehow doubt it. However, perhaps blog communications are a different level of 'social grooming' that lets people support a larger monkeysphere.

Personally, my ability to maintain a social network is pretty small. I don't know if I could even keep up with 150 people. If Dunbar's concept is true, my neocortex must the size of a pea.


Steve S said...

Thanks for the link back mate. The Dunbar numbers is probably one of the more interesting reads that I have come across recently. I also suggest checking out Christopher Allen's blog if you are more interested in the social implications of the number.

Keep up the good work, I will be sure to drop back here.

Pearl said...

Dunbar number. I read about that in Good to Great book. I had forgotten since. I appreciate the refresher read links.

incidentally I was surprised when I counted just how many blogs contacts I'm maintaining. It's in the range of 4 dozen.