Earlier last year Greg dropped me a note about two books I should read. One of them was Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. I added them to my Amazon Wish List but in absent minded professor form I completely forgot about them. When I sat in on Greg’s session at Pubcon he mentioned them again which reminded me they were out there, so put them on my Christmas list and started reading shortly after the new year.
Linked is a book about networks. social networks, web networks, link networks, virus networks, and all sort of other networks. Being the social media maven that I am the book was right up my alley. Books like the Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell are fascinating to me. I really like looking at the inner working of how and why ideas spread and understand the mechanics of what’s happening. Linked walks over and tries to open the hood and take a look at the engine responsible for the movement.
In the book the authors took a long look at how websites are linked together, which I found really interesting. The book is from 2003 so the web linking data is a little old. The book also came before the blogging revolution had caught on so the sites they were traveling were less interlinked. One of the things the authors discovered was that there were 19 degrees of separation between any two websites. This absolutely floored me. I thought the web was a heck of a lot closer together than the real life world of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”. Maybe it’s just because I live in the incestuous blog echo chamber of SEO blogs and endless memes but I’d really like to know if that’s changed (anything you can share senor cutts?).
The book also looks at people networks, for example the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon phenomenon. We learn that Bacon’s not the most connected actor in Hollywood. He’s pretty far down the list, but I’ll leave that surprise for book.
While most of this book is a pretty easy read there are parts where it gets a bit heady and goes into some math and science. It’s harder than Freakonomics but not as difficult as A New Kind of Science. While it’s not a requirement to understand things like power laws you will get more out of the book if you are willing to slog through and try to wrap your brain around the concepts.
So should you read this book? If you are interested in just using the social web for fun and profit until the next thing comes along, then probably not. If you want to understand why the social web works the way it does then yes. If you want to get a deeper understanding how links work in the web and non web world then yes you should. If you want to learn that hubs and connectors mean something in places other the webmaster forums, then yes you should read this book.