June 05, 2003 | Category:

Six Degrees Downhill

It was bound to happen at some point. Downhill is a way to automate six degrees of separation between blogs. And it works surprisingly well.

For anyone who has never heard of six degrees of separation, it’s where you try and find links between 2 things (people, actors, websites) via links between other similar objects. It’s hypothesised that, by following links from one object to another, you can get from any object to any other object in 6 steps or less. The idea works very well.

To illustrate, consider the case of people: finding a connection between person A and person B, who have never met. Person A, in their lifetime, has probably met thousands of people (take time to think about how many people you’ve spoken to in your life – it’s probably huge) who have, in turn, met thousands of others who have met thousands of others etc. By following the links from person to person, we find that we can get to person B in 6 steps or less, no matter who person B is.

If you add more people to your universe of possible people, you do not increase the number of links taken to go between people. In fact, you likely decrease the number of links (since more people means more connections).

Back to the original point, Downhill does an admirable job of find the shortest path between two sites, given its dataset. Plus it has the bonus of providing an API to the blogging ecosystem. I think that might come in very handy later on.