Saturday, 26 May 2012

Worlds collide: one degree of separation

As a codicil to a previous post about how things online, especially with social media, seem to inevitably converge at some point so everyone seems to be directly connecting and speaking to everyone else.

A local colleague retweeted a tweet from someone I'd never heard of and didn't follow, @ftrain. Though on checking, he's followed by half a dozen people I follow, including a work colleague from a previous career.

The tweet was good. And a good reply followed by someone else I'd never heard of before, @mulegirl.

Because the reply was worth sharing, grabbed it as a screen picture, and pasted it on Facebook:

Within three minutes an ex-work colleague, Tony - the manager of the JISC elib ADAM subject gateway in the 1990s who has since moved to Brooklyn in New York - and also another previous colleague of @danbri - added a comment, pointing out that ...

Aarggh. #WorldsCollide. Continuously.

Update more from @danbri who is also intrigued by the connections with @ftrain. Dan points out that ten years ago, Paul wrote A bit of commentary on Google and the Semantic Web (while now Dan works on taking RDF mainstream), plus more recent stuff on the Semantic Web. And more from Dan:
In 1997 Tony Gill told me RDF wouldn't be ready by next summer, and wasn't wrong. And i still work around models for describing Mona Lisa.
One of Dan's other projects, FOAF, was useful in highlighting coincidences and less apparent connections. All of this is more data, anecdotes, links towards a (personal) long-held suspicion that:
  1. the whole Internet/Web data movement over the last twenty years has been actively driven, engineered, moved forward, by a surprising small collection of people, several hundred or just a few thousand at the most.
  2. some forms of "social media", but especially Twitter, are gradually enabling and highlighting direct connections between these particular people.
Update #2 so I went to the 30th birthday party of an ex-housemate, Samira, who now lives in the house the party is in. Samira is heading west to San Francisco soon for a new life, which is great. There was a bloke wearing a hat there; I'd met him before briefly, and he looked ... familiar in some way. I dropped Samira's card in the punchbowl (oops), spoke to some people (two of whom I recognised from somewhere else, but again not sure where), then left for a sleep.

A few days later finds me looking at the twitter stream of my next door neighbour, and realising that she is tweeting the same bloke (orangejon) about going to the same party. So I follow him, then look through *his* twitter stream to see chats with my neighbour, the cheap cafe I eat in, a load of other places I've eaten or drunk in, an ex, several friends, a fellow library campaigner, several organisations on twitter I've also chatted to in the past, and a whole bundle of friends/contacts of friends. Of whom @dubber and @gridinoc are of particular personal interest (though I've never met either of them), as we have mutual twitter friends (more than just followers; people chatted to) from every period of my life since escaping from the Vale of Evesham in 1988.

Oh, and Mr O. Jon has also retweeted Mike Ellis. Seriously, everyone I know seems to know and/or retweet Mike Ellis at some point. I've never met the guy (though we've twitter-chatted and I like his life philosophy) but I know many of his colleagues and friends, far more than most of the people I've met in the real life.

The thing is, it's not like Orange Jon and myself follow and communicate with millions of people each on Twitter. It's just a couple of hundred, especially when you remove organisations. And yes, there will be coincidences; a lack of coincidences would be strange. But the accumulating number of links, and @ chats, is really odd for someone I do not know and have chatted to for approximately 15 seconds in real life, and do different things and "move in different circles" to.

Perhaps @orangejon is the anti-me, like anti-matter, and if we shake hands either we will cancel each other out and disappear, or the universe will implode, or we would be immediately replaced by an exact replication of Mike Ellis.

Or twitter would crash.

(Thinks a while. Or, and scarily there is a strong argument that could be made here, the Matrix does exist and it is in fact Twitter. I feel a paper coming on...)

Oh. And I forgot to ask why he's called "Orange Jon".

And as a further afterthought and back on the track of "breathing", a retweet a few minutes later by @ppetej (an ex-colleague and metadata guru who used to be at Eduserv but now works at Cambridge University with twitter followers of Becky, who maintains a list of metadata and cataloguing people on Twitter) is a refreshing analogy on not being unnecessarily distracted from writing that is to be done.

And, as an even further afterthought, tonight I "went viral" - as in one of my tweets being retweeted several thousand times - for the only time this year. During #eurovision.

And the only time I managed it in 2011, was ... during #eurovision.

Digital games in education, libraries, geocaching, digital library developments, anything else; a mild amount of retweets. On a good day.

But Eurovision? The tweeting floodgates doth open.

#DoingTwitterVeryWrongly #BahHumbug

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