Stories from a connected world – Dwarfs and giants
If you take the telephone book of Barcelona for example, and you order people listed there based on their height, you will get a “bell curve”. The vast majority of people are of average height and a few individuals are much taller or smaller.
Now, if you order the same people based on the number of friends each one has, you get a very different picture. There are people with thousands of friends, and others with many less.
Unlike height, social links are not distributed on a bell curve, but on one with a “long tail”. If height were proportional to the number of friends one has, there would be giants, thousand times higher than the average.
If you want to make a chair, you can take as a model a person with an average height: everybody will fit that chair. But if you want to understand networks, it makes no sense to talk about “the average person” as the number of connections people have are so varied.
Want to know more? Read “Networks. A Very Short Introduction”
(Adapted from “Einstein a la platja”. Thanks to Barcelona Televisió)