Why You MUST go to the Pub

Friday, 27 June 2003

People can and do become happy, fulfilled, successful (and so forth), even in spite of themselves. It may be luck, or accident. They themselves may not even know what they’ve been doing right, or what wrongs they have avoided. Naturally, people want to know the key — the secret to success, but why look for answers in this month’s best-selling self-help book written by some “guru” when thousands of academics for many years have studied and published their findings freely for all who care to look?

[Picture of Pub/ cafe]PROBABLY the least recognised aspect of Sociology is friendship and acquaintance networks — schmoozing, influencing, mentoring, networking, head-hunting, courting, and so forth, even though we’ve all heard of ‘The old boy network’, we know that immigrants form networks and live in clusters to help each other, and we have all heard:

‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’.

The Strength of Weak Ties & the birth of a new science:

About 30 years ago, Sociologist Mr. Mark Granovetter discovered the ‘Strength of Weak Ties’ – weak links in human sociology terms turn out to be the most important links of all. This has led to the emerging Science of Networks.

  • Granovetter unearthed the seemingly paradoxical fact that the most important connections for spreading information throughout a network are not the people who are most closely connected to you. Rather, the key connectors are those who form a bridge between the cluster of people you know and other, similar clusters of close acquaintances of your friends.

Links in a social network are therefore not established at random, but are instead strongly clustered, and some of the connections are more important than others — that is, the ones enabling one cluster to link to another.

These ‘busy bees’ with an uncommonly large number of links to many clusters are the people that writer Mr. Malcolm Gladwell claims are responsible for creating fashions and trends. They make deals happen and generally serve as agents or middlemen who tip things in one direction instead of another.

The central idea of Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point‘ is that tiny (and apparently insignificant changes) can often have consequences out of all proportion to themselves — accounting for the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking.

The most important things this shows is:

  • There is no ‘free’ job market, careers and jobs not really depend on CVs, and equal rights legislation, a fair interview and so forth are essentially counter to human nature and behaviour.
    Fairness is an ideal, not a reality.
  • The most important contacts are people (family, friends and acquaintances) who have a wide range of contacts outwith your circle (the bridgers, connectors or middlemen).
  • People interconnect — that’s how society works. It’s about getting out, meeting people and introducing (connecting) people who would otherwise never meet.
  • Socialising is of fundamental importance to employment, romance, career development, life enjoyment and enhancement.You make your own breaks, and your own luck by being in ‘the right place at the right time’.


[Picture of street cafe]

This is well understood in mainland Europe, where there exists a strong café-culture. But it is not restricted to Europe or cafés and pubs; there are bazaars, churches, mosques, clubs, and lots more opportunities to get out and network.

Small World

All networks — the Internet, terrorist groups, multinational industries, motorways, the ‘old boy network’, Amazonian ecosystems — follow the same simple and powerful rules.

The Science of Networks has sprung up to uncover these rules and interconnected patterns.

Before his death in 1996, the mathematician Paul Erdös published over 1500 papers with 507 co-authors. This prodigious output gave rise to something mathematicians call the “Erdös number”, an integer representing the number of steps between Erdös and any given mathematician.

Erdös obviously has Erdös number 0. Anyone who wrote a paper with him has number 1. Anyone who co-authored a paper with one of Erdös’s co-authors has number 2, and so on. A low Erdös number is a matter of considerable pride among mathematicians, so important in fact that there is a web site devoted to keeping track of the Erdös number of thousands of mathematicians.

What is quite astonishing is that almost everyone — even a non-mathematicians like Bill Gates — has a very low Erdös number, typically between 2 and 5. This is the ‘small worlds’ phenomenon. Basically, this web of science is a ‘small world’ because it is a highly interconnected web, in which almost all mathematicians are closely linked to each other via a short path of co-authored papers.

The network of mathematicians and their Erdös numbers is an example of just about every human social network — including the Internet.

  • The two presently leading this new field are Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, and Mark Buchanan.

Suppose you look at a particular Web page and asked how many clicks of your mouse it takes to get from this page to any other page via hyperlinks. Barabasi and his students actually did this calculation for their website at the University of Notre Dame, USA.

It contained 325 729 documents connected by 1 469 680 links. Counting up how many pages had one link, two links, and so on, they discovered that the number of pages having a certain number of links decreased by about a factor of five each time the number of links was doubled.

These results lead to a simple relationship between the number of links in a network and the number of nodes in the network having that many links. Called a ‘power law’, this relationship formed a central principle by which networks structure themselves.

Barabasi can explain how Google came to be the most popular search engine on the Internet and what it would take to dismantle the Al Qaida terrorist network. Whereas Buchanan explains the spread of infectious disease, how riots form, and why the rich always seem to get richer.

The Science of Networks is what led me to form a special type of company of my own, exploiting the connections and contact network I’d built up over years.

This is a subject very dear to my heart — please do yourself a favour and use this as a starting point for changing your life and lifestyle!

If this has kindled any interest you, then here are some follow-up links to some books at the on-line Amazon bookshop:

See you in the pub…!

One Response to “Why You MUST go to the Pub”

  1. kiki Says:

    totally soop ;) this one soooo rox man! gotta recommend this 2 all

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