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January 19, 2005
How Efficiently You Can Reach The Network May Be More Important Than How Good Your Network Is
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Interesting information from The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki. The book recounts some stats from the TV show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

For those unfamiliar with this groundbreaking multiple-choice Q&A contest show, participants were given "lifelines" that they could rely for assistance when they did not know an answer to a question. For one of the lifelines, the show participant was able to call up any trusted person that they could think of. The other lifeline enabled participants to poll the audience in the studio, where the masses would respond to the multiple choice question via keypad, the results would be displayed via histogram. The histogram, in effect, showed whether the majority of the crowd believed the correct answer was A, B, C, or D.

Turns out that for response accuracy, 65% of the time "phone a friend" resulted in the right answer vs. 91% of the time "ask the audience" resulted in the right answer. Although the results may be be subject to some selection bias where show participants tended to ask easier questions when polling the audience, it is a very interesting finding for those that leverage networks in personal and business contexts.

How often in the real-world have you gone to friends and business contacts to try to get answers? Now there appears to be a case for reaching a larger audience if you want to get more accurate information. Good research finding for those exploring wiki, open source, blogging, and information market technologies methinks.

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 19, 2005 12:06 AM CST
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