Are Web 2.0 Social Networking Sites Exponential?

Jason Steinhorn sent me a link to this fairly interesting blog post on the growth dynamics of social networking sites.

The mathematics of Web 2.0: Why don’t ALL social networking sites experience phenomenal growth?

The article looks at two interesting questions:

  1. Do social networking sites show N^2 growth (ala Metcalfe’s Law), or do they show 2^N growth (exponential)
  2. Why do some social networking sites show far more rapid growth than others.

I need to think about this a bit more.  My initial reaction was no, these sites are showing N^2 growth (which is huge), and the author is getting confused about the fact that trees don’t grow to the sky, and not all sites are going to fulfill their algorithmic destiny.

However, on further consideration, the growth of groups is really the key.  Since groups can continue to form, and can “repeat” membership fairly aggressively, you might be seeing more of a combinatorics equation, like the one in his article.   A study of the growth of groups might be the real key here – I’m not sure these sites really support full combinatorics, which is what you’d need to see 2^N behavior.

If you are wondering why this matters, let’s try a mathematical explanation.  These equations define the “growth characteristics” of certain types of models.

N^2 (N Squared) tends to get you numbers like:

1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100

Pretty good.  1 to 100 in just 10 steps.

2^N (2 to the N) tends to get you numbers like:

2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024

1024 in just 10 steps.  Much more powerful growth, and the difference gets more and more staggering as the model grows.

This is why, by the way, compound interest is your friend.  Exponential growth is your savings doubling regularly, over some period of time.

Of course, this article has me thinking… Metcalfe’s Law is about computer networks.  But why wouldn’t computer networks actually show exponential growth?  After all, I can belong to multiple networks – my ISP’s network, my home LAN, my workplace LAN (VPN)… is there some element of this growth in the networking business as well?  Is that why wireless networking has been so powerful?  The overlay of these “networking groups”?

There’s something interesting here… but it’s just too late tonight for me to figure it out…

Tivo Series 3 to 1 TB Hack

Nice coverage on Engadget of a hack to take the new, high-definition Tivo Series 3 to 1 Terabyte (1 TB).

Engadget Article

This gets your Tivo Series 3 up to 131 hours of high definition programming, which is not bad, but doesn’t quite match the 170 hours I enjoy on my DirecTV Tivo today (I have an upgraded box).

I have to say, having over 100 hours of storage definitely changes the way you use your Tivo. When we had 30 hours, my wife and I would rarely record movies, since 30 hours covered just about 2 weeks of average recording. Dual tuners made it worse, because you could actually now catch competing shows.

With 170 hours, we’ve never run out of room, and anytime we want to catch a movie we missed in the theater, we record it off one of the cable movie channels.

We’re one of the last hold outs who have not upgraded to HD yet. We’ve largely been waiting on a solution to two large problems in this area:

1) A decent, HD Tivo solution with 100+ hours and that doesn’t break the bank.
2) A solution to the fact that a new TV & setup means replacing our cherry entertainment center (purchased in 2001).

As usual, I have more faith in technology to solve problem (1) than problem (2).

Aleksey Vayner on Ivy League Blog

I got forwarded this saga last week from my brother, a recent MBA. Unbelievable.

The coverage on Ivy League Blog is the best.

It’s unbelievable how the blogosphere can grant a relatively unknown person an amazing amount of notoriety and fame – all for despicable acts that are collectively researched and aggregated through community effort. It would make sense if Aleksey was a congressman or senator… but this is just a guy who lies about everything.

Then again, maybe in previous decades it is people like Aleksey who would in fact go on to become congressman and senators.

Who knows, but I haven’t seen this much email on an MBA since that banker had his email about partying in the Philippines circulated to 100 million of his closest friends a few years ago.