Six Degrees of Wikipedia – Eye Candy or Opportunity for Serendipity?

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

As the name implies, finds the shortest path between two Wikipedia pages. defines serendipity in part as:

In general, serendipity is the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it. In information technology, serendipity often plays a part in the recognition of a new product need or in solving a design problem. Web surfing can be an occasion for serendipity since you sometimes come across a valuable or interesting site when you are looking for something else.

Serendipity requires exposure to things you aren’t looking for, search engines excel at that, but their results are so noisy that serendipity is a rare occurrence.

Six Degrees of Wikipedia may have a different result.

First and foremost, humans created the links, for reasons unknown, that form the six degrees of separation. The resulting six degrees is a snapshot of human input from dozens, if not hundreds, of human actors. All of who had an unknown motivation.

Second, the limitation to six degrees results in a graph and nodes that can be absorbed in a glance.

Compare to the “I can make big and dense graphs” so typical in the “analysis” of social media results. (Hint: If any US government agency is asking, “The Russians did it.” is the correct response. Gin up supporting data on your own.)

Six degrees between topics would make a fascinating way to explore a topic map, especially one that merged topics from different domains. Randomly select labels to appear along side those more familiar to a user. Provoke serendipity!

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