I Have 243 Subscribers, But You Are My Favourite And Always Will Be
|Apr 15||Public post|
Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.
What is the size of a small wedding? The answer to this question depends on your cultural context. In some cultures a small wedding consists of only the 10-20 closest family-members, while in other cultures a small wedding is joined by 50-70 people While the numbers differentiate, each culture has a number.
Our buildings have numbers too. In Denmark the fire authorities limit the capacity of people allowed in the room depending on the width of the doors. Each centimeter allows another person in the room. This way of measuring the number of allowed humans occasionally results in some rather absurd situations. For example, the common room at my granddad’s school has permission for 700 people, while it would be nearly impossible to fit in 300 people.
In the 90s the anthropologist Robin Dunbar started to explore the limits of how many people humans could have meaningful relationship with. Looking into tribes, villages, bands and companies, Dunbar argued that 150 is the cognitive limit to how many people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.
Along the way Dunbar developed different numbers for social connections. Five people is the average amount of very intimate friends one can maintain, often we spend 40% of our social time talking with these people. Ten is the number of close friends, this group takes another 20% of our time, leaving everyone else with just 40% of our time.
This week I read about how Twitter started to limit the amount of accounts one can follow per day. Earlier you could follow 1,000 accounts per day, now that number is limited to 400. To me this is still an absurdly high number and it made me think about Dunbar’s research.
Not surprisingly Dunbar himself has been questioning how social networks like MySpace and later Facebook influenced the cognitive limit of our stable connections. So far his research has indicated the cognitive limit of around 150 still prevails in online settings.
Just because something is technically possible doesn’t mean that it is human desirable, nor possible. Today we are arguably in touch with more people than we have ever been before in human history. Digital tools assist us in managing all of these connections, but even the most super-powered human is still limited by time, space and cognitive abilities. Maybe we should start to design our products with that in mind?
Social Internet Numbers
3 - was the number of friends you could invite to Product Hunt in the early days. The restriction was introduced to grow the community slowly and through tight circles.
20 - is the number of times you can forward messages on WhatsApp. The number is down from 256, with tests in India limiting the number to 5 in order to fight the spread of misinformation.
20 - is also the number of comments you need to make on the Token Daily forum before you are allowed to submit new posts. In this way the moderators know that you know the culture before you start to contribute new threads.
30 - is the number of days you need to have had your account on Nomad List before you are allowed to post links in the private forum. The period was introduced to avoid new accounts spamming irrelevant links.
32 - is the number of people that can be in a group call on Facetime. I already find group calls complicated with three people, so wonder if anyone has any experience to share with being 32 people in a call?
280 - is the maximum number of characters allowed in a single tweet. The number is up from 140 in an attempt to improve the conversation health. Results show the increase fostered shorter tweets, more questions and an increased use of ‘thank you’.
400 - is the maximum number of accounts you can follow on Twitter per day. Recently introduced to fight bot accounts following/unfollowing people with the sole purpose of growing their following.
500+ - is the maximum number of connections shown on your LinkedIn profile. The limit was introduced because users were gaming the system to have as high number of connections as possible.
5,000 - is the maximum number of friends we can connect with on Facebook. It is still significantly more than the approximately 150 people where we can connect face and name without pause.
10,000 - is the number of followers you need to have on Instagram to include direct links in your stories.
Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture
Today there are nearly one million Uber drivers in North America. Traditionally this would require thousands of middle managers to coordinate the drivers. However, at Uber the drivers are coordinated by an algorithm. I didn’t know what to think when I read that the drivers get scored on how smooth they drive, a score that is calculated by the accelerometer in their phones.
The drivers self-organize in online forums reaching 300,000 members. Here they collude and share notes on changes in the secret algorithm, such as revenue split. The drivers also share wisdom such as “don’t chase the surge”.
Humans are embedded into memory communities. I don’t need to know about farming, house-building or treating illnesses because I can rely on other humans who knows about these things.
Today we are in the midst of a shift in these memory networks. Increasingly it is not other humans’ memory we rely on, but algorithms such as Google Search. These tools are memory-super-machines, drastically reducing the need for humans to remember, but the question remains, how much and what is safe to forget?
How much of what you read is something you actively searched for yourself? How much is something that is fed to you by feeds, algorithms or marketers?
Austin Kleon argues we should spend more time in the search box and less time in the feed. Where we decide to read is as important as what we decide to read.
Taylor Lorenz has become one of my favourite writers covering changing social behaviour on online platforms. Last week she covered a new trend on Instagram: Freshmen are recreating the physical facebook on Instagram prior to joining the university. The accounts, including Virginia Tech Class of 2023, feature bios of incoming students looking to connect with likeminded people and finding flatmates.
I joined Facebook during the first year of university, it was the one place where our class would connect, gossip and organize. I find it interesting to read that the students say they join Facebook only to share their Instagram account.
Helping people helping people. I think this is probably the single best thing to optimize for when building digital products, or in life in general. Let me know if I can help you somehow.
This week I changed the format of the newsletter a bit. If you noticed, how did you like it? Also, maybe you could drop a clap on a Medium story about digital maps I published last week?