Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Thursday, August 07, 2003

  Just a couple hundred million folks, sitting around talking

Pericat's Unlocking the Air throws off some sparks from the hypersphere with with a thoughtful piece on the nature of Internet conversation, called "Wanna Talk"?
    ...at least one of the major changes wrought by the internet is that of writing becoming speech in ways that go beyond the simple back-and-forth of instant messaging or chat. Writing on the Web has still the advantages of retaining its form and meaning over time and distance, just as it has had for hundreds of years, but to that now has been added the essence of equals conversing — just a couple of folks, sitting around talking, multiplied a million times over.


The last number I remember for the size of the internet community was about 100 million back in 1999 or so.

It's potentially over 6 billion times over, if you just count the people living today.

Or, if you want to use metcalfe's law for "the utility or usefulness of a network equals the square of the number of users"...

Internet usefulness[1999] = 100,000,000^2 = 10,000,000,000,000,000

I don't have current numbers for the size of the net (anyone?) - assuming 500 million -

Internet usefulness[2003] = 500,000,000^2 = 250,000,000,000,000,000

How useful is a usefulness number? Beats me. All these connections are only useful in potentia - I'm going to research this a little bit in light of Dan Power's LinuxWorld speech on grid computing, (the grid has 2 million computers connected to it now!) and see what comparisons I can come up with. Connections in the human brain? In ASCI White? Complexity of the genome? Etc. (anyone got numbers for these?)

Pericat mentions Ursula Franklin's The Real World of Technology (I have to read this) and also points to Burningbird's musings on the semantic web. I've been trying to talk coherently about what people like Berners-Lee are doing nowadays, using phrases like "conceptualize concepts" and "talking about talking". Now I don't have to, I can point them at BurningBird instead.

Good reading. (btw, happy b-day, pericat!)
 
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