What's your Doctorow-Arrington Number?

Catching up on feed reading over the last week or so, I was entertained by a post at Mathew Ingram's blog that mentions the Dunbar Number.

As Mathew describes it, Dunbar's Number is "a theory that Robin Dunbar came up with, to describe what he thought was the maximum number of people that one could interact with on any kind of personal level. Dunbar figured the average was around 150." It's an interesting thought.

The moment I read this, it reminded me of something I'd stumbled across a few months back and had completely forgotten to blog about. Looking through my my del.icio.us tags, I found I still had a link to this lovely Wikipedia entry that describes the concept of the Erdos-Bacon Number. [EDIT: Seems Firefox, or Blogger, chokes on the umlaut in Erdos, darn it - I've had to strip it out]

As the Wikipedia article explains, "An individual's Erdos–Bacon number is the sum of one's Erdos number—which measures the "collaborative distance" in authoring mathematical papers between that individual and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos—and one's Bacon number—which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from actor Kevin Bacon."

The Erdos–Bacon number game is similar to the idea of Dunbar's Number, in some ways. Both thoughts could probably trace their origins back to Stanley Milgram's "small-world experiment" of the 1960s which, in turn, led to the idea that everyone on the planet is roughly six degrees of separation away from everyone else (as popularised by John Guare in his 1990 play, by the undergraduate game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and, for a while there in the late 90s, by an early social networking site).

So this got me thinking...

Mathematicians can have an Erdos number, measuring the collaborative distance between them and some extraordinarily prolific Hungarian mathematician (Erdos apparently wrote academic papers with a total of 502 co-authors in the course of his career).

Actors (and others) get to have a Bacon number, defining their collaborative distance from that hard-working actor (including, notably, the late Pope John Paul II - who apparently had a Bacon number of 3).

But what's the equivalent numbering schema for the blogosphere?

Six Degrees of Robert Scoble? Nah, too obvious.

The Engadget Number? Hmmm... too impersonal.

Trouble is - the blogsphere is such an amorphous, multi-headed beast that narrowing the numbering system down to any one blog or blogger is just too limiting. As with the Erdos-Bacon thought, we need a compound numbering system to level the playing field a little (and, well just because it's more fun).

Ladies, gentlemen, bloggers of all stripes - I give you: The Doctorow-Arrington Number.

In the best tradition of such things, an individual's Doctorow-Arrington Number is the sum of that individual's Doctorow number and their Arrington number (well, duh). The Doctorow number measures one's collaborative distance from prolific Boing Boing contributor, electronic freedom fighter, author, and all-round good egg Cory Doctorow. The Arrington number, of course, is a measure of steps of separation between an individual and TechCrunch uber-blogger Mike Arrington. Put 'em together and what've you got? (Bibbety Bobbety Boo *cough*).

For the record, btw: both Boing Boing and TechCrunch are currently listed in the top five most popular blogs according to Technorati. There are other, more popular blogs I could have gone with, but... well they're just not as much fun.

Now, as we're discussing things in the blogosphere, "collaborative distance" requires a little extra definition. Anyone can comment on a post at TechCrunch, but does that mean they're only one degree of separation from Mike Arrington? I think not. Similarly, lots of people pick up the stories at Boing Boing and point to them from their own blogs - but mere trackbacks do not count here.

So here's a handy guide to calculating your Doctorow-Arrington number. Just as in the Erdos-Bacon game, the lower your total number the better.

First, determine your Arrington Number by figuring out how you'd score on the following scale:

10: You subscribe to TechCrunch and read the feed regularly
9: You know Mike Arrington's email address (not hard)
8: You've been called an idiot by Arrington in a comment thread at TechCrunch
7: You've met Mike Arrington in person at some industry schmoozefest (again, not hard)
6: Mike actually responds to your emails
5: You have Mike's cell phone number
4: You've met Mike Arrington in person at his home
3: Mike links to you, like, all the time
2: You once worked for or with Mike, or were on the board of some startup with him
1: You currently work for or with Mike, or are a close family member
0: You are Mike Arrington

Secondly, let's figure out your Doctorow number - your collaborative distance from Cory Doctorow - using the following handy scale:

10: You took the kids to Disney last year
9: You have read all the books (but not on the Kindle, goodness no!)
8: You've downloaded/listened to podcasts of/shared/mashed up/translated or otherwise enriched any of the books
7: You met Cory at some giant industry geekfest event somewhere
6: You or your blog have been Boing Boinged
5: You have an email or phone-based relationship with Cory
4. You worked with Cory at Open Cola or some other gig along the way
3. You sit on a board with Cory at ORG, EFF, or elsewhere
2. You are Mark Frauenfelder, Xeni Jardin, David Pescovitz, John Battelle, or Joel Johnson
1. You are Cory Doctorow
0. You are Randall Munroe

Simple. Now add the two together, and you have your official Doctorow-Arrington number.

I think my personal Doctorow-Arrington number is a rather dismal 10. But then, as Doc recently pointed out "...the best of blogging isn't measured by influence, popularity, traffic ... In fact, I'm not sure what makes blogging good is measurable at all. That's because what makes blogging good is nothing more than being interesting, useful or both."

Indeed. And it occurs to me as I finish writing here that this over-long post is an example of neither. Still, it tickled me for a short while. To bed...