The (Increasingly Worthless) Network Effect

The other day I did what I do with increasing frequency: I wanted to meet an exec (call him “Exec A”) at a startup company (call it “Company X”) where Valhalla might invest, so I looked in LinkedIn to see who was connected with them.

An old friend from Palo Alto days was indeed one degree of separation from Exec A, but when I contacted my friend — and, by the way, it was great to catch up with him on all kinds of things — he said, “I hardly know A and I know nothing about X”.  He had LinkedIn with A because they had worked together once, but it was not a meaningful connection.

There are pressures to make meaningless connections: pressures on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Twitter.  And a kind of Gresham’s Law takes over: the bad links drive out the good.

I’ve watched it happen with UseNet, with email, with the Web, with portals, with Quora, with the social sites cited above.

So maybe there isn’t an absolute “network effect”.  Maybe above a certain size the debasement of links takes over and the value of network declines.

I’m certain that smarter folks than I have worked this problem.  I’d welcome any links to discussions.

But, please, only the good links.


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