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Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,058 ratings  ·  56 reviews
In this remarkable book, Duncan Watts, one of the principal architects of network theory, sets out to explain the innovative research that he and other scientists are spearheading to create a blueprint of our connected planet. Whether they bind computers, economies, or terrorist organizations, networks are everywhere in the real world, yet only recently have scientists ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton Company (first published February 1st 2003)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  1,058 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is my first introduction to network theory and small world theory. I found it completely fascinating and well worth a read. I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the impact of cross group work by mapping out connections. I was looking to a taxonomy to talk about these concepts with others. A co-worker suggested I read up on graph theory, which lead me to this book and this researcher. This book accomplished that. It's a well written digestible overview and history of a very ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was OK. I think I would have liked it more if I knew more about math and statistics. Watts raised some interesting points in his book and who can forget playing the 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon. Watts was not able to apply his findings to real world examples in a way that made the connections understandable to a layman. In addition, at the end of it all there was no tangible finding or process that could be applied by a reader to more effectively utilize networks.
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Aleks Krotoski, broadcaster, journalist, and academic specialising in technology and interactivity, has chosen to discuss Duncan J Watts’s Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age on FiveBooks as one of the top five on her subject - Virtual Living, saying that:

"...Watts has been looking at the small world phenomenon to identify whether the web itself has shrunk our world, and in fact it hasn’t… We still do have those six degrees of separation, even by e-mail, with somebody who’s in, say,
Aug 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
I like the topic, I've read magazines articles on network science before and enjoyed them. And I like the concepts and ideas and what network science can tell us. But apparently, I just can't read a full book on topic. It takes awhile to explain things and while the text is accessible it just doesn't hold my attention. I had to put it aside.
Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book

A look at the maths behind the idea that there are 'six degreees of separation' and other networking theories. Interesting stuff and I like the fact that the author is not afraid to include plenty of graphs to illustrate his ideas, popular science books that insist on using only words drive me nuts.

Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
It's a sign of the author's great intelligence that I was able to understand this book...of course the parts that interested me the most were (1) network theory used to examine spread of disease (2) designing flexible, robust response systems.
Feb 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really liked this. I love accessible science with references to the original work. It is similar to linked, and the topic is related, both excellent books to get you thinking about networks.
Rachel Tomassen
Not really all that engaging, but one of the first non fiction books I've got through in a while. It gives some interesting insights, but ultimately it's a bit old and too much work in reading through it for the little gain in knowledge it provides.
Tom Cross
Jul 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
Just awful. Reads like a PhD student trying to impress his faculty advisor. Far too much theory and little practical application.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Abandoned reading this. Maybe I'll come back to it some other time. 80 pages in I still felt like I hadn't learned anything I didn't already know. I don't have the patience to keep reading.
Vincent Wu
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book should be deemed as the first course of the science of networks.
Harsha Gurnani
In one word: Refreshing.

Sat with it for two consecutive nights until my eyes started hurting. He describes his own academic journey - as a confused graduate student stumbling upon a completely unexplored subject - ecstatic at his finding but marvelling at how it remained unexplored for so long. But as he said, things had to happen in a particular order .

As for the science, it's presented in a completely accessible way - it's supposed to be for general reading. (Book Description covers it all).
Rori Rockman
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love reading books on behavioral economics, but by now I've read a whole bunch of them, and all the writers I read cite one another's books and studies, and the more books I read, the less new information I'm getting out of them. This was an unexpected treat. I discovered Duncan Watts a few years ago when I read his book Everything is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer, which related much more directly to behavioral economics. Six Degrees has to do with network theory, which I don't know much ...more
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I became interested in Networks after reading Connected & after browsing related books online, everything pointed me towards reading this next. It's the perfect starting point for anyone interested in networks because it teaches you in detail how differents types of networks function, differ & relate to one another across all the scientific spectrums. I even found myself recognizing the authors colleagues from other network lit purchases I've made. I'm excited to see what's changed from ...more
Phil Moyer
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent layperson's companion to Duncan's Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks Between Order and Randomness, this treatment dives into the history of network science research, including its roots and Duncan's earlier forays into the field. I do recommend this book to my friends, particularly those who ask "what's this 'complexity' thing you're always going on about?" Disclosure: Duncan is an acquaintance of mine via the Santa Fe Institute, so I'm a bit biased because of the outstanding ...more
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Picked up this book when I was exploring the wonderful worlds of small world/scale free networks, power laws and synchronization, which was in turn due to an interest in chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics. Amazing book full of great examples and ideas. A very readable introduction to the science of networks. Highly recommend this and Albert Laszlo Barabasi's book "Linked", and Steven Strogatz's awesome book, "Sync".
Blake Kanewischer
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This is a solid book--it's interesting, having read some of the follow-up works to this (e.g., by Barabasi and others), because it turns into a bit of a science memoir with that perspective. The book, while it is about networks and network analysis, skims over some of the fun applications and treats them somewhat lightly, in comparison with later books in the field. Still worth a read.
Christine Klymko
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another good overview of the recent development of network science. I found the book fascinating and easy to read. There isn't much math and Duncan Watts explains the big concepts pretty clearly. I had encountered most of the ideas already, in more technical situations, but it was nice to get a big overview of how everything might fit together.
Aasim Waheed
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Too academic for my taste. Watts talks about how he *developed* some of the theories and defines the whole process of getting to them - it became so uninteresting that I basically only browsed through the second half of the book. Read only if you are reallllly interested in social sciences and network theories.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Really fantastic, if dense, book. It educates & does a pretty good job of entertaining in the process. You finish knowing a lot more about the area of networks and where the state of the science on that topic was about 5-6 years ago. I'm motivated to track down some review articles to find out where things have gone.
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
very interesting narrative of Watts and some of his collaborators and how some key developments in the field came about and also an accessible account of a number of ideas in network theory helpful for non-mathematicians.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I genuinely love this book. A far more balanced look at social network theory than maybe Duncan Watts is renowned for.

Gets a little thick towards the middle, but still a fantastic read for those prefer to lean a little more towards science than marketing every now and then.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-2012
like all of Watt's writing, it's a bit dense, but lots of cool stuff for nerds like me. I prefer Barabosi's Linked, but this book has more math. Not sure autobiographical was the best format to explain this field, also.
Bernard O'Leary
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of the last major works on network theory published before the launch of Facebook. Keen to see what he's written since then, as much of the book is filled with a yearning for some kind of vast dataset to analyse.
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Small world effects are around us. This books is a popular introduction to this small world effects and its consequences on social networks and our constantly connected world.

Cautions though, some part of the books need a slow read.
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I only got about halfway through this before I had to return it to the library, so I intend to come back to it. But what I read so far is great. Duncan Watts is an amazing thinker and communicator.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
A somewhat interesting perspective on sociology and how connected people really are. It gave new meaning to the saying "It's a small world".
Feb 14, 2016 added it
I liked the later chapters on Wisdom of Crowds, Financial Bubbles, Viral Cascades, Social Networks. Very solid read.
Kostas Pelechrinis
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very nice (non-technical) introduction to network science. It summarizes the milestones during the first years of this new disciplines in a nice and engaging way.
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Definitely the best book on the science of large social networks.
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Duncan Watts is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and a founding member of the MSR-NYC lab. From 2000-2007, he was a professor of Sociology at Columbia University, and then, prior to joining Microsoft, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directed the Human Social Dynamics group . He has also served on the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and is ...more