…or how you can go from “Network” to “Cadbury Creme Egg” in 12 clicks.

(note: the following is my blog post for INFO204: Networks. It’s just here so I have it in the future.)

In my search for something “good” to post about I came across some xkcd comics that I couldn’t pass up. Since they don’t really have any intellectual integrity, I thought I would just post them for fun and use one as the basis for my post. Click and enjoy.

Although not the best of the xkcd comics, I found the last one particularly interesting because it is so true. You really can search for something on Wikipedia and before you know it you’ve missed dinner, you’ve learned a whole lot of probably useless information, and you can’t even remember where you started. What is it about that site that allows you get so lost in the web of information? Time to validate the “I’m sorry Professor, I got so lost researching on Wikipedia I couldn’t finish my assignment” excuse and prove a comic to be true all in one fell swoop:

In their study “A Network Analysis of Wikipedia”, Bellomi and Bonato stated:

Wikipedia's internal references form a single connected graph: there are no separated ”islands” of entries with no inbound or outbound links to the rest of the corpus; given any entry, it is possible to reach any other entry, following a path of undirected reference links.

This can easily be seen in the following images generated on Websites as Graphs thanks to a tip from catrionag (click to enlarge):


The above image shows the network of a search for the term “Networks”. Note the connectedness. So far Bellomi and Bonato’s statement is holding up. There are no “islands”. Everything is connected, even if it’s only by that one lonely node between the two giant clusters. The central nodes, being the pages that are more of references lists, help to connect you from what you were looking for to something completely random and seemingly unrelated.

To test out the theory presented in the xkcd comic, I decided to go on an adventure, click on links within articles, and see where it took me. Within 12 clicks I arrived at “Cadbury Creme Egg”. For comparison, take a look at the following image showing the Websites As Graphs version of the “Networks” page and the “Cadbury Creme Egg” page.

Cadbury and Networks Compared

Here we have two (seemingly) distinct things that you would think have very little in common, yet, their page networks are nearly identical. Does this similarity account for the link between the two? Or does the link between the two account for the similarity? Regardless of which, if either, is true, if I challenged you to go from “Networks” to “Cadbury Creme Egg” in those same 12 clicks, odds are it would take you and awfully long time to do it. Go ahead, try it - then tomorrow you can tell your professor you couldn’t finish your homework because you were too busy looking for Cadbury Creme Eggs.