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We have just published an experimental/theoretical work on the speed of information diffusion in social networks in Physical Review Letters. Specifically we have studied the impact of the heterogeneity of human activity in propagation of emails, rumors, hoaxes, etc. Tracking email marketing campaigns, executed by IBM Corporation in 11 European countries, we were able to compare their viral propagation with our theory (see below the campaigns details).
The results are very simple.
Percentage of active users in the Internet 2.0 is tiny. Fractions go from
* only 1% of Wikipedia's users contribute to making it better * only 0.1% of users upload their own videos to Youtube * only 3% of people with weblogs post on a daily basis * only 1% of Amazon.com customers contribute with reviews The numbers are tiny. But not uncommon. Typical return rates of marketing campaigns or surveys are around 2-5% (see report by the Direct Marketing Association).
Apparently, a company in Ireland named Steorn has found the killer marketing campaign for their products:
1. Get a law of physics: the first law of thermodynamics, for example, and claim you have a technology that can break it. Cool! 2. Get a good flashy marketing campaign by publishing in The Economist a "show us wrong" announcement to the scientific community. 3. Hide the details of your technology and delay its public announcement by creating a "challenge" to the scientific community.
In a recent Nature article, Albert-Lászlo Barabási and João Gama Oliveira, have found the perfect excuse for lazy people not answering some emails in their inbox: they analyzed the time response of emails and found that they follow a power law probability distribution of the form P(t) = t-1. In particular this implies that not even the mean response time is finite. Hey! why should you then expect me to answer your emails within my lifetime period!