Virtual lemmings (Economist)

“As modern Homo sapiens migrates to the online savannah, trends have been spreading to ever greater numbers. So the wise men and women of our now-massive tribe have been tracking web versions of these ancient behaviours. However, most of the research (both on- and offline) to date has focused on either a small subset of users or the most successful herd-driven behaviours. Now Felix Reed-Tsochas of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and Jukka-Pekka Onnela from Harvard University have broached the subject with an admirably broad brush. […]

As the pair report in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they pored over (anonymous) data of the entire Facebook population in July and August 2007 (around 50m at the time), and at all but a few of the 2720 apps available for download in the same period […]

Users appeared to treat any app with more than 55 daily installations differently to those with fewer downloads. Under 55 daily installations, friend behaviour was an instrumental part of the decision to install. Over 55 daily installations, and friend behaviour didn’t matter one jot. Virtual lemmings are, it seems, discriminating in ways we still don’t quite comprehend.”|mgt|10-20-2010|management_thinking


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