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The hidden power of word of mouth: The mathematics of exponential distribution

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posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:01 AM
This is a very simple idea that doesn't seem to be as widely known as it should be. My basic point is that sending an email to 5 friends is not a useless act by any means.

An individual nowadays has the power to reach 200, 2000, 20,000 people with the click of a mouse, and those people in turn can reach thousands more. Televsion can now be used as a tool for the individual to reach millions. Ideas will now sink or swim based on democracy of choice, rather than 10 out-of-touch dinosaurs in a room. Films can now be used to free people and spread ideas instead of enforcing cultural homogenity and groupthink. In decades to come, the boom of cheap editing equipment and virally distributed video will be recognised by historians as the beginning of a rennaisance more profound and world-changing than the invention of the printing press or the translation of the Bible from Latin to the common languages of Europe.

2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024 2056

Exponential Distribution

Compared with the distribution might of the BBC, CNN, or any other major news network, sending an email to five friends or telling a couple of colleagues about a new film may seem like a weak and pointless act. But word of mouth has a hidden power.

A strong enough idea can completely bypass conventional news networks and reach many minds from a single individual. Imagine a perfect hypothetical example where a film with a strong message is spread by every viewer to just two other people.

1, 2, 4, 8, 16

After 5 word-of-mouth contacts 16 people are aware of the film.

Title: 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512

After 10 contacts more than 500 people become aware of the idea.

If five hundred people continue to pass the film on to two other people each the number continues to double.

500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 8000, 16,000, 32,000, 64,000, 128,000, 256,000, 500,000, 1,000,000

In this thought experiment, a single film, idea or article has reached over one million people with only 20 links in the chain.

Of course, in the real world the issue is far more complex. People will not be inspired enough by the film to pass it on, colleagues will forget to watch it, emails will be ignored. Some people will not spread the film at all. But others will send out emails to twenty friends, invite five people round to watch it, make a hundred flyers, set up a website that gets 10,000 hits.

The power of word-of-mouth has been demonstrated in the real world, with some widely forwarded emails and videos reaching hundreds of millions of people. The fact that this awesome potential has so far only been used to spread scandalous private emails from colleagues and pictures of kids pretending to be Sith lords in basements is irrelevant, the technology and potential is there to be used if people desire.

(Note/Question) I think I have my maths slightly wrong, but the point is still there, please correct me if you can see the mistake, Cheers!!!)

[edit on 666.143f20096am by HiAliens]

posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:22 AM
While I feel you are correct in general, for example a post here reaches a lot of people and I often see the post echoed on other forums by other uses. The problems lies in that for the vast majority of people walk through their lives asleep, so if the content is outside mainstream thinking it is often ignored.

posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:22 AM
*** Double post ***

[edit on 7/3/2009 by northerngate]

posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:50 AM
Good point, but people are starting to get it. We are living right in the middle of the Great-Awakening.

The economic crash has made a lot of people look for answers. Slowly, the alternative media is exploding. I do agree with you to a certain extent, but I think it is defeatist and fatalistic to not bother doing anything. There will always be people who don't listen, leave them alone and move on to the next person.

If you send out 20 mails maybe 18 people will ignore it, but two will listen, and you've done your job.

This is a long hard slog, not an overnight thing.


Drops falling, bore through stone.

The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.

In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.

Lao Tzu

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