Metcalfe's Law is Wrong – IEEE Spectrum

Compelling argument, 10 years old now, that Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law are wrong, and that the correct value for a network should be n log (n). The reasoning is good: the problem with Metcalfe’s and Reed’s laws is that not all nodes in a network are equal. An analogy is made with Zipf’s Law (“if we order some large collection by size or popularity, the second element in the collection will be about half the measure of the first one, the third one will be about one-third the measure of the first one, and so on”) which reflects the uneven distribution of value in a network.

This makes sense to me, but could be taken further. It seems to me that there is no such thing as an ‘average’ network, so we must always examine the actual patterns in any given network to see what value individuals add, and we must always be prepared for some serious outliers that can greatly affect the overall network. If, say, a prime minister or president started to use the Landing, the effect would be quite spectacular (and likely catastrophic, for all sorts of technical and non-technical reasons). There are great risks in averaging things out and looking for statistical effects when observing any human system.

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology and teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

Leave a Reply