Life With Alacrity

A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.

Tag: Online Games

Dunbar Number & Group Cohesion

There is some more excellent research this week by Nick Yee and Nicolas Ducheneaut in the PlayOn blog. Again, their research provides good insight into social group dynamics as they appear in online games. I last mentioned their research on guild sizes in my blog post Dunbar & World of Warcraft where I compare the distribution of guild sizes in Ultima Online vs PlayOn's results from World of Warcraft. However, both distribution tables suffer from a variety of biases due to the nature of the different game designs, many of which are discussed in the commments in the post.

Dunbar & World of Warcraft

In my initial blog entry on the Dunbar Number I presented some statistics on group sizes based on the online game Ultimata Online. In it you could clearly see the power-law (pareto) curve, with diminishing returns at around 150, with most groups being 60 in size: More recently, Nick Yee and other researchers at the PlayOn Blog have been researching the behaviors of players in the popular World of Warcraft online game.

User Content, Social Software & Online Games

Shannon Appelcline, my colleague at Skotos (an online game company that I founded in 1999), has been writing for several years a sometimes weekly, sometimes bi-weekly column on the topic of game design called Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities (rss feed for all Skotos Articles including TT&T). His latest column Social Software & Gaming: User Content discusses issues of user content and user facilitation that apply both online game communities and social software:

The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes

Lately I've been noticing the spread of a meme regarding "Dunbar's Number" of 150 that I believe is misunderstanding of his ideas. The Science of Dunbar's Number Dunbar is an anthropologist at the University College of London, who wrote a paper on Co-Evolution Of Neocortex Size, Group Size And Language In Humans where he hypothesizes: ... there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships, that this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size .