Friday, September 24, 2010


One of my favorite books from several years ago was Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means by Albert-Laszio Barbasi.   It came out around the time everyone was talking about six degrees of separation between any two people on the planet which was a fascinating concept to me.  There was another book called Six Degrees:  The Science of a Connected Age which was similar but I liked Linked better.

Barbasi has come out with a new book which I just finished called Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do.   It addresses the idea that throughout nature and in our behavior we tend to do things in bursts and not in a smooth, continuous fashion or in a truly random fashion.    The way we process email is an example where we may sit down and respond to 20 emails and delete 10 others but then we walk away and do no email for hours or days.  

In my own life I can see that some weekends are lazy and I do nothing or nearly nothing and other weekends I'm superman and do an extraordinary amount of work and accomplish a lot.  The later doesn't happen very frequently.   If you took an average of accomplishments per weekend you'd see some non-zero level of accomplishment but the variance from Saturday to Saturday is large.   This reminds me of the writings about getting into your zone and doing amazing amounts of work in a short amount of time.

The author talks about how this relates to search, as an example, where in some situations searching for something is more efficient when you look around and area and then jump to a new area and look around that area.   You take bigger steps in some cases and that the combination of searching an area and then jumping (burst) to another can yield a more effective search.

This idea of things happening in bursts is evident throughout nature and there are many interesting examples in the book.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting. I try to avoid "bursts" because usually the next day I'm exhausted!