The Lighthouse Press, LLC

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Our Six Degrees of Separation Experiment

From October through December of 2006, we tested the Six Degrees of Separation Hypothesis. You are invited to read about the experiment below.

What The Experiment Was About

We attempted to validate the Six Degrees of Separation hypothesis that any two people on the planet are connected through a chain of intermediaries numbering no more than five acquaintances.

To do this we e-mailed individuals in the electronic address book of one of our authors, DL Tolleson. We asked these individuals to forward our e-mail to people with whom they were acquainted and who they thought were likely to personally know any of the target people identified in our e-mail. The friends/acquaintances receiving those forwarded e-mail messages were to do the same, and so on, until the message was delivered to the target people. (Read more about the Six Degrees of Separation Hypothesis in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia.)

Successful chains of acquaintances numbering five to nine intermediaries were to receive free copies of Tolleson’s novel, The Gray Stopgap and Stuart Tower’s The Wayfarers.

Trying To Prove a Point

So, how did our experiment come about?

Well, Tolleson’s novel, The Gray Stopgap, had garnered three Barnes & Noble staff recommendations and occasional inquiries from Hollywood. This was the topic in a casual e-mail correspondence between our publisher and Tolleson when the legitimacy of the Six Degrees of Separation hypothesis came up.

In closing, our publisher scoffed at the hypothesis that alleged any two people were linked through a chain of five acquaintances. “If that were the case,” our publisher wrote, “your book and name should be household words by now. But not even our Steven Spielberg endorsed novel, The Wayfarers, by Stuart Tower, has obtained that sort of fame.”

And thus the experiment.

The “Targets”

There were five target people originally listed only in the e-mail initially sent. These target people were...

MATT DAMON: As of this writing he has acted in roughly 40 movies, produced 12 (some with his friend Affleck) and has two writing credits. Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you’ve seen this guy. We liked him and his work.

LESLEE DART: Similar to the movie Jerry Maguire, Ms. Dart started the Dart Group three weeks after being dumped by Pat Kingsley from the Hollywood super PR firm PMK/HBH. Within a year she formed alliances with studio expert Amanda Lundberg, Miramax Oscar winner Cynthia Swartz, and PMK’s Robert Garlock. This partnership attracted a client list that included some of New York’s biggest movie institutions: Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Jonathan Demme, Mike Nichols, Sydney Pollack, Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Meryl Streep, and Ron Howard. We were impressed and liked Leslee Dart.

SESSALEE HENSLEY: Lead fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble (out of New York). Reportedly, Hensley decides the fates of many books through promotion and advertising. Hensley’s word allegedly carries the kind of weight that can alter the course of obscurity. Sara Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly described Hensley as, “being right up there with Oprah.”

BARRY KAYE: A “power broker,” who parlayed his insurance/estate planning business into a billion dollar empire and is now retired in Boca Raton. He is involved in myriad projects and reportedly has far reaching influences in the business world at large.

J. J. ABRAMS: Producer, Writer, Director, Composer. One of the executive producers of the TV series, Six Degrees, as well as executive producer of the TV series Lost and Alias. After reportedly shutting down the original production of Mission Impossible III, Tom Cruise later brought in Abrams who helped re-write, produce and direct the movie. Given the name of our experiment, Abrams connection to the show Six Degrees seemed kind of appropriate.

Experiments Results

Our server logs indicated light interest even though we received confirmation that the messages were forwarded in large numbers. At one point during the experiment we suffered an unrelated server issue and were intermittently on-line during a four-day period while losing 8 days of traffic reports.

However, no chain of intermediaries linked our author to a target person and we were unable to validate the Six Degrees of Separation Hypothesis.

To the hundreds, possibly thousands, who participated in our experiment we express our gratitude.


Public Relations Liaison