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Attacking the Network

September 7, 2009

I thought that I would revisit an old (Aug 2003!!) article by Clay Shirky.  This article lays out the central idea that started me on this path of research; about how networks respond to an attack;

The RIAA is now attacking these networks using a strategy that could be called Crush the Connectors. A number of recent books on networks, such as Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Barabasi’s Linked, and Watts’ Six Degrees, have noted that large, loosely connected networks derive their effectiveness from a small number of highly connected nodes, a pattern called a Small World network. As a result, random attacks, even massive ones, typically leave the network only modestly damaged.

This is also the ground covered in the book ‘The Starfish and the Spider‘ – the point of that book being that when faced with a decentralised network, like a Starfish, the old method of attack (chop it up!) is useless (some starfish apparently can re-grow into two after being chopped in half) whereas with a spider, this attack would have killed it.  You can read Chapter 1 online, where the authors compare p2p with the Apache peoples.  (There is a double irony in that Apache is also the name of the open source software than runs most of the interweb!)

The points raised in both are still very pertinent.  They have even more pertinence when you consider them from an evolutionary perspective.

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