Jumo And A Dunbar Number For Organizations

This morning I read Robin Dunbar’s op-ed in the New York Times, You’ve Got To Have (150) Friends, and it got me thinking more about Jumo (read my initial thoughts on Jumo).  The author’s research into the capacity of people to maintain friendships has resulted in the concept of Dunbar’s Number: that humans can really only maintain 150 relationships with other humans, regardless of what technology purports to allow.

This idea raises interesting questions about what technology is actually doing then when we can have infinite number of followers and friends on Twitter, or thousands of “friends” on Facebook or other social networks (with the exception perhaps of the new Path social network which limits you to 50).

If a person can only maintain 150 relationships with other people, how many relationships can one maintain with organizations? And if Jumo professes to help connect us with more organizations, when will we hit the equivalent of Dunbar’s Number for organizations?

I donate to far more organizations already that I can reasonably keep up with. On Jumo I have followed more than I can actually pay enough attention to to be meaningful. If people max out at 10, or 12, or even 20 organizations, what impact does following even more have on the quality and depth of engagement with all of them? How many ladders of engagement can we climb simultaneously?

I’ve talked with people at conferences about Facebook organization fan pages and causes, and the ease with which people can “like” an organization  or “join” a cause — it is so easy that it is practically meaningless.  I’ve suggested that perhaps a user should have only so many “likes” to distribute in a given period of time. Perhaps Jumo needs something similar? A way to prevent users from following too many organizations that their experience of visiting the Jump website becomes overwhelming with news about too many organizations?

Do you have thoughts about this dilemma? Or is it even one?  I’d love to know what others are thinking on this.

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