I'm sure most people have encountered the idea of 'six-degrees of separation' which suggests that everyone is connected to everyone else by at most six jumps. WorldCat Identities has connections between names, and I thought it would be interesting to see how many steps it takes to get from one person to another.
Since Identities is built as a Web service this wasn't very difficult to do. I found it worked better if to ignore links to corporate identities, since some large publishers have their names in records and they get picked up in Identities.
Here's the shortest path between Mark Twain and Jane Austen:
But Identities links are not symmetrical, so the path the other way might be different (and usually is). Here's the path from Austen to Twain:
Jane Austen -> R. Brimley Johnson (Editor) -> Edgar Allan Poe -> Nathaniel Hawthorne -> Jane Austen
By clicking on the after each of the related names in Identities you can see the results in WorldCat, for the combination of the Identity name and the related name. For instance, searching for Jane Austen and R. Brimly Johnson shows that he wrote a book entitled Jane Austen, Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics. Combining him with Edgar Allan Poe finds The Complete Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe, with Three Essays on Poetry.
Unfortunately, it isn't possible to get from everyone to everyone else. There does seem to be a path from myself to Kevin Bacon, though:
I'm not sure about the link in that chain from Gregory New (a former Dewey editor) to Pat Thomas. There might be two Pat Thomas's involved.
If you want to try your hand at mining Identities in similar ways, please use the version of it running on our Research servers: http://orlabs.oclc.org/Identities/. The links above were found using the Research version on December 17, 2007.
Update: At Ed Summers' request I've put my code up. My natural modesty always makes me reluctant to show how raw the code is, but it did take a little thought, so it's probably worth sharing. Here it is: