David Liben-Nowell and Jon Kleinberg's work on the spread of information via Internet chain letters was slashdotted:
The chain-letter work is also currently featured on the NSF's main home page and by U.S. News & World Report. "How Did That Chain Letter Get to My Inbox?" National Science Foundation (05/16/08); Cruikshank, Dana W.
Cornell University's Jon Kleinberg and Carleton College's David Liben-Nowell, backed by the National Science Foundation, Google, Yahoo, and the MacArthur Foundation, studied how chain emails are spread over the Internet. The researchers examined two email petitions that circulated within the past 10 years--one that supports public radio, which started in 1995, and the other in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which started in 2002. The researchers were able to find 316 copies of the public radio petition containing more than 13,000 signatures, and 637 copies of the Iraq petition with almost 20,000 signatures. The researchers mapped how the messages traveled from recipient to recipient using a tree diagram. An analysis of the diagram found that instead of traveling like a virus, with each message producing multiple direct "descendents," 90 percent of the time only a single descendent was selected. The study also found that the messages rarely took the most direct route between two inboxes, even when two people were connected by a few degrees of separation, and it was not uncommon for a recipient to receive the same message multiple times. "The chain letters themselves often got to people by highly circuitous routes," Kleinberg says. "You could be six steps away from someone, and yet the chain letter could pass through up to 100 intermediaries before showing up in your inbox."