Should we replace Kevin Bacon in the Connection Finder?

+30 votes
Hi WikiTreers!

We originally included Kevin Bacon in our Connection Finder list (along with AJ Jacobs and now others) because of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" and because it was fun at the time.

We're thinking it might be good to swap him out now for  someone more relevant and interesting to genealogists.

What do you think? Time to swap?

Who would you want to see in his place?

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
How about David Bowie?
I second David Bowie :)
We have two votes! Anyone else want to vote for Bowie?

I don't really feel the need to swap, but took a quick look for a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is on WikiTree. Found Linus Pauling and Mother Teresa - but they are both unconnected at present, and so probably would be too far out on a branch for the feature.

Is there a profile that is most connected in WikiTree? i.e. someone who is at the "centre" of the network, minimizing the connection distance for everyone? That could be interesting too. 

Which book of Mayflower descendants is the thickest book?
What about Elvis?
I think Kevin Bacon has more claim to be there than most because of the six degrees game, but no one person is going to feel relevant to everyone. I would probably be as mystified by some genealogically important person as some of you are about Kevin Bacon. I would love to see the option to browse through all the formerly featured people, but perhaps that requires a lot of server space.
I like having Keven Bacon as a constant & agree with what Elizabeth says.

Cheers, Liz
The MF compact signers with the most offspring are John ALDEN and John HOWLAND.  Both were young men in 1620 and married girls also on the Mayflower, and had big families.  John Alden married Priscilla Mullins, and because of the poem "Courtship of Miles Standish" by Longfellow, people think they know something about them.  (It was fiction, people.).  My ancestor was John Howland, who married Elizabeth Tilley.  Usually they are the ancestors who get the most votes during the roll calls at the Mayflower meetings.
They're only a few steps apart, and they have tens of thousands of people connected within that distance.  Alden and Mullins could be the Most Connected People.  But I don't think the system can cope with them.

I wonder if the system is capable of outputting the number of people connected within 10 steps.

Actually, you could also get that from the dump as a by-product of generating the personal reports (though maybe not the same definition of a "step").
Actually I'd suggest nobody try to look at the error reports of these people, if they don't want to crash something.

JN Murphy,

At the risk of swaying the conversation off-topic (hanging on loosely by the Kevin-Baconesque theme of "connections"), your proposition of "most connected" on WikiTree intrigues me.

Thinking this out, you could calculate a hub of the WikiTree wheel using a LOT of processing power, with the method you proposed above.  But I'm not sure how much meaning that would have in the grand scheme.  

Assuming a strong majority of the 10-million-plus people on the big tree are American, your Kevin-Bacon-style connector would almost certainly be a family patriarch from the east coast (mid-18th century would be my guess), and it would all depend on how completely that patriarch's family tree is filled out on WikiTree.

Keep Kevin Bacon ... it's funny, and new people will get it. Maybe rather than replace KB, just add a few more? Make the list longer, and still include KB at the top.
How about  Christa McAuliffe,  teacher killed in 1986 aboard  the Challenger

20 Answers

+6 votes
How about Prince?  He's definitely notable but not necessarily to genealogists.  For that pick, I would say Pocahontas, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Lucille Ball, Dr. Martin Luther King, Morgan Freeman, Frederick Douglass, etc.  I can think of dozens.
by Amy W G2G6 Mach 1 (17.2k points)
Pocahontas would be a bad choice since there are so many fake connections to her.  But I don't think there needs to be a change.
+21 votes
noooooo..... he's iconic :)
by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (540k points)
Agreed, the six degrees of separation game with Kevin Bacon is known all over the world.

In my opinion, if anyone should be replaced, it should be A.J. Jacobs, whom I never even heard of before joining wikitree (not that I'm saying that he needs to be replaced).

Replace AJ and Kevin I reckon :)

I'm still not sure who he is and what he did/does re six degrees of separation.(I'm a Brit who lives in France and Dorset, England, )

I did know of the six degree concept .Apparently the creator of the concept was Karinthy Frigyes. (1887-1838)
Add me to the tally of those who want to keep Kevin Bacon (and A.J.). He was fun at the time, and he's still fun. I think it's essential to keep people in that category simply because they're fun. Besides the usefulness of that sense of fun in terms of attracting people to the site in the first place, I think it's essential for us to instil and maintain that sense of fun in what we do to remind ourselves that this whole enterprise is supposed to be fun, so that when we get tempted to flame somebody else for doing something we don't like, we can take a deep breath, remind ourselves, "DWWA", and remember that this is a hobby. We're not doing brain surgery, we're not robots, mistakes can be fixed, and people and relationships are more important than dotting every "t" and crossing every "i".

I vote for keeping Kevin Bacon. I know it peeves some of us who don't like to see modern celebrities on their ancestors' profiles, but it appeals to some of us Gen Xers and millenials who are familiar with the Kevin Bacon game. I think Kevin Bacon and Queen Elizabeth make for a nice balance of old and new, male and female.
I'm standing up and applauding Greg. :-)

I was going to say, sure! Replace Kevin with ... whomever. But I agree with everything Greg said, so my vote goes for Kevin staying!

As for AJ?! We cannot remove AJ. If you don't know who he is, then please take a few minutes to find out. You won't regret it! He definitely falls into the mindset of keeping us grounded.
Thank you, Julie.
As an older millennial (b. 1985), I know of the Kevin Bacon game, but I'm not sure many millennials younger than myself do (before they Google it).

My point: Is it fair to say that a plurality of the WikiTree crowd is Gen X?  If so, then I don't see the harm in keeping Kevin Bacon around.
+9 votes
Some time ago, I exchanged email with a WikiTreer who had made 200 years' worth of his family's profiles private so that his ancestors and relatives would not have to be publicly associated with images of people (I believe he was thinking of personalities from popular culture) who he deemed to exemplify substandard morality. I imagine that he objects to Kevin Bacon and AJ Jacobs, and probably to the other media personalities and entertainers who have been featured in Connection Combat. He probably would be OK with the Queen, but I can't guess how he feels about Bram Stoker and Anne Frank (the two most recent Connection Combat winners). I don't expect to change his mind, but attitudes like his probably should be taken into account in choosing who to display.
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
I didn't like Kevin Bacon's picture on the bottom of my family profiles either, Ellen. I have no concerns about him personally, but it seemed as inappropriate as me connecting my Mom's picture to his profile.  I was glad to see that connection icon removed from the bottom of everyone's profiles.
I think this is a really good point to bring up.  On principle, it doesn't really fit with what WikiTree profiles are for to have the Connection information show at the bottom of individual profiles.  I tend to view the profiles as living memorials to the person, and having these connections show at the bottom don't align with that view.  I can understand having a button or link that says "find out how closely connected this person is to (fill in the blank celebrity)", but that's as far as I think it should go.

The Connection Combat and the Six Degrees seem to me appropriate for G2G or for an individual page that is just for that purpose, and people who want to use them should be directed that way, instead of having the connections forced onto every profile.
+21 votes
Noooooo Kevin needs to stay, everyone knows that game!!!
by Summer Orman G2G6 Mach 8 (87.8k points)
Not I :o I've never heard of it! I thought he was there just because.
+19 votes
I think he should stay, if only for the six stages of separation.
by Living Woodhouse G2G6 Pilot (260k points)
+9 votes

I would like to see us replace Kevin Bacon with someone else.  I understand the "six degrees of separation" game, but I side with the members who think listing this connection makes WikiTree appear to be a frivolous site.

We have created profiles for a lot of notables, so there should certainly be some good candidates we can look at besides entertainers.  How about a Nobel prize winner?  Since this is an international prize, we could consider people from a wider variety of countries.

For a person relevant to the genealogical community, I cast my vote for replacing Kevin Bacon with Chris Whitten.  He is the genealogist who has provided the most benefit to all of us by creating WikiTree!

by Star Kline G2G6 Pilot (569k points)
edited by Star Kline
I also thought of Chris, but decided that wasn't a good idea. Featuring him could appear to be self-serving on his part (not consistent with his general attitude and intentions), and I fear that he would want to spend time working on fixing up his family tree so the connections people find to it won't embarrass him -- instead of keeping up the website for everybody's family.
Thank you so much, Star. I appreciate the suggestion. :-)

I am inclined to agree with Ellen, though.
+9 votes

I am ambivalent to keeping/removing Bacon.

If not for the fact he is more-or-less 'unconnected' I would however vote for the connection finder to link to Good Ol' Gustave  just to raise awareness of his 'contributions' to genealogy... 

I don't believe he has a profile but if he did TimBL would be another suggestion.

by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (276k points)
I think Gustave is a brilliant choice, Ron!
LOL. But could we ever reliably determine Gustave's true genealogy?

Seriously, it seems to me that it's desirable for the "permanent" connections in Connection Finder to be people whose ancestries and cousin links are reasonably well populated and are supported by decent sources. That way, people have a fair chance of connecting to them, and we aren't encouraging people to make connections to bogus genealogy (like so much of Gustave's work).

Kevin Bacon and A.J. Jacobs and the Queen have a lot of reasonably well-substantiated relatives, but we've had a few Connection Combat winners to whom many of us had to connect through some profiles with dicey genealogy. And it's common for Connection Combat winners to sit out on the end of a string of connections. For example, the links that connect most of us to current "winner" Anne Frank are well-substantiated, but she sits way out on a long connection string that's mostly built from connections by marriage.
+10 votes

This might sound a bit esoteric, but hear me out: mathematician Paul Erdős. In mathematics, there exists a similar number to the "Bacon number", the "Erdős number". Erdős was a prolific mathematician, and moreover he was expansive in his collaborations: he collaborated on and co-wrote scientific articles on mathematics with over 500 different people. Given the collaborative nature of WikiTree, he's practically the patron saint for this kind of thing. 

Additionally there exists what is known as a "Erdős–Bacon number", which I will allow Wikipedia to explain:

A person's Erdős–Bacon number is the sum of one's Erdős number—which measures the "collaborative distance" in authoring mathematical papers between that person and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős—and one's Bacon number—which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from American actor Kevin Bacon.[1][2] The lower the number, the closer a person is to Erdős and Bacon, which reflects a small world phenomenon in academia and entertainment.[3]

It's a tad esoteric, but I think that it would be fitting for WikiTree to have their own analogue of the Erdős number & the Erdős–Bacon number, with relationship distance.

So that's my proposal... and in any case, it's all in good fun. I haven't found Erdős on WikiTree yet, and he might be a hard one to connect.

by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (130k points)

I Vote we lose Kevin Bacon & AJ.

  I second the motion / Vote for Erdős. I like his style & integrity. 

    I would also like to Vote / Nominate Erdőses Cohort: Stephen William Hawking (He is from England) , . :)

JN -- That is a brilliant idea!

I still support Kevin Bacon a la Greg Slade's post, but adding in Erdős seems really relevant. Maybe he could be in the next Connection Combat along with Stephen Hawking.

By the way, there's a really good RadioLab episode about Erdős.

+9 votes

How about adding a second rotating slot in Connection Finder? Keep one rotating slot for the recent Connection Combat winner and add a second slot for an interesting person who was already connected (possibly as the result of an early Connection Combat). Candidates from outside our usual U.S. scope might include David Bowie (mentioned above), Roald Dahl (100 years since his birth), and J.R.R. Tolkien (wasn't he a Connection Combat topic before the winners were featured on main page?), to name a few.

by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
I like the idea of another rotating slot. I don't know how many are connected, but there are a lot of notables on Wikitree to choose from.
+11 votes
I'd like to keep Kevin Bacon, since he's such a cultural icon regarding connections.
by Living Winter G2G6 Mach 7 (72.1k points)
+11 votes
I would like to keep Kevin!
by Cherry Duve G2G6 Mach 5 (59.9k points)
+5 votes
How about Princess Diana?
by Timothy Lockwood G2G1 (1.7k points)
She's two steps from the Queen, so adding her wouldn't add any information we don't already have.
+6 votes
I think you should swap out AJ, whoever he is.  We know who Kevin Bacon is, and he should stay.
by Carolyn Adams G2G6 Mach 8 (82.1k points)

This TED Talk by A.J. Jacobs is why he's such an icon in genealogy. Actually, it's that TED Talk which finally prompted me to take my Dad's genealogy notes and put them online.


+6 votes
I know this is an old question from last year, but I think Kevin Bacon should stay. I found a video of him talking about the 6 degrees game, back when it first began.

I think that both Kevin and AJ should both stay on the connection finder as permanents. A J for the genealogical aspect and Kevin for the 6 degrees aspect.

And of course there is also the video of AJ talking about the GFR as well.

I also like the connection finder being available - I dont mind it being at the bottom of the page - so that we know in an instant if that profile is connected to the world tree or not.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+4 votes
What about a lookup table of all "famous" people in WikiTree?

That way if you want to look up your connection to George Washington if you are interested in American History, Masonic History,  etc.   Or  Albert Einstein for the science crowd.  There are a lot of famous folks in WikiTree (do we have a comprehensive list?)  If this was by name instead of having to search and then do the relationship tool, it could be a quick lookup.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (713k points)
+4 votes
Having observed  from the ends of the Earth as to what happens here in regards to the finder, I agree with the notion of updating his slot. The way I see it, the only one who stay for now is the Queen for very respectable reasons.

As far as I'm concerned, this degrees of separation like with a lot of things is like bubblewrap... It's fun for a time and then its...

Proposition: How about a War Hero/Veteran as replacement for a time???
by Richard Shelley G2G6 Pilot (223k points)
+5 votes
What do you have against Kevin Bacon? This is not the first time you have pushed to get rid of him. But he is perfect. There is no good reason to change him. Rotate out the others. But keep Kevin!!!
by Living Winter G2G6 Mach 7 (72.1k points)
I agree. Keep Kevin. He is an attention- getter. Who is A. J.?
+3 votes
I vote for the last surviving Pilgrim passenger on The Mayflower....Mary Allerton Cushman.  She has decendents in America and ancestors in The Netherlands and England.

Profile page:
by Cynthia Rushing G2G6 Mach 3 (33.7k points)
+3 votes
I had never heard of Kevin Bacon or AJ. before coming on this site, nor do i have any interest in them. but i am of the older generation, but who to replace him with, if he is to be replaced, obviously you are not going to find someone that everyone is happy with, it would be best to replace him with a well connected wiki profile so you will get lots of matches
by Living Anonymous G2G6 Mach 3 (33.6k points)
edited by Living Anonymous
+2 votes
It looks like that point is settled now. Kevin might come back after his death (how odd does that sound?)
by Isabelle Martin G2G6 Pilot (488k points)
Sadly true.

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