How many is too many?

(Since many bloggers already pointed out good sides of the meeting, I am bringing a dark side. )


Attending INFORMS Annual meeting is always great.

Even though the technical sessions are the biggest part of the conference, meeting old school friends, Tweeps, and some new people make me keep coming to INFORMS annual meeting every year.

Especially, Social networking reception has been one of most important events for me. This is a picture I took at Social networking reception last Sunday.


And I heard that there were even more people in last year  (I missed last year’s reception)

2011 meeting at Charlotte was the first time for me to meet the all great tweeps. And Mary (@mlesz1) used to take a photo of us all together. (I tried to find the photos, but failed.) Now it is impossible to take a photo of all attendees.

Since there are too many people, it is not easy to get to know each other. And it is not only at social network reception. I have several friends who said that there are too many people in the meeting/conference.

Of cause, we don’t want to close the door. Getting more attendees is good for our society. However, many people does not always mean a good environment to build up a social network.

So, “how many is too many?”

Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite author, discusses the Dunbar’s Number in his book, the Tipping Point. The Dunbar’s number is the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationship (Wikipedia). The number is from 100 to 250, and typically 150.

The community in INFORMS Annual meeting is not an everyday community. We cannot apply this number to our case. However, it may be the time to think about how to organize this great meeting so that we can mitigate the negative effect and boost up the positive effect of a large number of people.

Can we optimize the design of subgroup meetings to maximize the overall expansion of social network in individual level?

I rely on our community, the smartest people in the world, in optimization.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed attending this wonderful meeting once again and I will be at Houston next year as usual.