I see that Columbia's "six degrees" study is making the rounds again.
I got an email as part of this experiment back in November. It was a name in new york city, a writer I'd never heard of. I know a few working writiers in NYC, so I sent an instant message to an old friend. "She was my boss when I used to work at (failed dotcom I forgot the name of)."
Aha! I was two degrees from this stranger.
I went back to the email, followed the obscure login and password instructions, filling in lots of sensitive information. It was for science, so I figured it was worth it. At the end of the long series of forms, there were some cryptic instructions about giving more emails. "What emails?" I thought. The one of the next degree, or the person I'm supposed to contact? "Where's the help file?" I wondered. I closed my browser, re-read the email, but still nothing. I went back to the site to try it again, determined to put my friend in nyc, the first degree into the field at the end. Upon entering my user/pass, I was confronted with an error screen that said something to the effect of "sorry, you can only log into the system once, thanks and goodbye."
I searched the site, found two contact email addresses, one for the project, the other leading to the principal investigator. I fired off a long, descriptive email, noting where I got confused, why I got confused, and what help/changes would remedy the situation.
All I got in return were two bounces from the columbia mail server for "user not found on this system."
Talking about the project with another friend that ran into some difficulty, it sounded like new columbia study wanted to disprove the six degrees theory. It's too bad they're collecting faulty data and getting faulty results.