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Kevin Bacon Numbers In IT

May 7, 2014

My Bacon number is 2, and that impresses me way more than it should.

This is kind of a weird mix of two nerd cultures. (It’s not an insult when we call ourselves that.) Movie trivia and Information Technology.

As far as I know, Kevin Bacon has never rebooted a server, or taken a support call. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had no idea what a DLL is for!

The Bacon Number comes from a game, the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon that was started back in the 1980’s.
20140507-002351.jpg
(Photo credit: imdb.com)

You pick an actor and try to find the shortest number of connection to connect him back to Kevin Bacon. So, if you pick an actor who was in a movie with Kevin Bacon, their Bacon Number is 1. If they were in a movie with someone who was in a movie with Kevin Bacon then their number is 2 and so on. The idea was that every actor could be connected to Kevin Bacon by less than 6 “connections” or degrees.

Here’s the funny thing. The game could be called the Three Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Google makes it easy to play. Just Google (actor’s name) Bacon Number. And Google will not only tell you the number, but trace the connections for you.

In preparing this blog post, I tried a few. They all came back as Bacon Number 2. So, I searched for people back in early films.

Abbott and Costello?
Bacon Number: 2
Abbott and Costello appeared with Carol Bruce in Keep ‘Em Flying.
Carol Bruce and Kevin Bacon appeared in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Charlie Chaplin?
Bacon Number: 2
Charlie Chaplin and Eli Wallach appeared in Slapstick, Too.
Eli Wallach and Kevin Bacon appeared in Mystic River.

I tried historical figures.

Mother Teresa
Bacon Number: 3
Mother Teresa and Peter Graves appeared in Mother Teresa: A Life of Devotion.
Peter Graves and James Hong appeared in Airplane!.
James Hong and Kevin Bacon appeared in R.I.P.D..

Adolf Hitler?
. . .on second thought, I really don’t want to know.

So, what’s this have to do with IT? How could I get a Bacon Number of 2 without being in a movie? Well, if you google Rodney Bliss Bacon Number, you won’t get a result.

But, I used to work with a guy named Robert Allen. You won’t find Robert’s name in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.) In fact, he’s a great software engineer at a large non profit that I used to work for. However, back in 1983 Robert was a student at BYU and a gymnast. They asked him to do a stunt for a movie. It’s this stunt. (Robert appears at 2:27 on the high bar.)

20140507-002541.jpg
(Photo credit: imdb.com)

So, Robert’s Bacon Number is 1. In fact, you could almost say his Bacon Number is zero since he WAS Kevin Bacon, or Ren McCormack. Since Robert worked with Kevin and I worked with Robert, we’re calling that an IT Bacon Number.

There has been a lot written about how interconnected the world is, and specifically why a Bacon Number will always be pretty small.

Think about your own field or profession. There are probably only one or two degrees, three at the most, that separate you from the most senior and influential people in your field.

The temptation is to use those connection to improve your position. And that might work, I suppose. I have my doubts. A friend of mine is a senior executive in an entertainment studio. We are friends from high school, so he takes my calls and tells his gatekeepers to let me through.

But, those people have people who protect them from people.

No, the lesson I take from the Bacon Number game is that it’s really not about who you know. We ALL know people. Instead it’s about doing your work or your art so well that you stand out from everyone else who is in that second or third orbit around the powerful.

I’m still excited about my low Bacon Number. But, I realize the real advantage comes from being known as a good project manager, being known as good at what I do. Being able to pick up the phone and call people I’ve worked with in the past and know their opinion of me is positive.

(But, a low Bacon Number is pretty cool too.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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