DV and LS Relationships

2005 August 10
by barclay

Ok, this is terribly geeky, but I like trying to find isomorphisms between ostensibly disparate realms. The preface here is requires knowledge of Distance Vector and Link State classes of routing protocols. Various details and optimization omitted, imagine a graph, similar to some spiderweb of connect-the-dots, where each dot is an airport and the line between cities is a flight. Not every airport has a direct flight to every other airport, so in order to get from one place to another, you may have to make several hops.

In Distance Vector routing, each airport sends out a list of how it knows how to get to every other airport in the world, but it only send this out to the neighbors it has direct flights to. So, if Phoenix International has direct flights to Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW), San Diego (SAN), and Oakland (OAK), it sends out a list to each of those three, saying “I can get to DFW, SAN, OAK, each in one hop.” Oakland might send out and update saying that it has direct flights to SFO, SEA, and PHX, each in one hop. From this, Phoenix Int’l can infer that in can also get SFO and SEA in two hops via OAK. Next time PHX sends out an update, it adds this information to the list. Basically, each airport broadcasts the path it would take to get anywhere in the world, but it only tells it’s friends.

In Link State routing, each airport only reports on the directly-connected airports, but it tells every airport in the world. So, PHX would tell DFW, SAN, OAK, SFO, SEA … you get the idea … that it can get to DFW, SAN, and OAK. That’s it. Then, each airport makes it’s own calculation to figure out “how to get there from here.” (Trust me, it can be done.)

Whew! Ok, that was terribly geeky. But, I see analogies in the way that people maintain interpersonal relationships.

Distance Vector (DV) relationships seem to parallel intimate relationships with close friends and lovers. Everything is shared, and communication is upfront, direct, honest, and continual. You’re either in the circle of close friends or your not – or perhaps, if you’re a close friend, you get direct communication, else nada. If the communication stops, the link is dead. The relationship is predicated on ongoing and frequent updates where you talk about the world, otherwise it’s relegated to gossip you heard through someone else. Low priority. If you’re in a good relationship with your SO, you probably use DV. (Wow, that a little sounded dirty.)

Link State (LS) relationships, on the other hand, appear to be similar to a looser approach to communication. You tell the world about yourself and your friends, unconcerned about who hears it. It’s a shotgun approach: “Hey, this is what’s happening in my sphere of influence. Do with it what you want.” However, it’s less constrained to an artificially binary “in crowd” and “out crowd”, and relationships are extremely resilient to temporary communication failures. There’s freedom to associate directly with whomever, although the such communication quite doesn’t have status DV has, and you don’t get the full picture from any one person. In a manner, personal blogs are LS communication.

There’s no big revelations here, and no one would want to walk around in the world categorizing their relationships in such a manner. However, I think some people get bound into thinking they must use, or at least get used to using, only one of the other:

“You’re not my friend if we don’t talk every day.”

“You don’t have to tell the whole world about me.”

There’s too much energy spent trying to change the way the world is, which you have very little control over, and the way you are, which you have a great deal of control over. Inevitably, the inability to control the world and every relationship you have in it will exhaust you; it will wear you down to an insensate nub.

I think successful relationships use both these approaches continually and fluidly.

I see these changes in my own relationships: I have many friends that live far away that I don’t get to see or even chat with on the phone very often, which is one of the reasons I maintain this blog. (Ok, yeah, we could call more often, and probably don’t because we’re all busy/lazy/whatever, but that’s beside the point.) I maintain a LS shotgun approach while we’re separated: “Oh, really, Joe got married? To whom? Oh, wow, good for them. Hey, pass it along that I just changed jobs.” Hearsay, second hand knowledge. But I retain it. When I next see Joe, we drop right back to a DV relationship: “So how are things going? Heard you got married, how’s it working out? Tell me about it.” This fluidity of form allows long-term, stable, lasting, and significant relationships, without exhausting myself or others, and most importantly, retaining the depth of the connection.

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