Friday, October 30, 2009
We all know the feeling - you graciously extend your hand in a show of cyber-solidarity and issue a friend request on Facebook. Days pass - you don't receive an acceptance notification. This process involves no interaction and you never actually see their reactions but it's still offensive! How can this be?
I'm interested what other people have to say about Facebook's amazing ability to permanently record and quantify social interaction - including friendships - thereby changing our very definition of what it means to be "social."
NPR has some good things to say about online social networking. Check out their archives sometime.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"In Monrovia, Liberia, there’s a guy taking the matter of a lopsided, state-run media and reshaping it into a free-of-charge, independent news-aggregator—all accomplished with dry-erase board and couple markers. (Sorry, internet!) Each morning, at 10:45 AM, Alfred Sirleaf wakes up and heads down to his bulletin board to post the day’s news, culling together a slate of stories his countrymen might otherwise never see. Grateful readers line up in droves, on foot and in cars, to read these updates, in what has been described as the country’s—and probably the world’s—only analog blog."
Worlds only Analog Blogger!?
Monday, October 26, 2009
A prominent trend characterizing recent developments in online interaction is the use of mobile connectivity to access online spaces. Rarely do cell phone users go anywhere without this tool. Having ready access to virtual communities through mobile devices means a lower transaction cost for users, which then renders them more inclined to participate (Burke and Reitz 1991, Burke and Setz 1999, Diani 2000, Lento et al. 2006).
Research conducted over the summer for Amensty International's Online Communities and E-Activism team revealed that abysmally low Internet penetration within countries in the global south forces residents to utilize mobile connectivity to develop and maintain a consistent user base. Despite significant barriers to economic development and consequentially low investment in online infrastructure, many developing nations enjoy surprisingly high mobile usage, due in large part to cell phone recycling campaigns. For more detailed information about Internet and mobile usage in Latin American countries, please see the following report: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfr2p2nq_18fhct7zxx
Costa Rica provides an excellent illustration of this trend. A survey conducted in 2007 indicated that Internet usage in this country is generally a leisure time activity conducted in the late afternoon and early evening hours in public facilities. Only 36% of the individuals asked had access to online spaces on a daily basis. A mere 28.2% of households own a computer. However, compare this with mobile phone ownership in the area, which currently stands at approximately 56.4%. Although this rate of penetration seems low, it still ranks above the regional average, indicating Costa Rica's successful adaptation of this technological innovation. Take a look at the following article to learn more about how the application of this tool for communication enhancement has influenced the area: http://www.mobilerevolutions.org/archives/33
What sort of potential does this hold for the world of online activism? Amnesty International has recently realized that connecting to participants through mobile devices could potentially engage audiences that previously had trouble keeping up with online campaigns. The organization's E-Activism team noted that because most users have access to online spaces approximately once per week (in some cases once per day) for relatively brief periods of time, they have difficultly reading lengthy campaign updates and coordinating action with other users. Instead, they've discovered that small, infrequent bursts of communication facilitated by the use of mobile phones holds more promise for developing effective communication routes and promoting real life activism.
An interesting story Digg had up this morning:
On the contrary, I think that many people have learned to multitask: we can Facebook AND work at the same time. :P
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Obviously as social networking sites have developed, businesses have cashed in on the opportunity to use them to advertise and promote their products and services. I mean, there's a fan page for practically anything on Facebook, and you can follow updates on all your favorite companies on Twitter, among countless other examples. What's interesting to me, though, is how some businesses are branching even beyond these popular sites to form their own social networking sites.
Let's use a local example: Athens Pyramids. Pyramids is a local hookah bar uptown on Mill Street, and it has established itself as a relaxed environment for students who aren't yet old enough to go to the bars to be able to spend an evening out at.
Well, last year, they started up a website to promote business, http://www.tapcsite.com, and needless to say, it's not the average business web page. People create a profile on the site that they can customize however they'd like, and then they can proceed to engage in a number of activities. In addition to information about the business (general things such as hours, flavors of hookah and whatnot), there are forums promoting events that are held. There are also forums started for just general interest. Members can add friends, and then leave comments on their pages or send them messages. They've really tried to reach out and make it more of a social networking site than your average business webpage.
My question is, is this going too far? Obviously it's a neat idea for the business to have, but I've heard mixed reviews about the Pyramids website. A lot of people like it, however many have the mentality, "I already have a Facebook, I don't need another one. They should just have all their information, maybe a forum to promote events, but they just have a lot of excess stuff." What do you all think? Is this a unique idea that small businesses can benefit from, or is it just a little too much?
And going along with this, because I'm interested, what are some other unique ideas that businesses have come up with that you guys like which utilize social networking sites or something to promote their services?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
So in class on Tuesday we were talking about how sometimes the more sarcastic or humorous comments recieved more upvotes, so I thought I'd post the link to that "fat-ism" post on Reddit for an example of it. =]
Here's the link of the comments, to start off with:
This was a comment posted by karate_jesus which seriously responded to those blaming McDonald's and all for obesity rates in America, which now has about 98 upvotes:
"karate_jesus 98 points 2 days ago[-]
If anyone here actually ever went to poor neighborhoods they'd realize that these people aren't eating McDonald's for every meal but rather buying giant sacks of white rice, bags of beans, big things of oil, and white bread. They drink soda or kool-aid because it's cheaper than milk. They buy chicken legs and fry them because with 4 dollars you can feed 10 people.
Fresh fruit doesn't fill you up, nor does it have enough calories to sustain you for 12 hour shifts at a gas station. Also it expires.
It's not as if all the poor people in America have figured out how to be lazy, stupid, and unhealthy. It's probably more of one of those situational/environmental things. But if you want a term for what you all seem to be victim of, it's called the Fundamental Attribution Error."
And here is the comparison of some of the comments with hundreds of upvotes:
"gmick 401 points 2 days ago[-]
No, Mr. Fatass, we don't know the reason for your heart attack nor your onset of diabetes. Even if we did, you wouldn't listen, so just keep shoving that processed food and fat down your gullet and racking up medical bills. We'll be right here if you ever don't want to hear what's wrong."
"andbruno 140 points 2 days ago* [-]
This line in particular pissed me off:
Protesters want the UK to follow San Francisco, where a law bans "fat-ism" in housing and employment and stops doctors pressing patients to slim down.
What's next? Forcing doctors to not tell cancer patients to stop smoking?
The UK is like a parody of a nation. Every story like this makes me less likely to believe that you people actually exist, and you aren't some sort of world-scale Rickroll. I mean I expect this kind of idiocy from San Fran, because those people are nuts."
"GeoManCam 307 points 3 days ago[-]
See, the problem with that is you can't help what race or sex is, but being fat is almost completely your fault."
And there are numerous other comments that you can look at which have a decent amount of upvotes that follow the pattern of being cynical or angry towards this article/people who support it. I think it's interesting that this phenomena of upvoting the less serious comments happens a lot more in controversial articles, or articles on a serious matter, as opposed to say, a funny picture which gets posted. What do you guys think?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Stepping off my soapbox for a moment, this project attempts to answer a question of theoretical simplification: “Can the observed behavior of groups be simulated using a minimum number of rules and attributes?” I define the observed qualities of a group as the computable properties of a graph that represents a social network using individuals as nodes and relationships as edges. For example an observable property might be the average number of outgoing edges from an individual. As a result of the desire for simplistic rules, the goal of matching complex real world structures and the nature of the statistics associated with a graph representation the edge should be considered the unit of analysis for the simulation.
The current version of the simulation uses three rules to model the relationships between individuals. I suggest that there should be a deterministic rule that creates edges C(), a deterministic rule that destroys edges D() and a rule that introduces random behavior R(). Though the exact details of the functions are not mandated in this general understanding for modeling purposes they should be thought of as translating some number into a relative strength of the edge. Modeling the existence of an edge involves summing the values of the three functions, if the value is greater than zero then an edge is said to exist.
Implementation of the functions currently implements the random function as a simple probability using the computers provided random function and the creation/destruction functions as polynomials. The construction function C(X) takes as its input X=number of mutual friends between the current node and the destination node. The random function R(X) takes as its input X=desired probability an edge will spontaneously occur in one timestep. The destruction function D(X) takes as its input X=number of edges of the current node. The actual operations of each function are dynamically constructed based on inputs to the simulation. This implies there are infinite instantiations of the simulation based on different polynomial equations for these two functions. Each instantiation will have a unique set of physical properties associated with the state that the nodes arrive in. Empirically the simulation seems to reach a relatively stable state after approximately thirty considerations of every possible edge. I think of the simulation itself then as a function S(R(), C(), D()) that results in the values associated with the stabilized model.
The graph below is the thirtieth time step, after the network has stabilized, based on S (R() , C(), D() ) where R(2/25), C(X) = 1X^1, and D(X) = -.5X^1 + 45 X^0.
The above graph clearly has condensed into observable clusters or groups. Qualitatively, I consider social networks to be a little more connected. A second example shows the ability to dynamically alter the models parameters in order to create a slightly more realistic looking graph.
The graph below is the thirtieth time step, after the network has stabilized, based on S (R() , C(), D() ) where R(2/25), C(X) = .2X^2, and D(X) = -.5X^3 + 45 X^0.
These representations of simulated social networks as graphs show that qualitatively the simulation can produce relationships that appear to mimic actual social networks using very simple rules. More importantly, as a proof of concept, they demonstrate that the simulation can be thought of as a function that accepts rules in the forms of functions and then generatively creates a simulated social network. Ideally this model, as a function, could then be optimized to map as closely as possible to actual social networks. This project can be considered a prelude for identifying generative functions that describe social groups.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Internet Dating: "Getting It On(Line)"
A Soc 419 Project by Arianna, Rachel, Kyle, and Elyse.
Is there a difference in demographics between people who use general dating sites and niche dating sites?
We've found that mainstream sites tended to represent internet averages more consistently than did niche sites. Niche sites had extreme deviations in some categories, however.
Barraket's Three Types of Dating Sites
- users choose particular characteristics
2. Personality Matching
- matching done by site with personality testing
3. Social Networking
- users can invite friends and match each other
- also takes advantage of current technology (e.g. text messaging, video)
Who is dating online?
- 30-50 year olds
- socially inept people, shy people, people with relationship problems
- 40-year-olds, who may be divorced, have families, and/or careers
- not just shy people, but also people with busy lives
Online dating using increasingly different technology, so demographics likely to change rapidly.
Why are people dating online?
- More people are single, busy, and mobile
- Fewer potential partners in current social network
- Lots of control over self-presentation
- Social factors, not individual factors, are the reason for choosing to date online
How do people date online?
- Online relationships devalue proximity, but proximity is still a factor.
- Sites are made for the user to meet people out-of-network (i.e. their friends, work, school)
- Niche sites show that people still look for similarities: "different but not too different"
- Old norms are reproduced, but new norms are forming
What we did
- Each of us chose a mainstream and niche site and created an account or examined profile-creation questions.
- We read articles about past studies on online dating and chose the most relevant points from each.
- We then used data from Quantcast to compare the demographics of these sites to each other and to the Internet average.
Our research sites
- These sites were mainly "personality matching" (Yahoo! Personals excepted)
- Match.com (Quantcast data)
- Perfect Match (Quantcast data)
- Chemistry.com (Quantcast data)
- Yahoo! Personals (Quantcast data)
- All of the niche sites we examined were "search/sort/match"
- Green Friends: People concerned about the environment. (Quantcast data)
- Sugar Daddy: People looking to "date rich." (Quantcast data)
- BBW Cupid: People looking for plus-size women. (Quantcast data)
- Trek Passions: People interested in sci-fi. (Quantcast data)
Age and education.
Green Friends has an above-average number of members who have completed graduate school, as well as above-average numbers of members in the 18-34 age range.
- Environmental concerns as a "young adult" issue
All sites have above-average number of members in the 35-49 age range.
- Lower-than-average numbers of people aged 50 and over in BBW and Sugar Daddy.
All mainstream sites are above-average for members aged 50 and over.
- Are people on niche sites looking for a less serious partner, or are older Internet users just not savvy enough to find these specific sites? Do people aged 50 and older have interest in sites such as BBW and other niche sites, but since they are not aware of the existence of these sites, are they more likely to look to more mainstream sites/relationships?
The studies we read were accurate in respect to age.
Sugar Daddy has predictably higher-than-average numbers of women.
Trek Passions has higher-than-average numbers of men. This is not particularly surprising, since sci-fi tends to be a male-dominated niche group.
Yahoo! Personals was the only mainstream site with higher-than-average numbers of males. Could this be due to the fact that it's free to browse through profiles, and based on some studies, men's top activity on social networking sites is looking through pictures of women they don't know?
Income and kids.
The mainstream sites are much closer to the internet average than are the niche sites. This may have to do with the fact that these mainstream sites are more advertised to the general population.
Green Friends, whose members are making less than average, are still in college or paying off student loans. They also are most likely to not have children for the same reason.
BBW and Sugar Daddy have more African-Americans.
- Is there more "fat pride" in African-American communities?
Trek Passions also has many African-Americans
- This could be due to the fact that Star Trek was the first show to have powerful non-white characters.
Green Friends has the most above-average percentage of Asian members.
- This is something we have yet to understand.
A study on the practice of deception on online sites--does it make our data less accurate?
Are relationships initiated online more or less likely to involve violence?
- Barraket, J., & Henry-Waring, M.S. (2008). Getting it on(line): Sociological perspectives on e-dating. Journal of Sociology, 44(2), 149-165.
- Valkenburg, Patti M. and Peter Jochen. Who Visits Online Dating Sites? Exploring Some Characteristics of Online Daters. CyberPsychology & Behavior; Dec 2007, Vol. 10 Issue 6, p 849-852.
As described by Marin and Wellman (2009), social network maps explain behavior by providing insight into interpersonal relations instead of individual attributes. For this reason, it is logical to use these conversational maps to analyze differences between neutral online forum discussions and those that touch upon personally sensitive, confidential, or taboo topics. Individual willingness or hesitation to contribute is determined by the environment fostered by the nature of the conversation, and social network mapping provides a concrete representation of this interdependent relationship.
Will Postsecret networks be different? If so, why?
We predict that conversations within forums that require self disclosure and revolve around socially taboo topics will solicit unique patterns of interaction form those centered around neutral discussions. Our reason for believing this is twofold. Firstly, the highly individualized nature of the topics discussed may prevent the development of extensive two-way conversational exchanges. Though individuals may inject opinions and personal stories into the feed, it's possible that a lack of mutual experience or opinion will stunt direct responses. Additionally, the level of self disclosure that characterizes these threads render contribution a socially high-risk activity. The desire to undertake high risk activity, however, is fueled by the level of trust and commitment within the group - feelings that prove difficult to foster through online environments due to their perceived anonymity and social ambiguity (Passy and Guigini 2001, Wellman 2003, Benkler 2006, Friedkin 2004).
Lets find out...
In order to test this hypothesis, data was codified and mapped from three Postsecret forums, each of a different topic. One discussed recovery and addiction, another spirituality, and another the LGBT community. These maps were then compared to those centered around neutral discussion topics from the online community Usenet. Similarities and differences were then observed between the structures of the two. Due to the confessional nature of the conversations selected, we expect to see a diffuse, centralized structure emerge around the original poster, with single contributions from most users and few ties between peripheral nodes.
Secrets of Addiction and recovery: Explaining Scars
This conversational map clearly reflects the confessional-style network we initially predicted. The original poster issued the question, in reference to confessing to cutting habits: "so when you did, if you did, how did you explain yours? and how did whoever you told take it?" Most nodes issued only one response, directed at the group as a whole. The original poster steps in as a moderator and occasionally issues direct replies to other nodes.
Secrets of the LGBT community: National Equality March in Washington DC
The content represented in the data map above was largely a call to action regarding a pivotal event within the LGBT community. The originator of the thread assumed the role of moderator, with frequent directional comments aimed at stimulating and maintaining pertinent conversation. The majority of comments made by peripheral nodes address the network as a whole (i.e event specifics, attendance announcements) or address emerging subtopics.
Secrets of spirituality: Religious minorities have a harder time
This post is less of a confessional post and more of a rant post. It debates the idea that Atheists are at a disadvantage because they have less of a community network. This is less of a “post your own story,” than it is lets discuss ideas of religious communities and the social networks they provide. While many people are responding to the original poster, there is vigorous discussion between other posters as well.
Looking at Neutral discussions: Usenet Data maps
The variance in network connectivity and interdependence exhibited above, represent the mixed content of the “Phish Fans” network. A network of this type most likely contains both neutral content threads (i.e. concert date announcements) and conversational threads (i.e. opinion based lyric interpretations). The structure of this network is far less rigid than the clearly observable differences between a conversational based network and a neutral content based network.
This set of data maps demonstrates the rigidity of neutral content based social networks. The objective focal points of these networks require little conversational interaction between network members. The originator is highly centralized and peripheral nodes have limited to no interconnectivity. Essentially all statements are directed towards the network as whole, not to specific nodes.
Support groupsThese images again show the evident differentiation between networks of conversational nature and those networks of neutral based content. The roles of centralized nodes and peripheral nodes are significantly less distinguishable than those seen in the Technical Support forum above.
What can we conclude about the structure of Postsecret groups? Do they differ? How so?
There are several conclusions that we can draw from our analysis:
1) The three threads we studied had a generally centralized network system with many people speaking either to the thread initiator or everyone in general. While we did see some intra-thread conversation going on, it was in the minority.
2) While our hypothesis sought a confessional style forum, only one of the three threads we choose was a confession. The second was a discussion of religious communities and the third was a discussion about a LGBT march. Thus, as our premise was based on the assumption that the PostSecret forums would contain mostly confessional posts, it is difficult to have conclusive findings.
3) To further study the idea that confessional forum user networks would be different from other types of network structures we would recommend, first choosing threads with more than 45 posts, perhaps somewhere in the 60-100 range. Secondly, we would recommend studying more than three threads, though we cannot say how many more would be necessary.
4) The comparison to the Usenet data is also inconclusive; because we did not find more confessional type threads. If we had to draw a comparison between our composite network and the three different Usenet network groups, we would say that our network structure is closest to the Tech Support group, there is a highly centralized network and the peripheral nodes have little contact.
5) To further study the difference between Usenet network structures and forum threads, our group would recommend studying more than three forum threads, this would allow for a better average of the threads in a forum.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Christina Green, Jeff Kuznekoff, Holly Ningard, & Alyssa Pusecker
The comments were coded by four coders for social network analysis. In addition to quantitative data already present (i.e., time stamp, comment number), the coders also recorded data pertaining to the content of the comments left. In particular, the coders noted if the comment was for, against, or neutral towards LASIK and, if the commenter had the procedure performed, if their results were positive or negative. Data was entered into NodeXL to perform the social network analysis. This method allows for the extension of social network analysis beyond it’s use in certain disciplines.
Most messages were directed towards a more general audience or other readers; however, some of the posts were directed towards the author. It is worth noting that those comments linking the two clusters had a negative view towards LASIK. When looking at only comments directed toward the author, we find a nearly equal representation of negative, positive, and neutral views of LASIK. We did find that six comments linked the author and general clusters; however, if our coding method were further refined we feel that this linkage may actually be stronger. Overall, the comments did not appear to be as linked as we had originally anticipated.
In addition to analyzing the connections between nodes, we also examined the number of people recommending a particular comment. The earlier comments received a higher number of recommendations than comments occurring later on. That being said, we did find a few comments that occurred later on which received a fair amount of recommendations from other readers. In all likelihood, people probably did not read all of the comments and this would explain why the later comments received fewer recommendations than the earlier comments.
Perhaps the biggest recommendation we have for this project is to further refine the coding scheme used. While the coding method we used for this project was helpful, further work on this method would likely help to ascertain what interactions are taking place. We would recommend using additional coding categories to ensure that coders are able to account for a variety of interactions taking place. We would also recommend further attention be paid to who the comment is being directed towards.
The goal of this project was to analyze reader comments to a New York Times article on LASIK eye surgery. The comments offered a wide variety of personal experiences, advice and general opinions on the matter from readers worldwide. By looking at the results of the coding, we were able to determine that positive and negative comments tended to balance each other out. This may help to show that the effects of LASIK eye surgery are just as diverse among people, and the surgery should be seriously looked over between patient and doctor before deciding if treatment is right. The comments also showed how easily it was to diffuse information (both credible and potentially not so credible) to millions of viewers; it offered a place for professionals and average citizens alike to share their experience or knowledge of the subject.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
*Note that CaptainGonzo and CrnkB8 both have red lines going towards Scarecrow, and a blue line inbetween them. This relationship triangle happens again between FireMedic, BULL321, and Bondga.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Coming together as a community isn't just about improving our quality of life, per se. Many of our problems stem from the fact that we are socially disconnected--although we have the tools to connect. Our suburban lifestyle has exacerbated environmental problems. Our social isolation has undoubtedly led to higher rates of depression. Our disconnectedness from the rest of the world has led to weariness and distrust.
There are hurtles to overcome on the way to social connectivity, though. Falseness, distrust, shyness, etc. The fact that only people of a certain financial standing are able to connect this way, or have time to forge connections.
Here is the first video I wanted to share, an example of YouTube users coming together to share a smile. I think it's adorable!
A larger-budget project, Playing For Change, seeks to bring people together globally. Artists from around the world collaborate on songs without ever meeting each other.
The well-known and ever-hilarious Numa Numa song--a small compilation of the guy who started it all and several people who were completely bemused by him.
Where the Hell is Matt? is another large-budget production, apparently, because this guy manages to dance his way around the world in about 14 months, and gets people from various countries to dance with him. His dance is completely ridiculous, by the way!
The Free Hugs Campaign is a favourite. The founder was living in London for a long while, and when he returned to his home in Sydney, he found that there was no one there to greet him. I feel like Free Hugs is now a household term--there were always a few people at the Farmer's Market in Boulder to give out hugs, and it was the best thing ever. I think this is a great example of bridging the gap that the Internet can't help but leave.
And, lastly, laughter yoga with John Cleese.
Also, I decided to add some other great videos...I kind of feel like I've already posted too many, but I get excited. So here are a few honourable mentions...
Stockholm's dance tribute to Michael Jackson. An excellent flash mob!
ImprovEverywhere's high-five elevator! I love people's expressions.
Three fairly well-known YouTube artists collaborate. It reminds me of the Postal Service's album "Give Up," which was done entirely through mixtape--one member would record a layer and send it back, until all of the songs were done.
I think there are difficulties with building community, but I feel that community is ever-so-important. What do you think? And also, what are your favourite social media moments? Did I miss anything?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
A recent study found that on most social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace, women outnumber men. The authors speculated on why this might be. Another interesting article explores the tendencies men and women tend to exhibit when making friends online. This study looked at how men and women follow other users and reciprocate with users on Twitter--men are about twice as likely to follow other men than women, as it turns out. There is not just a gender gap with social networking, but a gap between married and unmarried men. Another interesting article is about what men actually do on social networking sites--if they do not seem as inclined to connect with others, how are they wasting as much time on Facebook as women? Apparently their top activity is looking at photos of women that are not in their network, followed by looking at photos of women who are. Women mostly look only at women in their network, therefore giving women the majority of photo views. When I first heard this, I found it hard to believe that men would spend time looking at women they don't know--until I found out that my brother actually met his current girlfriend by looking at photos of his friend's friends. Can any men vouch for any of these trends, or are your individual experiences completely different?
As Sarah Robbins noted, the potential for Sidewiki is huge - every site could become a social networking site. There's also a risk of those comments being personal attacks or descending into flame wars, without any control or moderation by the site owner. Does sidewiki, in a sense, give users complete control over the interactive function of the site?
See http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/help-and-learn-from-others-as-you.html for more details.