Joho the Blog » [ugc3] Understanding evolving online behavior

[ugc3] Understanding evolving online behavior

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Over-emphasizing small points. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are hereby warned.

John Horrigan of Pew Internet and American Life, gives a “non-Koolaid” presentation. He says that about 12% of Internet users have a blog. The percentage of people doing some form of content sharing is not increasing much at all. The demographics says that 18-24 do the most sharing, and then it goes down in pretty much a straight line. The change over time is not distributed evenly across age groups. Younger adults are turning away from the 6 core UGC behaviors, the 24-35s are increasing. The rest: not much change.

But people are increasingly going to social networkingIf UGC is migrating to rules-based environments, is it a good bargain? On the one hand, good governance can build sustainable mechanisms. OTOH, bad governance is a risk, so you want an open Internet.

Q: A decrease in activity among younger folk? Because they were so heavily involved initially?
John: They’re going to social networking sites instead of maintaining their own sites. But UGC is still an important activity to them.

Q: The changing behaviors as people age and how that will effect UGC?
John: Impossible to answer because we don’t know how the tech will change.


Mainak Mazumdar of The Nieslen Company begins by looking at blogging topics. It’s quite diverse he says. Next: size. Wikipedia has many more topics than Britannica. Also, social networking is very big: Member communities are #4 on most visited lists, after search, portals, and software manufacturers. #5 is email. Social media is big everywhere. (Biggest: 80% of Brazil. 67% in US.) The US is showing comparatively slower growth in “active reach of member communities.” Time spent in CGM has been increasing. So is the time spent on social networking. 35-49 years are the fastest growing audience for social networking sites. Teen consumption of SNS is going down, because they’re going more and more mobile. Mobile will be huge. TV will be big. People are watching more TV. Big media companies are doing well. “Becoming a mother is a dramatic inflectin point and drives women to the Web in search of advice and a desire to connect with others in her shoes” (from the slide).

Is the Net a game-changer for research companies? He compares it to scanner data in the 90s and online surveys in 1990s. In 2000s, perhaps [perhaps??] social networking will once again change the game. Reasons to think the Net is a game-changer overall [i.e., exceptionalism] : Pervasive, sticky, generational.

Q: Is TV watching growing on all screens or just on the living room screen?
Mainak: Time spent watching TV content on a TV.

Q: Maybe SNS have surpassed email because email was used to listserves to serve the social function.
Mainak: We’re talking about how long you spend in Outlook + Web mail. We install monitors that report on how long you spend in each application.

Russ Neuman: Be careful of projecting out from the current tech. It can be disrupted easily.

Q: Older people are entering SNSs. I call them “parents.” To what extent will that change what started out as a youth movement? Is the move to mobile a move out of the SNS as they become mom and dad’s spots? [Oprah is on twitter.]
A: Yes. Some younger teens are going straight to mobile and circumventing the Internet.


Eszter Hargittai talks about the role of skill in Internet use. Yes, young people use digital media and spend a lot of time online, but it’s true that they engage in lots of online activities or that they’re particularly savvy about the Net and Web tools. So, the idea of “digital natives” is often misguided.

She’s particularly interested in the skills people have and need. Her methodology: Paper and pencil surveys to avoid biasing towards those comfortable with using Web tools. 1,060 first year students at U of Illinois. Most of the data comes from 2007, although she has some pre-pub data from 2009. The question is: What explains variation in skill? Gender, education and income predict skill. “The Web offers lots of opportunities but those who can take advantage of them are those who are already privileged.”

This has an effect on how we intervene to equalize matters. You can’t change socio-economic status. And it turns out that motivation doesn’t seem to make much of an effect. You can only be motivated to do something that you already know is a possibility. She shows new data, not ready for blogging, that show that very small percentages of users have actually created content, voted on reviews, edited Wikipedia pages, etc. The number of teenagers who have heard of Twitter is quite low. [Sorry for the lack of numbers. I’m not sure I’m supposed to be reporting even these trends.]

Mainstream media remain strong. Eszter points to the media story about Facebook users having lower grades. Eszter looked at the study and finds it to be of poor quality. Yet it got huge mainstream play. Eszter tweeted about it. She blogged about it. The tweet led to a co-authored paper. Even so, the mainstream probably won’t care, and most of the tweets are still simply retweeting the bad data. The Net is a huge opportunity, but it’s not evenly distributed.

Q: A study found that people online are lonely. It was picked up by the media. The researcher revised to say that it’s the other way around. It wasn’t picked up. The media pick up on the dystopic.

Q: Your data reflects my experience with my students. They don’t blog, they don’t tweet. There’s a class component to this.
Eszter: We measure socio-economic status. Why does it correlate? We’re exploring this. We now ask about parental support of technology use, rules at home about tech use, etc. So far we’re finding (tentatively!) that lower-educated parents tend to have more rules for their kids.

Q: What happens when there’s universal wireline connection?
Eszter: As the tech changes, the skill sets change. The privileged stay ahead, according to my 8 years of studies.

Q: What skills should we be teaching?
A: Complicated. Crucial issue: The evaluation of the credibility of sources. There’s an extreme amount of trust in search engines. That’s one place we need to do more work. And librarians are highly relevant here.

Q: How do people use the Net to learn informally, e.g., WebMD?
Eszter: There are lots of ways and types to do this. But, first you need to know what’s on the Web. You need good search skills, good credibility-evaluation skills.



Cliff Lampe talks about how Mich State U students use Facebook. He presents a study just completed yesterday, so the data isn’t yet perfect. 97% of his sample are FB users (although Cliff expresses some discomfort with this number). Mean average of 441 friends; median = 381. Ninety percent of these they consider to be “actual” friends. 73% only accept friend requests from people they know in real life. Most spend just a little time (under 30mins) at FB per day. About half lets their friends (but not everyone in their network) to see everything in their profile. Almost everyone puts a photo of themselves up. Vast majority have a photo album. About a third think their parents are looking at their page. Overall they think they’re posting for their college and high school friends.

He talks about Everything2.com, a user-generated encyclopedia/compendium that is 11 years old. Why have people exited? Research shows they left because other sites came along that do the same thing better. Also, changes in life circumstances. Also, conflict with administration of the site. There’s a corporitization of some of the UGC sites. He also has looked into why new users don’t stick: They don’t glom onto the norms of the site.

Q: Are reasons for exiting a negative network effect? More than 150 and the network deteriorates?
Cliff: We see that in Usenet. But not so much at Facebook where you’re just dealing with your friends.

Q: Any sites that have tried to drive away new users?
Cliff: Metafilter has a bit of that. Slashdot has a “earn your bullshit” tagline.

Q: Are your students alone or with others when they are online? Are they aware of the technology?
Cliff: The rise of the netbook has had an effect. Most of my students experience social media as a group activity. But a lot of them are not that savvy. They generally don’t know how Wikipedia operates. [Tags: ]

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