Joho the BlogMarch 2010 - Page 4 of 4 - Joho the Blog

March 6, 2010

[2b2k] Data-intensive science book available for free on up

The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery looks like a rich anthology about how the combination of massive amounts of data and powerful computers is changing our ideas about the nature of science. It’s available as a paperback, but also for <free as a set of PDFs. Or, for $0.99 you can get it on your Kindle. ([kvetch] Of course, on the Kindle you won’t be able to underline or annotate it (except in theory, or create citations with page numbers.)

Anyway, I’m looking forward to it, even though the folder I’m building for the chapter on science I’m planning in Too Big to Know is (appropriately, I suppose) getting over-stuffed.


March 5, 2010

Berkman Buzz

Here’s this week’s Berkman Buzz:

  • OpenNet Initiative exposes Bing filtering in Arab countries: link

  • Harry Lewis recognizes his subjects: link

  • CMLP asks after Italy’s conviction of Google executives for invasion of privacy: link

  • Judith Donath thinks through the misrecognitions of juries: link

  • Ethan Zuckerman digs into Jonathan Stray’s investigation of “the new news ecosystem”: link

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Chile: Army Deployed to Streets of Concepción” link

  • Internet & Democracy reads the numbers on Twitter: link

  • Micro-post of the week: Web styles of the rich and saavy? link

  • Doc Searls — the personal is the radio: link

  • Peter Suber treats the middle ground between publishing markets and missions: link

  • Stuart Shieber shares open access news from Harvard Business School: link


[ahole] me on fame

Here’s a podcast interview with me about Internet fame. It’s part of Open Thread Radio. Also on the episode: Thomas De Zengotita from Harper’s Magazine.


March 4, 2010

Contest: Design buttons for “I disagree but I recommend”

First I’m going to tell you the challenge. Then I’ll tell you what’s behind the challenge, and then what the winner wins.

The Challenge

I’d like to come up with graphical icons to be placed next to buttons that will let readers indicate that some post or comment they just read is one that they recommend to others (what we usually see represented as a thumbs up, at least in countries where that does not have an obscene meaning) even though they disagree with the content. These icons should be compact (16×16?) and should convey as much of the meaning as possible, although I acknowledge that there’s going to have to be some text somewhere (perhaps only visible when you hover) explaining what the heck they mean.

The Motive

I keep trying to get the creators of participatory sites to try including these two buttons so that content that is highly recommended by those who disagree with it can be ranked higher than “recommend and agree” content, and thus can be made more visible. My not-so-hidden aim is to see if we can encourage civil engagement by rewarding the recognition of merit in expressions with which we disagree. I’d like to see if this has a beneficial effect on posters, who will have an incentive to write in ways that respect those who hold opposing views, and a beneficial effect on readers who are reminded (simply by the presence of the options) that one can find value in opposing viewpoints.

No one has taken me up on this.

The reward for winning this contest


In fact, I’m not really going to pick a winner. But you suspected that all along, didn’t you?


March 3, 2010

[ahole] [2b2k] Me having tea with The Economist

I have to say that Tea with the Economist was a fun experience. The Economist has been videoing tea-time discussions with various folks. In line with that magazine’s tradition of anonymous authoring, the interviewer is unnamed, but I can assure you that he is as astute as he is delightful.

We talk about what people will do with the big loads of data that some governments are releasing, and the general problem of the world being too big to know.


March 2, 2010

[berkman] Karrie Karahalios: Strong and weak ties in social media

Karrie Karahalios is giving a Berkman lunchtime talk entitled “Text and Tie Strength.” Karrie is a Berkman Fellow from the Univ. of Illinois.

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

[THE NEXT DAY: Ethan Zuckerman has posted his superior livebloggage. Please proceed there in an orderly fashion.

“What attracts people most is other people,” said William H. Whyte. People want to sit and talk. But what is the equivalent of a seat in a virtual space. Her group studies visualizations of group interaction. She shows examples, including how voting changes interactions, and how conversations cluster around topics.

Karrie grew up in a small town in Greece. Every Sunday her father would call from America. The call would come to the one phone, which was in a tavern. The people around expected the call and would participate. People use communication media differently in rural and urban areas, she says. E.g., rural communities used to like party lines; it was like a sub-net. Urban folks didn’t and the telephone companies moved to individual lines.

Her group sampled communication usage in rural and urban communities. They had five hypotheses. Rural people would have networks with:

fewer friends and comments

more women

more private profiles

friends are closer geographically

preference for strong ties over weak ties

The results showed that all but the last were true. In part this is because it’s hard to quantify strong and weak ties.

She suggests: Maybe there are two MySpaces: Rural and urban.

To understand weak vs. strong ties, her group explored Facebook. It’s quite binary: someone is either a friend or a stranger. The dog breeder who you met once has the same presence in your FB network as your husband.

Tie strength was invented by Mark Granovetter in the 1970s, in the book Getting a Job. Karrie says: “Strong ties are the people you really trust.” They help people through difficult times. And if a strong tie is depressed, you might get depressed also. “Weak ties are merely acquaintances.” Granovetter pointed out the utility of weak ties in “The Strength of Weak Ties.”

Her group looked at FB and wondered how to map FB parameters to tie strength. They set up a set of questions with continua, e.g., “How strong is your relationship with this person.” They assessed 2,184 friendships, from 35 university students and staff, along 70 parameters. E.g., friend-initiated wall posts, wall words exchanged, friend’s status updates, inbox intimacy words, together in photos, age differences, political differences, mutual friends, groups in common, links exchange by wall, applications in common, positive and negative emotional words, and days since first communication.

Her model had seven elements of tie strength: structure, emotional support, services, social distance, duration, intensity, intimacy. Her findings showed the relative importance of each of these (which I’ve listed in order, from least to most). The most predictive FB element was days since first communication. This may be because the first people you first connect with are the ones you are most tied to, although you may then not use FB for much communication with that person.

Karrie finds it quite interesting when her model doesn’t work. E.g., “This friend is an old ex” who was friended when they first began. She says that strong ties can be love or hate, although we tend to assume strong ties are positive; her model doesn’t include negative strong ties. Also, there are times when someone else’s account is used as a proxy for two others to communicate, e.g., neighbors who are feuding and only communicate through a three year old child’s FB account; Karrie’s model does not account for that.

How might this applied? Suppose you could organize your photos so your strong ties saw one set and your weak ties saw another? Trying to do this by hand is a nightmare.

They did this work in 2008. Then they wondered whether it applied to Twitter. The created where you can see the people you follow on Twitter. It clusters them by the strength time. Photo colorization and size indicate strength. Karrie says she’s been surprised to find that she’s more interested in what her weak ties tweet.

Her group is studying the quantifiable data (e.g., server logs) but will also interview users.

Q: Your model users linear regression on Facebook?
A: Yes.

Q: How about a geo-map visualization?
Ethanz: Someone recently did this sort of thing for Facebook. There are areas with cross-national friendships and some without many.

Karrie wonders if there is a single model for strong and weak ties that applies to all social media.

Judith Donath adds that following links is a strong signal of a strong tie, which is information that the WeMeddle client could start tracking.

Karrie: In FB, we took advantage of reciprocity as an indicator of tie strength, but reciprocity for Twitter doesn’t work.

Ethanz: Strong vs. weak is so murky. WeMeddle is a very nice provocation. Also: LiveJournal gives you valence, as opposed to FB that only lets you friend or not friend. At FB, every relationship is symmetrical. Twitter is more like celebrity: once you have over a few thousand people, you’re broadcasting. It’d be interesting to look at tech that enables a strong-weak tie continuum.

Karrie: There’s lots of lit on info flow, but not on how the strength of ties influences how you send info out across the network.

Judith: We’re all fooled by the asymmetry of Twitter, which makes for a bizarre set of ties. WeMeddle and your model might help us make sense of it.

Donnie Dong: Could WeMeddle combine FB and Twitter?
A: Yes, it’s possible. People would have to put in both logins.
Donnie: Twitter and FB are blocked in China. It’d be interesting to look at people who communities inside or outside the Wall.

Q: Have you looked at email? And have you looked at the connections among people twittering about disasters?
A: We haven’t looked at either of those things. Disaster relief would be fascinating to look at.
Ethan: There’s a report that during the Iranian uprising, there were only 60 Iranians tweeting, and the rest were Americans retweeting.

Q: Can you track how people gain trust, to move from outer circle to inner circle?
A: The trust problem is really hard. Trust with text — the literature hasn’t been very complete. With 140 chars you don’t get a lot of queues. On the other hand, looking at reputation systems might get you somewhere. I wish I had a better answer for you…

Q: [me] Doesn’t this suggest that strong and weak ties is too much of a polarity for the Web?
A: It suggests that trust doesn’t map to strong and weak. There may be several types of strong and weak ties.

Judith: Granovetter was really interested in homogeneous and heterogeneous ties.

Ethanz: Maybe look at John Kelly’s work on how blogs link to third parties. Look to see what everyone links to. You’ve got all the data, but if you grab the links people are linking to, you can imagine another way of clustering people.

Karrie: There’s lots of work recently about how information gets dispersed. E.g., to spread info quickly it’s better to have a network of people who believe things easily than having one large influencer. Also, it’d be very interesting to map people by complementarity, not just similarity. Overall, I’m really interested in how these ties evolve over time.

Wendy Seltzer: You could look at contextual work (a la Nissanbaum). E.g., do people name their groups at WeMeddle the same way, and how do people move people in and out of groups.
A: There’s a set of privacy questions. Suppose people publish the list of their inner circle. Why aren’t I on it? I don’t want to destroy any relationships with this work. What attracts people the most is other people.


March 1, 2010

[bsw] Peter Bowen of the Broadband Strategy Initiative on

Peter Bowen is Director of Applications for the Broadband Strategy initiative of the FCC. He studies the applications people do and will use on broadband, and what speeds and properties they will thus require of broadband. among other things, we talk about how to decide if we should have symmetric bandwidth (same for uploading as for downloading), and I annoyingly keep insisting that it’d be good to make the FCC’s research data public before the report comes out.


Pew on how we get our news these days

Pew Internet has published the results of an important survey on how we’re getting our news today.

I haven’t read the whole thing but one little point leaps out already:

Among those who get news online, 75% get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites and 52% share links to news with others via those means.

Note that this breaks the usual rule that 1% of the online population does the work that the other 99% “consume,” which applies (extremely roughly) to Wikipedia edits, tagging, etc.

[LATER that day:] In fact, it’s fun watching tidbits from the report surfacing on Twitter.E.g. Jay Rosen @(jayrosen_nyu) points to Micah Sifry‘s writeup (@Mlsif). Scott Rosenberg (@scottros) reminds the Pew folks that “participatory news consumer” is an oxymoron. Meanwhile, Steve Rubel (@steverubel) points to Mike Melanson’s post at ReadWriteWeb about a report that says that Facebook drives three times as much traffic to broadcast media websites than Google News does.


Carl Malamud on making the law accessible

The latest Radio Berkman podcast is up. In it, I interview Carl Malamud about his efforts to get American legal code made accessible and copyright free. Yes, our own damn law is covered by copyright, or so at least some claim. Carl is one of those tireless fighters for our own culture.

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