Archive for March, 2009

Social net infantalising the human kind? Greenfield and Sigman are infantilising social research

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Dear Greenfield and Sigman:

Please join mm-sing, star blog, or rage! You may have fun and, in the process, your research agenda will start to reflect reality and British taxpayers will finally get value for money.

(*) “And then there’s the discussion of Lady Greenfield’s claims that social network sites are “infantilising” the human mind. She made a speech to the House of Lords to encourage people to research her hypothesis. There is NO EVIDENCE to prove her claims. Listening to her talk, it is very clear to me that she has no idea how social network sites work.” (danah)

Mr Taggy: Searching Tag Taxonomy & Coping with Noise

Monday, March 16th, 2009

“Think of MrTaggy as a cross between a search engine and a recommendation engine: it’s a web browsing guide constructed from social tagging data. … The problem with using social tags is that they contain a lot of noise, because people often use different words to mean the same thing or the same words to mean different things. The TagSearch algorithm is part of our ongoing research to reduce the noise while amplifying the information signal from social tags.” (from here)

The Internet for Activists: The Good and The Ugly

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I just got back from the Internet for Activists conference. It was a very stimulating experience: Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads spoke about the importance of SEO techniques for activists who wish to get their message out there. Laurie Penny who writes on Penny Red gave activist bloggers two main recommendations:

  • Engage in comments (openly accept comments and REPLY to them; however, don’t let stalkers take over your blog and do so by moderating comments with clear guidelines)
  • Go for quality not quantity (write less posts but write them well)

who does her PhD at UCL recounted her experience of using Facebook for rescuing Guy Njike from deportation. Finally, Karin Robinson talked about how she coordinated the activities of the Americans Abroad for Obama campaign. Interestingly, people earned points on the Obama social net website only if they didn’t sit in front of their computers but went out there.

These examples of online activism show that social net websites reduce communication and coordination costs and, as such, help people to organize off-line activities as well: people who live in the same neighborhood physically meet for the first time because of shared interests on the Internet (e.g., activism). Those examples also show that there is little merit in Susan Greenfield’s contemptible campaign. Frankly I don’t blame those who think she should go.

During these presentations I was thinking about a student project idea:

  • Design a platform for building campaigns. Ideally, such platforms should be easy to use and should allow people to not only engage in online activities but also to easily coordinate their off-line activities (e.g., street demonstrations, writing letters to MPs)

The dark side of activism: The Ugly Mask

The representative of Anonymous was also invited, and his (?) intervention was quite controversial. He concealed his identity with a mask and spoke on behalf of Anonymous. Here is what Anonymous is:

  • (from The Economist) Now Scientology is under attack from a group of internet activists known only as Anonymous. Organised from a Wikipedia-style website (editable by anyone) and through anonymous internet chat rooms, “Project Chanology”, as the initiative is known, presents no easy target for Scientology’s lawyers. It is promoting cyberwarfare techniques normally associated with extortionists, spies and terrorists. Called “distributed denial of service attacks”, these typically involve using networks of infected computers to bombard the target’s websites and servers with bogus requests for data, causing them to crash. Even governments find this troublesome.

The campaign against Scientology may all be very well. However, the assumption behind these self-organizing activists is that they are always right (they are anonymous and, as such, they are not accountable). Unfortunately, this assumption does not always hold. Indeed, most of the activities the Mask presented were either jokes the audience failed to understand or Internet bullying activities. Worringly, this self-organizing entity finds it acceptable to launch DoS attacks against websites that happen to disagree with the entity’s views. Is this the right way to go? Can this be even called activism?

The Internet for Activists

Friday, March 13th, 2009

When: Saturday 14th March 2009 (TOMORROW); 10am-5pm.

Where: @ SOAS

The Internet for Activists conference  will bring together activists and internet experts to help progressive campaigners to fight for change both on and offline. The program includes the following topics: Internet Security; Widgets & micro-blogging; Blogging for Building Campaigns; and Effective Online Campaigning (Success Stories).

WWW Science: p2p lending; dunbar number in twitter; and eBay for ideas

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Today, The Economist talks about Science inspired by the WWW (find the article here – it’s cool). From it, few notes on crowdsourcing, on p2p lending, and on the Dunbar number in Facebook and Twitter. Finally, a project idea: eBay for ideas.


RecSys ’09 CFP

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009


RecSys’09: Third ACM Conference on Recommender Systems

October 22-25, 2009
New York City

Paper Submission Deadline: May 8, 2008