Archive for the ‘social networks’ Category

WikiRank and Car Traffic Data

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Wikirank uses Wikipedia’s traffic data to see what’s interesting on the web. One could use car traffic data to spot what’s interesting on our streets. The question of course is how ;-)

Why I blog this? It’s relevant to Ilias’ research. Plus, Licia will start a cool project on using mobile data for navigating cities – she currently has an opening on that – check her website! For more, stay tuned.

How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

A very rich documentary about the new science of network:

The first part is about small worlds model and explaining why six degrees works. The second part brings the concepts of hubs and power-law degree distribution. At the end we learn more about network theory applications, in particular about cancer research.


How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer – Part 1 from gephi on Vimeo.


How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer – Part 2 from gephi on Vimeo.


How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer – Part 3 from gephi on Vimeo.

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)

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?

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.

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Bad Science by the Head of the Royal Institution, Susan Greenfield

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Susan Greenfield warns everybody (including the House of Lords) about the ‘neurological dangers’ of children using the Internet. Susan heads the Royal Institution and, from her post, influences UK social policy. Alas, she does so based on her own prejudices. Watch her and her mate Dr. Sigman (Dr. Who?) on BBC.

Fortunately, an oasis of sanity – responses by Bad Science and Mind Hacks.

BBC had a lovely comment about Susan’s opinion (1:45′ in the video): “Ehm, yes, well might. But clocks were critized for making people loose touch with natural time, the printing press was accused of making people intellectually lazy, and the telephone of making them anti-social. But maybe she is right!” The BBC seems to apply The Economist’s ruleDo not be hectoring or arrogant“:

  • Those who disagree with you are not necessarily stupid or insane. Nobody needs to be described as silly: let your analysis show that he is. When you express opinions, do not simply make assertions. The aim is not just to tell readers what you think, but to persuade them; if you use arguments, reasoning and evidence, you may succeed. Go easy on the oughts and shoulds.

And the argument is that “we have research in social anthropology on people going from school to university, and people retiring, that shows that social networks, just like computer games, increase peoples’ social group size and activity in the real world.” (from here)

Governing the Facebook Service in an Open and Transparent Way

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Finally! Facebook will involve the community in crafting a

Dunbar number & Web 2.0

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Few weeks ago, Jon (webpage, blog) gave a very interesting presentation about his new project “Social Nets“. That talk put me in a rare condition – it made me really think (quite an achievement, given my persistent vegetative state you might say) :) Anyhow, after the talk, I was wondering whether the Dunbar number still holds today

  • ” Several years ago Robin Dunbar concluded that the cognitive power of the brain limits the size of the social network that an individual of any given species can develop. Extrapolating from the brain sizes and social networks of apes, Dr Dunbar suggested that the size of the human brain allows stable networks of about 148. Rounded to 150, this has become famous as “the Dunbar number”.

Is this still true? Web 2.0 tools may have well increased the size of our social circles, right? Probably not! In “Primate on Facebook“, The Economist comments on the analysis done by Cameron Marlow (the “in-house sociologist” at Facebook) and interestingly concludes that:

  • “What mainly goes up, therefore, is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively. This corroborates Dr Marsden’s ideas about core networks, since even those Facebook users with the most friends communicate only with a relatively small number of them.”

From  the SOCNET list:

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Similarity Graphs

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

The idea of reasoning about content to recommend as a similarity graph is quite widespread. Broadly speaking, you can start by drawing a set of circles (for users) on the left and a set of circles (for “items” – songs, movies..) on the right; when users rate/listen to/etc items, you draw an arrow from the corresponding left circle to the right circle (i.e. a bipartite graph).  What collaborative filtering algorithms can do is project the two-sided graph to two equivalent representations, where users are linked to other users, and items are linked to other items based on how similar they are.

There are a bunch of places where this kind of abstraction has been used; for example, Oscar Celma used graphs to navigate users when discovering music in the long-tail. Paul Lamere posted graphs made with the EchoNest API on his blog. I’ve also dabbled in this area a bit, but not using music listening data; I was using (the more traditional) MovieLens and Netflix datasets. The question that comes to mind when reading about techniques that operate on the graph, though, is: are the underlying graphs real representations of similarity between content? What if the graphs are wrong? (more…)

CAT workshop: trust management, web 2.0, privacy, and context.

Monday, February 16th, 2009

That’s a great possibility to submit work on trust & context management with emphasis on web 2.0 and on privacy protection. Deadline: 13th/20th of March. Submit, submit, submit ;-) This call could not be better timed.

Homophily in MySpace

Friday, February 6th, 2009

(doc) by Mike Thelwall: “The results showed no evidence of gender homophily but significant evidence of homophily for ethnicity, religion, age, country, marital status, attitude towards children, sexual orientation, and reason for joining MySpace. There were also some imbalances, with women and the young being disproportionately commenters and commenters tending to have more Friends than commentees.”

On homophily

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

From “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks” (pdf). “Similarity breeds connection. This principle—the homophily principle—structures network ties of every type, including marriage, friendship, work, advice, support, information transfer, exchange, comembership, and other types of relationship.”

Social networks: creation, evolution, and uses

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

If you haven’t heard about The Seed Salon, here is your chance – it hosts scientific debates. This week, it features Barabasi and Fowler. “The physicist and the political scientist discuss contagion and the Obama campaign, debate the natural selection of robustness and ask whether society is turning inward.” Few highlights follow:

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On social web: open & privacy-friendly

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

From the Economist: Websites can now let visitors bring along their friends. A NEW button is appearing on some websites. It says “Facebook Connect” and saves visitors from having to fill out yet another tedious registration form, upload another profile picture and memorise another username and password. Instead, visitors can now sign into other sites using their existing identity on Facebook. …The big new idea, says Dave Morin, a Facebook Connect manager, is “dynamic privacy”. It means that, as the social network reaches out across the wider web, users will in theory take their privacy settings with them. Wherever on the web they are, they will be able to choose who among their friends will and won’t see what they are up to. As soon as a user demotes a “friend” from intimate to arm’s-length in his Facebook settings, this will also take effect on other sites.

Potential for Internet Video Monetization

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

In this position paper, Shashi Seth of Youtube suggested that his company can and should make money from ads – “The potential for Video monetization is clearly there – just a matter of when”. He makes two interesting points:

  • U.S. online video consumers are more likely to view video on weekdays than on the weekend (peak viewing 5:00-8:00 P.M. on weekdays). This opens up some amazing doors when you consider that this slot is adjacent to Television primetime. Wouldn’t advertisers want a multi-channel campaign approach and supplement their TV campaigns with campaign on Internet Video?
  • 80 percent of online video users accepted the presence of advertising as a trade-off for providing free online video content.