This Year's posts

Archive for January, 2006

Weblog authority

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

For my Master’s Project, I’m going to be doing some empirical analysis of the weblog data published by Inteliseek. Before I get started though, I need to do some background reading, so that I can at least get a sense of what other research has been done (and I’m taking you with me).

My first stop is Cameron Marlow’s work from MIT. He’s the guy behind Blogdex and has been studying information diffusion in weblogs since around 2001.

Today’s reading is Audience, structure and authority in the weblog community. As you may have guessed by now, I’m writing this mostly as an exercise for my research, a way to collect some notes. I’m not going to give a full summary of the paper, but just hit a few high points that interest me.

Marlow observes that weblogging is a social phenomenon, an assumption that seems to pervade discussions around blogs. This is a convenient observation, as it allows us to use research in (SNA) while studying blogs.

One of the interesting insights is that it seems that information flows are controlled by a two-step process. First the information flows up to the opinion leaders, then back down from opinion leaders, meaning that opinion leaders are very important for studying how information flows through social networks.

Opinion leaders can typically be identified by their location in the social network. The common measure, at least in blogs is the number of inlinks the blog has received (in SNA terminology, degree centrality). The other central measures (as described by Freeman 1978), are betweenness and closeness. These measures require a good deal more data and computation in order to calculate and are therefore not commonly used. I wonder if pursuing them would be worthwhile. My intuition says no, but I’m certainly curious.

Marlow’s paper continues to show some statistical analysis of ranking based on blogroll and permalink links. For the top sites, there’s a correlation between the two, but as you move further down the rankings, there seems to be little correlation between number of blogroll links and number of permalink links.

Alright, on to the next paper…

Geek Rules Podcast

Friday, January 27th, 2006

The lovely ladies over at the Geek Rules are pimpin’ me out as the “Geek of the Week,” on this week’s podcast. Hells yes.

I haven’t listened to the podcast, but you should. :D

Masters’ Project

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

School is back in session for the spring and, in addition to taking a class in developing distributed software, I’m starting work on a Masters’ project. I looks like I’ll be working with the Slashpack group on some research around the blog data published by Intelliseek for WWW 2006. I’m really looking forward to it, and will definetly make sure to blog about things as they start to emerge.

Eran‘s also been blogging about his ideas for a project in his posts Distributed Social Anything, wherein he discusses a “distributed version of Tribe.net” and Using a DNS-like model for Distributed Conversations, in which he talks about a hypothetical protocol for tracking distributed conversations.

Blogging as Religion?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

Tara’s going off on a crazy rant about blogosphere as religion.

It may be crazy, Starbucks-cup philosophizing, but I think there’s some interesting thoughts threaded through there.

First of all, it seems that technology has a way of polarizing people the same way that religions do. I’m not sure exactly why, but I have a few ideas that I’ve been thinking about, mostly inspired by reading The Psychology of the Internet.

the psychology of the internet

I’ve been meaning to talk about the book, but I just haven’t the time to get my thoughts organized and written out. Needless to say, I highly recommend reading the book, as it will provide some significant insights for people who work on the Internet.

Back to Tara’s post, though. She says:

The blogosphere is our day to day – where we publish our voices and theorize. Our blogs are our ‘pulpits’, our posts are our ‘sermons’. But here’s the clincher, our ‘congregation’ – if you will – or those who read our blogs are also usually bloggers. They have their own pulpits and sermons and congregations (sometimes we are both the congregation and the ‘preacher’). Totally decentralized religion.

The blogosphere has beliefs…many of them. Niches of beliefs. We disagree strongly and often.

I would venture to say that the blogosphere’s biggest value is disagreement. At least, it seems, that this is what bloggers spend the most time doing and reading. Seriously, “me too” and “I agree with so-and-so” posts aren’t that interesting to read. So, the most interesting reading ends up being disagreement (and I think many bloggers know on some level that disagreement gets you attention).

Indeed, its hard to be a moderate in the blogosphere. In this vein, The Psychology of the Internet discusses a phenomenon from social psychology called the risky shift in which groups tend to polarize their members. Intuitively, we’d expect a group to balance each other out, but people with relatively moderate viewpoints tend to assume that their groupmates hold more extreme views, and to alter their own views in compensation [source].

The risky shift can happen in fairly small groups and I’d expect that the size of the blogosphere only amplifies the effect.

Upcoming conferences

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

2006 is looking to be a busy year. Here are the conferences I’m planning on going to (details yet to be worked out):

  1. codecon – February 10-12 – San Francisco
  2. South by Southwest (Interactive, Film and Music) – March 10-19, Austin
  3. Computational Approaches to Analyzing Weblogs (AAAI Spring Symposium) – March 27-29 – Palo Alto
  4. NetSquared – May 8, 9 – San Francisco
  5. XTech – May 16-19 (probably only if my presentation gets accepted) – Amsterdam
  6. WWW2006 – May 23-26 (hopefully, see above) Edinburgh
  7. Intl. Conference on Web Engineering – July 11-14 – Palo Alto

… and that’s just the first half of the year.

I hope to learn alot and meet some interesting people.