More on Steven Johnson

January 31, 2007

The author of Emergence, our next book in Online Community, is prolific, and not just in writing books. He also is a programmer and Web designer.

Here is Johnson’s blog, which he uses to expand and extend his conversations from his books, the most recent of which is Ghost Map, and to discuss his many Web projects. I just got Ghost Map (thanks, Ross); I’ll let you all know what I learn. He also makes a cameo appearance in Powazek’s Design for Community book, which we’ll reference later in the course.

His most recent post discusses his Web site Outside-In, which puts into action much of what we’ve been discussing with Nan Lin’s Social Capital, in particular the marriage of networks and localities, or online and physical spaces.

And an interview with Johnson in Being There magazine.

My Photo Steven Johnson

Good research topic ideas for Online Community

January 30, 2007

I don’t expect anyone from COM 429: Distributed Media & Digital Society to actually go to Poland, but this call for research papers does provide some good topics for consideration for your research projects and papers. The bulleted list is where all the helps are.

Take a look:

Workshop on Social Aspects of the Web (SAW 2007) in conjunction with 10th International Conference on Business Information Systems BIS 2007, in co-operation with ACM SIGMIS

Poznan, Poland
April 25, 2007
Deadline for submissions: February 18, 2007

The emergence of community-based Web sites and the visible shift from the concept of “a Web of documents” towards “a Web of people” creates a strong need for inter-disciplinary empirical and theoretical research focused on Web-based communities. On one hand, this requires expertise in the IT domain, including some knowledge of systems architectures and information extraction technologies. On the other hand, a multi-aspect analysis of human behaviour on the Web is possible thanks to existing frameworks within social sciences.

The goal of this workshop is to bring researchers and practitioners together to explore the issues and challenges related to social aspects of the Web. We want to facilitate discussion on the topics of development and detection of Web-based communities, social interactions within and between them as well as technology for mining of social Web sources.


. social networks analysis in weblogs, forums and comment pages
. static and dynamic analysis of folksonomies
. advances in social networking services
. social bookmarking services paradigms and empirical analysis
. social roles and leadership in Web-based communities
. static and dynamic public opinion / mood analysis based on Web sources
. products / places rating based on user opinions from Web sources
. trust and distrust propagation in on-line communities
. on-line social identity / identities and social capital
. geographical-context-aware Web-based social applications
. social mash-ups for existing non-social web sites / applications
. topical and functional analysis of Web-based discourse
. social norms, social control and deviant behaviour in Web-based
. conflicts resolution in Web-based communities
. social, evolving Web sources use in information retrieval tasks
. dynamics and patterns of information propagation in social Web
. viral marketing in Web-based communities
. detecting user behaviour patterns and trends from large scale communities
. mining of interaction / discourse patterns in Web-based communities
. Web-based communities cohesion and stability

Hometown Headlines

January 26, 2007

John Druckenmiller, founder and editor of the local online news enterprise, Hometown Headlines, will join us Wednesday to talk about his business, his approach to journalism in Rome and the future of online journalism. Your job is to come up with at least three really good questions to ask Druck. Some talking points to help you:

Hyperlocal journalism: What does it (should it) look like in Rome/Floyd County?

If you had $25 million, what would you do with it vis-a-vis HometownHeadlines?

What do your traffic data tell you about the HH audience? When do they read the news? What are they particularly interested? What tends to be a bit evergreen, and what lends itself to multiple real-time updates?

OK, those are my three. What are yours? Post them as comments to this introductory post. Druck will be able to check in and see what you’re curious about before he comes over for pizza with us Wednesday.

John Druckenmiller

Conversational news

January 23, 2007

The Politico, an all-political news web site that uses cross-channel, multiple-platform promotion, made its debut today, and in a big way. In an earlier post, I celebrated its marriage with old media and the high value it is placing on the core, traditional values of good reporting and journalism. (This marriage is prominent throughout the home page, with a schedule of Politico coverage appearing in old media, and a CBS News feed for breaking news, among other features.)

In this post, I want to draw attention to a comment from its executive publisher on why it should work.

“People want their news faster and more conversationally,” Jim VandeHei told the Washington Examiner. “Waiting for a story that breaks at 10 a.m. and writing for the next day’s paper is over.”

Of course the venture is equally interesting for its business model. According to the Examiner report, ads will come from trade associations, lobbyists, government contractors and other companies looking to attract the attention of Congress. In other words, hyperlocal advertisers, with the locality being inside-the-beltline politics and government. We all are looking for predictable, calculable revenue streams for new media; this one looks promising.

I’m pulling for the Politico. (I’m not affiliated with it in any way, shape or fashion, btw.)

Welcome to the Politico

The strength of weak ties

January 22, 2007

That elegant title, from Mark Granovetter‘s groundbreaking research in the early 1970s helps to explain, reading this week’s news, how bloggers in China are threatening a Starbucks shop near the Forbidden City and why IBM is embracing social networking software.

The average blogger has about six readers. That’s weak. But all a blog needs is one bridge or connector to another, more widely read blog to contribute to what is a vastly interconnected blogosphere. It is the same dynamic that makes us fear avian flu, interconnected as our planet is by air travel.

IBM is looking to software to allow employees to set up virtual worlds, collaborate on projects, blog and share, among other things, favorite bookmarks. Some IBM divisions and units already have been meeting in SecondLife, which, further underlining the opportunity in empowering the latent expertise in all networks and groups, is moving to open source. (Now watch what happens in this 1.7 million-strong social networking sandbox!)

One of Granovetter’s central propositions is that weak ties allow any one node or atom or person to have better access to resources (knowledge capital, social capital, even capital capital) a network has because weak links join otherwise denser, reciprocally interactive social circles. These weaker links are the bridges, the connectors that can link two (and more . . . many, many more) of these network neighborhoods. Imagine this theory applied to the blogosphere. It works, and for much the same reason the Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation actually works. (What’s up with the magic of the number six?)

I think for anyone in communication, social networks, network and emergence theory, Granovetter’s work and social capital are topics worth studying.

Smart mobs blogging a Starbucks out of existence

January 19, 2007

January 19, 2007

Half a million Chinese Internet users have backed a campaign initiated by a television anchorman on his blog to drive a Starbucks outlet from the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the Palace Museum, which administers the Forbidden City, is thinking of closing it down, The China Daily reported. The anchorman, Rui Chenggang, wrote in his blog that Starbucks’s presence was “not globalizing, but trampling, Chinese culture.” Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said the museum was working with Starbucks, which opened the outlet in 2000, to find a solution.

The power of smart mobs, weak ties, the blogosphere married to the population of China? Look out!

Folksbloggin’ more and more

January 18, 2007

According to Reuters, a whole lot more folks are reading blogs. The number of people reading blogs from the Top 10 U.S. newspaper Web sites (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) more than tripled in December 2006 from a year ago. Wow.

Here’s the full (albeit short) story from Reuters

As the story says, “U.S. news organizations are increasingly calling on their reporters and editors to write news blogs and compete with the expanding Internet format for informal analysis and opinion.”

Key stat: Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4 percent a year earlier. That’s a huge jump, and it likely represents new readership rather than displacement or movement within the publication.