Monday, December 1, 2008

Facebook and Web 2.0

Web 2.0 technology has drastically impacted people’s experiences on the World Wide Web. This new and innovative technology has allowed for the development of people to be able to interact and communicate with any user which has access to the Web. According to O’Reilly (2005), Web 2.0 is “a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from the core.” Social networking sites have allowed for inter-connectivity in which people come together to form an online community to discuss current affairs, share opinions, and reach out to form friendships or relationships. One of the most popular and oft used social networking sites available is Facebook. Facebook has incorporated several of the features that Web 2.0 technology has exemplified regarding user to user activity. As with any large business that incorporates interactions between users, Facebook has encountered negative aspects and potential problems that could affect future communication. I have found that Facebook has become a powerful tool of communication in which the benefits outweigh the potential harms.

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, a student at the University of Harvard, wanted to create an online year book that showed the accounts of students at the college. According to Michael Hirschen (2007), Facebook was created to “allow students not only to gawk at one another's photos but also to flirt, network, interact.” As popularity began to soar throughout his college, Zuckerberg opened the possibility to all other colleges around the United States.

A brief overview of Facebook’s functions must start with the ability for any user to create a profile just by having a valid email address. A profile is similar to a “biography” of a person’s life; it consists of stating ones name, hometown, birth date, and a lot of other personal information that if one chooses can fill out. Along with personal identity, Facebook gives the option to tell about personal interests, relationship preferences, and any other favorite activities that people wish to display. After a profile is created, users reach out to establish friendships with either people whom they have an offline relationship with or somebody they are looking to establish a new online relationship with. This is done through what Facebook has established as “friend requests.” Facebook also allows the opportunity for people to come together to form a particular community through the process of group formations. This application brings together users, who in most cases are complete strangers, to discuss their similar interests and express opinions in an asynchronous format. Lastly, Facebook has recently integrated a synchronous chat style through the form of messaging. This faster and more rapid style of communication has many of the same features as American On-line’s Instant Messenger. Users can view on a buddy list that is logged onto Facebook and available to chat with.

Until recently, most members of the Facebook community were under the age of 30. During the start up of Facebook, access was granted to those students who could use a valid email address to verify that they were a college student. As with most successful businesses and organizations, Facebook chose to expand its limits in which members could create a profile and access the network. Anybody with a valid email address could create an account and become a party of the social network. College students are still the primary users of Facebook, but high school students and older adults have been rapidly increasing in popularity.

One of the most basic but oft used features on Facebook is the “Wall” application. This application allows for users to publicly display comments on each other’s profile pages in an asynchronous form. Most of these comments are brief questions regarding how a person is or a witty comment about what they are doing. The “Superwall,” according to Stone (2007), “lets Facebook members leave messages, photos or videos on one another’s profile pages". The main upgrade to this application is it allows users to leave interactive media in a public form. If a person does not want their comment to be public; there is also a form of “email” on Facebook. This interaction allows for people to write longer, more personable messages that can lead in depth conversations. Both applications have enhanced the way users can communicate and have created a form of privacy.

Another social interaction that has occurred of Facebook is the allowance of a “News Feed”. This new feature acts like a daily log of all of the activity that friends in your network have been doing or updating. For example, the log presents to you new photos or comments that are posted within other friends profiles. One can also chose to have a twenty four hour live update into the events and actions that is taking place they are partaking in. The Mini-Feed feature made it a lot easier for people to keep up to date with event and happenings in others live rather than browsing through each particular profile to see if any updates were made. A lot of complaints were put forth when this tool was introduced, and several people called it the “Facebook Stalker Tool.” People did not have the need to know every update that occurred amongst their friends, nor did they need all of their friends to follow every move they did on Facebook. After complaints, this tool became an optional feature in which one could limit the amount of information that is displayed both about them and what they see about others.

Another Web 2.0 technology that Facebook has incorporated into its network is the ability to blog. Blogging acts much like a personal journal, but is available for friends and family to view publicly. This blog is kept under the section of My Notes and can be written in, edited, or deleted at any time. Often times this is a place where people use to either vent about a topic or gain feedback from others pertaining to a subject matter. Also, this is a fast and efficient way to reach out to a large audience to keep everybody posted on you daily occurrences. For example, it is quicker to post a note about an upcoming event or about a public reminder in the blog rather than individually call every user. Also, this section can be set to have only certain individuals the ability and opportunity to read about your blog.

Another feature that has made Facebook so successful is the easiness to reach out and connect with people through linking. When two people become friends on Facebook, the friend list of each other is exposed and some people find this a better way to view people who they may have interest in. Facebook also has a “People Who You May Know” application which accumulates the people that have a certain number of mutual friends. This application is also optional but allows for a two way channel of communication.

Privacy regarding any online activity that one may do is often a cause for great concern. Whether a person is checking their email, paying online bills, or displaying information, privacy has become has major topic. According to Vara (2008), "Facebook has gone to the extent of allowing each individual to treat each of their friends on their own basis"(p 7). That is, the amount of content that can be viewed by people’s friends can be limited to the desired amount. This is particularly important when managing the content that is shared between family, friends, and coworkers. The ability for family to read personal issues rather than coworkers has made for an important advancement concerning privacy.

There are some potential drawbacks to using Facebook. The issue of identity management has become a growing problem in social networks. Identity management is the act of portraying a certain self image to look desirable in the eyes of an audience. A profile account can contain different information across numerous aspects of one’s life such as personal activities, favorite books or movies, and relationship preferences. In an online form, it is very easy to display to others a particular self image in which one might not actually be. For example, people may be reluctant to present that they have a particular sex preference that goes against society’s norms or that their political views may portray a negative image of themselves if it goes against the rest of their friends. There is no technological or social constraint that limits the information people want to display about themselves. This can lead to other problems such as stereotyping certain individuals. In cases when the first interaction one may have with another is through a social network, prejudging is often a problem. Upon arriving at a new college as a freshman, many students “friend” each other on Facebook to find out who people are and what their interests are. If roommates are chosen because interests were aligned, although they were deceptive, it could cause for major problems and concerns.

Another potential problem that has occurred and will continue to occur is in the form of online safety. According to Stone (2008), “Facebook has reached an agreement with 49 state attorneys general to institute a broad set of principles intended to protect young users from online predators and inappropriate material.” This is a positive first step in order to keep younger children from being violated online unknowingly. When Facebook was first started, it allowed only for college students to form accounts and use the network. Young adults were less susceptible to any forms of stalking or harassment for the sake of understanding violation principles. With students as young as five years old now using this site, Facebook needs to monitor the events and make aware the potential hazards that can occur through their site.

Facebook has established a reputation as being a community in which users connect to communicate across a broad spectrum. Besides just individual interactions, Facebook can be a useful tool in getting information out about important issues such as politics or a crisis. According to Palmer (2008), social networks can be used as a“...tool developed for online socializing have been co-opted to help out in times of crisis" (p 24). He uses the example of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, and shows how people positively responded to information about the crisis. The possibilities of outreaching to numerous individuals could be beneficial to all users if properly instituted.

Facebook has allowed for people to branch out and expand their horizons to people all over the world. This powerful tool of communication has allowed users to create or maintain friendships that occur both in the online and offline world. Although there are some potential drawbacks and dangers with using an online social networking site, the affordances Facebook allows in redefining how people communicate can be beneficial to people who utilize the system for its focused agenda. This Web 2.0 application has redefined communication development across the world.

O’Reilly, Tim. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

Hirschen, Michael. (2007). About Facebook. Atlantic Monthly, October Vol. 300, p. 148-155.

Stone, Brad. (2008). Facebook Agrees to Devise Tools to protect Young Users. New York Times, 05/09/2008.

Vara, Vauhini. (2008). Facebook Increases Privacy Options. Wall Street Journal, Vol 251 p. b7.

Stone, Brad. (2007). In Facebook, Investigating a Theory. New York Times: 10/4/2007.

Palmer, Jason. (2008). Emergency: 2.0 is coming to a website near you. New Scientist, Vol. 198, p24-25.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Keeping Connections in Social Networks

Shirkey (2008) focuses on how relationships within social networks are built and maintained, and some of the strategies that are necessary in order to control vastly expanding networks. The Small World network is used to explain the important functions amongst groups, mainly focusing on the theory of “…small groups connect tightly, and then you connect to other groups” (p. 216). This strategy allows for individual groups to form a stronger relationship between each other, but it is necessary to have a group member that reaches out and links to another group among the network. This horizontal structure is particularly effective because most users aren’t vital to the existence of the network, but only those who are considered as the connectors between groups. These social networks allow people to reach out to friends of friends to gain more knowledge about similar interests that occur between groups.

Another focus of Shirkey in the chapter is how “good” ideas are brought about in organizations. It is best to mix in outsider’s opinions and ideas to gain a 360 degree view of the organization. This will help prevent only mainstream thoughts and ideas that often occur when taking opinions from only with a specific department.

As a current user of both Facebook and MySpace, I often find myself looking through my friend’s buddy list to discover connections that I might not have realized on the surface. Some people that one may want to relate to might slip through the cracks, but the network allows for groups to link out to other people. The theory of having a couple of highly connective people can easily be related to my personal experience in social networks because I have a couple of people who everybody seems to know and have a personal connection with. These people would be vital to the existence of social networks.

Shirkey, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power if organization without organizations (chapter 9). New York: Penguin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Final Observations on Awful Announcing

In my wrap up of the week of observation, i want to discuss a couple of comments I made with regards to some articles and my level of interactivity among the community. i did notice some patterns that took place in the comment sections of the blog. Most people either didn't comment at all or copied your quote and pasted it into their own comment, usually responding with an "lol" or "haha great post". Very few times were people called out for the content of their posts, and the only significant time I can recall was during the Sunday football games when people disagreed on the teams they were rooting for. There seems to be a common understanding of the community at Awful Announcing; It isn't a place where people go to argue politics or to vent about their lives. It is a place where people can visit and find entertaining information about sports and leave comments that add to the enjoyment of the blog.

Kendall on LiveJournal

Kendall (2007) discusses problematic factors that occur if people chose to express their thoughts and opinions in an online journal. Over the course of two years, Kendall looks at several examples on the website LiveJournal and how people may change their style of writing and their personal thoughts to conform to public acceptance of the writings. Four main themes are incorporated into this experiment and observation which include private journal vs. public performance, efficiency vs. audience management, control vs. connection, and Autonomy vs. the desire for comments.

In some of the examples, there are many reoccurring observations made. People are less likely to deeply express their true emotions and often leave out details of how they feel because it people are worried about the effect of their self in other’s views. Also, the managing of an audience can be a cause for great concern. LiveJournal is a useful tool to get spread information, such as getting engaged, to a large number of people simultaneously. But one problem that may occur is how we interact with certain groups of people. The way a person is around their family can be completely opposite when interacting with social friends, so therefore the context of the message can vastly differ. One last problem is the struggle between control and connection. People can enjoy the control over what they read and post on LiveJournal, but sometimes experience problems when people try and connect with them by commenting on an entry. One of the interviewees said it was “really weird to me to comment back on my own journal” (p. 10).

As opposed to a typical journal, an online journal in which friends and family can read and react to will definitely change the nature of your posts. In my personal experience with posting public information about myself, I’ve felt constrained to saying or listing my exact thoughts or actions simply because they may not be interesting or appealing to other’s thoughts about me. For example, if I was to write a journal that had to do with my personal relationships, I wouldn’t want my mother or father reading into detail every account of my private life.

Kendall, Lori. (2007). "Shout into the wind, and it shouts back." Identity and interactional tensions on LiveJournal. First Monday, 12. Retrieved on August 21, 2008 from

Essay 4: Blogging

Over the past few years, the Internet has introduced a new way for people to display their actions and opinions to a worldwide audience. This new technology, called blogging, has transformed how people interact in the online community. Any user, whether they have experience or are a novice, can easily set up and maintain their blog to discuss any issues, feelings, or personal accomplishments to allow either restricted or public users to view. For my assignment, I have chosen to view the blog Awful Announcing for one week in order to overview and comment on the nature and makeup of this blog. Awful Announcing has two main contributors that post multiple stories daily pertaining primarily to sports. Each entry consists usually of a picture or media clip followed by a short excerpt of the author’s personal opinion. The main theme of the site is to provide humor over knowledge in a casual and informal style. Aaron Barlow (2008) discusses what makes a blog successful, taking six key points from David Benjamin Auerbach’s blog “Waggish”. These six key points include The Short Horizon, Quantity, The Gestalt, Specialization, Instant Feedback, and Need for Triage (p. 75-76).

Awful Announcing has one of the highest authority levels on the blog search engine Technorati. This advises users the particular blog has been interlinked to a high number of other blogs. The first point in successful blogs is the short horizon. This term deals with a blog posting short entries. On Awful Announcing, each entry consists of about one hundred words or less, and can be read rather quickly. Depth and details of each story are not the main focus of the entries. Instead, the authors try to incorporate witty and partially inform readers to the topic they are discussing. This is necessary for successful blogs because people don’t have the time or patients to read a three page story on a sports game or interview.

Quantity is the next point that is emphasized for successful blogging. This point relates closely to the short horizon in the sense that blogs are meant to be kept short, but also posted often. Readers want to be able to read or chose to read from as many postings related to their interests as possible. Posting too many stories in which readers have to select from is more appealing than not having any entries for readers to view. Over the course of a week, there were approximately twelve new entries daily posted on Awful Announcing. This high number of posts has allowed viewers to be able to read all of the day’s news stories in about fifteen minutes .

The gestalt is the third point of focus which pertains to the structure of the blogs. Successful blogs are seen to be less detailed and profound than a typical published article on a major news network. There isn’t a sense of wholeness or completeness regarding the story. Awful Announcing follows this same pattern in writing their entries. Only segments of articles will be looked at and discussed in their columns. Now this may be a problem in a highly respected media outlet that leaves out part of the story to frame or shape the audiences view on the topic, but with blogs they are less professional and briefer.

Specialization of one topic at hand is the next criteria to accomplish a desired community. Awful Announcing has a main focus to deal with top sports stories and mistakes that occur in the sports media. A couple of articles a day did relate to other top stories around the world, particularly to the presidential candidates and the election. As a reader, these stories did not throw off or turn me away from this blog because sports should be viewed as a past time, not as a lifestyle. Being able to extend into national news events once in a while does not take the main purpose of combining humor and sports away.

Instant Feedback is the ability for users to read and respond to the topics that are posted on the blog. Unlike many media outlets, blogs allow for people to express and debate their particular points of view regarding an issue. After every article, there is a comment section that allows members to convey their argument or to contribute humorous remarks about the discussion. This is important to both the users of the community and the authors as well. Public opinions allow for the authors to react and maybe help shape the content that is published on their site.

The sixth and final criterion is the need for triage. This theme has to do particularly to blogs as a whole and not to one particular site. Auerbach argues in Barlow’s book that “a role for aggregators/gatekeepers to point people to selected pieces of content was inevitable” (p. 76). This idea is stating that when people are looking for particular information about a topic that it is important the people have some sense of direction in determining the quality of the content. With millions and millions of blogs, users may view them as consisting only of unique content and not understanding the sources that it may have came from. Sites such as Technorati for example allow users to search for a particular blog that they want to read, and it has a rating system to assist people in finding what they are looking for.

Awful Announcing has all of the criteria that have been stated for creating and maintaining a successful blog. In my exploration into the blogosphere, it is become apparent that the content and structure are a strong determinant in the success of the blogs.

1. Barlow, Aaron. Blogging @merica: The New Public Sphere. CT.: Praeger Publishers, 2008.

Awful Announcing Observations

Awful Announcing, even after my assignment is done, will become an everyday site that I check out. Today I saw the best feature that was posted on the blog. It is a complete schedule of all of the NFL games for the upcoming weekend, and lists the specific times and channels that each game will be on. Also, the voting was in for the quotes of the week and it was humorous to read everybody's reactions on the "awful announcing" that occured during last weeks game.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11th

Awful Announcing seems to be a very interactive blog where users take place in a lot of events. For instance, users get to vote for the "Pammy Awards" which basically lists the most outrageous quotes from the week that announcers have said, and put them into a voting forum. Another feature is a create the caption contest where the blog posts a random photo and users get to use clever one line phrases to sum up the actions in the photo. Sunday was the busiest day of the blog, particularly due to the NFL. Comment sections were heavily overloaded during the afternoon games with people expressing their opinions about the games going on.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November 6th Observations

There were about a half dozen new posts today on Awful Announcing. I've been noticing some trends about the way the entries are designed and the content of each. The use of video clips are a often a main theme for the entries. The humorous videos are embedded within each article, followed by clever and witty remarks regarding something in the clip. Along with sports themes, pokes of fun are made at advertisements, such as commercials and website ads. With all posts, the writing seems to be kept to a minimal which allows for the reader to quickly move from post to post instead of being stuck with one article. Also, I noticed the advertisements within the page link to video games, sports betting sites, and financing ads, which are all sites marketed towards men.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 5th Observation

The blog I choose to observe over the next week is Awful Announcing. I discovered this blog on the Technorati website when just browsing for sports blogs. I made the decision to observe this blog for two reasons. First, I’m an avid sports fan and the first couple of articles caught my attention. Secondly, the blog had a high authority which means that it links to a lot of other blogs. My first reaction to this blog is that it is both humorous and informative and should be an interesting read for seven days. I plan on commenting on the blog later today and reading my reactions tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Blogs in Society

With any new program, design, or institution comes along the risk for potential problems that may alter or destroy the intended use or outcome. Aaron Barlow (2008) discusses several factors that have led to much criticism of the blogging world, and the possible perils that threaten this community.

The number of blogs continues to grow exponentially each year with little doubt that there will be a leveling off in the near future. One of the reasons for this increase is the availability and simplicity of a basic user to be able to create their own blog and make entries as they desire. With this ability for anybody who can access the Web to create an online journal about any topics imaginable, it is impossible for gatekeepers to monitor all of the information being posted into the online world. A potential problem that may arise from this is the ability for people to differentiate between real of fictitious information, especially those users who are naïve.

A few other points that Barlow examines is authors’ anonymity. It is now becoming more common that bloggers use real names despite some potential dangers that can follow. Another aspect that is looked at is the content of the blogs. Plagiarism is often intertwiningly seen as the stealing of others words or ideas, but can become very complicated in separating the latter from the former.

In my personal experience with blogs, I have become very self aware with what I write. The sense of knowing that any user with access to the web can sign on and read my work makes me feel personally responsible and more aware of my posts. For my Com 430Z class, our professor told us that we would be graded on the content of our blog, and our names would be attached to our work. At first uncomfortable about having my name open to the public, I came to my own conclusion that assignments I do in future work will always have my name attached to it. This will be beneficial for the fact that reputations may be at stake, and thus how important it will be to state clear and accurate information.

Barlow, Aaron. Blogging America. (2008). The Blogs in Society (Chapter 2).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Facebook has become one of the most highly regarded and oft used social networking sites on the Web. Facebook exemplifies new Web 2.0 technology by allowing users to interact amongst each other from any computer across the world. With the beginning of each new ground breaking company comes a point where users will look to explore the capabilities and features of the new application, but will also investigate the negatives or potential problems that may occur when signing up and taking part in the online community. In my research on the starting up, the background, and the potential future of Facebook as a premier social network, I have decided to use popular search engines to explore and find information and opinions regarding to the topic. A variety of keywords were put into three different search engines, which include Yahoo!, Google, and Dogpile. I then chose ten different sources and explained whether or not they were credible to use in future research on the project. From my search, I found that only X out of the ten websites fit the criteria of being credible sources to use to put into a research projects.

For my evaluation of criteria, I took into account several of the same requirements that Bonnie Tensen discusses in her article about evaluating a website. According to Tensen (2004), she focuses on the purpose of the website, where it came from, the intended audience, appearance, and its relevancy to others (p. 80-83)

The first search engine I used was Yahoo!, using keywords and phrases such as ‘What is Facebook?’, social network, and online communities. One of the first websites on the front page linked me to a Squidoo article describing what Facebook is and its history. My problems with this article, although the information seemed accurate, dealt with the layout of the page. It reminded me of a blog-style format, with the author being a random user contributing to this web engine. The second article on the Yahoo! front page I selected was off of the website Helium. With regards to this article, the slogan at the top of the page was the main reason I found this source not credible. “Learn What You Need, Share What You Know” seems to skew the facts that you are looking for on a subject, and instead you are receiving other users’ opinions. A third result I looked at was a short, brief definition of what Facebook is. Webopedia, although brief, gave us a formal definition that could explain to first time users what exactly a social network is and how Facebook fits that profile. This is the only site of the three off of Yahoo! that has presented unbiased and non subjective information.

The next search engine I decided to look for results on was Google. Surprisingly, two of the first three website mentioned were identical to the search results listed for Yahoo! The first result I looked at was Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a reputation that it is not a credible source for research, rather it is just an online “encyclopedia” composed and maintained by the user. It seemed Wikipedia gave a rather in depth, and unbiased view of what Facebook is, the history, and how people interact on the site. In conclusion, I posed that Wikipedia could not be a credible site itself, but the hyperlinks provided within the text can be used for further investigation of information. The next site I looked at was an article that dealt with issues of Facebook. I found this article the most disturbing of my search and the least trustworthy. My first problem with the article is the advertisements that are based strictly towards online marketing. Facebook must not have been in collaboration with this site because the article bashes its privacy features as well as uses biased phrases that seem to collaborate against using it. My last source I found on Google was an article written at the University of Oregon State. My first reaction after reading the article was that it must be a good article to be posted on the schools website and available to all users. As I read through the article, I noticed that first, the author of the page is anonymous which is a cause for concern; and secondly, none of the information contained any citations to outsiders work. Both of these reasons make this site hard to use as a source.

The next search engine I explored for information was Dogpile. The first article I came across linked straight to Facebook itself, revealing information directly from the main source that is being searched. This was a user interactive page that allowed people to gain an understanding of the technology and the features it offers. I would trust the information on this page, and use/site facts that are offered. The second webpage I looked at was from a site called Mashable. I’ve never heard of this site before, but it appeared on each of the three search engines top results. After viewing the article, the layout of the page is a cause for concern. Half of the screen is text about Facebook, and directly split is columns full of advertisements. These advertisements include everything from college promotions to the signing of for other social networks. This was rather disturbing and calls into wonder the accuracy and biased within the article.

Lastly, I went to the University of Albany’s library website to search for journal articles. The first article I found when searching for Facebook was an article published in the Atlantic Monthly titled “About Facebook”. Michael Hirschen (2007) accounts an overview of the history of Facebook and its potential future advancements that may occur in the future. A second article I found that was relevant was titled “Emergency: 2.0 is coming to a website near you.” This article written by Jason Palmer (2008) was published in New Science magazine and explains the potentials of 2.0 technologies and how Facebook uses these features. Both of these articles I deem credible because they were published in highly regarded magazines without a bias for or against Facebook.

In conclusion, I found that only four out of the ten sources that I viewed were deemed credible by the standards of Tensens and my personal evaluation of the criteria of articles. Two of the credible sources came from scholarly articles that were published in a magazine, resulting in search engines being reliable about a quarter of the time.

Tensen, Bonnie L. (2004). Research strategies for a digital age (chapter 5). Boston: Wadsworth.

Hirschen, Michael. (October 2007). About Facebook. Atlantic Monthly, p148-155.

Palmer, Jason. (2008). Emergency: 2.0 is coming to a website near you. New Scientist, Vol. 198, p24-25.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Navigating Links

Eszter Hargittai (2008) examines the impact that Internet links has on users, and the behind the scenes make up of how links are presented on web pages and with regards to search engines. Hyperlinking has become an essential part of the Internet and has been a main determinant of its success today. On every web page, this point and click method allows users to easily navigate from page to page or site to site. What many users are unaware of is how these links are structured and the potential dangers and misconceptions that can be found behind these links.

Search engines serve as a good example to view the differences of how links are sorted. One way is through financing, or paying engines to display you link first. This “bidding” method can also be found on web pages, whether it be on side scrolls or within the text. According to Hargittai, a second type of method search engines use are the amount of “links pointing to you (web page) and especially having ones from popular, established and well-regarded sites” (p. 92). Search engines such as Google will list sites based on the credibility it has with relations to respected sites.

The last theory Hargittai examines is the knowledge of users who access the Internet daily. It was surprising to view how little of a percentage of everyday users, especially college students, have little knowledge of how search engines rank sites and the manipulations that often occur when trying to retrieve credible information.

I have had a lot of experience with using search engines, using them almost daily. I have found that the relevant information I search for has become easier to obtain within the first page or two of search engines.

Previously, I would often experience clicking on links that didn’t pertain to what I was searching for, and being bombarded by pop ups and porn site offers more often than not. The methods of measuring the credibility of websites by how they are linked to others have made the use of search engines easier.

Hargittai, Eszter. (2008). The role of expertise in navigating links of influence. In Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui (Eds.), The hyperlinked society: Questioning connections in the digital age (pp. 85-103). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Red Sox Usenet Network

The Internet has become an environment in which users from around the world can access to become informed or discuss a vast and almost uncountable number of topics and issues. Usenet is a technology that serves as a discussion board or forum for users that allows them the ability to search for a particular topic, and either read or interact by joining in discussion with others about the categorized topic. According to Kollock and Smith, (1996) Usenet is a “collection of several thousand discussion groups that is distributed and maintained in a decentralized fashion” (p. 110). This technology has a few distinctions that make it unique from other interactive Internet programs. Usenet is asynchronous, which means that a message can be written and posted, not having to wait for an immediate reaction or response. Also, Usenet allows for the ability to have a moderator, which is a group of individuals that oversee the discussions, ensuring that threads aren’t out of place and the content is deemed “appropriate”. For the purpose of my examination, I selected to view a Boston Red Sox Usenet group that is maintained by the service provider of Google. Being very interested and well informed about the happenings of the team with regards to games and off field topics, I found the forum for the most part to be entertaining but informative as well. One major problem that was a daily occurrence that really drew away from discussing the Red Sox was all of the threads that were off topic, drawing away from the purpose of the forum. Below, I will provide specific examples and reasons why the Usenet community has a difficult time regulating itself, and how social norms are lost within the groups.

The biggest distraction that I discovered while viewing my Usenet groups was the inability for people to stay on the topic at hand. Everyday there would be countless numbers of threads started that had absolutely zero relation to the Boston Red Sox. I am not fully against having a couple topics about important issues happening in the world, but when one has to sift through primarily political threads to find one that pertains to the team, it can be very distracting as well as frustrating and time consuming. Users would post daily informing everybody that there are message boards dedicated to politics, even providing links, only to be ignored. It is sad to admit after my viewing of the board, but the political topics led each day with the number of responses that users made.

Another problem that caused a distraction was the action of “trolling”. This can be described as outsiders coming on to the board to deliberately argue, antagonize, and completely disrupt the topic of the discussions. This problem can relate to the disappearance of social norms as well, simply due to the fact that the words and phrases used would never take place during a face to face interaction. According to Kollock and Smith, (1996), “newsgroups remain relatively uncooperative places, filled with noise and argument” (p. 126). For example, a user named “Don V” would summarize every game about an hour afterwards, and actually provide very informative responses and analysis from the game. The purpose of his thread is to start a discussion among board regulars on the positives and negatives of each player, and some of the in-game decisions that were made. More times than not, users with the names “BoSoxSuck” and “YankeeFan4Life” will bombard the threads and destroy any productivity that was being made.

Under a lot of social norms, members of groups who repeatedly do not contribute constructively or orderly will be disbanded. When dealing with the online community, especially when ones real identity is hidden, it becomes very difficult to hold a structured debate on any topic. Even when using the discussions of politics in threads, users are so quick to jump down each others throat, telling them how wrong their beliefs are and they’re getting the wrong facts. Some people go as far as threatening the other users who disagree, stating how they wouldn’t say what they did if there wasn’t a computer network between the two. Obama versus McCain supporters are at each others throat daily, and racial slurs are profanity are sprawled throughout the threads making it a rather uncomfortable environment for the common readers.

One last issue that seemed to happen daily that just wasted space was outside companies advertisements. The community cannot stop all outside corporations and organizations from posting information about their websites and promotions. For example, there are shoe companies posting websites about sales, and drug companies posting information about male performance enhancement pills. Although at first I was curious how the ads got through and clicked on a few, they became easier to ignore but just wasted space.

Throughout my weekly viewing of the Boston Red Sox Usenet forum, I found it to be a rather interesting experience getting myself involved within a new community and understanding how people interacted amongst an unstructured environment. A lot of the information that was discussed relevant to the Red Sox could be very useful to those trying to follow and understand the team. Problems occurred when outsiders posted on the board to simply provoke unnecessary arguments. Social norms that occur in face to face situations can be seen scattered throughout, but when people can hide there identities, they are a lot more apt to lose social structures.

Kollock, Peter & Smith, Mark. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sept. 24 Observations

I've began to notice one reoccuring trend that a user named Don V. posts a ridiculously long thread after every game, summing up the stats and giving out grades for the teams. Very few responses from the board, probably due to the fact that it would take way to long to thoroughly read his responses. Other trends i've been noticing is that there are basically 3 main topics that all posts are about; those are the Red Sox, the rival Yankees, and politics. Also, it seems like people are a lot more liekly to use foul language and criticize somebody over the board, saying things that would never be said in a face to face situation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sept. 23rd Observations

The board seems to be in a much better mood since the Sox won their game tonight, officially knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs!!! After yesterdays loss and all throughout today, the board seemed to be in a "panic" mode that they were going to collapse, but after the game today, people seemed much happier. Other news that I learned today is long time great Johnny Pesky's number will be retired on Friday night. It will be only the 6th number in the history of the organization to be retired. While some people were opposed to having it retired, stating that the rules were "broken" in order to have the number retired, I'm personally in favor of it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sept. 22 Observations

A little bit of a quiet day on the RedSox board. A user named Monster Zero put out a link for all the political discussions to take to the appropriate board. A couple nasty remarks between users in the thread, but there was not much discussion after that. One user decided to comment on a crucial play while the game was actually playing, and he was rather pissed off (and frankly, so was I). One random shoe advertisment company ( somehow managed to create a post promoting their website. The most commented thread of the day was discussing the pitching rotation for the upcoming postseason. Many different opinions and input on who should start when and against who, but it was relatively under control and a lot of ideas were bounced around.

Democratizing Democracy

In Stromer Galley's (2000) article Democratizing Democracy, she views the impact of the Internet on political campaigns(Stromer Galley). There are six characteristics that are focused on in the reading which include cost, volume, directionality, speed, targeting, and convergence. Each aspect is examined and described, telling the pros and cons of each.

With regards to cost, using the Internet to promote one campaign has been cost efficient. The cost ties closely to volume in the sense that large amounts of data can be placed on the Internet and stored at a cheap cost. Speed and directionality also link together. Information can be spread at a much faster rate, and the allowance of two way communication can be performed. This allows for a vertical approach to communication, taking down the top to bottom structured hierarchy. Convergence plays an important role in a way that people have the choice in which source they want to get their information from. Whether it be in the form of journal articles, audio, video, or news report, it broadens the option aspect.

In my personal opinion, I feel that with the rapidly increase in Internet use, candidates will begin to more and more use this channel of communication. From my own personal experience, very rarely will I ever sit down in front of the TV and watch a debate or speech from one of the candidates. I will log onto the CNN or FoxNews website to retain the information from differnent debates of issues that the candidates stand for. Also, I feel that in ways it levels that playing field for all parties, regardless of what media outlets they have available to them or the resources they have to spend.

Stromer-Galley, Jennifer. (2000). Democratizing democracy: Strong democracy, US political campaigns and the Internet. In Peter Ferdinand (Ed.), The Internet, democracy and democratization (pp. 36-58). Portland, OR: Frank Cass Publishers

Weekend Discussions/Observations

Over the weekend I observed many similarities and trends that have continued since last week. One poster when as far as to remind the users that this is a Red Sox discussion board and not a political board. He (Red Sox Rule Yankees Suck) basically told everyone who wants to discuss politics to go and join their board and to only discuss current Sox issues here. I agree in ways that the board was over run with off topic discussions, but one thread here and there about something off topic will not destruct the board. A lot of Red Sox fans are also New England Patriots fans, so there was some "smack talk" from non Pats fans. The board was in a better mood yesterday because with the Sox winning yesterday, they clinched a playoff birth come October.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Internet Interactions

Over the next 7 days, i have chosen a Major League Baseball discussion board from Google groups to overview. As I first signed on today, I was shocked to see all of the topics that didn't regard to baseball. Personal stories, Political ads vying for the vote on McCain/Palin miscalaneous news stories are scattered throughout the message board. Amongst some of the stories pertaining to baseball are the building and financing of the new Yankee Stadium, as well as some game summaries from last nights actions. There are currently 930 current memebers of the board, with over 100,00 topic threads. With myself being a diehard Red Sox fan, this shoudl make for an interesting follow.

Basics of the Internet

The Web has transformed and impacted so many aspects of everyday life. Millions of users log on hourly to check for sports score, look at their stocks, or become informed on a particular topic. What several users are unaware of are the “behind the scenes” actions and applications that make surfing the net fast and easy, but also at the same time being attractive, interactive and entertaining. In Whitakers article, he has examined and explained the foundations of the Web and has described changes that have taken place over time.

Whitaker keys on several broad and basic areas that have made the Web what it I today (Whitaker 2002). He first focuses hypertext and how it allows users to easily navigate from site to site easily and fluently. With the use of hypertext/ hyperlink, users save time by not having to go to one centralized source for the information they are searching for. Digital photography and audio/video have made websites more interactive for users by creating a picture or story through others forms mediums besides text of print.

Whitaker also summarizes the basics of Web designs and the important elements to include and avoid while designing a page. These main points include choosing appropriate font and colors, designing a fitting layout that is compatible for users, and the ability to hyperlink to useful and relevant sites.

Whitaker, Jason. (2002). The Internet: The basics (chapter 3). New York: Routledge.

In my own personal experience in surfing the web, I am the type of user who will leave the website if it is not easily viewable or you cannot navigate quickly without difficulty. For example, Whitaker talks about page layouts and the side to side scroll. Left/Right scrolling is inconvenient, time consuming, and problematic. Also, sites that are visibly attractive with color sequences, pictures, and audio/video will make that site more interactive and possibly informative to visitors. Several will argue that context is more important than the page make-up itself, which may be true, but sites that are attractive and interactive are the ones that I will choose as my source.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Functions of Usenet

The computer mediated social atmosphere of Usenet was a precursor to what many of us now of days know as forums, blogs, and message boards. According to Kollock and Smith, (1996) Usenet is a “collection of several thousand discussion groups that is distributed and maintained in a decentralized fashion” (p. 110). Like every public entity, there will be benefits to take from this social network but will also have drawbacks that contribute poorly to the running of the cyber community.

Several problems are discussed that have negatively impacted Usenet. One of these problems is the free rider problem in which one will reap the benefits of a public good without contributing or giving back. Other problems that will occur are people exceeding bandwidth restrictions by posting large essays, using the forums as a of advertisement or to spread other personal sanctions, and having others purposely contribute negatively to the topic being discussed by using the opposite extreme to pessimistically add to the forum. But with the bad, there are a lot of benefits to using Usenet. People can express opinions and interact with others of the same interest with little to no cost. Some may become more informed on topics or find it easier to keep up to date with news in the world.

One major problem that I view with Usenet, as well as our recent message boards and forums is the inability to keep “intruders” away from the topic at hand. I have a personal blog as well as take part in a few discussion boards, and more times than not a thread will be deleted or destroyed by a user that posts just in spite of everybody else, not contributing positively to the discussion in anyway. The Usenet is described to have a set of FAQ’s and rules that people should follow, but with people becoming more and more accustomed to using the Internet and blogs daily, it is impossible to keep up to date records on the governing of rules and disorderly people. In no way am I stating that debates are not OK in discussion boards (I actually think they are healthy and beneficial to both parties), but the problems of free riders and off topic/rebellious users can ruin the experience for all.

Kollock, Peter & Smith, Mark. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

"What is the Internet" ?

The Internet has become a medium that has transformed they way communication is done across the world. Every day, millions of users will log on to the internet whether it is job related, to become informed, or to use the net as a recreational activity. With such a large number of the population that uses the Internet, it would be thought that one would be able to define exactly what the Internet is and its functions that allow you the ability to communicate and interlink with networks worldwide. When asked to define the word, many would answer with relating terms such as e-mail, the World Wide Web, and surfing the net. Although all may be used while using the Internet, very few people see the Internet as hardware, or a physical presence rather than software. For this essay, I will define the Internet as a worldwide network of computers that are linked through structured lines that allow for information to be sent and received instantaneously. This definition may seem rather extensive, but I will break down each part as we go along.

One of the most fascinating things about the internet is the ability to send information to and from any computer around the world. This is accomplished by having physical hardware first structured in order to allow linking between computers in differing locations. Information is sent from one network to another in the form of packets. Packets are pieces of data that contain important information such as where the information is coming from and where it is going to, along with the data itself. Unlike a landline phone call that uses one direct route from sender to receiver, packets are moved along the network in the quickest and most efficient manner. Another term for this process is called packet switching. Each individual packet will follow the path of least resistance and meet up at the destination point.

Before the modern Internet age, computers that were linked within an area had a difficult time communicating with each other due to what some may call a language barrier. This barrier made it impossible to send information from one terminal to another without first going through a separate protocol in order to decode the message. The invention of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) allowed for an individual computer to decode a message regardless of the computer network that sent it. According to Trinkle and Merriman (2007), TCP/IP “governs the sending of packets and data between computers on the Internet (p. 386). It also “allows for transmission of other protocols such as HTTP and FTP (p. 386). For example, a Mac computer would have had a different language than a typical pc, which would interfere with them communicating amongst each other. With the invention and use of TCP/IP, the Internet has become a faster, dependable, and more compatible operating system that now allows for computers to freely “talk” to each other.

In my definition if the Internet, I’ve already discussed how information is passed and the physical structure of the Internet. The final part of the definition contains the word instantaneously. By using instantaneously, this refers to being able to communicate with another person simultaneously as well as being able to relay data and receive information right away. For example, the use of chat rooms and emails allow for two people who may be on opposite sides of the country to be able to communicate concurrently. Information can also be written and posted for others to read at varying times through the use of blogs and message boards. All of these methods of communicating are similar in that there is greatness in ease of getting a message out in a high-speed manner.

A couple of more benefits that help explain what the Internet is and why it has become the successful communication medium that it is through the use of hypertext and multi-mediated communication. Both have helped build the Internet to what it is today and have made navigating for users a lot easier and less stressful. Hypertext is used by almost all websites, and many people still wouldn’t know how to define it, but would be lost without it. According to Landow (2006), hypertext denotes and information medium that links verbal and nonverbal information” (p. 4). It is simply linking pages from one site to another to allow a faster and easier transition when trying to find information. It has put the user into the “driver seat”, allowing for freedom to navigate from page to page without having any rules or boundaries set. Hyper-texting is seen for example with the internet becoming multi-mediated. According to Adams and Clark (2001) multimediated is “the concept of combining different media in one message” (p 35). Instead of just having one source of media, the Internet now has the ability to tell a story through the use of still pictures, text or print, videos, and sounds. This has made the Internet a more preferred source of information for millions of people due to the fact that they have the freedom to choose what, where, and how exactly they can get their news.

With millions and millions of people using the Internet daily, the true definition may become slightly skewered or misinterpreted with the World Wide Web. The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that are linked through structured lines that allow for information to be sent and received instantaneously. As technology rapidly grows, one single definition of the Internet will continually be altering.

Landow, G. (2006). Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory & New Media in an Era of Globalization. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.

Trinkle, D., & Merriman, D. (2007). The American History Highway. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Adams, T., & Clark, N. (2001). The Internet Effective Online Communication. Fort Worth, TX: Hartford College Publishers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Internet as a Medium

The Internet can be viewed as a complex web of networks all interlocked to be used to send and receive information through a medium like no other. Early forms of communication, such as the radio, telephone, and television, transmit information and communicated with audiences through their own separate mediums. The Internet has taken communication to a whole new level and has connected people from across the world instantaneously. The Internet has become a medium in which corporations can use to display product information to potential customers, as well as advertise sales with the possibility of making a purchase at any given time.
The Internet has been broken down into two terms to best help explain its medium. First, it can be viewed as a macro medium. This can be defined as a large scale system that can connect a vast audience across the globe. Massive amounts of information can now be viewed by immense populations. The second medium to describe the Internet is a metamedium, which constitutes bringing together all types of media into one main network. Before the internet, one would get information through print such as newspapers and magazines, or across the TV through news networks and other media outlets. Now, all can be found through one click of the button and on one singular webpage
Reliability, speed, and distribution are three applicable terms that can all be used to describe the Internet. But there are six key qualities that have evolved to make the Internet what it is. These six include the Internet becoming multimediated, hypertextual, interactive, packet based, digital, and (a) synchronous.
In my own personal experience of the Internet, I have often found that when researching information, that it is difficult come across and distinguish useful versus false information. I feel that the distribution of so much information can get in the way of making progress toward what I am often trying to find. This may call in to question the reliability of information, and in return actually reduce the speed in which you discover exactly what is being asked.

I. Adams, Tyrone. Clark, Norman. (2001). The Internet: Effective Online Communication. Fort Worth, Tx: Harcourt College Publishers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Internet: How it Got Here

The Internet has become an integral way of communicating information across vast distances almost instantaneously. To a lot of peoples knowledge, the terms Internet and World Wide Web are used interchangably without knowing the difference between the two. The differences can be viewed by looking at the Internet as a phyiscal element or hardware, and the World Wide Web being viewed as software that is a part of the Internet. Besides the World Wide Web, the Internet is made of with other softwares such as emails, chats and FTP's.

One major function that was integrated with the creation of the Internet is the use of packets and packet switching. A packet is data that is sent through a channel through a newtwork from one terminal to another. This theory was started by ARPA net, whcih started within the military, used packet switching to send packets through the path of least resistance.