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 (24hoursneakers.com) 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.