Week 5: revised thesis: “How Twitter is Making Us Brilliant.”

02/28/2009

Here’s my response to Week 5 Questions

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My refined thesis is: “How Twitter is Making Us Brilliant: I will look at how social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook give you the opportunity to create a personalized and hand-built peer-knowledge search engine, one that allows you to piece together the perfect collection of minds to solve your particular problems, build a support network, and tap into that knowledge 160 characters at a time. ”

By using tools like Twitter, we tap into the following digital media convergence ideas:

  • Collective Intelligence (you can read and add to the collective intelligence in the system)
  • Participative Culture (you can mashup and riff on ideas, images, news stories, music, and other media, and use the social networks to advertise, offer, and trade the mashups and mods)
  • Twitter has a social layer (people interact using the system), a technology layer (web based and application interfaces are used to interact with the system), an industrial layer (this is an extension to phones, text messaging, HAM radio, Citizen’s band, and other media), and a communication layer (Twitter is primarily used to broadcast or monocast ideas), each playing their part in the convergence model.

Here are a few more articles I have selected as potential sources for the final paper, along with some summary of why I include them, and their relation to my thesis.

This first one, from ReadWriteWeb discusses some of the origins of the system, and specifically talks about the openness of the system and how that plays into Twitter’s popularity. For the technology layer, I went some authentic information on how it works on the server itself, and this article gives some of that background.

This week on Read/WriteTalk I had the opportunity to talk to Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter. One of the more interesting topics in the podcast was the open platform that Twitter has developed. We also discussed how the team came up with the idea for Twitter, different catalysts over the past year for user growth, and even how they came up with the name. Click here to read a transcript or listen to the full interview.

Address : http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/twitter_open_platform_advantage.php
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:53:32 GMT-0500 (EST)

The following article goes deeper into the specific platform and underlying technology used and some of the inherent problems with the technology in regards to scalability. I want to get into the technology layer very deeply, as I think it’s one of the least understood aspects of Twitter.

prevail-whale
Image by lemasney via Flickr

By various metrics Twitter is the biggest Rails site on the net right now. Running on Rails has forced us to deal with scaling issues – issues that any growing site eventually contends with – far sooner than I think we would on another framework.The common wisdom in the Rails community at this time is that scaling Rails is a matter of cost: just throw more CPUs at it. The problem is that more instances of Rails (running as part of a Mongrel cluster, in our case) means more requests to your database. At this point in time there’s no facility in Rails to talk to more than one database at a time. The solutions to this are caching the hell out of everything and setting up multiple read-only slave databases, neither of which are quick fixes to implement. So it’s not just cost, it’s time, and time is that much more precious when people can[’t] reach your site.

Address : http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000838.html
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:56:15 GMT-0500 (EST)

The following is a wiki that is used to document the development of the system, and talks very specifically about the Application Programming Interface that developers can use to interact with the system, even in ways that perhaps Biz Stone and Evan Williams might not have foreseen. The dynamic and open way in which people can develop for the system talks to the participatory cultural aspects of Twitter, as do the aspects mentioned above (e.g. mashups, media sharing, etc).

Welcome to the Twitter API wiki.  What are you coding?

Documentation

* Frequently asked questions
* REST API Documentation
* Search API Documentation
* REST API Changelog
* Migrating to followers terminology

Address : http://apiwiki.twitter.com
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:57:19 GMT-0500 (EST)

Here is an article that talks about an open source system that provides the same basic functionality as Twitter, but is free as in ‘free speech’ as well as in ‘free beer’, in other words, while Twitter’s API is published so that a controlled interaction can take place, the actual underlying source code for Twitter is not released for reuse. Laconi.ca source code, which is the basis for the twitter-like system called identi.ca, is available for free for you to run yourself, should you want to. This pushes the idea of participatory culture to a new level, and I’d like to speak to that in my paper.

Image representing identi.ca as depicted in Cr...
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The laconi.ca microblogging platform is as open as you could hope for. That elusive trinity: open source; open standards; and open content.The project is led by Evan Prodromou (evan) of Wikitravel fame, whose company just launched identi.ca, “an open microblogging service” built with Laconica. These are fast gaining feature-parity with twitter; yesterday we got a “replies” tab; this morning I woke to find “search” working. Plenty of interesting people have  signed up and grabbed usernames. Twitter-compatible tools are emerging.

Address : http://danbri.org/words/2008/07/10/367
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:58:35 GMT-0500 (EST)

This article speaks to the social layer of Twitter, the value that it holds for individuals in order to accomplish certain tasks. For me, I think of it as a search engine of active minds. A friend might think of it as a way to gather news. Another might think of it as a research tool. Someone else might see it as live entertainment. It’s a no-size fits all solution that meets a whole lot of different needs. This dynamism speaks very clearly to my idea that it can be a way for each of us to gain pertinent knowledge about our our topics.

Some argue that Twitter has value as a news source, and note that the first snapshots of the Turkish Airlines jet after it crashed near Amsterdam on Wednesday were transmitted via Twitter. But those crash photos could have gotten out just as quickly if sent by cellphone to another Web site. It’s tempting to dismiss Twitter fever as a passing fad, the Pokémon of the blogosphere. But it’s beginning to look more like yet another gateway drug to full-blown media narcissism.

It’s not just television, of course. Ordinary people, bloggers and even columnists and book authors, who all already have platforms for their views, feel compelled to share their split-second aperçus, no matter how mundane.

Address : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/arts/television/28twit.html?th&emc=th
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 18:44:58 GMT-0500 (EST)

This article speaks about the ways in which Twitter and other social network developers must do work to turn what many see as simply a pastime with infrequent hints of social justice, benefits, and assistance into tools that actively pursue those goals. I personally see these systems as being able to both entertain and assist, as well as inform, embrace, and transform us. However, I think the framework for this is there now, and it is up to us as users to use the tools as means to the best possible ends.

But Glen Lyons, professor of transport and society at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, told the conference about a more established social network that is already beginning to deliver on its aims. Zimride is a carpool scheme powered by Google maps, a social network and, according to the Zimride site, a “ride-matching algorithm”. Since its inception in 2007, Zimride claims to have enabled some 300,000 users worldwide to carpool who might otherwise never have met.

Thorpe thinks social media applications like this one might be the way of the future. Facebook users might one day compete to see who can gain the most “global karma points”, he says – working for the greater good, rather than for their own amusement.

Address : http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16681-innovation-how-social-networking-might-change-the-world.html?DCMPeqOTC-rss
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 18:59:21 GMT-0500 (EST)

Here is a video in which one of the developers of the system talks about its explosive growth, and the trials of that kind of success. Also the participative cultural aspects of beautifully unintended uses by users is addressed.

In the year leading up to this talk, the web tool Twitter exploded in size (up 10x during 2008 alone). Co-founder Evan Williams reveals that many of the ideas driving that growth came from unexpected uses invented by the users themselves.

Address : http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/evan_williams_on_listening_to_twitter_users.html
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 19:53:57 GMT-0500 (EST)

Also here is an article on media overload, managing new media, and twitter’s role in that topic.

I am not new to social media, having been in newsgroups and chat rooms since the early 90s. I’m also not new to information overload, as I’ve always been a news junkie and a voracious reader. But every once in a while, my life changes with respect to how I give and receive information, and because everyone online has been discussing the same subject recently, I was driven to self-contemplation. I’ve decided I have been on information overload and have instinctively found ways to deal with it, and I will bet you have, too. How much of the following sounds familiar?

Address : http://blog.stealthmode.com/2009/02/28/rss-twitter-and-information-overload
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 20:32:45 GMT-0500 (EST)

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

The following site lists a number of open source software that provides the functionality of many popular online social networks. I’d like to use this to suggest that Rider, if they wanted, could have a social network of their own to share Rider specific knowledge, happenings, and other bits of collective intelligence. The concepts covered here include collective intelligence, sociality, participative culture (building your own services, for example) and bottom up media.

This is Vivalogo’s list of best free, downloadable, open source social networking software (kinda hard to say all these words 🙂 ).
Unlike some other lists you may find on the net, this one contains only really downloadable and functional software.
Note: listed in no particular order.

Source: Top 40 Free Downloadable Open Source SNS – 城市胡同
from http://www.wujianrong.com/archives/2009/02/top-40-free-downloadable-open-source-sns.html
retrieved on Sun Mar 01 2009 11:49:23 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

Here is an interesting article that talks about a particular cultural activity in Twitter called retweeting, which is, just as it sounds like, tweeting another person’s post again fro your followers. The social action is a way of magnifying the original idea (which may or may not have been available to people in your network) by taking a good or useful thought and rebroadcasting to your network.

Retweeting allows the power of the network to take place, in pretty much the same way a blog link can extend the conversation from one blogger to a great many, sometimes at a very rapid rate. If you Tweet something of interest and you have an audience of 10, or 100 or 1000 and no one retweets it, that is far as your message goes. But if you have 10 followers, and one of them has 100 and he or she retweets you, your message reaches that many more people. If of you of this wider ring… and so on.

Address : http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/10/the-power-of-re.html
Date Visited: Sun Mar 01 2009 14:40:17 GMT-0500 (EST)

My social network
Image by luc legay via Flickr

Finally, David Pogue writes that Twitter is what you make it, which of course underlines the ideas of sociality, participative culture, bottom up media, decentralization, and other key digital mia convergence concepts.

I was serving on a grant proposal committee, and I watched as a fellow judge asked his Twitter followers if a certain project had been tried before. In 15 seconds, his followers replied with Web links to the information he needed. No e-mail message, phone call or Web site could have achieved the same effect. (It’s only a matter of time before some “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant uses Twitter as one of his lifelines.)

Address : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/technology/personaltech/12pogue.html?_r=2&nl=tech&emc=techa1
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 21:02:14 GMT-0500 (EST)

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Is the Internet Warping Our Brains? | LiveScience

02/25/2009
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In our ongoing discussion about the ways in which the internet, technology and Google is changing the ways in which we think, I thought this article might be a good one to bring to light.

The Internet is no doubt changing modern society. It has profoundly altered how we gather information, consume news, carry out war, and create and foster social bonds. But is it altering our brains? A growing number of scientists think so, and studies are providing data to show it.

What remains to be seen is whether the changes are good or bad, and whether the brain is, as one neuroscientist believes, undergoing unprecedented evolution.

Texting and instant messaging, social networking sites and the Internet in general can certainly be said to distract people from other tasks. But what researchers are worrying more about are the plastic brains of teens and young adults who are now growing up with all this, the “digital natives” as they’re being called.

via Is the Internet Warping Our Brains? | LiveScience.

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Does Social Media Make Us Better People?

02/22/2009
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Here’s something very close to my argument, but more about interpersonal communication effects. Perhaps I should broaden (or tighten) my thesis.

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Rather, I’m talking about the cameraphone user who automatically uploads her photos to Flickr or Twitpic, who with the tap of a screen can post a video to YouTube or stream a scene live on Qik. I’m talking about the immediacy and accessibility of Twitter messages that make private conversations public; tools that open up the very real possibility that every action you take, whether in a public space or in seemingly private emails and text messages, is being logged and possibly shared with thousands of people.How does this change the way we act? Might it actually make us…nicer to one another?

via Does Social Media Make Us Better People?.

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Reading Review and Journal (for February 24th)

02/22/2009

1. Topic for your final Paper

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How Google is making us brilliant; how Google, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other tools like these will allow us all to achieve higher collective intelligence on several layers and at several axes.

2. Thesis for your final paper. It is the central idea you would like to present in your final paper. The more specific the better. Please make sure to demonstrate how your thesis is related to the Internet and digital media convergence concepts, theories, or models we have covered in our class.

Google provides an interface to a growing collection of collective knowledge, which with proper training, can be tapped efficiently to help solve any problem that has been previously solved and shared. Twitter allows you to ask the world a question, and get 1,000 answers in an instant. Facebook allows for us all to interconnect on a visual verbal basis, actively or passively, allowing for a more comprehensive look at each other’s (constructed) profiles and provides a way to grasp deeper socio-emotional connections with others. Blogs allow us to quickly produce our own pieces of collective intelligence, feeding Google all the while, providing new fodder for Facebook and Twitter, and generally increasing the amount of known published knowledge with each post.

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3. Two articles (academic or professional) that you would like to use in your paper.

Ivana Marenzi, Elena Demidova, & Wolfgang Nejdl. (2008, June 30). DSpace at Open Universiteit Nederland: LearnWeb 2.0. Integrating Social Software for Lifelong Learning. DSpace at Open Universiteit Nederland: LearnWeb 2.0. Integrating Social Software for Lifelong Learning. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://dspace.learningnetworks.org/handle/1820/1260?mode=full&submit_simple=Show+full+item+record.

L. Johnson, A. Levine, & R. Smith. (n.d.). 2009 Horizon Report. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://wp.nmc.org/horizon2009/.

Readwriteweb, S. P. (2009, January 30). How to Friend Mom, Dad, and the Boss on Facebook…Safely. The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2009/01/30/30readwriteweb-how_to_friend_mom_dad_and_the.html?em.

Stone, B., & Stelter, B. (2009, February 19). Facebook Withdraws Changes in Data Use. The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/technology/internet/19facebook.html?_r=1&em.

4. Brief summary of the two articles.

LearnWeb 2.0. Integrating Social Software for Lifelong Learning provides a theoretical framework that focuses on the sublime ability for social networks and technology services to enhance learning. This article brings to light some of the ways in which social networks can be particularly utilized in supporting and enhancing teaching and learning. This is in stark contrast to the idea promoted in “Is Google Making us Stupid?”

The 2009 Horizon Report is a yearly prediction of the ways in which current and emerging technologies will affect teaching, learning, and society in general. It is a strikingly accurate and thoroughly enjoyable read for a technologist who has faith in the ways in which technology can help us change for the better.

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The two New York Times articles focus on Facebook. One describes best practices for information sharing for the new user, how to avoid the pitfalls of sharing the wrong information or sharing it in the wrong way. The other article speaks about the recent flap in which Facebook changed its terms of service (TOS) to indicate that the content that users add to the system belonged solely to the company forever. A blog post on The Consumerist brought the change light and public scrutiny, and Facebook quickly reverted to its previous TOS language. This speaks to the concepts of collective intelligence, bottom up media vs. top down media, information ownership, and others that help define Digital media convergence.

5. Brief discussion about how the two articles are related to your thesis.

The LearnWeb 2.0 article shows a framework that could potentially exemplify my thesis that learning is enhanced and magnified with the proper application of Social networking tools.

The 2009 Horizon Report defines a long list of technologies and the ways in which they will theoretically affect learning spaces, learners, teaching, distance learning, mobile learners, portable media in learning, and other aspects of gathering and gaining intelligence.

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

The two New York Times articles on Facebook will help to bring to light issues regarding the broad increase in information sharing and the relevant importance of guiding new users to use the systems properly. It also helps to show the blurry line that exists between producer, consumer, content owner, intellectual property owner, and privacy in the shared online space.

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Week 3 Reading Review and Questions

02/08/2009
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1.  Provide a quick over view or summary of the readings  (3 – 5 sentences)   (8pts)

Jenkins’ chapter on Spoiling Survivor went to great lengths to describe the new interplay and blurred roles between producer and consumer, and how each influences, plays with, and sometimes frustrates the other with their new interactions on discussion boards, fan sites, and conferences. Bill Hilf‘s article on the reinvention of the World Wide Web talks about the ease with which we analyze and plan new medium with the limitations of the old in mind, and the ways in which that can bring the limits of the precedent media in new forms to the ‘successor’ medium. Hilf goes on to talk about how the advent (now current practice) of semantic web building through XML and the DOM will allow for new, not yet imagined mediums to reuse and make portable existing content that has traditionally been locked together with the medium and fixed to it (inked words and page, exposed film and images, etc).

2.  Clearly Identify what you feel are 3 key ideas in the readings (8pts)

1. Consumers and producers roles are becoming increasingly convergent and interactive.

Collective intelligence

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2. Thinking of new media in terms of its relationship and similarity of old media is tempting, but we should resist the urge, as it may color our interpretation of the new media.

3. Choosing highly structured ways to encapsulate content will allow for the automated and spontaneous use of it in not yet imagined media formats which will make use of them.

3.  Support your summary and/or key points with three specific references to the readings (7pts)

Jenkins described the online spoiling activities of ChillOne, firstly a consumer of the show Survivor, secondly a producer of insider information about the show, and thirdly an expert because of his personal relationships with people who had information about the show. Jenkins contrasted this with Mark Burnett, an actual producer of the show, who watched the online spoiling discussions, actively worked to throw out misinformation about the show he knew to not be true, and therefore participated as a producer and consumer in the spoiling community. Burnett was an expert in that he had first hand knowledge of the show’s production. Both ChillOne and Burnett were part of a collective intelligence that participated in creating a collective truth that may or may not be the actual reality.

(L-R), AOL Ch...

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Hilf indicated that looking at the internet simply as an extension of television, or seeing the internet as a black box where radio, television, and all other media are replaced and converged is too simple a way of looking at things, and also negates the other possibilities of what the Internet can be. By focusing mostly on what comes before, we may have blinders that block innovations in media that eclipse what the previous mediums were capable of.

XML and the DOM will allow highly structured content, such as news stories, blog posts, and other data to be easily connected with other related data, and also be far more portable in the future. For example, if blogging goes the way of traditional web sites, the content in those blog posts will be much easier to move to new mediums and destinations because the content was built using XML structures and the DOM, which will provide an easy path to a new destination, placing the actual content in the new system unaltered, but changing the look, feel, handling, treatment, and usability. An exampe is when highly structured content in a blog post is automatically reformatted for a cell phone browser. That’s a function of XML, CSS, and the DOM.

4.  Identify the most difficult or challenging concept for you from this week’s readings.  Saying “I don’t know” or “nothing was difficult” is not an adequate response. (8pts)

I feel that as more and more work is done by large production companies to prevent their ideas from being unearthed and their productions from being interfered with (the Big Brother tennis balls) it makes it far more difficult for the comanies to stay focused on the entertainment’s quality because all of the distractions. Also, I feel like the fan community and spoiler community which is arguably a production company of its own becomes less and less able to produce effectively, because of the imposed restrictions of the primary production company. I feel like this situation needs mediation, but I don’t think that it will be easy to arrange, nor likely to occur.

5.  Provide 2 or 3 discussion questions for us to talk about in class (6pts)

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Who in the class participates in a spoiler style community, and in what ways does it affect the producer in the relationship?

Can anyone explain some of the benefits of XML markup and Cascading Style Sheets?

Do you belong to any groups that act as a production company? Is your office a production company of sorts?

6. Discuss how this week’s readings might relate to your upcoming presentation, paper or to the “real world.” Here too, saying “I don’t know” or “it does not apply” is not an adequate response.  (8pts)

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I feel like my interactions on Netflix, Facebook, my blogs, LinkedIn, and Flickr all have a potential effect on those or other creative communities. Spoiling Survivor goes into the details about just one of those relationships. On my beer blog, for example, I’ve often had the opportunity to speak with Brewers about their brews, gotten compliments on my photography, gotten critiques of my critiques, and met quite a few people who are interested in the same things I am.  I’m both producer and consumer, interacting with both producers and consumers of the content, the object (beer, photography, writing, etc.). The Hilf article talks about how because of the way in which I’m publishing, the content I’m creating becomes part of the Semantic Web, is auto-related to other content, highly portable and re-useable, and won’t be stuck when and if blogging dies sometime in the future in the same way that static web sites are now.

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