studying society in a digital world conference

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Mar 302009

At the end of this month I’m going to be skipping out on WWW (bummer) to attend a conference on studying society in a digital world (yay). It seems a bit cruel to mention it here, because attendance appears to be limited to Princeton affiliated folk, but there it is, I couldn’t resist hanging out with the usual suspects.
And then as I read the schedule, I started recognizing the papers (oh, there’s Jure’s, and Lars’ and Sean’s — thinking of the younger generation who had presented the papers (or are about the present them) at various conferences). So it’s a bit of an old-folks meeting really, where they still let us talk without student supervision :). Can’t wait!

Matt Simmons to join NetSI

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Mar 302009

I’m happy to say that Matt Simmons has decided to enroll at SI as a PhD student (previously he was a masters student here). Over the years, he has worked with Drago Radev on co-author and citation networks, and with Matt Hindman and me on a project to analyze the US code (the federal law) as a network. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you about that project in the next blog post, whenever that may be.
In the meantime, welcome Matt!
P.S. NetSI is the name of my research group: Networks @ SI.
and current members include

Kevin to present Naver paper at CHI next week

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Mar 302009

Kevin Nam, a student of Mark Ackerman, is going to talk about the Naver KnowledgeiN online Q&A forum. Unlike previous studies of Q&A forums (of which, ahem, we’ve generated a few) in this instance, Kevin actually got the most active users on the phone and asked them the questions we had been burning to ask, e.g. ‘Do you have a life?’ (OK, not that one), but rather “How do you select the questions you answer?”,”Why do you answer [1000 questions/month]?”. We compared the answers Kevin got back against quantitative analysis of users’ behavior on the site, based on a large web crawl.
What did we find out? Among other things, that people can’t stand to see questions unanswered, and what really gets them going is seeing misinformation, either on the part of the asker, or given by another user attempting to answer. Another striking observation was the high level of intermittency in user participation. Even highly active users would suspend or curb their question answering when work or family life started making greater demands on their time. And does it matter if a user is only active intermittently? Yes, those whose participation is more constant have a better track record of providing best answers.
It reminds of this XKCD comic:
So if you’re going to CHI, consider attending Kevin’s talk, and in any case, here is the paper.

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