Filtering by Category: Web Stuff

Meme circulation: Parking Wars

The "Parking Wars" application on Facebook was certainly one my favorite game two years ago. I gave it a shot for 3-4 months and then let it go (although one my friend is a "$28,699,245 (Parker Emeritus)". Besides it may have been the only application that attracted me to log in on Facebook back in 2006.

The game, designed by Area/Code was actually a facebook app that was meant to promote a television show:

" In Parking Wars, players earn money by parking -- legally or illegally -- on their friend's streets. Players also collect fines by ticketing illegally parked cars on their own street."

What was fantastic at the time was the fact that this simple games app took advantage of the FB social graphs in curious ways:

  • The underlying logic is simple: you need to have friends to park your cars on their street. The point is therefore to maximize the number of friends who play Parking War... which leads player to participate in the network effect through invitations (on top of word-of-mouth).
  • The game is asynchronous and turn-based so it's good to find friends on different time-shift so that you could place/remove your car when they sleep (a moment during which you don't risk to get any fine).
  • When giving a fine you can send messages to other players, the dynamic here is highly interesting as people repurposed it into some weird communication channel that is public but that address a different audience than the Facebook wall
  • Competition is stimulated with a peculiar kind of score board: you only see scores from other players within your network (who added the game). This is thus a sort of micro-community where each participants' score is made explicit.
  • The "level design" is also interesting with a "neighbor" feature that enable you to park on adjacent streets, which can be owned by people outside your network.
  • The cheating tricks are also social: you can less-active FB users to add the game so that you're pretty sure they won't check that you're illegally parked, you can create a fake FB account or benefit from streets created by people who stopped playing.
  • ... and I am sure there is more to it from the social POV

Interestingly, my curiosity towards Parking Wars came back up to the surface when chatting with my neighbor Basile Zimmermann who works as research scientist at the University of Geneva. In a recent project, he addressed how Chinese Social Networking Sites re-interpreted design concepts already used by existing platforms such as FB and turned them into something different.

Which is how he showed me a curious application he saw on a Chinese SNS called "开心网 / Kaixin001" ("Happy Network") that is a Parking Wars-inspired copy also called "争车位" ("Parking Wars") which appeared in July 2008:

The layout is similar to the one created by Area/code, some cars are more fancy than others but the main difference lies in the presence of advertisement (as shown by the "LG" brand). As a matter of fact, the ad part was not included in the first few months of this Parking Wars version on the Happy Network and it appeared approximately around March 2009 according to Basile. From what I'm told, the game is evolving too with a system of maps that operates differently from the FB version.

More explanation in his upcoming paper about this topic: Zimmermann, B. (forthcoming). "Analyzing Social Networking Web Sites: The Design of Happy Network in China" in Global Design History, Adamson, Teasley and Riello eds, Routledge.

Why do I blog this? dual interest here: 1) my fascination towards Parking Wars and its underlying game design mechanism based on social dimensions, 2) the transfer of this meme in another culture.

2.0

2.0 A reminder that the "2.0" meme has not always referred to "user participation/sharing" (on the World Wide Web in the Web 2.0 trope or in other fields such as in "enterprise 2.0", "city 2.0" or "human 2.0"). And don't get me started on that term...

Eric Rodenbeck at LIFT Asia 2008

Eric Rodenbeck (Stamen, design studio in SF) just gave a nice presentation in the "Beyond the Web we know" session. He indeed showed a less known part of Web, in the shadow of social media frenziness: rich data visualization. At his studio, Eric and his team work with flows of data (from the internet and the real world) and find way to represent that data so that people better engage with them. I actually saw only one part of his talk at O'Reilly ETech 2008 and thought it would be great to bring him to LIFT Asia. (Picture of Stamen's Digg swarm visualization)

Eric started with the work of Etienne-Jules Marey, a french hat-lover physiologist who studied movement (heartbeat, human walking and animal movement). His talk basically showed how Marey's work could be turned as design principles for data visualizations. For example, Eric showed how Marey demonstrated how the flight of a bird is different than the flight of an insect by using representations of movements. Marey also designed hardware to represent different movements. What Stamen is doing, to my opinion is taking the same approach and use available tools (software in the present case) such as existing flows of data (taken from database for example or GPS sensors) or capture them and use Web technologies to represent/display them.

IMO the take-aways of his talk are the following issues: - repetition and measurement allow to better understand how system works, as they can reveal phenomena hidden for the person who look at it. - visualization can be very effective to tell you stories: to show patterns for example in the Digg swarm project. - use your eyes instead of your brain. - the visualizations are not always meant to find answers but they help to generate new questions for example: in cabspotting (see example below), the white lines represent taxis. As one can see, there are taxi moving close to Bay Bridge in San Francisco but they are obvisouly over the sea... how this can be possible? The thing was that GPS working fine on the top of Bay Bridge, but not on the lower part (since the upper part block the GPS signal): so the lines next to the bridge reflect the cars with GPS which does not work.

(Picture of Stamen's Cabspotting)

There’s no reason why WoW couldn’t be represented by anything other than an RSS feed

Gamasutra has an insightful write-up of Raph Koster's talk at the Austin GDC. The talk is about how the web is destroying games in terms of revenue and access and how to rely on the web model to design future playful games. Koster slides can be found here (pdf, 3.8Mb) (Another good writeup is here). Some excerpts I found interesting:

"If you’re like me, you’re really tired of hearing about Web 2.0,” says Koster – but he maintains that the elements of the concept behind the buzzword are sound. (...) The net says the platform can be anything - there aren’t real hardware requirements or interface problems. The hot topic right now is the non-gamer. The hot feature is other people (as in YouTube), not the systems we write. The hot technology is connectivity and simultaneity. He added: "The hot game is a mini-game. Really small games."

“When you look at the kinds of problems we ask people to solve, and the things we assume them to do, it’s like we’ve given them a PhD in mathematics. No wonder you sit mom down and she asks 'how do I move?'”

If I look at that WoW screenshot,” says Koster, “I see a user interface begging to be simplified.” He calls for something along the lines of just showing the most pertinent information – and already there are hacks to do this. “Every time you make an assumption about inputs or output, you’re shrinking your user base. This is really the secret behind the DS and the Wii – it’s mapped to stuff we already know, which reduces the learning curve.” (...) “There’s no reason why WoW couldn’t be represented by anything other than an RSS feed, and if you could, it’d probably be doubled in users.” "

Well, without the context the last quote might sound weird but there is an relevant point here. And I quite his description about what works on the web that can be transferred to gaming:

"- the system is the game, not the interface, not the presentation. - any button will do. - long phases take your time – response time is rough. - be done fast, once you’ve made a decision. - do it side by side. Has to be massively parallel. - extended accumulated state – save your profile. - no roles – classless – teams are deterministic. - representation agnostic – draw it however. - open data – change it however."

Why do I blog this? preparing a presentation about how web practices (social web, web2.0) will change digital entertainment, and how to turn some of this into sound game mechanics. There is a lot more, especially about game grammar. If you take a look at the slides, their are also nice prognostication about the evolution of digital entertainment based on what he finds important in Web2.0:

"- Participation: trust, remix and mashup, cult of the amateur, Quality not required, distrust of centralized authority - Abandonment of the publisher model: long tails, niches, duplicate content - Different distribution channels: digital only, monetize passion not trials, slow openings, not big - Services instead of products: data not code, perpetual beta - 3R's: Ratings (the participatory Web is premised on metadata on “content”), rankings (And metadata on “users”), Reputation (adding up to a user-driven system of surfacing user-created content) - Run anywhere, common platform: “Above the level of a single device.”"

600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra

Not that I am really interested by research&dev about spam filtering, but this American Scientist article by Brian Hayes is quite interesting from a cultural point of view. It basically describes spam as a social and economic phenomenon rather than a technological one and take an an immunological metaphor to explain it ("where the contest is between a host organism and pathogens or parasites, and where both sides have to adapt and evolve in order to survive").

"If e-mail containing the word "Viagra" is blocked, there are other ways of getting the idea across, including synonyms and circumlocutions ("sildenafil citrate," "impotence meds," "the little blue pill"). An adaptive filter will soon flag these terms as well, but by then the spammer can move on to other options. For some kinds of variation—such as obfuscatory misspelling along the lines of "V1@gra"—computational methods could automate the generation of random variants. (...) So how many ways can you spell Viagra? The question is addressed directly by an amusing Web page, created by Rob Cockerham of Sacramento, whose title announces: "There are 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra." (...) When I first noticed spam with aberrant spellings, I assumed that someone out there in the murky world of spam service providers had written a program to generate random variants (...) I still suspect that such random-spelling generators exist in the spam world, but the evidence of my own inbox suggests they are not widely used. The telltale mark of their use would be a peculiar abundance of hapax legomena—the lit-crit term for words that appear only once in a corpus"

Why do I blog this? cultural aspects of "teh web".

Pondering user-generated content frenziness

An interesting comment by Pete Mortensen on a post by Bruce Nussbaum about the very low number of participation on user-generated content platforms:

"tools that allow people to be designers or broadcasters have been around for years, and they have been niche. What YouTube has done is create a single repository that can find relevant video for virtually any subject you want to know about, and then provided a cross-platform, speedy solution to deliver it. The role of the people posting videos, let alone storing them, is a mechanism to this bigger goal, a place to find the videos you want when you want them. If all the clips were put up by an automated computer, most people wouldn't care.

This is the great myth of Web 2.0, that its revolution has come from people creating things. It has actually changed the Internet by putting people in control of how to measure popularity and identify your own interests. The actual content is generally from professionals. And that's a more sustainable view to take, I think. We don't become creators of entertainment, we become curators for the entertainment of ourselves and others. That's a very different kind of participation."

Why do I blog this? some quotes to be used in a presentation about web2.0, user generated content and how this can of interest to the video game industry. I may not entirely be okay with "The actual content is generally from professionals", the rest of the assertions are interesting. Reminds me of this Guardian article last year: What is the 1% rule which describes that "50% of all Wikipedia article edits are done by 0.7% of users, and more than 70% of all articles have been written by just 1.8% of all users" or that on Yahoo! Groups "1% of the user population might start a group; 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content, whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress; 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups"

Although this hard figures are tough, it does not dismiss the "user-generated content" meme (aka craftware), the situation is just different and there are some design opportunities anyway based on these.

Share your life

I already blogged about onlife, this program now called Slife that tracks and help you to visualizes traces of your interaction with Mac applications. There is now a "social component" called Slifeshare:

A Slifeshare is an online space where you share your digital life activities such as browsing the web and listening to music with your friends, family or anyone you care about. It is a whole new way of staying in touch, finding out which sites, videos and music are popular with your friends, meeting new people and discovering great new stuff online. Take it for a spin, it's free, easy to set-up and quite fu

The "how page" is quite complete and might scare to death any people puzzled by how technologies led us to a transparent society (a la Rousseau). Look at the webpage that is created with the slife information:

Why do I blog this? Slife was already an interesting application, in terms of how the history of interaction is shown to the user. This social feature add another component: using Jyri's terminology (watch his video, great insights), it takes people's interaction with various applications as a "social object". This means that designers assume that a sociability will grow out of the interaction patterns (in a similar way to the sociability of Flickr is based on sharing pictures).

web/internet

I am often mesmerized by how people use the terms "Internet" and "Web" interchangeably, as if they were synonymous. Sometimes even in meetings at work, the discuss ends with the differentiation pointed by a person fed up with this (taken from weboepedia):

The Internet is a massive network of networks, a networking infrastructure. It connects millions of computers together globally, forming a network in which any computer can communicate with any other computer as long as they are both connected to the Internet. Information that travels over the Internet does so via a variety of languages known as protocols.

The World Wide Web, or simply Web, is a way of accessing information over the medium of the Internet. (...) The Web uses the HTTP protocol, only one of the languages spoken over the Internet, to transmit data. Web services, which use HTTP to allow applications to communicate in order to exchange business logic, use the the Web to share information. The Web also utilizes browsers, such as Internet Explorer or Netscape, to access Web documents called Web pages that are linked to each other via hyperlinks.

The Web is just one of the ways that information can be disseminated over the Internet. The Internet, not the Web, is also used for e-mail, which relies on SMTP, Usenet news groups, instant messaging and FTP. So the Web is just a portion of the Internet, albeit a large portion, but the two terms are not synonymous and should not be confused.

Why do I blog this? Even though this is a mistake and a common one, it's interesting to see how people name things and it seems that this mistake is made in english or in other language (for example my mother tongue: french). However, I am not nerdy enough to take the piss when people interchange the words, what is rather intriguing is the underlying reasons for that.

Besides, I really prefer the term "information super-highway" which definetely rocks ("les autoroutes de l'information" in french) because it can lead to tremendous wording such as "having a homepage on an information superhighway" or "traffic jam on an information super-highway".

This also reminds me the discussion Julian Bleecker had about "being in the Internet" or "on the Internet", or saying "the InternetS".

Mapping the world wide web circa 1995

Working lately on visualization of coordinating agents, I ran across old work about cyberspace visualization that struck me as very intriguing. See for instance Cyberspace geography visualization: Mapping the World-Wide Web to help people find their way in cyberspace by Luc Girardin (bro of fabien).

The central goal of this paper is to give information about virtual locations to the actors of cyberspace in order to help them solve orientation issues, i.e. the lost-in-cyberspace syndrome. The approach taken involves low dimensional digital media to create the visualization that can guide you. (...) To perform this task, the self-organizing maps algorithm is used because it preserves the topological relationships of the original space, conjointly lowering the dimensionality. (...) By geometrically approximating the vector distribution in the neurons of the self-organizing maps, this method provides a means to analyse the landscape of the mapping of cyberspace.

Here are maps of three websites:

Why do I blog this? The aim and the viz are interesting. At that time, there was this navigational issue of how people would navigate in the hypertextual virtual world. Now things changed a bit actually and it seems to me that the hypertext has been either forgotten or taken for granted (well the wikipedia is a cool hypertext isn't it?). More here

AOL dataset plots

Some folks already plotted stuff coming form the super-quickly-available-and-vanished AOL datasets. See for instance u500k.erinye.com, who calculated various indexes and plotted some data (below is one of them that I picked up randomly). If you're one of the 10,000 users, this is a glimpse of your private life:

The Internets, really?

From the wikipedia: "The Internets":

Internets was originally used as shorthand for cluelessness about the Internet or about technology in general[citation needed] but is often used today as an homage to when U.S. President George W. Bush referred to "the Internets" in the 2nd Presidential Debate with U.S. Senator John Kerry on October 8, 2004.

Anyway, even though I am not sure about Bush's thoughts about the Internet, I think this "the internets" concept makes sense. Besides, I have always been crazy about all the names and the confusion about the Internet and the Web.

Weblog success is associated with the type of blogging tool used

In "Weblog success: Exploring the role of technology" by Du, H.S, Wagner C., explore weblog success from a technology perspective (weblog-building technology or blogging tool).

Based on an examination of 126 highly successful weblogs tracked over a period of 3 months, we categorized weblogs in terms of popularity rank and growth, and evaluated the relationship between weblog success (in terms of popularity) and technology use. Our analysis indicates that weblog success is associated with the type of blogging tool used. We argue that technology characteristics affect the presentation and organization of weblog content, as well as the social interaction between bloggers, and in turn, affect weblog success or popularity improvement. (...) weblog-building technology has a direct impact on blog content. Since blogging technology is designed for authors to reduce web publication and communication effort (Du and Wagner, 2005), authors can focus on writing while the technology takes care of publishing, storage, link creation, and so forth. The less time and effort authors have to spend on these ancillary tasks, the more time they should be able to devote to content, thus resulting eventually in better content. A similar argument can be made for social value. Blogging technology that automates link creation, that identifies recent visitors (possibly with clickable back links, such as in ModBlog), or maintains subscriber lists and syndicates their content, will help create and maintain the social circle of bloggers, by significantly lowering the effort to link to and visit other sites. Here, technology’s enabling character is reflected through its usability and sociability of supporting weblog success at both content and social levels.

Du, HS, Wagner C. (2006) Weblog success: Exploring the role of technology, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Vol. 64, No. 9. (September 2006), pp. 789-798.

The Web as a social hypertext

According to the Wikipedia, Web2.0 "refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages". Apart from the underlying technologies that allowed this (public web service APIs, Ajax or web syndication), web2.0 puts the emphasis on the social aspects of the world wide web. This component is connected to the "markets are conversations" concept from the Cluetrain manifesto that evolved in the "blogs are conversation" promoted by doc searls and others (see for instance this post). This has also been termed "l'Entrenet" by Daniel Kaplan.

But what is new here is rather the scale than the phenomenon. See this article by Thomas Erickson: The World-Wide-Web as social hypertext (communication of the ACm) in 1996: the authors admits that he does not pay a lot of attention to the Web (we're in 1995) and he had been converted to that:

The cause of my change of heart was the widespread appearance of personal pages. Personal pages are similar to informal resumes, except that in addition to professional material they often contain personal information. Hobbies, research interests, pets, professional publications, children, politics, friends, colleagues, all are grist for the personal pagestructed portrayal of a person. This insight leads me to characterize the Web as a social hypertext. The nodes—at least some of them—are becoming representations of people. And this, in turn, enables another critical feature to emerge: links from a personal page often point to socially salient pages. A common feature of the personal page is a list of pointers to “interesting people and places.” (...) This insight leads me to characterize the Web as a social hypertext. The nodes—at least some of them—are becoming representations of people. And this, in turn, enables another critical feature to emerge: links from a personal page often point to socially salient pages. A common feature of the personal page is a list of pointers to “interesting people and places.” (...) The transformation of the Web into a social hypertext has a number of interesting ramifications. Perhaps the most immediate and practical is that social hypertexts allow a fundamental shift in the way people search for information. Rather than composing queries for search engines or going to likely places to browse, (...) people can instead pose the question: Who would know? Or who would know someone who would know? Navigating from one personal page to another, we suddenly have a new sort of search strategy. (...) The same issues arise, mutatis mutandis, in sharing one’s own work. In short, the ability to find out what someone else is doing, without mutual knowledge of what’s happening, is a boon to both parties. This nonmutuality of knowledge is one of the characteristics that makes social hypertext different from more direct forms of communication

The article also discuss the fact that the web affords "presentation of self" and some goffmanian other issues that I won't comment here. The conclusion for that matter is great: "Although the Web may be just the latest fashion to sweep the Internet, if it turns out to be a medium that allows the construction, negotiation, and propagation of the styles of appearance we refer to as fashion, its impact may be profound indeed.",

Why do I blog this? because it's interesting to trace the previous trend we have today in early days of the web. The web as social hypertext is more or less connected to some web2.0 feature that we now have at a larger scale.

Toward a common RSS icon

I am not interested that much in web icons and usability but rss syndications icons are sometimes a bit too... different, as workbench points out:

Considering the number of ways that web publishers show their readers they offer feeds, it's amazing we've gotten that many:

In an effort to make the concept of syndication easier for mainstream users, the next versions of the Internet Explorer and Opera browsers will identify RSS and Atom feeds with the same icon used in Mozilla Firefox. Since the market share of these browsers tops 95 percent, the icon will become the de facto standard for syndication overnight when the next version of Microsoft Windows comes out later this year.

Social search issues

Business Week featured an interesting article about Yahoo's strategy and social software as a global paradigm on the Web. The author (Ben Elgin) address Yahoo's bet: changing the way people find information online by relying on "social search". Although I am a regular user of flickr or del.icio.us (not to mention others) and though I find the 'social search' idea useful/relevant for my interests, I think I can buy some of the author arguments:

  • It's time consuming: "Most Internet users haven't even heard of Flickr or del.icio.us, let alone spent time sharing photos online or posting bookmarks of their favorite sites. Alexa Internet ranks del.icio.us as the 364,886th most trafficked Web site. Google is ranked third by the researcher. (...) the first major effort involves selecting a circle of friends. That means e- mailing people, inviting them to join a network, and responding to requests from others. After that, the more users interact with content, the more power social search will have. But that could involve more time-consuming online activities, from simple bookmarking to labeling and reviewing Web sites. It's not clear users will make that kind of investment.
  • Others doubt the wisdom of crowds will offer much of an upgrade over the feats of raw computing power. (...) "The best description of a document is the document itself."
  • As with all community sites, the benefits grow with the size and activity of the group. That means Yahoo's social-search trial, still in its infancy, could take months or years before reaching its potential. "Social search is not one of these things that will take off overnight," says Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li. "It will take a lot of time to build."

I don't want to play the part pooper but some of those claims are important and it seems that some Web2.0 platforms try to address this by various means: not allowing the 'tag thing' but having au automatic parser of the document (text/pictures...) for example.

Still, it does not mean that it can't work but there are some things to consider. I would add that in some domains it can work; especially when there is a certain density in conversations about a certain topic.

Blogging and authorship

In The Role of the Author in Topical Blogs (Proceedings of CHI 2005. Extended abstracts. Pages: 1256 - 1259), Scott Carter presents a compelling study about blogs and the role of authors in this context. He puts the emphasis on how blogs challenge the notion of authorship.

Seemingly, rather than a model in which the author’s writings are themselves a contribution, the blog author weaves a tapestry of links, quotations, and references amongst generated content. In this paper, I present a study of the role of the author plays in the construction of topical blogs, in particular focusing on how blog authors make decisions about what to post and how they judge the quality of posts. To this end, I analyzed the blogs and blogging habits of eight participants using a quantitative analysis tool that I developed, a diary study, and interviews with each participant. Results suggest that authors of topical blogs often do not create new content but strive to, often follow journalistic conventions,use the content of their blogs as a reference tool for other work practices, and are connected as a community by a set of source documents.The contribution of this work is to provide insight onto the notion of authorship with respect to blogs. I address this by looking at both the practice of blog authorship as well as the ways by which blog authors judge the success of posts.

The results are quite interesting:

  • Participants overwhelmingly commented that a good post is one that contributes new information or, to a lesser extent, extensive commentary about some issue on which the participant is an expert
  • Some participants included the timeliness of the post with respect to its subject material as being important as well. When asked to specify a particular post that they had written that they judged to be high quality, respondents usually chose posts that had much lower link and quote densities than average for their blog.
  • participants said that it was best to link to completely new information or at least source information, bypassing other filters and news sourcesmaking
  • Participants reported judging the quality of a post primarily by trackbacks (links from other blogs to their post) or by their own analysis of server traffic. Another metric that most participants used was links from blogs with a much larger perceived audience than their own. Participants did not attribute much value to the size and quality of comments left on the blog.
  • participants said that they followed journalistic convention when updating posts — explicitly marking changes and using extra text or color to call attention to the fact that the post had been changed.
  • participants described the use of their blog as an archive tool directly linked to their work practice. In these cases, posts often served as way to save information that would later be used in the construction of other documents.
  • Participants said that their goal was to make their posts as broadly understandable as possible, but that usually time constraints restricted them from doing so.
  • Participants relied on news feeds and e-mail lists to find sources for their posts. All participants also reported perusing topic related blogs and news sites.

Why do I blog this? even though these results are quite common for bloggers, they give a relevant picture of one part of the blogosphere to those who think blogging is limited to personal life accounts.

Mash-up of IM/RSS and publishing services

I am happy to see that I am not the only one thinking about how IM could be a good interface for information management (search, database query), as I described last year.John Battelle wrote a clever post about it, connecting this to mobile interfaces:

first of all, a mashup of RSS and IM is just a very cool idea. The medium of IM has been underappreciated by nearly everyone in the "media" business for one reason - the leaders of the business didn't use IM. But lord knows the rest of the world sure does.

there are other types of branded content that makes total sense in IM: publications and personal web services. A great publication has an intimate relationship with its audience, it's a trusted source of information, a pal, a buddy. And blogs, as I've argued again and again, can be great publications. And great web services like local search have earned our trust, know who we are, and we know that when we ask them questions, useful answers will come back. No one wants a stupid chat bot that tries to be, say, Santa Claus, that gets old fast. But a chat bot that is useful? That can instantly deliver your favorite content to your mobile phone without forcing it through the crappy sphincter of your mobile operators crippled web interface? Or can answer questions like, say, "pharmacy 91106" with the speed and intimacy of an IM chat session?

Why do i blog this? I like this idea and I am used to ask question to AIM bots about weather forecast, movie schedule... would it work on a mobile phone? I don't really know but I'd love to have this on my Nintendo DS for sure... There is an interesting debate in the comment part of this post. For instance usabiltiy-guru Jakob Nielsen complains that it's just re-inventing the command line. Some others expects "that the rich client UI applications of tomorrow will be delivered when the "browser" is merged with an "IM client"...

Combating the Online Dissemination of Illegal Images

CODII: Combating the Online Dissemination of Illegal Images is a project developed by Microsoft Research. It's aimed at examining how people organise themselves online to disseminate illegal images. The underlying issue is to design tools that help hotlines and moderators identify and remove illegal online content.

This project grows from a working relationship with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF are the charity who run the UK hotline that helps identify illegal online images in order for them to be removed, especial images of child abuse. (...) Our approach is to take an understanding of the area gleaned from working with the IWF, and combine it with a technological and social science understanding of online community systems. This combination helps us to build novel and useful tools.

To date we have worked on two tools. The first was an enhancement of the IWF's Bulk Image Viewer. The Bulk Image Viewer is used for rapidly scanning newsgroup images. The second was an Unreferenced Picture Finder used to locate hidden pictures on websites.

The next stage of research is to build a tool for moderators of online community platforms. This tool will unite: novel image visualization techniques, social clustering, and linguistic analysis.

Why do I blgo this? I am intrigued by the 'social cluster' thing. This seems to be the new idea to fight against spam (by checking if the email sender is from you network) and now it's used to check image dissemination.

Social bookmarking in companies: IBM example

Queue, the ACM journal has a special issue about social software. Among the different articles, the one entitled "Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise" by David Millen, Jonathan Feinber and Bernard Kerr caught my eyes. The tagline is very appealing: "Can your organization benefit from social bookmarking tools?". Some snippets:

The apparent success of Internet-based social bookmarking applications begs the question of whether large enterprises or organizations would also benefit from social bookmarking systems. To investigate this question, at IBM we are designing and developing an enterprise-scale social bookmarking system called dogear. (...) The first significant design decision was whether to base user identity in the application on real names or pseudonyms. We decided to require real-world identity for the following reasons. First, one of the expected benefits of the system is to allow users to make inferences about the interests and expertise of others based on informal browsing of bookmark collections.

This point is very pertinent and tightly related to a phenomenon called Transactive Memory (a theory proposed by Wegner (1987). This theory examines the process by which individuals determine who knows what and who knows who knows what).

The "dogear" application is then described:

Dogear also exploits collaborative filtering techniques to screen new bookmarks for those that are predictably of interest to an individual (or a group of individuals). Common interests can be inferred based on a number of observable user actions, including use of similar tags and/or tag combinations, similarity of bookmark (URL) collections, common RSS subscriptions, and click streams that indicate interest in specific kinds of bookmarks. Text analysis of bookmark titles, descriptions, and comments will also be used to determine bookmark relatedness.

The article continues describing the research prototype they designed to investigate the usefulness of a social bookmarking application for a large enterprise. Among the results they investigated, there is this: they used social network analytical methods to "begin to understand" the information affinities among dogear users.11 The picture below shows a sociogram showing which individuals have clicked through to another person’s bookmark reference:

Why do I blog this? even though this is more " we did this to begin to understand", it's refreshing to see that some companies are investigating how social bookmarking (as a geek-based/out-of-companies innovation) could be used in companies. This is just the beginning but a social network study of this can be very informative, in terms of information management and transfer.