URLs of wisdom (3rd May)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology.

Network Effects

  • Rumour cascades on Facebook  “Online social networks provide a rich substrate for rumor propagation. Information received via friends tends to be trusted, and online social networks allow individuals to transmit information to many friends at once. By referencing known rumors from Snopes.com, a popular website documenting memes and urban legends, we track the propagation of thousands of rumors appearing on Facebook. From this sample we infer the rates at which rumors from different categories and of varying truth value are uploaded and reshared. We find that rumor cascades run deeper in the social network than reshare cascades in general.”
  • Ed Yong describes another recent online study of the Matthew effect (or “richer get richer” phenomenon). See also my post on an older study.


  • The great Facebook deep clean – Kevin Roose raises the interesting broader question of how you enable a user to keep her social network *socially* relevant over the long haul, when friendships fade and tastes change.
  • And related – Twitter testing a mute button to silence follows.
  • The networked selfie –Selfies tell a story. They reveal and they conceal, because that is what a story does. It makes some aspects of an event, a memory, a feeling more visible, and in so doing, it directs attention to certain things —and inadvertently away from others. But it is a story. It affirms who we are. We tell stories to make sense of things, our lives, our selves. To make meaning and in so doing, connect with others.”

Academia Online

Web/Social media developments

Lots of discussion about the future of Twitter after their first quarter earnings report disappointed some.

  • Is Twitter dying?  A lot of this argument comes down to what we feel. Communities can’t be fully measured by how many people are in them……From the beginning, there were a few useful precepts that those of us who have obsessed over the platform had to believe. First, you had to believe that someone else out there was paying attention, or better, that a significant portion—not just 1 or 2 percent—of your followers might see your tweet. Second, you had to believe that skilled and compelling tweeting would increase your follower count. Third, you had to believe there was a useful audience you couldn’t see, beyond your timeline—a group you might want to follow one day. Those fictions have proven foolish, one-by-one.”
  •  Twitter’s not dying, it’s on the cusp of becoming something much biggerTwitter is not a social network. Not primarily, anyway. It’s better described as a social media platform, with the emphasis on “media platform.” And media platforms should not be judged by the same metrics as social networks…Media platforms, by contrast, connect publishers with their public. Those connections tend not to be reciprocal.”
  • Twitter is no Facebook – and that’s fine.  “perhaps the modern world has room for more than one social service. LinkedIn and Twitter both do things — and do them well — that Facebook does not. Conversely, they do not do the things that Facebook does well. Ultimately what Facebook does best — help people keep in touch with far-flung friends and family — strikes very close to the universal heart of human existence, so it’s no surprise that it’s the biggest company.”

Other news…

  • Facebook’s anonymous login is evil genius  – “Developers are the mass at the bottom of the pyramid, and if they want access to the gold at the top — access to pretty much everyone who might ever buy their product — then Facebook is going to make them pay for it. It’s just good business sense. And if it can make them pay for it while simultaneously pleasing their users, calming their nerves on privacy while continuing to collect the same amount of information on them, so much the better.”  and an explainer of the changes here.
  • Five things – Obama’s big data experts warned him about – in the White House report released this week.
  • Beyond net neutrality  “The big challenge with this whole internet interconnection world is that everything is opaque.” 

Engagement and metrics 

“How do you even define “working”? Advertisers have their own favored audience metrics, but are they the best way to measure user engagement? The focus is often on time on site and repeat visits, according to Tom Negrete, The Sacramento Bee’s director of innovation and news operations….But he argues newsrooms and journalists have an obligation to go further, to measure comprehension: Can an individual understand what was just read in a news story?”

There were various suggestions on how to reimagine comments — from inline commenting to encouraging commenters to respond to a specific question posed about the article. A consensus among the participants was that increased interaction with newsroom staffers could help with the civility dilemma — but they also acknowledged that many newsrooms do not have the resources to devote staffers to mind the comments.”


  • New book (available free online) by Jono Bacon – Ubuntu Community Manager and author of The Art of Community. His latest offering, Dealing with Disrespect, offers advice on how to deal with online critics.

Just for fun

All that typing away on keyboards…what’s it all for?!



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