URLs of wisdom (24th May)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology. This post covers content since 10th May.


  • You won’t finish this article – When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing. Schwartz’s data suggest that lots of people are tweeting out links to articles they haven’t fully read. If you see someone recommending a story online, you shouldn’t assume that he has read the thing he’s sharing.”
  • Why we favourite tweets  “the “findings highlight that the favoriting feature is currently being over-utilized for a range of motivations, whilst under-supporting many of them….what the diverse range of motivations behind favoriting may show is that despite Twitter’s recent attempts to create an increasingly standardized and top-down user experience, it’s still a platform with a massively diverse user base that uses Twitter for many different reasons. And that if Twitter wants to remain an essential part of the conversation, it will take its cues from the way users want to use their technology, and not the other way around.”


  • Who will RT this?  Development of a machine learning algorithm that picks users who are most likely to retweet on a certain topic.
  • Why that video went viral “If you want to melt the Internet, best to traffic in emotion, researchers have found. The emotional response can be happy or sad, but the more intense it is, the more likely the story is to be passed along.”
  • The ideal length of everything online 

People stuff

  • When Mothers TextI also have come to realize how cellphones can be used to express love. Often it’s not the big, all-consuming love. Instead, it’s love expressed in small ways.”
  • Designing for love – how can better design improve how technology allows us to connect?



Web/Social media developments

  • Twitter starts rolling out a mute button to silence people you’re following. Mute me argues that this a bad thing: “Now you can’t tell if someone actually wants to follow you, or is merely being courteous, political, or whatever else. The honesty of the follow is gone, and so therefore is some of the honesty that Twitter engenders in us.”
  • What is the outlook for Twitter? “we are increasingly tweeting to the events of our lives (from news events to concerts). Twitter thus fills an important gap in social media that goes beyond information exchange to making entertainment and other events more socially experienced.”
  • “Can there be such a thing as pure democracy online?” Interesting discussion of moderation and community management challenges on reddit.
  • Giants behaving badly  – Google, Facebook and Amazon show us the downside of monopolies and black box algorithms.

Just for fun

Running for President in the age of the Internet



URLs of wisdom (30th March)

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

Network analysis

The most active and popular social media users are often the ones that are overloaded. Moreover, we find that the rate at which users receive information impacts their processing behavior, including how they prioritize information from different sources, how much information they process, and how quickly they process information. Finally, the susceptibility of a social media user to social contagions depends crucially on the rate at which she receives information. An exposure to a piece of information, be it an idea, a convention or a product, is much less effective for users that receive information at higher rates, meaning they need more exposures to adopt a particular contagion.”


  • The era of Facebook is an anomaly – Lots of things to ponder in this great Q&A with Danah Boyd, author of “It’s complicated – the social lives of networked teens.” Includes some discussion of multiple online identities, ephemerality, and how what we perceive to be the norms of behaviour online don’t always agree with what actually takes place, as revealed by the data:

“….the realities of the data did not align with our artificial understandings of the social community. And this is one of those challenges that we have over and over again in these social environments, which is that we have these fictions that we hold on to that are extraordinarily valuable and that make us feel loved and a part of a community, and part of the social dynamic. It falls apart under deep inspection.”

“When I feel empty or lonely, anonymous Likes fill the hole and offer comfort. But when I feel steadfast in my identity and self-worth, when I feel comfortable with myself, I don’t need the external validation. I don’t have to play jester and entertain the crowd. I’m content having a thought and keeping it to myself.

Herein lies a great challenge for anonymous apps. Without the arc of emotional current that sparks when we know we’ve delighted a particular friend, can anonynous apps provide enough charge  to keep us coming back?”

“Key to BuzzFeed’s strategy…is to create content with a strong emotional or informative appeal to readers, who are then more likely to share it because it reveals something, whether consciously or subconsciously, about their own identity.”We create media that is meant as a form of communication, not simply as something to be consumed.

Academia Online


  • The problem with community.  Community has become an increasingly popular term for organisations looking to be more user-focused, but the approach can come with particular challenges for Community Managers:

“In community-peripheral companies, Community is used to describe supportive and operational roles, often in marketing or customer service. These companies don’t typically invest a lot of resources in their community, and the influence of Community Managers is limited. In community-centric companies, Community is about strategy as well as operations. The line between Community and Product is blurred and the career trajectory of a great community person expands with the company.

The misuse use of the word “Community” has hurt community managers: people who would love working at Community-centric companies end up at Community-peripheral companies and grow frustrated from lack of respect, resources, and care for the Community.”

Web/Social media developments


Just for fun

Random quiz: what’s the correct way to respond to this text messageTried this on a few friends with amusing discussions afterwards 🙂

URLs of wisdom (end of March 2014)

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

Network analysis


  • Twitter’s root injustice – Why it’s so hard for new Twitter accounts to attract new followers and what Twitter could do to make things fairer.“…the real issue is the network effects that come from being first. It’s a classic platform problem. Every time you’re followed it gets easier for others to follow you because you have a bigger audience more likely to spread your message to more people.”
    (see also my earlier blog post on “rich get richer” effects online)
  • The dangers of data-driven list making –  “…we sometimes mistake optimization for inspiration. Data is for optimization; humans are for inspiration. Expecting the former to give you the latter is a bad thing.”
  • The importance of recognising cultural diversity in understanding online behaviour –  Zara Rahman argues for the importance of understanding cultural background before making grand statements about the internet: “This is, I feel, what has been missing in the work by many other internet commentators: a genuine understanding of the offline culture in the countries they’re talking about, and an appreciation for how the offline society and politics affects the way people use the internet.”
  • Creeping connectivity – work and life in a hyperconnected world – Krystal D’Costa takes a look at changes in the structure of a working day and how technology has facilitated that.
  • Oops – sorry for being so creepy – light article on the gaffes that we make with technology

Academia Online

  • Privacy in sensor-driven human data collection – a guide for practitioners. Paper considering how to deal with the ethical concerns of studying big data about human behaviour.  “Protecting the wellbeing of the participants of the studies in any domain is of utmost importance. The trust that exists between the participants and the researchers is even more difficult to establish and maintain when the amount and resolution of the collected data increase.”
  • Candle in the dark – On the importance of being visible online.
  • MOOCs of every shape and size – a comparison of different MOOC providers with an interesting infographic splitting out the two different types of MOOCs. (See also my write-up of my first MOOC experience)


Web/Social media developments


  • I started a Twitter list of network science tweeps. Suggestions welcome!
  • Interesting set of list of top astronomers, physicists and philosophers on Twitter by number of followers plus listing of top tweets. Note that many of these accounts don’t tweet that much on a daily basis…
  • The AAAS folks have been busy creating Storifys of sessions from the annual meeting that took place in Chicago in February. Overall summary of the meeting. Summary of the session on using social media for science communication and the one on engaging with public events.
  • I found this fantastic free online book, Network Science, which is being released online chapter by chapter.

Just for fun

Do you really need to read the manual…?

URLs of wisdom (January 12th 2014)

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

People and technology

It’s complicated. What happens when we no longer understand the technology that we’ve built to solve a complex problem?

Taking a stroll down a virtual memory lane. What would you do with a virtual world made up of your memories?

The Open Office trap. How your workspace can affect you. Reminds me of some of the issues discussed in Susan Cain’s Quiet about forcing extroverted ideals into business and education settings.

Arts, culture, digital humanities

Translating the epic poem Beowulf into 100 tweets (reminds me of Twitterature).

Digital Humanities – mixing the humanities and technology in the classroom.

Social networks 

The evolution of memes on Facebook Interesting analysis of viral status updates on Facebook – how they mutate and what additions can help them to spread further. Includes a discussion of whether memes can be considered to behave like genes.

The importance of emotion in content that goes viral (compare to the “promoter sequences” in the FB meme discussion above and some of the commentary here).

Building relationships on Twitter – write-up of a study looking at students’ opinions of Twitter accounts run by big brands.

Facebook isn’t actually a good way to judge potential employees.

Information overload?

Great article by Alexis Madrigal in the Atlantic from back in December on why the idea of “streams” of information online may have reached their peak.

Drinking from the Twitter firehose – “managing the stream is too hard” says Matthew Ingram.

Filtering: seven principles.

Online science communication

Case study of CienciaPR, a social network for Puerto Rican scientists.

Interesting look at the tweeting from the #AAS223 meeting.

Storify from Day 2 of the National Academy of Sciences workshop on public interfaces of the life sciences (not strictly online sci comm, but lots of the questions raised are relevant to evaluation of online activities too).

Just for fun…

Is all that Instagramming distracting you?