Wikipedia: Quality over Quantity?

By on

Interesting article in the LA Times about Wikipedia and the battle over quality versus quantity.  The heart of the story is the frenzy over Jimmy Wales creating an article about a little barbecue restaurant he likes.  The article was deleted as "not notable".  Wild discussion ensued, with many arguing that the article would have been deleted without question if it hadn’t been created by Wales.

The interesting angle to me is the question about why something should be deleted from Wikipedia if it is accurate and interesting to some people.  There’s a good information theory argument that if people are mostly browsing to find information it’s important to avoid having too much: even log growth eventually becomes too much.  However, it seems to me that most of the finding of information on Wikipedia is through search.  In this case, most of the growth of the indexes is Google’s problem: the rest of us never notice most of the stuff on Wikipedia.

A weakness in this argument is that as the index space becomes polluted with references to the irrelevant, successful searches will require more keywords to be sufficiently selective.  In effect, the change from browse to search may have little information theoretic difference on usability: in browse I click more, while in search I type more.

I wonder if these ideas can be formalized and tested?  What would be a good test-bed?

John vs. Flickr

By on

ReadWriteWeb has an interesting entry that says that photo sharing site has moved into second place behind only Flickr — in New Zealand, anyway. 

One interesting nuggest is that gets 59% of its traffic from a collection of small Facebook applications they’ve created.  These applications are being widely adopted on Facebook as a great way to share pictures.  Clearly Facebook’s application strategy is paying dividends.  Less clear is how this strategy is going to play out for, which reports that their average time per visit on the site is much lower than other photo sharing sites.  On the one hand, this may be a great thing for the visitors: they are getting more value for less of their precious attention.  On the other hand, is going to get the benefits of all those users, or is Facebook?

Another interesting nugget is that is making so much progress in New Zealand — but apparently not everywhere.  Will photo sharing be another domain, like social networking, in which geography determines use?  There are network effects in photo sharing, since it’s more convenient to be in the same network as the people I like to share photos with, though the network effects should be less powerful than in social networking, since I can still share photos with you even if you’re in a different network.

An interesting research project would be to track the evolution of these geography effects across time.  One hypothesis is that people are always going to have strong ties to people they’re physically adjacent to, in which case these geography effects will be enduring.  Another hypothesis is that heavy net users will tend to have relationships that are more independent of geography, in which case these geography effects will decay in importance with time. 

Any predictions?


Facebook as Social Software

By on

Facebook applications are cool and popular right now.  Everyone wants one.  Indeed, I found it very interesting that BJ Fogg is teaching a class on Facebook Apps.  This class seems relevant and interesting.  I’d take it!

However, I’m actually not a fan of (using) Facebook applications.  I’d rather give applications a whole Web page to work with.  I believe that Facebook applications are written because they can draw many users through viral marketing, not because they are generally better or easier to deploy than stand-alone apps.

The benefit that I see from a user’s perspective is that it becomes much easier to engage in social applications.  Our research lab has been playing Scrabulous on Facebook for a few weeks now.  Would anyone have played had they not already been part of the same social network?  In general, I would like to see data comparing the number of games played on Facebook with the number played on

Compare Facebook-style social applications with MovieLens buddies, an old-style social feature that allows users to share ratings and receive movie recommendations together.  Nobody uses it.  Now, if MovieLens had a Facebook application, would we also benefit from the viral effect?  Is a Facebook application the path to (research) riches and glory?

Max Dominates

By on

Another interesting ReadWriteWeb article, this time on how life is shaking out in the social bookmarking world.  The article has a number of interesting types of analysis, but the main focus is on user-ship.  On this dimensions, dominate, with more than 10x more users than the next best (Magnolia). 

My predictions is that there should be a moderate vortex effect in social bookmarking, with benefits to the category leader because of the greater volume of other users creating value by adding their bookmarks.  On the other hand, in the absence of true personalization in this category, the vortex should be limited, since above a critical mass the additional users add more noise than additional value.  In fact, we should expect to see a number of secondary social bookmarking sites spring up with the goal of attracting a clientele that shares similar tastes.  In a sense, this will let people find their own "neighborhoods" of others with whom to share bookmarks, rather than sharing with the unwashed masses.  Unlike with automated personalization, these neighborhoods will most easily form when they are structured around easy-to-understand syntactic categories, so the usual suspects — religion, politics, and sex — seem most likely as the fracture points.  

No, it probably is not coincidence that these are the traditional "off-limits" topics for casual conversation.  These are topics about which people prefer to talk to people with whom they agree.

I’d personally rather see a more personalized approach from one of the top social bookmarking sites.  Such an approach might lead to a much stronger vortex effect, and the opportunity to dominate the category.


FeedEachOther: a new feed reader with cool social features

By on

ReadWriteWeb talks about a new feed reader that has strong social features, making it easy to share items with other users in rich ways.  They say that FeedEachOther also has interesting recommender algorithms to help people find other feeds to read that are similar to feeds they have read in the past.  Sounds very interesting!