The empowering side of crowdsourcing: Duolingo


I’m a huge fan of duolingo … a free, online language-learning tool.  It approaches language training in a similar way to Rosetta Stone.  You move through small lessons on key words, and it uses a variety of learning styles.  The language training involves identifying pictures, listening and translating, speaking and assessing verbal fluency, as well as traditional text-based writing tests.  Each lesson builds on the previous, and you can not progress without a certain level of mastery.  Plus (according to its main page), it’s scientifically proven to work better than taking university-level language courses.

The process is game-ified, and you win competitions and medals, so it feels like other social media games you might play.  You earn points for progressing, and your progress is listed on a leader board with your friends.  Because language skill can slip away over time, some of the earlier points may go away, so that you need to refresh older material.  It is very fun, and I used it every day for a few months last summer.  I’ll confess that since grad school started up again, I haven’t had time to do that (or socialize or exercise or relax or always wear clean clothes…).  But it was fun while I had time, and I will most certainly pick it up when I have time to breathe again.

All that being said, that’s not the coolest part of duolingo

The coolest part of duolingo is that it is harnessing the power of internet users to translate the internet … starting with Wikipedia.   Yep!  To get the whole story, watch this:

If you don’t have time to watch that, here’s the gist.  Luis von Ahn, one of the creators of capcha, got an idea to use his software (which was being used by millions of people daily) to be used to translate webpages.  He then designed a site that could train people in new languages, and he would then use their mental byproduct of learning to translate sites.  As part of the learning process, people could then test their skills out by translating various pages … which would then be evaluated by other people to make sure they were accurate.  In the best sense, he has found a way to harness the wisdom and power of crowds to do incredible things.

The language learning tool is incredibly impressive … but the story behind it is even more.

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Time to come clean … and recant on Hootsuite.


A few weeks ago, our beloved leader Dr. V took our whole Tech 637 class at Purdue and threw us in the deep end of the internet.  She tied Twitter to our left hand and WordPress to our right.  As we began to collectively drown in the fullness of socialized media, she slapped a Hootsuite snorkel in our mouths and told us we could use that to breathe.

Trusting our benevolent pedagogue, I started using my new life-sustaining apparatus, and at first it was new and awkward.

I even wrote about it and (much to her chagrin) I called it Hootsuite …. or should I say “HoosGotADHD”.  The reason was because at first everything was so hectic and foreign, and I didn’t even know where to look or how to use it.  I also mentioned in this blog post that someday I might think this was the best thing since sliced bacon (paraphrasing).

So now, several weeks in, I need to re-address this issue …  to both come clean and also recant.

Now that I’ve been using this for several weeks I must say… I not only like the program, but I can say that I view it as a necessary tool to tame and use Twitter (and other social media) effectively.  I have several active feeds that I have developed, and they help me keep track of my class, my computer-mediated communication scholars, my humor scholars, and even a fun one #addawordruinamovie.

It still has some bugs, and I haven’t quite got everything down pat, but as of now … I’m a convert.  I no longer am being forced to drink from the firehose … but now I can sip from an assortment of pleasant springs.

I know I’m mixing all sorts of metaphors throughout this post … sorry about that.  Sometimes I just feel like mixing it up. 😉

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Facebook Relationship Rules


In the 2012 issue of Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Erin M. Bryant and Jennifer Marmo wrote an article entitled, “The rules of Facebook friendship: A two-stage examination of interaction rules in close, casual, and acquaintance friendships.”  They reviewed literature on Facebook, computer-mediated communication theory, and general work on relationships and developed a list of rules for Facebook friends.  After checking the validity of their list with over 800 people, they settled on the following list of 36 Rules of Facebook Friendship.  (There’s other cool stuff about how the list is divided up and highlights various relational motivations, but that is for another time.)  Here are the rules … what do you think?  Would you add anything?

  1. Project yourself in a manner others would want to be associated with.
  2. Don’t post anything that will hurt a friend’s image.
  3. Don’t post anything that will hurt a friend’s career.
  4. Don’t post anything that will hurt a friend’s relationships.
  5. Respond immediately when someone leaves you a Facebook message.
  6. Expect an immediate response from others when you post on their profiles.
  7. Use privacy settings to control each friend’s level of access to your profile.
  8. Share information with close friends before posting it on Facebook.
  9. Delete or block anyone who posts something that compromises your image.
  10. Apply offline social rules to your Facebook interactions.
  11. Be aware that not everyone is honest while on Facebook.
  12. Use common sense in your Facebook interactions.
  13. Monitor your photos to make sure they are flattering.
  14. Always present yourself positively but honestly on Facebook.
  15. Know that all of your friends can potentially affect your Facebook image.
  16. Use Facebook to maintain your relationships.
  17. Use Facebook to communicate happy birthday with friends.
  18. Wish your close friend happy birthday in some way other than Facebook.
  19. Use Facebook to learn more about people you are just getting to know.
  20. Respect your friends’ time by not posting excess information on Facebook.
  21. Meet new people by adding your close friends’ contacts as your own friends.
  22. Only write on a friend’s wall if you are actually friends with them offline.
  23. Only send a friend a private message if you are actually friends with them offline.
  24. Only comment on a friend’s photos if you are actually friends with them offline.
  25. Only use Facebook chat with people you are actually friends with them offline.
  26. Communicate with your good friends using other methods besides Facebook.
  27. Don’t add someone as a Facebook friend unless you meet them offline first.
  28. Always realize that Facebook can expose lies you have told people.
  29. Remember information a friend posts about you can have real world consequences.
  30. If a friend deletes or untags themself from a photo or post, do not repost it.
  31. If you are ignoring someone’s message, do not commit other Facebook behaviors that will reveal you were on Facebook.
  32. Do not spend time trying to guess a friend’s motives for Facebook behaviors.
  33. Do not confront anyone using a public component of Facebook.
  34. Do not say anything disrespectful about someone on Facebook.
  35. Do not let Facebook use interfere with getting your work done.
  36. Do not post information on Facebook that could be used against you.

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Doodle Time


Social Media in Real Life

Source “Social Media in Real Life” by Sarah See Andersen

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Reflecting Online about Reflecting on Reflecting Online


My interests as a communication scholar lie at the intersection of interpersonal communication and social media.  (There’s a third road that leads to humor studies, but I hardly ever get to drive on that one.  Someday!)  Currently, I am exploring the question:

  • How do people evaluate advice through comments to Facebook wall posts?

This question is then broken down to:

  • How do people evaluate advice (in general)?
  • What are the unique features/characteristics of comments on Facebook wall posts as a communication medium?

For my question on advice evaluation, I am relying on Advice Response Theory (MacGeorge) for two reasons: one, because that is my advisor’s theory, and two, it’s really the only and best most comprehensive theory on advice evaluation out on the market today.  Advice response theory explains how message factors (things about the message itself) and source factors (perceptions about the advice giver) affect advice outcomes (how the advice recipient reacts the the advice).  This theory has been primarily tested in dyadic face-to-face situations, so it will be interesting to see how the theory works in both a computer-mediated environment, but also a social networking group setting.

My question on unique features of Facebook wall posts has sent me in several directions and led me to explore various theories on computer-mediated communication and social networking.  Some of the theories are The Hyperpersonal Model of Communication (Walther), the Masspersonal Communcation Model (O’Sullivan), online speech acts (Carr, Schrock, & Dauterman), and a few others.  The features about FB as a communication medium that seem to apply at this point to this discussion are that it fluctuates in its synchronicity, it is a shared space for multiple contributors, and it is a leaner communication medium (reduced non-verbal and social cues).

One of the more interesting concepts I’ve stumbled upon is “friendsourcing“.  Friendsourcing is like crowdsourcing, but with a more select group.  In this way, it is much more of a web 2.0 way of crowdsourcing ideas.  The reason I found this exciting is that while the idea has been around for a while (and people are talking about it in the business world), it is almost non-existent in academic literature.  It shows up in computer science literature about friendsourcing coding problems, and it shows up in an article about friendsourcing solutions through facebook for blind users looking for visual descriptions of objects from their friends.  I think there is a lot of mileage in this term, and it is time that this term made its way into the vocabulary of computer-mediated communication and digital sociology scholars.

One last thing I’ve discovered … the incredible work of the talented Jessica Vitak and Nicole Ellison (and friends) is going to become my new best friend. =)

Calling All Facebook Friends

Who Wants to Know? Question-asking and Answering Practices among Facebook Users

If you have any interest in this or ideas/suggestions for sources and directions, I’d love to hear them. =)

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Cell phones and the fear of being alone


Dr. V. from my Tech class posted a nice reflection on Louis CK‘s interview on Conan and his rant Cell phones and the fear of being alone.

The questions she asks at the end of her piece are:

  • Can you try to pay attention and notice when you are using your phone to avoid being alone?
  • Can you try practicing being alone, just sitting there, without music or any other stimulus, for maybe 5 minutes every other day, and see what happens?

I find this discussion about cell phones and how it changes the way we interact with the world to be very interesting.  For me, I did not have my own cell phone until I was 26 years old.  I made it all the way through high school, college, and grad school without this tech.

While having this ability to instantly connect with anyone has its value, there were also side-benefits to the unplugged life.  There was a point in my life when I could go away and truly be away.  I could be alone … truly alone.

Now life is very different … and very connected.  Don’t get me wrong … I love it.  I love being able to call my wife, find my friends, get directions, etc.  And now, when I look down and notice that I have no service, I panic just a little bit because I’m off the grid.

And like Louis CK’s rant … it’s partly because that makes me realize something larger about the human condition (a fear deep inside) that I am alone.  It’s just me.  And someday I’ll be completely off the grid.  Which is scary … in the best way … because it reminds me that I’m alive, my own person, responsible for my life … and that I should probably find some better reception if I’d like to check my messages.

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Blog Reflection: Why are Generation Y Yuppies unhappy?


Why are Generation Y Yuppies unhappy?  That is the question this Huffington Post blog explores, explaining clearly why your life sucks (or at least why you think so).  The equation they use is Happiness = Expectations – Reality.  Interesting enough… and food for thought.  (Some of this Huff blog is NSFW, so avert your eyes before you get to the potty word!)

I’ll be honest … I usually take issue with these types of broad, sweeping sociological statements.  My issues usually are: people treat generation Y as though it were a monolithic entity, the basis for the claim that they are X, Y, or Z is often not established, these things conflate correlation with causality, and also I feel jealous because I’m too old for Gen Y but too young for Gen X.

In any case, my Technology class last night discussed online self-presentation and what is “the self”.  We talked about performativity by Judith Butler and wrestled with what it meant to present, perform, and or exhibit oneself online.  One thing we did not address directly yet was the compulsion for people to present an overly positive image online and/or the sociological side-effect of comparison of our personal knowledge of our actual lives with the projected image of other’s online lives.

The “Why are Generation Y Yuppies unhappy?” blog proposes an answer in the last section of the piece.  Its initial premise is that “Happiness = Expectations – Reality” … and for this connected generation, the digital house always wins.  There is some research to support these claims, as well.

This poses an interesting question for me to self-reflect on: Is my social media use making me unhappy, and if so … what should I do about it?

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Coordinating a class project with Twitter


When I was told that we would be doing a class-wide group project/presentation on social media adoption and uses, I was excited.  Class presentations are fun, and I’m okay with group work.  When I was told next that we would have to coordinate this whole thing using only Twitter, some of that excitement abated.  I like Twitter and all, but I just didn’t know how this was going to work.

Jumping to the end of the story … did we do a class presentation?  Yes.  Did it turn out okay?  Yes.  Was there lots of good information shared by several groups offering their unique perspectives?  Yes.  Was this a group of graduate level students who work hard and know how to do presentations?  You bet.  Was the success do to super smooth and coordinated tweeting?  Not so much.

While stories abound of flash mobs and revolutions coordinated solely on Twitter, we never really found our groove.  I can think of several reasons for that:

  • the technology is new to many in the class
  • some people just did not participate actively
  • because it is new we did not utilize programs like Hootsuite to keep track of everything
  • we did not utilize the class hashtag consistently
  • we did not create a unique hashtag for the event
  • the medium itself is not built for nuanced discussions because of its 140 character limit.

The class is filled with smart and capable people, and I’m sure this exercise would/will run much smoother if we did it again.  But this time can be chalked up to a “learning experience”.

That evening while we were presenting Dr. V pointed out that people have used this medium to coordinate revolutions and topple governments.  I’ve been reflecting on this statement and the similarities and differences of coordinating an academic group presentation and beckoning a mob of civil malcontents.  Perhaps we should also have a class project in which we foment revolution … Hmmm?  =)

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Mark Malkoff: Skype Around the World


Comedian Mark Malkoff embarks on a quest to Skype with people from 140 countries. In the end, he hits 162. Around 4:25 he brings everything together and reflects on his journey through social media.

I’m not sure I’m ready to go around the world yet with Skype … but I sure do appreciate the power of technology to bring people together. =)

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September 13, 2013 · 2:55 am

The Social Internet and Humor


I love social media for many reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is the ability to share humor.  Humor is an essential feature in human communication, and it finds its way in our computer-mediated communication, as well.  In fact, a recent study by Carr, Schrock, and Dauterman (2009) found that roughly 20% of Facebook statuses contained at least some humor.

I have been student of humor theory for many years, and I hope someday to get the opportunity to do some actual research about the interpersonal use of humor (whether online or face-to-face).  Humor is a rich area of study, and its interpersonal uses are quite interesting.  The three big classic humor theory camps are Superiority Theory, Relief Theory, and Incongruity Theory; they contemplate whether humor is to belittle others, relieve stress, or cognitively process dissonant ideas.  One recent addition to the literature has been a focus on the concept of playfulness and/or benign violations.  Okay, I’ll stop rambling…

All that being said, the internet and social media have given us an explosion of opportunities to engage with humor.  Some of it’s good, some of it’s not-so-good, some of it’s silly, and some of it is chock-full of social commentary.

I’m not sure yet how I’d classify the following, but one thing is for sure … I laughed really hard when my wife sent me the link today.  And in the end … it made me very thankful to be a part of this amazing social internet.  Enjoy! =)

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