Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Unfortunately, I will not be able to recreate my liveblog of the WWW07 Tagging Workshop. So I will just provide the links to all the great papers presented there. Another big thank you goes out to Scott Golder and Frank Smadja for organizing a wonderful workshop.

9am: Network Properties of Folksonomies

9:30am: Tag-Cloud Drawing: Algorithms for Cloud Visualization

10am: Semkey: A Semantic Collaborative Tagging System

10:30am:  Emerging Motivations for Tagging: Expression, Performance and Activism (my paper, the presentation was very well received!)

11am: Applying Collaborative Tagging to E-Learning

11:30am: Learning User Profiles from Tagging Data and Leveraging them for Personal(ized) Information Access

12pm: Towards federated Web2.0 sites: the FolkDesk approach

After the formal presentations, we had a very informal break-out session where we mostly talked about my suggestion, which was “Beyond-text, utilizing multimedia for tagging”, we also extended our talk into tagging real-space and possible motivations for doing so. There was some great input from Mor Naaman, who works at Yahoo! Research Berkley, and is responsible for the great TagMaps application.

My main take-away from the workshop was the discovery that there have actually been no user studies conducted on tagging, and so I have decided that part of my dissertation will definitely include user studies, specifically looking at the motivations for tagging across different systems (ie not only ones that are specifically designed for organization such as Flickr).

I also took some great pictures of Banff, which was an amazingly beautiful location. I honestly did not want to leave. You can view some of my pictures here:

Banff 2007

Here is a great analysis by one of my professors about Virginia Tech shooting:

Media Spectacle and the “Massacre at Virginia Tech” by Douglas Kellner

In class we also talked about how many members of Facebook changed their profiles pictures to this ribbon shown below. In fact, many VT student and alum profiles still contain this picture.

Once time passed, people were not sure of the appropriate etiquette as it regards online inteaction. How much time needs to pass before “it’s ok” to revert back to a normal profile picture, or is acceptable to post silly wall messages, and be happy in general. Additionally, some of the slain student’s profiles became “virtual memorials”, see the USA today piece for further details. One of the most interesting aspects of the memorialized profiles was that many people still posted messages directly to the slain person. Is this the virtual way of dealing with grief? Finally, here is an interesting blog post by an individual who lost a brother in an accident, and still visits his MySpace page.

The paper that I submitted to the WWW07 Tagging workshop is titled Emerging Motivations for Tagging: Expression, Performance, and Activism and can be found here:

You can also find my PPT presentation here:

Social tagging systems have generally been designed and used for personal information organization and retrieval. People use a variety of sites to tag photos, websites, blogs, and videos. Recently, commercial websites such as, have also implemented tagging on their websites. This type of tagging is not only social, where users can view other’s tags and resources, but collective or collaborative, where any user can tag any resource. By analyzing the tags of two sites that implement free-for-all tagging – and – this paper describes emergent social motivations for tagging. The motivations that were found in the systems include expression, performance, and activism.

General Summary:

Social tagging originated with sites such as delicious and Flickr, which were specifically designed for the storage, organization, and later retrieval of personal resources. As more sites, such as Amazon,, and Slashdot, implement free-for-all tagging, where any user can tag any resource on the system, increasingly social motivations for tagging tend to emerge. These systems implement free-for-all tagging, where any user can tag any resource. Free-for-all tagging is a social act the impacts the entire community of users as everyone can see everyone else’s tags. Therefore, user may be aware of or perceive an audience for their tags. My hypothesis, which I test with quantitative data from Amazon and, states that in systems which were not originally designed for organization of personal resources and which implement free-for-all tagging, the nature of the tags and the act of tagging itself becomes a social or even collaborative activity.

There was an accident, and the last 6 months of data got unintentionally deleted from the server. Since I run my own web servers, and did not properly back things up (have learned my lesson), I have lost the last 6 months of posts to this blog. I am going to attempt to reconstruct some of them, so apologizes ahead of time for the large amount of activity that might be going on here.

I just came back from North Carolina, after two amazing days at a symposium. The wiki (with session notes) for the symposium can be found here:

I kind of want to list my take-away’s from the meeting:

Social Tagging

According to Thomas Vander Wal:

  • a tag is a simple data/metada applied to an object
  • the act of tagging is done by the person consuming the information vs the producers of the information.
  • tagging is mainly about re-findability
  • according to neilson assessment, only .5% of the web are tagging

So then my question is, is social tagging mainly about re-findability? Other people at the meeting suggested that perhaps the social aspects of tagging are about sense-making, community building, gaining new ideas, norm-shaping.

Fred Stuztman brought up an interesting point, how do we get novice users to understand how to tag so that they can find the object later? The problem is that people are in a new mental/cognitive space when they are trying to find information versus when they are saving it, so it is not always easy to recall the thought patterns that you had when you stored and tagged the object when you are trying to retrieve it. My suggestion: perhaps additional contextual cues can be added to the object to help in trigger memory?

Other possible research questions that arose out of the meeting which I found to be interesting include:

  • How do tags function?
  • How do they help people find things and make-sense of things?
  • How do tagging practices change over time? How can we discover this methodologically?
  • What is the effectiveness of tags? How do we measure effectiveness?
  • What practices/people/professions are privileged by a textual tagging system? Who is represented in the system?
  • What can tagging practices say about the community of users? How can tags bring about community?
  • Do the tags that are least frequently used provide the most interesting information about the individual?
  • How are people using tags in non-standard ways?

Personally, I would like to see how tags/tagging habits are creating community, how tags are being used in novel ways (activism, expression, identity formation), and how the design of the system itself is privileges, defines, and limits the types of interaction that takes place.

Finally, Zeynap made an interesting point when she said that social tagging systems are at the intersection of the social and informational. I personally want to study what occurs at that intersection, and the role of tagging in that dynamic.

Social Network Sites

Andrea Forte brought up a very interesting point, which basically sums up much of the discussion about SNS. She said that social tagging is about openess, letting go of the (vocabulary) control, its about emergence. While SNS are about constraints – constraining natural social interaction within a bounded space. So we need to think about the design of the site or context of design (what the site was originally intended for), and how the uses of the site differ from the context of design. Additionally, values are being build into software by designers of the systems. How do these values shape sociality?

Other people raised the following interesting quetions:

  • Why are SNS sites closed off? Why can’t you add a MySpace friend to Facebook?
  • What is the nature of the artifacts created by SNS?
  • What is the definition of an SNS site? What does it look like?
  • How are people exploring identities in these communities?
  • How do expectations differ from online/offline communities? What are the costs?

We also spoke a great deal about the social tensions that arise from the design of the sites, such as the “Top 8” on MySpace, as well as the very ambiguous use of the word “friend” to describe connections. Social connections in real life are much more subtle and mutli-dimensional than the explicit, flat-space of SNS sites, how can the sites be designed to reflect that? Can the subtle differences be reflected at all? Should they even be? What does this mean for a person’s identity formation?

Fred also had an incredibly interesting insight: When we create profiles on SNS sites, are we actually tagging ourselves? (I am still chewing on this one, its mind blowing!)

Alice Marwick and I spoke about the fact that there hasn’t been much research done on the emotional/affective aspects of the SNS sites. The sites do create a great deal of social tension and emotional responses, and research (ethnographic of course) needs to be conducted to understand this very important link for people to SNS.

Also, I would like to mention something that myself and Fred talked about briefly, which is the tension between the commercial aspects of the SNS sites and the users. The site developers can implement or restrict any type of interaction, however their entire business model depends on user-generated content, so then there is perhaps a tension between what the developers think the users want and the actual user needs. This was exemplified by the Facebook news-feeds which upset many users of the systems. This type of tension is also exemplary of the work that I have recently been doing on activism, my adviser Dr. Leah Lievrouw calls it the cycle of co-opation. The users create the content that makes the site valuable, the corporations co-opt it (buy it) and perhaps modify it, the users en masse co-opt the system to fight against the corporate agenda.

Finally, I think the one aspect that we did not talk about at the meeting was a theoretical framework for researching the social sites. I personally feel that social construction and social epistemology would be a good start. I will certainly try to further (start?) the theoretical discussion through my academic work/publications (which I will be writing during my winter break).

Thanks again to Fred for a fantastic meeting!

UCPD officers shot a student several times with a Taser inside the Powell Library CLICC computer lab late Tuesday night before taking him into custody. Here is the full story from school newspaper

The YouTube video is even more horrifying and disturbing. I could not watch all of it.

Their actions were completely unjust, and horrific. No one is "safe" when people are abused and mistreated. Many of the students in the library begged the officers to stop, and asked for their identification, but the officers just kept tasering the student. They blatantly misued their power. They even tasered the poor guy when he was handcuffed.

I hope that the officers that did this get fired, and that the school bans the use of tasers on campus.

I am really excited because I have been invited to attend the UNC Social Software Symposium, which will be held from December 8-9 at UNC Chapel Hill. Fred Stutzman, the academic expert on Facebook, put it together. The symposium will bring people together that do research on social software and tagging. My research is obviously concentrating on the social tagging/classification aspects, so I am really looking forward to spending two days bouncing ideas with other people and hopefully making contacts for future collaborations. I also seriously need to think/talk about appropriate methodologies for researching social software. Currently, I am thinking of doing longitudinal sampling, social network analysis, survey, and follow up interviews. Perhaps its too much work? But this is my dissertation and all. I hope to get some good feedback on this in December, and will certainly report back what I learned.

I attended the ASIST conference in Austin, TX this year and had a really great experience. First of all, Austin kicks so much ass. Its a big enough city that there is loads of stuff to do and lots of great restaurants, but its not at all overcrowded. Plus its fairly cheap (but than again, everything is cheap compared to LA).

I attended the social classification workshop (as it is quite relevant to my dissertation), and was happy to find out that no one at that meeting is doing the research that I am aiming to do for my dissertation, which certainly makes me feel relieved. It was also really interesting to see the very different perspectives people take on the issue of social classification. Ranging from cultural issues, information retrieval, and integration of tagging into libraries OPAC systems (ex: PennTags).

I also got to see Tony Moore and Kalpana Shankar from IU, so it was really great to catch up to them! Kalpana was part of a great panel on activism, which was actually my favorite panel of the whole conference. While Tony managed to rope me into doing a technical panel for ASIST next year, which I am looking forward to. The theme for next year’s conference is Web 2.0, which should prove to be extremely interesting and I will definitely be attending.

Well I haven’t posted for a while mainly due to the fact that I am getting married in a month and so my life has been uber hectic. Last minute problems keep popping up that need immediate attention. Even though I am currently in LA I am getting married back in Bloomington at the Fourwinds Resort and Marina. I really hope I can come back to IU to teach once I am done with my degree here, I really love B-town.

Speaking of degrees, I started my dissertation a year early (wohoo!). I seriously want to finish ASAP :) This summer I spent 2 months writing an NSF grant to fund my work. Grant writing is certainly an experience, even if not a pleasant one. Here is a quick synopsis of what my work will be about:

Conduct an exploratory study of tagging and bookmarking activities among users of a popular social-bookmarking web site (, to understand how these activities generate emergent, collaborative schemes for classifying information (such as collective tagging or folksonomies) that manifest the participants’ collective or social sense of the relevance of information.

Basically, I am going to argue that information filtering and relevance perception is no longer just an individual cognitive process, but a social process as well.


Posted on: June 19, 2006

I just found this really cool info online that tells you how to make acrobat reader load really fast (basically by taking away all the unnecessary plug-ins). Here are the instructions:

Go to your C Drive -> Program Files -> Adobe Acrobat
Open the folder called "Reader"
Create a folder called "optional"
Move all files from the "plug-in" folder to the "optional" folder except: EWH32.api, print.api, search.api

I tried it and it make acrobat load wicked fast!

Alla Zollers

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