+

Social Networks
Current Issues in Web Technology
Michael Heron
+

Introduction


In this lecture, we’re going to talk about the power of social
networking.




The most obvious poste...
+

The Power of Social Networks


Social Networking as a concept predates the internet by a good
long while.



The stud...
+

The BBS


The first social networks began with the Bulletin Board Systems
of the 70s and 80s



Buy, download or cre...
+

The BBS


This was before the internet was widely available.


It was one of the main ways people had to interact onl...
+

The BBS and the Internet


Easy access to the internet pretty much killed BBSes stone dead.




Those that didn’t di...
+

Six Degrees


The next significant milestone in the evolution of online social
networks was the web site SixDegrees.co...
+

Six Degrees of Separation


Even the idea of ‘six degrees of separation’ is an older one
borrowed by the designers of ...
+

The Small World Experiment


Upon receiving a parcel, the recipient was asked to deliver the
parcel.




Or, if they...
+

Friendster


Friendster was founded in 2002, predating:







Friendster was a model for everything that came af...
+

Friendster


Friendster is a case study in the importance of scaling.





Also suffered from problems managing the...
+

Facebook


The rise of Facebook is well documented in the movie The Social
Network.




Growth was quick and constan...
+

Facebook
+

Today


Today there are dozens of social networking sites.




Some old, some new.

Many of them have carved out ten...
+

Facebook


Facebook however remains the undisputed king of social
networking.






It seems hard to deny that Fac...
+

The Psychology of Social
Networking


Why did Facebook succeed when others failed or plataeued?




A lot of what we...
+

Class Exercise


Make a note of the social networks on which you have
accounts.




It doesn’t matter if you use the...
+

Class Exercise


Now, add in a thought exercise.



I am a new person in this class. I don’t know anyone here. I hav...
+

Positive Feedback Loop


One of the forces that has the biggest driving effect on
explosive growth is the positive fee...
+

Positive Feedback Loop


If a positive feedback loop has no upper or lower bounds, it
spirals out of control.




‘I...
+

Positive Feedback Loop


However, in the context of a social network, bigger is more
social.



More content means m...
+

Engagement


Facebook continues to dominate because it has achieved several
important feats.








Facebook buil...
+

Engagement
+

Engagement
+

Engagement
+

Content


In social networks, content is driven by users.




Content creation is a core activity of all users.


...
+

How did it happen?


So, how did Facebook manage these impressive feats?





To begin with, facebook adopted an ‘e...
+

Psychology of Exclusivity


Exclusivity creates a psychological pressure.





We have a natural tendency to want t...
+

Models of Diffusion


There are several theories that drive an understanding of
adoption.






Two step hypothesis...
+

Models of Diffusion


Evertt Rogers Diffusion Theory


Based on five categories of adopters
 Innovators
 Those ‘in ...
+

Diffusion


Another model focuses on ‘tipping point’ mechanics.




The point at which a trend becomes a social epid...
+

The Right Idea at the Right Time


Hard as it may be for some to believe, Apple did not invent the
Tablet.




The t...
+

The Right Idea at the Right Time


A lot of it has to do with the perception of the companies.





Microsoft were ...
+

Linking it Back


Social networking software is tightly related both to technological
adoption and social psychology.
...
+

Class Exercise (1)


In small groups.



Think of the following products:








The iPhone
The iPad
Facebook
F...
+

Class Exercise (2)


Again, in small groups.



Come up with an idea for some awesome technology.




Make an eleva...
+

Conclusion


Adoption and Diffusing of technology is a complex, many
layered phenomenon.




Technologies and concep...
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COMPISSUES01 - Social Networks and their Propagation

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A presentation introducing students to the psychology behind the propagation of social networks. Non-technical, and suitable for use in a 'soft skills' module.

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COMPISSUES01 - Social Networks and their Propagation

  1. 1. + Social Networks Current Issues in Web Technology Michael Heron
  2. 2. + Introduction  In this lecture, we’re going to talk about the power of social networking.   The most obvious poster child for the social networking revolution is Facebook.   And the impact it’s having on the way that we look at privacy and collaboration on the web. Although it wasn’t the first. We’re going to talk around this topic for this and the next two lectures.  There’s a lot of ground to cover.
  3. 3. + The Power of Social Networks  Social Networking as a concept predates the internet by a good long while.  The study of social networks began in the 30s, and emphasised the dyadic ties between actors within a particular context.    An actor can be a person or an organisation A dyad is a group of two actors The social networking software that you encounter on a day to day basis is an enabler of social interactions.  It only rarely creates networks that didn’t previously exist.
  4. 4. + The BBS  The first social networks began with the Bulletin Board Systems of the 70s and 80s   Buy, download or create their own communication software   An individual would buy some modems Open their phone lines for business BBSes were self-contained, usually locally constrained islands of interactivity.   The cost of phone calls made it prohibitively expensive for most people to call outside of local boundaries. They were collections of discussion boards, file archives and often primitive internal email systems.
  5. 5. + The BBS  This was before the internet was widely available.  It was one of the main ways people had to interact online.  All you needed was a phone line, a computer and a modem.  BBS owners were engaged in a scrabble for the hearts and minds of users.   This created a continual pressure to innovate.  New features  New boards  New files The BBS became the cornerstone of digital life for many people.
  6. 6. + The BBS and the Internet  Easy access to the internet pretty much killed BBSes stone dead.   Those that didn’t disappear evolved into Internet Service Providers.   But in the process they lost the camaraderie that created the social cohesion in their users. Many tried to adopt a hybrid approach.    They disappeared, almost entirely, over the course of a couple of years. Telnet back-end Web based discussion forum They never recovered the influence they once had.
  7. 7. + Six Degrees  The next significant milestone in the evolution of online social networks was the web site SixDegrees.com.   It allowed users to create profiles, invite friends, make groups, and examine the profiles of other people.   Baed on the ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game. The set menu of a social network site. An especially ‘in your face’ attitude with regards to promotion meant that it managed to alienate a lot of potential users.  Driven away by the constant drive to bring in a new people.
  8. 8. + Six Degrees of Separation  Even the idea of ‘six degrees of separation’ is an older one borrowed by the designers of social networks.  It derives from an experiment of Stanley Milgram.   Which in turn derives from earlier experiments by Michael Gurevich and Manfred Kochen. Milgram formulated the ‘Small World Problem’.    Imagine the population as a social network What is the average path length between any two nodes? Milgram send random ‘information packets’ to people.  These packets included letters outlining the study’s purpose, and a target destination in Boston, Massachussets.
  9. 9. + The Small World Experiment  Upon receiving a parcel, the recipient was asked to deliver the parcel.   Or, if they didn’t know the destination, to pass it on to someone they knew personally who was more likely to know the target. Each time the parcel was forwarded, the person involved signed a roster.  A postcard was also sent to the researchers so they could track progress of parcels.  The number of signatures identified path length.  Postcards allowed for researchers to locate broken chains.  Of the 64 letters that made it to the targets, the average path length was just shy of six.
  10. 10. + Friendster  Friendster was founded in 2002, predating:      Friendster was a model for everything that came afterwards.     MySpace (2003) Facebook (2004) Orkut (2004) Bebo (2005) But suffered from slow load times. Growth was slowing A general sense of ‘what do I do now’? MySpace flared into popularity.  And then flared out.  Technical problems
  11. 11. + Friendster  Friendster is a case study in the importance of scaling.    Also suffered from problems managing the technical development.   ‘Second System Syndrome’ Growth was unchecked.   The website failed to scale to demand. As a result, it became less pleasant for everyone to use. Looks good on paper, bad for those responsible for providing spare capacity. Growth was unexpected.  Who woulda thunk it?
  12. 12. + Facebook  The rise of Facebook is well documented in the movie The Social Network.   Growth was quick and constant.   Soon extended to other universities in the states. Began with a ‘must have a particular email address’ model.   Much more so than any of the earlier organisations. Began as an exclusive network for students at Harvard.   Although, of course, not to any necessary standard of accuracy. We’ll talk about this more in a bit. Scaled up via ‘partitions’  New universities were opened up when capacity was available.
  13. 13. + Facebook
  14. 14. + Today  Today there are dozens of social networking sites.   Some old, some new. Many of them have carved out tens or hundreds of millions of users.   Google+ - 170M accounts, ??? Active Users  Twitter – 500M accounts, ??? Active Users   Linkedin – 100M accounts, 23m Active Users Pinterest – 10M accounts, 2m Active users Genuine stats difficult to find.  Lots of secrecy and massaging of figures.
  15. 15. + Facebook  Facebook however remains the undisputed king of social networking.     It seems hard to deny that Facebook changed the world.   955M accounts 552M active users 29% annual growth rate Not because it was the first or best The rise of facebook as a platform has changed the way we view the world and how we approach sharing and collaboration.  And we’ll talk about this over the coming weeks.
  16. 16. + The Psychology of Social Networking  Why did Facebook succeed when others failed or plataeued?   A lot of what we can learn about how it worked is transferable to other contexts.   This entire term is going to have a lot to do with that. There is a lot of positive feedback that drives the adoption of social networks.   A lot of it is in the psychology of adoption. People use a social network, so other people use the social network. Positive feedback drives most explosive growth cycles.
  17. 17. + Class Exercise  Make a note of the social networks on which you have accounts.   It doesn’t matter if you use them any more. Rate them between one and ten for the following criteria:   Usefulness   Activity of your friends How often you check Get together in small groups of 5 or 6  And then compare and average your results.
  18. 18. + Class Exercise  Now, add in a thought exercise.   I am a new person in this class. I don’t know anyone here. I have, for some reason, never used a social network. I know what they are, but I don’t have an account.  I want to make friends, and I want to be kept up to date with what’s going on.   Imagine your group from the perspective of a fictional extra member. Based on my experience in this group, which social network(s) would I join and in what order? Discuss this amongst yourselves for a few minutes, and then we’ll ask the audience.
  19. 19. + Positive Feedback Loop  One of the forces that has the biggest driving effect on explosive growth is the positive feedback loop.  A feedback loop is a response to an action.     Negative feedback loops are corrective.   It’s cold, you turn up the heater. It’s loud, so you turn down the speakers. You like the way the loud beats make you feel, so you turn up the noise turn up the funk The action taken has the result of lowering the impact of the stimulus. Positive feedback loops have the opposite effect.
  20. 20. + Positive Feedback Loop  If a positive feedback loop has no upper or lower bounds, it spirals out of control.   ‘It’s cold, so I should make it colder’ – the last words of Frozen McIcicle. The temperature dial in his house was a touch off of absolute zero. Adoption rates for social networks are driven by this kind of feedback loop.  This network has a lot of users, so I should join it.   Thus, the network has more users. This doesn’t impact on everyone the same way.  Some people will naturally avoid what’s popular.
  21. 21. + Positive Feedback Loop  However, in the context of a social network, bigger is more social.   More content means more sharing  More sharing means more activity  More activity means more comments   More users means more content. More comments means more users Google+ for all its installed user base, is a ghost town compared to Facebook.  Your mileage may vary here.
  22. 22. + Engagement  Facebook continues to dominate because it has achieved several important feats.     Facebook builds a relationship with its users that is hard for others to emulate.   It generates explosive growth  Will that continue? It’s hard to say. People return to the site.  And they return often Visitors stay for a long time per visit.  During which time they are consuming or creating content. And we will talk about that too in a little bit. Following graphs from http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2012/05/17/sure-facebook-has-900million-users-but-its-engagement-is-smoked-by-these-other-sites/
  23. 23. + Engagement
  24. 24. + Engagement
  25. 25. + Engagement
  26. 26. + Content  In social networks, content is driven by users.   Content creation is a core activity of all users.   In this sense, content is a like, a status update, a link, a photo. And it drives engagement. Why check a site if nobody is updating? Google+ shows a somewhat sombre picture of engagement:      Average post has <1 reply, reshare and +1 15% attrition rate for users with five posts Average time between posts is 12 days Average number of posts per user declines steadily every month. On average, users spend 3.3 minutes on the site every month.  By comparison, for Facebook is 7.5 hours per month.
  27. 27. + How did it happen?  So, how did Facebook manage these impressive feats?    To begin with, facebook adopted an ‘exclusivity’ model for membership.   Explosive growth High engagement You had to have a Harvard email address to join. This creates a kind of ‘exclusive club’.   If you put barriers in front of membership, people will value membership more. If people can’t get access, it creates a demand for that access.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDjuz3IBNg
  28. 28. + Psychology of Exclusivity  Exclusivity creates a psychological pressure.    We have a natural tendency to want to ‘belong’ Social networks capitalise on that tendency. However, it’s not useful by itself, and not in certain contexts.  Gmail achieved explosive growth by combining exclusivity with an illusion of scarcity.   Google+ employed the same tactic, but it didn’t work.   Limited invites per person. Why not? Novelty, utility and ‘coolness’ play a role.
  29. 29. + Models of Diffusion  There are several theories that drive an understanding of adoption.    Two step hypothesis.  We tell the media, the media tell opinion leaders, they tell the rest of us. Trickle Down Effect  New technology is expensive, and thus it achieves a kind of cachet as a trinket of wealth until it becomes affordable. Chasm crossing  Marketing driven – identify the next target group, using existing groups as the baseline.  Technological Acceptance Models  Driven by ease of use and perceived usefulness
  30. 30. + Models of Diffusion  Evertt Rogers Diffusion Theory  Based on five categories of adopters  Innovators  Those ‘in the know’  Early adopters  Leaders in social contexts, popular, well respected  Early majority  Deliberate, conscious of value and worth  Late majority  Sceptical, poorer  Laggards  Driven into adoption by social saturation.
  31. 31. + Diffusion  Another model focuses on ‘tipping point’ mechanics.   The point at which a trend becomes a social epidemic. Based on ‘three laws’:  The law of the few  Three types of people who drive rapid diffusion  Connectors (the socialites)  Mavens (the experts)  Salespeople (the convincers)  The stickiness factor  How worthwhile an idea or tool is  The law of context  Geographical locations, current mental state of populations
  32. 32. + The Right Idea at the Right Time  Hard as it may be for some to believe, Apple did not invent the Tablet.   The tablet PC failed then.   Microsoft has a working tablet PC in 1999. And Microsoft were roundly mocked for thinking it was worth pursuing. First generation ipad released in 2010    ‘Changes the face of computing’ ‘Killer of the desktop PC’ What’s the difference?
  33. 33. + The Right Idea at the Right Time  A lot of it has to do with the perception of the companies.    Microsoft were a stodgy, business focused company. Apple are cool and groovy Some of it had to do with technological limitations.   Which were more marked in those days. Some of it had to do with the context.  People just weren’t ready for mobile computing.  Mobile computing devices weren’t as ‘useful’  The services to make use of them weren’t there.
  34. 34. + Linking it Back  Social networking software is tightly related both to technological adoption and social psychology.   Six Degrees shows roughly how ‘interconnected’ we are.    They large codify existing relationships and permit new relationships to form. From person to person, there are roughly six degrees of separation. I worked with Sting’s brother in law, and he was related to Sting, who worked on the movie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with Jason Flemyng, who worked on X-Men first Class with Kevin Bacon.  And you all know me. Social networks let us define and explore the clusters and stickiness of those interconnections.  And we need to know how we can explore them.
  35. 35. + Class Exercise (1)  In small groups.  Think of the following products:      The iPhone The iPad Facebook Farmville Analyse the following:     How it became popular How it spread influence What was the context of the technology? How you have encountered it in your own lives.
  36. 36. + Class Exercise (2)  Again, in small groups.  Come up with an idea for some awesome technology.   Make an elevator pitch for that idea.   It has to be feasible, but you don’t necessarily have to know how to do it. 30 seconds pitch you could give someone in an elevator. Decide on a process by which you would get the word out there using the resources you have personally.  Who would you contact?  How would they help?
  37. 37. + Conclusion  Adoption and Diffusing of technology is a complex, many layered phenomenon.   Technologies and concepts succeed as much from adoption as they do from value.   It’s difficult to unpack it from context. Many valuable and useful technologies were beaten by technically inferior, but more marketable alternatives. Understanding the way technologies are adopted is important.  Because at some point you may well have to sell your own ideas to someone.
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