Session 7: How Solutions Happen

In our final session, we read about Paul Graham’s ideas for Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas.  Who is this Paul Graham?  He’s an author, essayist, technologist, and innovator who has a background in fine art as well as computer science.  He seems to have some experience (understatement).  He was one of the leaders in the dot com era and obviously still is.  His philosophy is that the future innovators of new and revolutionary technology should be more direction-oriented rather than focused on goal-specific ideals.  He has some interesting ideas for startups but I do have to disagree with him on one.

I don’t agree with all his ideas on revolutionizing email.  While I do agree that others shouldn’t be allowed to put whatever they want on your “to do” list, i.e. your email, I don’t agree that most people would be willing to pay for it.  Everyone is so used to getting free email that the thought of paying for email would be a huge turnoff.  It would do to email subscribers what the CEO of Netflix did to customers when he changed the prices on subscription:  push them away.  Pay $50/mo for email?  Are you kidding me?  I can’t even bring myself to pay the $4.99 or whatever it is a month for Netflix!  I’m a poor student!  I guess that’s why it’s listed in the “frightening” category.

My idea for a frighteningly ambitious startup would involve a life-digitizing service.  I want a company that can come into your life and digitize all the media that you own, including your books, CDs, DVDs, photos, VHSs, and even old artwork that you’ve created at a reasonable price.  The world is heading towards being an information-driven community and digitizing on the individual level will help ease the transition.  Not only will it help the individual get used to the idea of digital accessibility, it will reduce the need for more raw resources, taking a step towards a sustainable culture. Individuals would be able to search for as well as share their personal information easier through digitally-organized libraries of different types of media.  This revolution has already been laid out by applications such as iTunes and digitized public library materials.

There would be a lot of people that would be frightened this startup.  An example of this can be found in the acceptance of digital readers like the Kindle.  Some people say that they don’t like the idea of reading a book like that and would rather read a book where they can turn the tangible pages and not a digital semblance of doing it.  Many also like the idea of owning physical objects and having collections that they can proudly display to others.  Personally, I’m sick of moving my hundreds of books, DVDs and CDs everywhere I move (and I’ve moved ten times since 1999, one of them being from Kansas City to Hawaii)!

One aspect of the social information infrastructure that will benefit my startup is that the social framework for digital media is already being developed.  Innovators like Apple and Amazon have already started making digital materials available for customers as an alternative to the traditional media.  This digitization of media and the revolutionized way of distributing it to the consumer has constructed the building blocks of the social information infrastructure upon which the future distribution and acceptance of digitized media can be built on. Not only have both Apple and Amazon embraced new digital media that can be distributed through the social information infrastructure, they have also created ways to add value to that digital media through ranking and rating systems that help the consumer decide what information is right for them.

Another aspect of the social information infrastructure that would help is one that keeps coming up.  Many of us have agreed that cloud computing will be a major player in the social information infrastructure.  It will provide a resource that can be utilized in not only the storage of the digital media but also the rapid distribution of it.  It will help de-clutter everyday living as will as provide a backup source for personal media that can be stored away safely in case something happens to an individual’s local copies. It provides another protective layer against the loss of information in the social information infrastructure.

Session 6: Grand Challenges

The grand challenge that I’m interested in is a sort of expansion (explosion?) from my choice for the GOMC.  Whereas Hawaiian Hope hopes to bring technology to the poor and homeless, UNIDO aims to do a similar thing with industrialization on a much grander scale for developing countries and nations in transition.  The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is an agency that is comprised of 174  member states of the United Nations and consists of a staff from diverse backgrounds, as is part of the definition of a grand challenge.  They help these countries industrialize in a way that reduces poverty and increases globalization in a sustainable manner.  This mission is very close to what I want to do eventually.  I want to help bring Laos, the country I was born in and where half my family still is, out of its technological and industrial poverty-stricken slump and into a more prosperous future without having to sacrifice its natural beauty and resources.  Now that, to me, is quite a grand challenge.

The three core stakeholders that would benefit from the accomplishment of this grand challenge are the people in those countries, their governments and the globalized community in general.  The lives of the people in these countries would change dramatically.  There would be more jobs, education and most importantly (taking a cue from my GOMC choice) hope.  I know that with my family there is a definite lack of hope where they are.  If one little thing goes wrong like someone getting sick, it could turn into a devastating event quickly.  With the increase of the jobs and education, the third would definitely follow.  The main distraction with the people in these countries is that they are worried about just living day to day.  How are they going to get food, how are they going to keep their house and how are they going to make it to the next day.  Worrying about their children’s education can fall by the wayside very quickly.  UNIDO has numerous resources, documentation and information on their site that provides solutions to numerous problems encountered by these nations.  One way to overcome their “distraction” provided by UNIDO is free education, whether it’s in entrepreneurship or how to elevate living standards.

The next stakeholder that would change would be the governments of these nations.  This may be good for the governments, but if they resist change, then it might be bad.  Revolutions are developed in this way.  For my example, I do hope that the government changes in Laos.  It’s a communist government right now and I think that’s what is keeping it from enjoying the growing success of its neighbors like Thailand and Cambodia.  I think that’s the main resistance from governments is that they are afraid of change and what that means to the present government.  These governments need to look at how other governments have benefited from this challenge and realize that sometimes change is good.  For example, although Vietnam is also communist, I think that their government learned to adapt to this industrialization, producing slightly better results than in Laos.

Lastly, I think the entire globalized community will benefit and change in response to this accomplishment.  New ways to reduce poverty and industrialize and still be sustainable may be realized in the process of helping these nations and these realizations may still be applied to already industrialized nations.  There are always better ways of doing things and this would help in bringing new ideas and innovations to the table. The globalized community may be resistance to this because they are afraid of competition.  Nations are always competing against each other such as when the US competed against Russia for the chance to land on the moon.  In the end, that competition drove those nations into more advanced world powers.  It shows that competition is a good thing and that’s the reason that the globalized community shouldn’t fear the competition from these newly industrial countries.

The keyword phrases that I used on the Google AdWords Keyword Tool were technology for the poor, assisting the homeless, and computers for kids. Here are the results:

Term Global Monthly Searches Local Monthly Searches
technology for the poor 3600 1600
assisting the homeless 590 480
computers for kids 49500 22200

Google-generated Keyword Ideas:

Term Global Monthly Searches Local Monthly Searches
free computers 1220000 135000
home computers 201000 49500
computer for kids 201000 110000

Those keywords generated by Google would probably be used by those that want to benefit from Hawaiian Hope’s services but not by those that wish to donate or help the organization in other ways.  They seem very generic but maybe that will bring more traffic to the site.  I’m just now learning how to use these tools myself.

Session 5: Collaboration and Coordination

Let’s be honest:  everyone hates group work.  I don’t think that I’m being negative.  I’m just being realistic based on past experiences. I think I’m a team player, but, then again, maybe everyone else thinks that about themselves as well. Inevitably, the effort and work gets unbalanced and some people end up doing more of the work and some people end up skating by.  The larger the group, the more people get to skate by.  It’s even more difficult to build a virtual team, where it doesn’t seem to connect that your teammates are actual people.  I’m not saying that I think of my teammates as bots or vague entities.  I’m just saying that there’s a disconnect when it comes to interacting with anyone in a virtual environment.  People tend to act in a way that’s a bit different than they would act in person.  The virtuality of the Internet is used as a buffer from accountability.

So what can be done to bridge that gap of reality?  One idea that I think will eventually transform into a way for virtual teams to collaborate is Internet TV brought up by jkantonio in Session 2.  I don’t think Internet TV will just be an entertainment hub. We are just beginning to develop ways to collaborate virtually, starting with tools like Google Docs.  With this tool, documents can be viewed, edited, and/or saved by anyone whose email is added to the document’s shared list.  I think that tools like Google Docs will be especially valuable in virtual team collaborations if it is integrated into new innovations such as Internet TV.  I think it will be a new way to do business due to its interactive capabilities and network connections. It’s similar to those shoot’em-up video games where you collaborate with others online to form a team to fight another team.  Those games integrate headsets where you can verbally communicated with your teammates.  Why couldn’t that be used for virtual teams with a business purpose as well?

If we go back to our first reading by Bowker et al., a partial description of the social information infrastructure involved “value-added systems and services that can be widely shared across scientific
domains.”  Putting a business spin on Internet TV would definitely be a service that would transform that innovation into an interactive information infrastructure that can be a valuable resource for virtual teams.  It would be one step closer to reality than traditional virtual collaboration because, if integrated with headsets, it would be one more way to solidify who your teammates are in real life.

Unfortunately, that technology isn’t available right now for our GOMC team. Luckily, we can still utilize Google Docs for our pre-campaign report.  What are three ways we can develop trust amongst our teams at this early stage in our collaboration?  The most important one is to act with integrity. To build trust with me, a teammate should just “maintain consistent and balanced communication” as stated in our team-building reading.  As long as there is evidence of active participation, I tend to trust my teammate.  The quality of the work can always be worked on later.  First, communication should be the first step in creating a virtual team.

Another way to build trust at this early stage is to demonstrate constructive behavior.  This is especially poignant for me as the team captain of my GOMC team.  I’m trying to lead by example.  I want this team to be successful and I try to lead it in a positive way.  I’ve been in teams where the leader has been negative and pessimistic and it has always been a horrible experience.  Who wants to even try if the leader is already giving up?

A final way to build early trust is to build the self-esteem of your teammates.  Many people are hesitant to participate because they fear being put down or embarrassing themselves.  Team members need to maintain an environment, whether virtual or not, that encourages participation by not putting down other teammates.  Everyone works at their own pace and in their own way.  Understanding and being a positive criticizer is a good way to build the trust with your teammates.

Fried reaffirms the sentiment that everyone works in their own way in his talk.  He also says that meetings are detrimental to productivity and I have to say that I agree.  In meetings, which are time-constrained, people aren’t given time to process what the other people are saying or presenting.  With virtual teams, the ways that we can look at the material at our own times and process it in our own way and pace is a beneficial aspect.  It’s often better for me to look at something, go away and do something else and then come back and work on the original thing.  It gives me time to process it and analyze it.

A concept from the talk by Wujec is the importance of feedback.  The kindergarten students were more successful in their collaborations because with each prototype that they built, they worked through an iterative process built on feedback.  This is a valuable lesson that can be applied to our GOMC teams.  We may not get it right the first time, but the important thing is to give each other feedback about what we think can be improved in the next version.  As long as this is done in a positive, constructive manner, teams can build on their past ventures and create better versions of their prototypes.

Everyone works differently and what works best for one person may be totally wrong for another.  Personally, I work best in a quiet environment where I am secluded.  I get distracted very easily and it’s hard for me to focus on one particular thing usually.  I need to physically put myself in a space where there is no one else and almost nothing else.  It’s hard enough for me to work on my laptop since one of my biggest distractions is the Internet.  There’s always Facebook or YouTube or even the news calling me.  Another big distraction for me is my phone.  Every time it lights up or buzzes, I always have to pick it up.  It’s almost attached to me.  My last major distraction is other people.  It’s difficult to be in the same room with someone while I’m trying to do work.  I always want to know what the other person is doing. I find that, although these are all distractions, they are sometimes beneficial for me.  Going back to what I said earlier about individuals processing things at their own pace, I think these distractions give me time to process my work at my own pace.  If I just stare at my work, sometimes I create a block on my productivity.  Taking a mini break from my work with these distractions can be a way to subconsciously process the work.

My biggest fear for this virtual collaboration on our GOMC project is that teammates are not being held accountable.  As a leader, I try to lead by example.  I also try to encourage participation in a positive manner.  I don’t want to appear as if I’m trying to nag people.  That will accomplish nothing.  I don’t want to have to babysit but I also don’t want us to fail.  It’s hard to find a balance between all these aspects.  My hope is that we can all be adults enough and contribute what we can.  I know everyone has their strengths, and I guess it’s the job of a leader to figure out what those strengths are and build on them.

Session 4: Social Information Seeking

According to the Evans & Chi reading, “social search” is a wide-sweeping term that covers any type of search that involves any type of social interaction.  It could range from just asking some stranger on campus where to get to Sakamaki Hall to writing letters to congressmen to posting a question as a status on Facebook inquiring where the best place to get malasadas is in Honolulu (I saw a red velvet and cream cheese malasada picture somewhere, nom nom).

I am a server in a restaurant here in town.  I’m not going to tell you where (let’s just say it’s the busiest restaurant here).  We have over thirty servers on during the dinner shift.  Despite it being so busy, we still find time to be social.  It’s amazing how much social interaction occurs when people try to avoid work or are just standing there cutting bread next to each other. Many social searches occur there amongst our coworkers and especially during our interactions with our guests, many of whom are tourists.   One of my recent searches involved a question from some guests in their early 20s asking, “where should we go out tonight?”  Now, if they had asked, “where should we go hiking?” or “what should we do at the North Shore?”, I would have had many answers at my disposal, but this was an area of study in which I am not very knowledgeable.  This was a question for my coworkers who did live in Waikiki and were themselves in their early 20s!

Let’s take Evans & Chi’s six survey questions and decompose my efforts:

1. What kind of information were you searching for?

At first I thought I just wanted to know where these youngsters should get their drink on, but I came to realize there were more factors to consider.  What type of music did they like?  What kind of crowd did they normally hang around?  Were they single and looking to mingle or attached at the hip already?  These were the kinds of questions I got as a reply from my coworkers.

2. Did you talk with anyone before you searched?

I talked to numerous people during the process of the search.  I talked to the bartenders, to people at the bread station, to cooks in the kitchen, and even to a couple of managers.  Maybe this question is kind of backwards because after talking to everyone and not getting a common, or even a majority, answer, I fell back on my last resort, my iPhone.  I did a search on Yelp and tried to remember what everyone told me about the places that came up in the search.

3. What steps did you take to find this information?

Like I said above, I went to numerous people and then resorted to use my phone.

4. What did you do just after you searched?

I went back to the table and had a conversation with my guests about their upcoming evening’s events.  I was more informed of the potential questions they might have for me due to the questions that my coworkers had asked me in return.

5. If other people were nearby, were you interacting with them or were they influencing your search process?

Yes, I’d say they were not only influencing my search process, they WERE my search process.

6. After you found the information, did you share it with anyone? If yes, how did you share it?

Yes, I shared it with the guests that had asked.  Not only did I share it with them, I went back around the same circles I had asked the questions and gave them updates of what kinds of answers I had gotten in my little quest.  It was entertaining as well as informative.  It certainly helped my shift that night go by just a tad quicker.

Did my search break the “canonical social model” described in Evans & Chi’s paper?  I’d say so.  My search wasn’t so cut and dry.  It didn’t easily break up into three main steps. My search, due to the limits of my having to be a certain areas of the restaurant at certain times, involved a back-and-forth type of process.  Also, I didn’t really consider it just one type of search behavior.  It was more of a combination of the three. The element that would be missing from their “canonical social model” would be arrows that would go back and forth among the different search behaviors.

In the paper by Horowitz and Kamvar, we learned about Aardvark, the large-scale social search engine.  Unlike the traditional information search engine, Aardvark would point the questioner to an actual person within their social network that would more likely be able to answer their (usually more subjective and “highly contextualized”) questions based on the topics that the potential responders seem to be experts on.  Aardvark’s “central technical challenge” was how to select the said responder to answer the question.  There were a couple algorithms and formulas that were detailed in the paper that tried to solve this challenge based on the topic(s) involved, how connected the potential responder was to the questioner, and other factors that determined the proximity of the users in the social graph.

One pro of this social search engine is that one can get an answer that’s more relevant to the original question since the answer will be a direct form of social interaction with the other person.  Another is that the questioner can be more subjective with the question.  For example, it would be easier to ask another person’s (one who you can relate to somewhat) opinion on an issue instead of having to search for a “stranger’s” answers.

One con of this is that it’s difficult to determine the connectivity of the responder to the questioner.  Actually, it’s more an issue of how to rank their relatively versus another person within the same social graph.  Another con of this search engine is that it’s difficult to determine if the responder is actually a go-to person for this type of question.  They are required to state at least three topics that they are knowledgeable of.  Even that, to me, is kind of going against their whole intimacy vs. authority spin.  If the person thinks that they know the topic well, aren’t they themselves trying to be the creators of the knowledge base?

As of 2009, Aardvark was still actively used by over 90K people.  I myself have never even heard of it.  According to Wikipedia, Google acquired it for $50M in February of 2010 but then announced it would discontinue it a year and a half later.  Why was it discontinued?  My guess:  it died along with Myspace… and Facebook was the all-consuming killer, except for a little bird it couldn’t quite catch.  Yet…

Session 3: Why are people on the web (and my GOMC proposal)

I am a very fortunate guy. My parents brought our family from a poor communist country and worked two jobs each to give my sister and me a good life filled with opportunities. I have been enabled to be the man that I am today and the man I am trying to become. I do not have any children of my own to give the same opportunities to, but there are many other people and children that I can enable. For the Google Online Marketing Challenge, I wanted to nominate a local non-profit that has enabled many children, the homeless, economically depressed families, and other non-profit organizations.  It has tried to use its base in technology to try to give the socio-economically impaired a chance to become those innovators that we read about previously by exposing them to current technology and giving them a chance.  The non-profit organization is called Hawaiian Hope.  One of its main functions is to take donated used computers and, through volunteer work, recycle these computers into functional, value-added computers that are given, free of charge, to lower income families and non-profit organizations in Hawaii.  The organization has several distinct projects listed on its site including an Internet Cafe, data management services, web hosting services, and even mobile laundry for the homeless in Hawaii.

I think the core audience for this non-profit are people like me.  People that have been fortunate enough to have been given the opportunities that I have been given.  The audience is made up of professionals working in the technology field and people living here in Hawaii.  Since we are on an island, it would be good to know where one can recycle an older and still somewhat functioning computer instead of just throwing it out and adding to the waste.  This organization should be brought to the attention of the very fortunate (read deep pockets) of this state, of which there are many.  Some query terms that would be relevant for this organization would be computer, recycle, community, Hawaii, and ohana.

Their web site is a pretty basic one.  There are not many flashy buttons or dynamic features.  I think if their site had a few more dynamic features it would help in its relevance in respect to its affectiveness.  The site could also improve its clarity.  It took me a little bit of searching just to find where the Internet café is located (in Kalihi) and I’m still not sure if there are more than that since I saw that it hoped to create up to seven of them on Oahu.  From visiting the site, at first I questioned its validity.  I had never heard of the organization and from reading about the Internet café, there was not much discrete evidence of its existence, but more generic stories of individuals that have benefited from its use.  To me, these stories seemed disingenuous and somewhat clichéd, which caused me to be skeptical.  It would help if the site improved its specificity so that its target audience, people like me, can connect with it at first contact instead of having to dig up more information on it through other searches for the organization through the news channels. The ideals the organization works toward is very relevant to me with my current skills and position.  It would be beneficial for the organization to improve its content so that others like me can understand its ideals more readily.

As I stated previously, Hawaiian Hope’s website is very basic.  There are so many things that could be improved on its site.  I don’t think it needs to be overtly flashy and gimmicky.  It just needs a little more organization and sleekness to it that presents it to be a trusted and respected organization.  I think its logo and name should be more prominent on the page and the menu could be greatly improved by being cleaned up and spaced properly. With a few other changes, I think this organization would be wonderfully relevant for our class project. I just noticed that the Internet cafe is no longer (again with the clarity of the website) because it, along with other non-profit organizations, was evicted from its building at the end of 2010.  Now all those kids in Kalihi don’t even have a place where they can go use computers for just a dollar an hour.  I think it would mean so much for us to help in the promotion of this organization and its services.  If it’s one word I remember from my Hawaiian studies class (107), it’s kuleana.  It represents a right and a responsibility that we have as current inhabitants of this island to the people of this island.  I think this organization embodies that word.

Session 2: How ideas emerge and flow

In the Session 2 readings, Integrating Models of Diffusion of Innovations by Barbara Wejnert, How to Be a Leader in Your Field: A Guide for Students in Professional Schools by Phil Agre, and Design, Functionality, and Diffusion of Innovations by Jason Hong, the diffusion of innovations and ideas is the main subject, although in the second one not so explicitly.  The diffusion of innovations is how ideas, innovations or technologies are adopted and accepted by actors(those adopting the innovation) or groups of actors and the channels in which these innovations are processed in their adoptions.  Agre’s piece was about leadership but what that leadership entails is basically what innovators, otherwise known as early-adoption actors, do in the process of the diffusion of innovations.  Wejnert’s piece goes in great detail, supported by numerous sources and studies, about the process of adoption of innovations, the characteristics of innovators and innovations, and the channels in which this adoption occurs.  She describes innovators, the first adopters of new innovations and ideas, as “psychologically strong actors” which, in my mind, is also a good description of a leader.  Hong’s piece talks about the diffusion of innovations and how design and functionality of new technologies affect those technologies’ adoption by consumers.  In general, he says that innovations can be adopted by innovators or early adopters based on the functionality of that technology because they have a need for that technology.  Late adopters called laggards, however, adopt those technologies based on the quality of design of that technology because by that time there are similar products competing in the same market and good design is the basis of quality detection.

The innovation that I believe will be very pertinent in five years is cloud computing.  Many years ago, as a little kid reading fantasy books, I came across a character that had this magical ability to store weapons, magical items and anything else in another dimension where they could access it anytime and at anyplace that they needed it.  Since it was another dimension, he could store an infinite amount of items.  I thought it was such a wondrous power.  If I could have special powers, one of them would be that (and the ability to copy and paste physical objects).  Now, with new cloud computing technologies, this ability is within my grasp!!  I may not be able to store an infinite amount in this new dimension (yet), but I can access it anywhere and at anytime.  The main limitation there is that I have to have internet access, but with most cell phones having internet access almost anywhere, that limitation is almost negligible.  I say almost here because although I have unlimited internet access through my iPhone through the AT&T 3G network, that network is pretty spotty these days.  Sometimes it takes forever to just get directions to a certain location using my maps app.

Despite these limitations, I think that with the development of better networks for these phones and other mobile devices, cloud computing will become a major player in everyone’s everyday life, whether personal or professional.  Many people misunderstand what cloud computing actually is.  They think that it’s just online data storage, but it’s more than that.  You can store more than just weapons and objects in that dimension, you can store magic spells!  By magic spells, I’m talking about programs and applications that can be used through cloud computing.  According to Wikipedia’s article on cloud computing, “entire business applications have been coded using web-based technologies such as AJAX.”  This greatly affects us as students in computer science.  Why?  It means that we will probably have to learn AJAX or a similar language if we want to survive in this ever-changing technological field that we’re in.  Wejnert would describe us having to learn AJAX to compete in cloud computing as an indirect cost of this innovation.

Wejnert talked about innovations with public versus private consequences, both of which cloud computing definitely has.  Private consequences involve how cloud computing affects us personally as actors in the adoption of its technology, whether beneficial or not.  Public consequences involve the impact it has on societies of actors such as countries.  Cloud computing is already having an impact on our government, according to this report led by Thomas J. Kwasniewski for the United States’ Defense Technical Information Center.  Wejnert says that, “adoption of innovations with public consequences often leads to reforms that are historical breakthroughs.”  That certainly emphasizes how important cloud computing will be to all of us in the next five years.  I don’t think that everyone in our field realizes how important cloud computing will be and how greatly it will affect us all as we enter our professional careers after graduating from college.

Agre says that we must all be leaders in our field especially since it is in the forefront of technology.  Cloud computing should be promoted and information about it should be shared by us all as professionals in this field.  It has already been adopted by the Department of Defense and so it will be adopted widely by most business professionals not only in the field of computer science but in other fields whether in the sciences or in arts.  That makes quite a wide audience as potential actors in the acceptance of this innovation.  How shall it be promoted?  We as professionals should be discussing it in person any chance that we get.  This could be done as just a small talk subject with new friends at bars. This could be the subject of intimate workshops done at the local library.  It could even be a little information flier or infographic created to get people interested in the innovation.  People need to be aware of this innovation because eventually, it will come to them and be adopted by them, even if they are laggards.

Hong talks about the functionality of the innovation as the reason why early adopters and innovators adopt the innovation.  He also mentions the Department of Defense as an example of an early adopter.  There is a definite trend of “follow the leader” in the diffusion of innovations.  Since the DoD has already accepted cloud computing, it is almost a certainty that it will be adopted by everyone.  The main thing that has to be worked on is the design of cloud computing.  It’s still in its early adoption stage.  That means functionality is its main benefit.  Design will improve as it is more accepted.  That design is what we, as professionals in computer science, are in control of.  If we adopt it early, we will be the ones controlling the design of this innovation and we will have the power to control this new dimension.


Session 1: The Social Information Infrastructure

The social information infrastructure is a complex and dynamic system composed of layers and interconnections of many factors bound together by a communal concept. Bowker et al. focused more on the scientific communities’ social information infrastructure and describes it as having “distributions along technical/social and global/local axes.” Bowker further went on to describe the infrastructure as something more in the background, laid out in advance similar to tracks for a railroad. Thomas Erickson writes about “social computing” and describes it simply as having “to do with digital systems that support online social interaction.” This “simple” description is actually deceptively complex and wide-encompassing, especially in this data-driven and cyber-involved age that we live in.

While Bowker et al.’s article was fascinating, it really was a bit too wordy, IMHO, but I guess that’s how academic papers usually are. I found Erickson’s more down-to-earth description of “social computing” a lot more interesting and the examples a lot more poignant to my every day cybersocial interactions. Although I’m sure his videos are helpful, I found them kind of distracting from the reading since it slowed down my download of the particular article and the table of contents got annoying when I accidentally moused over the tab. I thought the quotes that kept changing were distracting as well. It’s hard for me to focus while I’m reading something academic so all these non-traditional elements of the dynamic book were not my preference.

Many of my present “social computing” involves mainly Facebook. I’ve refused to join Twitter as I feel it would be another distraction from my already ADHD-affected education. One of the most valuable example of an item on the internet, although maybe not really lesser-known, is IMDB. I am a big movie buff an I’m always looking out for upcoming movies or movies that have similar traits of my favorite movies. I came across this site over 10 years ago, when it was relatively unknown, through my friend’s links to it from group emails that we shared among our group of friends. It has many details about movies, but in the last several years it has greatly involved user-created content such as forums that is fed back into the site to give it more value to all users. This concept is talked about in Erickson’s piece. Nowadays, as far as I’m aware, it’s pretty common. Actors can even create and update their own profiles on it. That’s how I can keep track of my struggling actress friend’s b-movies. I consider them e-movies… E for effort! I think it’s an amazing example of social computing and its possibilities. It’s got a wealth of trivia information if you and your group of friends are debating about what specific actor was in a movie or even memorable quotes from a specific movie. Through the forums, you can find links to other movie-related sites and blogs as well.

Some of the things that had to happen before the movies and or information can be up include a lot of things. One was discussed above where the actors can post an update their own profiles. Another is that movie studios or people that hear about the movies post about the movies… sometimes a long time before production. Other factors that contributed include:

  • Societal fascination with movies and popular culture
  • a desire for immediate responses to movie inquiries
  • fans wanting a way to search similar movies and actors

As I stated previously, most of my current social computing occurs on Facebook, but I do use the socially value-added services described in Erickson’s book such as Amazon’s user reviewed products. I even use it for stuff I’m not purchasing from there. It’s been very helpful especially now with their app that includes a barcode scanner. Many people want something quick and easy and that definitely delivers.

As far as the whole Bacon Cat Internet Popularity law, yes many people try to create their own versions of it in their status postings on Facebook, but most of it does just turn out to be barely entertaining flash in the pans that are easily forgotten as when the next bacon cat rears its cured-meated head.

Aloha to everyone,

My name is Ko and this is my first blog, ever.