Thursday, March 27, 2008

AAAI Social Information Processing Symposium Summary

I apologize for not getting back sooner with results and thoughts from the symposium. Like I said in my previous post, Matt and I attended the AAAI 2008 Social Information Processing Symposium. Matt presented on Social Capital in the Blogosphere and it seemed to be well received by the community. They followed up on our presentation about social capital with a number of questions regarding possible actions and experiments that could be taken within our framework for measuring social capital. It furthered our opinion that the work we have done provides an intuitive way to understand a seemingly abstract topic like social capital. There is still a lot of work to be done in determining what constitutes and explicit and implicit link within the blogosphere, but we are on our way.

Several other thoughts specifically related to our research.
  • Bonding links (a relationship with someone similar to you) should be easier to make than a bridging links (a relationship with someone different that you). Thus in a social network representation you should probably see a substantial amount more bonding than bridging taking place.
  • There is a cost associated with forming a bonding or bridging link that we have not addressed up to this point. In general, this cost involves both the type (bonding/bridging) of link and also the individual social capital of the person you are attempting to form a link with.
  • Nearly everything in the social information processing domain, when graphed, seems to follow a power law. Does individual social capital follow this distribution as well, ie. do certain individuals have much more social capital than the population at large? If so is there anyway to leverage the social capital of all the individuals found in the long tail of the graph? For example, the wisdom of the masses approach is working wonderfully in Wikipedia, where information may in some cases be more accurate than that of the so-called authorities. It's all theory, but just some ideas I've been thinking about.
  • High cost, high reward. Blogging can take a lot of time, because good writing takes time. It takes substantially more time than other activities we heard about in the conference such as tagging, posting pictures or rating a product. But with the high cost comes the high rewards, as blogging has become mainstream it has become a powerful tool for advancing ideas, products, companies and careers. Ultimately we need to get some type of reward for our involvement in a social network even if it is just personal fulfillment or our activity will dwindle.
Other cool things about the symposium.
  • Stanford is the most beautiful campus I've ever been on.
  • We heard about a cool new project called Freebase that seems to have the potential to someday replace Wikipedia as the best source for free, open content information. It looks smooth, provides easy ways to query for information and has an awesome API. It could be the next big thing. Matt posted his thoughts about it as well at his blog.
  • Gustavo Glusman presented one of the coolest social network graphs I've ever seen (the flickrverse) which can be found here.
  • Meeting a wide variety of people. There was representation from both academia and industry from a variety of locations. Plenty of people were from California, but there was also representation from other parts of the United States, the UK, Germany, China, Taiwan, Switzerland and probably more that I am forgetting. It was a great group to become involved in.
  • Getting to learn from those who know more than I do. Everyone had their own expertise in specific social networks and with specific ideas. I learned a lot about social networking principles that are somewhat different than those found here in the blogosphere.
Matt posted some of his thoughts about specific papers on his blog here and here for those who are interested. For any out there who would consider attending next year, go for it, it was a wonderful experience.

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