Archive for January, 2011

Easy week?

Posted: January 29, 2011 in Food for thought, Useful advice for students

So, if you’re a TECH 621 student, you may be thinking the coming couple of weeks are easy. No required readings, all you have to do is read and review one article each week. Piece of cake!

This is a bit misleading, so let me give you a couple of tips about what you should be doing for class right now:

Explore literature related to your research topic

The purpose of asking you to select 5 articles is also to get you to browse and explore the literature. Look at several articles. Save the ones that may look interesting, for this class project, or some future work. Get the Zotero plugin for Firefox, get yourself a Zotero account, and save all potentially useful references. Spend some time exploring the territory. Get the lay of the land. Try to figure out what kind of research is being done in the areas related to social media & your own research interest(s). Challenge: Can you collect at least 40 references in your Zotero account?

I’m asking you to use Zotero, because you can share your bibliography, and this will facilitate collaborative work later. So, get to it. Figure out how to use Zotero. Go hunting for references.

As you explore literature and see what’s out there, your research interest will become more focused. That’s a good thing, another purpose of exploring the literature in the first place. Which brings me to my second point:

Take your Twitter experience to the next level

So, you’ve grasped the basics of Twitter use. You have set up your profile with a customized avatar, a bio, and a link. You’re ready to start creating your personal learning network. Search Twitter for keywords, browse through the list of people I follow. When you identify an interesting person, browse through the list of people they follow, and the lists they’re listed on. Identify 5-10 interesting people and follow them. These should be people you can learn from, people you want to connect with and/or people who have the types of jobs you sometime wish to have.

Here’s an example of how this could work. I mentioned in class Stowe Boyd, @stoweboyd. If he’s an interesting person, then the people he’s interested in could also be interesting. Check out the list of people he follows, and identifying interesting ones that you’d like to follow. Then, look at the lists where Stowe is listed. They will help you discover people who are similar to him. Do a little research & discovery. Don’t follow 500 people all at once, or your account will look like that of a spammer. Give people time to follow you back, so that your following-to-follower ratio stays somewhat close to 1. But do it. Blog about it. Which brings me to my third point:

Keep blogging and Tweeting.

If you’re having a hard time figuring what about, take another look at the syllabus. Run your ideas by me, on Twitter. Set up your blog categories to reflect those in the syllabus. Figure out how categories and tags work on your blog.

At the end of the following two weeks, I’d like for you to have a much better orientation, a much better understanding of both the research and social media landscape we’re operating in. Right now, many of you are newbies – a bit disoriented, not sure which way to go, both research-wise and on social media. Take this time to research, explore, orient yourself and find a place for yourself in this landscape.

I’m here to help you, just let me know what you need. Please ask questions about this topic in the comments below.


One of the blog challenges for TECH 621 students was to create a taxonomy of social media sites. I saw very many interesting ways of categorizing social media in their posts. In fact, I encourage students to share the link to their categorization posts in the comments below, to make it easier for people to take a look at several ones.

One thing that I felt like bringing up after I read your posts is a bit of theory about how we create categories. Part of my job is to teach you how to think like an academic, so here we go.

As you will work on research, you will often be in the position to categorize things, or create classifications. We do this all the time (with our socks, for example), but I’m not sure we think about the process enough.

Here is how categorization should work:

First, you pick one criterion (dimension/variable). Variations on that criterion will form different categories. Let’s work with the socks example.

We could create different taxonomies for socks, according to various dimensions we pick: Color, Fabric, Length.

So, according to color, my categories would be: black, white, red, etc.

If I categorize by Fabric, my categories would be: cotton, nylon, wool, etc.

You see, if I ask you to categorize socks, it would be funny if you come up with the following: My socks fall into the following categories: red, wool, and short. This doesn’t make sense, because the categories are created on different dimensions, and therefore, they cannot be mutually exclusive. You could have one pair of socks fall in all 3 categories!

Similarly, when you categorize social media sites, you can’t mix up your classifying criteria. If, for example, you categorize them by purpose of interaction, then you have to stick to that. If you categorize them according to the available communication channels, then you have to stick to that. So, categories are the possible variations of the dimension/variable that you picked as your criterion for classification.

I hope this post helps you understand a tiny bit about how to think like a graduate student. I recommend you take a look at a couple of other posts that I wrote on my other blog, that are related:

Last class was all about getting a grasp of social media use,  both in the U.S. and worldwide, both at the individual and enterprise levels. Here are the students’ presentations, note the references on the last slide in each deck, they may come in handy later when you write your papers.

Social Media Adoption: Worldwide, Individual Level

Social Media Adoption: Worldwide, Enterprise Level

Social Media Adoption: U.S., Individual Level

Why Social Media

Social Media & Education

User Behavior: Safety & Security

User Behavior: Online Dating

I think I’m missing one slide deck, I will update the post as soon as I find it. If you want to embed your presentation in your blog post, you can grab it from my slideshare account.

[Update]: All presentations added.

Research Article Analyses

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Assignments
Tags: ,

We’ll spend the next 2 weeks of the semester (Feb 1 and Feb 7) exploring research directions related to social media. Those two classes will be good times to start your Research Article Analyses (RAAs).

Remember (or see the syllabus) that you have to read and analyze 5 research articles about social media, in the context of your own interest. Each article analysis is worth 5 points, for a total of 25.

Here’s what I’d like you to start doing:

First, identify a list of 5-7 articles you are interested in reading. Make sure they are research articles – published in academic research journals. Make sure they include some aspect of social media, as well as your own area of interest. Personally, I like using Google Scholar to identify articles, then find the full text through Purdue libraries. You can also browse the bibliographies danah boyd maintains about SNSs and twitter/microblogging.

Keep in mind that your list may change over the course of the semester, and that’s OK. If you want to, publish it in a blog post.

Second, here’s what I’d like you to do for Feb 1 and Feb 7. Read one of your selected articles for each class, and write the article analysis following the structure recommended below. Be prepared to talk about your article during class discussion. The more diverse the body of articles we talk about, the more aware we will become about research directions.

Third: After Feb 1 and Feb 7, you will choose when you want to do your RAAs. Take a look at the topics listed on the syllabus. If you know you are interested in, say, community building and online communities, then you may want to review an article and bring it up during that week’s class discussion. Make sure you blog about it, following the same structure recommended below.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you have read and analyzed 5 articles before the end of the semester. You cannot cram 2 articles during one week, and certainly do not leave this for the end of the semester.

Research Article Analysis – Blog post structure

For each of the 5 articles, write a blog post that follows this structure, more or less (OK, more, rather than less):

  1. Full article citation in APA style, linked to full text if full text is available online.
  2. Purpose of the research: Explain what the authors set out to accomplish.
  3. Methods: Explain, very briefly, what methods the authors used to accomplish the research goal.
  4. Main findings: Summarize the main findings
  5. Analysis: Write your own thoughts about the article. You, could, for example, address some of the following: What does this article mean to you, is it useful or not for your research interests and current/future projects? What are the main things you wish to remember about this article? What are some of the limitations of the article? What directions for future research does this article suggest to you? Etc.

In addition to writing these, make sure you read your classmates’ article analyses. This way, you’ll be exposed to more information about social media research.

Make sure you bring up the article(s) you read during class discussion. Be prepared to summarize, explain the article, answer questions about it.

Questions? Let me know in the comments below.

The topic of next class is social media adoption and uses. Small groups of no more than 3 students will give brief presentations (12-15 minutes) on a topic of their choice related to social media adoption and uses. You need to use Twitter to coordinate and figure out who is working with whom, and on what topic.

My requirements are that the following topics related to social media adoption get covered:

  • social media adoption worldwide at the individual level
  • social media adoption in the U.S. at the individual level
  • social media adoption worldwide at the enterprise level
  • social media adoption in the U.S. at the enterprise level

When it comes to use patterns, motivations for use, and user behaviors, I leave it up to you to define your topic, based on your own interests. Pick an interesting, but narrow topic. Keep in mind that you cannot cover EVERYTHING about user behavior on social media in a 15 minute presentation.

Start by doing some research. Browse the resources I posted for you on Blackboard. Look at the reports, and the reports available on the websites I linked to. Come up with some ideas about presentation topics, share them on Twitter, narrow them down and negotiate them on Twitter, and take it from there.

The presentations will be graded out of 3 points, which come out of your small presentations and assignment points (see the syllabus). Be sure to cite your sources in the presentation. The resources I posted on Blackboard are starting points, but you will need to find more. Use data from more than one report in your presentation.

The challenge here is two-fold: Using Twitter for coordination and organization, and delivering clear, informative presentations that extract interesting information from several available sources.

Please ask questions about this assignment in the comments below. Once you have decided your presentation topic, post it in the comments below.

Here is a quick list of the key ideas we covered in class today, followed by some tips and reminders for you:

  1. O’Reilly’s 7 defining principles of Web 2.0
  2. Some important concepts to remember from the O’Reilly reading: long tail, perpetual beta, software as service, cloud computing, architecture of participation.
  3. McAfee’s definitions of Enterprise 2.0: SLATES and ESSP
  4. Important distinction from McAfee reading: communication channels vs. communication platforms.
  5. boyd & Ellison’s 3 defining criteria for social network sites (remember also point about network vs networking)

We ended class with the following questions, which I invite you to address in a blog post:

  • Which definition makes more sense to you, and why?
  • What relationships do you see among the 3 definitions? Are they complementary, contradictory? Can you integrate all 3 definitions in one framework? – Or create your own definition?
  • What do you take away from all these efforts to define Web 2.0  and social media? Why do you think most authors define them by listing characteristics rather than stating what they are?

I also gave you another idea/homework for a blog post. Take a few minutes to look over the list of social media sites submitted by students (if you haven’t pasted yours in this list, please do so NOW).

Then, think about how you would categorize them and write a blog post about it. Create a classification scheme (taxonomy) and briefly explain each category. You don’t actually have to go through the trouble of populating the categories, just define them. For example, you could decide most sites fit into one of three major categories: red, white, or blue. Briefly explain what you mean by the red category, and give a couple of examples of sites that would fit in that category. Then, move on to the white category and repeat. And so on.


  • Set up your Twitter account and blog, connect with me, so I can connect you to the rest of the class – NOW
  • Always do the class readings. Now, you wouldn’t want your surgeon or aircraft engineer to be the type who didn’t do readings in college, would you? Do know that teachers do know when you didn’t do the readings, even if they don’t throw a fit.

I’m beginning to see online activity for this semester’s TECH 621! 🙂

A few students have set up their blogs – check them out in the blogroll to the left. Make sure you set yours up before class on Tuesday.

We have several (but not all) students on Twitter. As you join Twitter and follow me (@mihaela_v), please send me a tweet to say hi, so I can follow you back and add you to the class list.

You can follow everybody in the class by simply following the class Twitter list.

Let’s spend a few days figuring out Twitter. Play around with it. Tweet. @ people. DM them. Figure out retweeting and hashtags. Then, the next step will be to find interesting people to follow outside of class.

Remember to do the readings for Tuesday evening, and to bring to class a list of about 20 social media sites you did not know about last week. To make sharing easier, please paste your list of 20 social media sites into this spreadsheet.