Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogging as Diary

Today we're digging into blogging as a form of diary.

A few to check out from LiveJournal:

Apifera Farm

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The strange relationship between blogging and journalism

Today we are tackling the issue of journalism as it relates to blogging.

Take a look at these heavily trafficked blogs:


And, take a look at:
The Times Union with a special emphasis on their blogs

Monday, November 3, 2008

Additional Places to Find Blogs

As students beginning working on their fourth essay, they are looking around for a blog to observe and participate on for a week. Finding blogs isn't hard, you just have to know where to look. has a blog directory that provides a comprehensive index of blogs by topic.

It also offers an "authority" and a rank. The authority number is the number of inlinks to a blog (that is, the number of links from other blogs to the blog you are reading). The rank is calculated based on your authority rating. The higher the authority the closer the blog is to the top and the smaller the rank. So, a rank of "1" is a top-authority blog, if you will.

Technorati's front page also provides headlines of "rising stories" in the blogosphere that are interesting to peruse in their own right.

Another useful source for finding blogs is Google's blog search. In addition to being able to search the blogs indexed by Google, it also provides on its front page top stories on the blogs or on Web pages that are inlinked from other blogs.

Monday, October 27, 2008


We're now starting to dig into weblogging. As an introduction, take a look at a few political blogs.

Two on the right:

Two on the left:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wikis and Wikipedia

Today and Wednesday we're discussing Wikis and Wikipedia.

For some background:

  • The New York Times recently published an article on Wikipedia's recent attempts to protect entries from "vandalism" on the site.
  • Many professors have told students that they cannot use or cite information that they get from Wikipedia, because it's not "trusted" information (more on that in Wednesday's class). Another article published in the New York Times discusses the History Department at Middleburgh College and it decision to ban student's use of Wikipedia as a reference in their papers.
  • A few years ago, there was a widely-publicized controversy about Wikipedia's entry on John Seigenthaler, Sr., in which it was incorrectly asserted that he was involved in President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Wikipedia continues to be a controversial but heavily used source for information. In class, we'll tuck into these issues and examine the benefits and problems with collaborative writing and with knowledge management in a Web 2.0 world.

Third Essay Project

For those following our class blog, students are posting another essay today. This one is a bit strange, in that it's more of an informative essay than a persuasive one. Their task in this essay was to begin searching a particular We 2.0 tool of their choosing, and to describe that search process in detail, and then to evaluate the quality of the information they found. The purpose of the assignment was to get students thinking consciously about their search strategies and their evaluation strategies. We'll see if it worked!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Search Engines and Your Privacy

For Wednesday's class, we are digging into the issue of violations of privacy with search engines.

Here are two articles from the computer magazine PC World that might be of interest:

One article highlights the recent controversy involving Google, YouTube, and Viacom. Google, which owns You Tube, was ordered by a judge to release You Tube user and viewing information to Viacom. The article explores the question of why Google is maintaining as much personal information about users and viewing habits on You Tube as it is.

Another article describes the controversy when AOL released several million search queries to academics to help them study search patterns. The search data was leaked, however, and soon it became clear that AOL had not purged personal information about users from the search queries. This led to a lawsuit, and again raises the question of why AOL is keeping user profiles with search information.

Finally, if you have privacy concerns, Business Week has some suggestions on how to protect yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Links to Websites for 10/13 Class

Today, we're discussing how to determine the quality and credibility of information found online.

Students should look at these three websites and decide which ones they would trust to help them understand the idea of "mortgage backed securities."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Observing Old Internet Technologies

The students of Com 430Z are posting an essay to their blog today based on observations they've been conducting on a chosen "old channel" through the Internet, such as IRC, Usenet, MUDs/MOOs, and email lists.

I asked them to blog a daily journal of their observations. It's been great fun to read their observations and discoveries. It pleases me to see students interacting with some of these old, but still used, technologies that they may not have ever heard of or used before.

I'm eager to read their observations in essay form, and see what connections they make between their observations and what they've been reading over the past month.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Experimenting with IRC

So, today my students jumped into IRC using the private channel I'd created. The Mibbit widget assigns random handles to new users, which was perfect because I wanted the students to experiment and experience relatively anonymous communication (they weren't entirely anonymous, since they were all in a physical room together).

Their task, after playing around a bit with IRC was to go and explore Usenet groups through Google, and then report back what they were seeing in the IRC channel.

As I expected (well, actually, it was worse than I expected), there was basically no discussion of the task and much discussion of random things: alcohol, penis size (complete with drawings!), a blackout that occurred downtown. As the instructor, I tried a few times to refocus discussion back to Usenet by asking questions. The few who responded wrote very short answers without elaboration, and all of the noise of the other chatter made it impossible to focus on the topic.

All of this served as a perfect example of the problems with online chat, and it illustrated themes in Monday's and today's readings. Monday's reading by Brenda Danet (1998) on text and play in synchronous environments discussed gender and how it can be performed and "bended" online. A subtext of her argument was that people play in synchronous, text-based spaces.

Play is exactly what my students were doing (some, not all. I noted several who watched but did not contribute or who read Usenet group discussion instead). Especially given that there was no name, no identity, attached to those posts, they were free to be as goofy or provocative as they liked, with no risk or repercussion.

This also illustrated several points from today's reading by Kollock and Smith (1996). Their essay focused on Usenet and the problem of cooperation in online environments where there are few rules and little by way of sanctioning to stop unwanted behavior. Of concern to them is how to promote the collective good in online environments where it's so easy to be selfish.

Indeed, the behavior I saw was selfish behavior, primarily. That is: behavior meant to draw a response, to be clever, to make people laugh. And, that soon became the norm of the group. Effort on my part to draw us back to a task was ultimately stymied. This, then, also speaks to the power of norms in collectives, and the difficulty in shifting those norms when the group's will is elsewhere.

It also speaks to the free rider problem, although maybe that's not the right word. For those students who opted not to play or chatter off topic, why didn't they either play along with the chatter or try to push the group to the task? A few did, but then abandoned the effort (as did I). If more had begun to respond to the query, would the conversation have turned to the task? Probably.

It also raises the question of whether in these online text-based, relatively identity-free environments if people will generally devolve to the "lowest common denominator." Although that wasn't discussed explicitly in Kollock and Smith, it certainly is a concern in online interaction. If given the opportunity will people rise up to do the work being asked of them, or will they stoop to the basest of jokes and silliest of interactions?

I think people do and will rise if they see some benefit in it. There are plenty of people who participate in online groups, whether it's email lists or Usenet, and they do so because they get some social or functional benefit. But, getting that started is difficult, and requires the kinds of rules and moderation that Kollock and Smith speak to.


Danet, B. (1998). Text as mask: Gender, play, and performance on the Internet. In S. G. Jones (Ed.), Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting computer-mediated communication and community (pp. 129-158). Thoudans Oaks, NJ: Sage.

Kollock, P. & Smith, M. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In S. C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp.109-129). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Digital Intimacy Online

The New York Times has a great article on the effects of Web 2.0 technologies on social life.

Monday, September 8, 2008

IRC Web Client

In class today, we tried to use the Web client Mibbit to connect to Internet Relay Chat. It didn't go so well. Although I had permission from Mibbit's creator to bring 25 students into the #mibbit channel, when we started joining in, the moderator of the moment thought we were some sort of attack and banned us from the channel.

It was pretty funny, actually. Classic Internet.

Anway, I'm trying again with our own class channel. We'll see if it works.

To jump to the channel, click here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Photoshopped Palin Pictures

In class yesterday, we talked about various characteristics of the Internet. We talked about convergence, and I mentioned the photoshopped Governor Palin photos that were circulating around the Internet of her in a bikini and a gun. The photos are discussed in this Huffington Post article I ran across today. Scroll down to see the photos.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Internet Memes Timeline

A friend sent me a link to an "Internet Memes" timeline. It tracks some of the most common Internet moments, such as Star Wars Kid and the Hamster Dance.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What we're up to on this blog

In case you stumbled onto this blog by accident, let me share with you what it is we are up to here.

We're experimenting with blogging as a means of communicating our thoughts and reflections about the utility, function, and problems of communicating online for a course at the University at Albany, SUNY called Communication on the Internet (COM 430z).

On the right side of the screen is the class blogroll. Each student has set up his or her own blog. On there, students will post at least once a week a reaction to assigned readings. Occasionally, they will post longer essays contemplating various aspects of the communication technology.

In the center here, I will post occasionally on various aspects of new communication technology, too, especially issues of using blogging and other communication tools for teaching.

It's an experiment!

Welcome to the Com 430Z Blog

This is the home for Communication on the Internet, a blogspot for students of Com 430Z and others interested in the Internet, Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.