Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Essay #2 - The Early Internet

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) communities have been around since the beginnings of the Internet. These communities have given people a way to share common interests with each other through asynchronous and synchronous chat. There are many different options available to the user, such as IRC, MUDs, Usenet and email lists. The medium I chose to observe for five days was the asynchronous email list. An asynchronous chat means that there is a delay between the time a message is sent and received between users. The specific email list I chose to observe is the "Rumormillnews," which was located through Yahoo groups. This group was created on December 28Th, 2002 and currently has 1,296 members. An email list works by someone sending a relevant topic to the specific group email, which is then distributed to every group member's email account. It then gives you the option to reply to group members post, create your own or just observe.

A common problem found within computer-mediated communities is the act of free riding and trolling. Defined by Kollock and Smith, free riding is when a user posts an irrelevant topic to the group, leeches off group member's information without providing any of their own and "asking questions to the group without answering questions from anyone else" (pg. 116). Trolling is when a user replies to a post in a rude way to create a rise out of that member (Kollock and Smith, 1996). Another activity that is made possible and performed in CMC communities is gender masking.

In the article "Text as mask: Gender, play, and performance on the Internet," Danet mentions that text serves as a mask in CMC communities because there is no face to face contact involved. This allows users to create a general name to hide their gender and thus allow them to act as a male or female within the community (Danet, 1998). In the email list I observed "Bush Buster," "Lefty," and "Tufrmone" were a few regulars that had non-gender associated names. After reading some of their posts, I couldn't find anything in their writing that tagged them as a male or female. This proves that Danet's reference of "text as a mask" is a valid one (pg. 129). With gender shoved to the side, CMC communities allow users to communicate and debate with each other on an even playing field with all gender bias aside (Danet, 1998).

As I mentioned before, free riding and trolling are two common problems found with a CMC community. They disrupt the flow of the chat and community by causing everyone to stray off topic (Kollock and Smith, 1996). While observing the "Rumormillnews," I was quite surprised that I only came across one instance of both free riding and trolling. I believe the lack of disruption in the group was a result of the rules it had in place. The two main rules that stuck out were that messages require approval from the moderator and that no one could hide their email address. These rules gave the group a sense of control because if someone tried to post a disruptive comment it could either not be posted or the users email could be banned from the group. Another popular way for Yahoo groups to sift out the free riders and trolls is to require a membership to join a group. To obtain a membership you must give the group moderator your information and provide a short summary of why you would like to join that group.

The only instance of free riding that I came across in "Rumormillnews" was an advertisement. It was quite ironic that the advertisement was about an advertising agency. This post is a good example of free riding because it is totally irrelevant to the group's discussion and goals of providing late breaking news (Kollock and Smith, 1996). This example of free riding didn't seem to disrupt the members of the group too much, as there were no replies or complaints to the post.

The next instance of disruption was surprising because it came from the group's most common poster. This case of trolling was performed by the user John Stroebel, in the thread "McCain Has SERIOUS POW Problems." In the thread, the trolling occurred when Stroebel replied to the user "Tufrmone" and finished his reply by saying "And assholes like you spit in the memory of the men never accounted for." To me this instance of trolling happened because Stroebel was offended on a personal level in what Turfrmone wrote. The understanding is there on why this happened, but I believe it was an unnecessary response to it. Stroebel could have understood nothing was meant by it and kept it to himself, keeping the emotion out of the discussion. This post is actually the last one that I observed in the group, which generates some interest for me to see if any other member became offended by the post.

By observing "Rumormillnews" for the past five days, I have witnessed the different type of interactions that occur within CMC communities. Throughout the five days there was superb discussion and articles posted on news topics. These topics ranged anywhere from political and financial news to science related news. The idea of text removing gender bias association was also seen within this email list and proves to be bringing everyone onto a gender equal level (Danet, 1998). The advancements of the Internet and the CMC communities are proving to bring the world closer together, creating global communities. If the effort continues to filter out the problems of free riding and trolling, we may soon see a virtual world where everyone can contribute equally without receiving any gender or culturally biased opinions from others.


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

2. Kollock, Peter & Smith, Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Day 5 Observations

This is my last day of observations for the Rumor mill news group. The group has a total of 1,296 members and was created on December 28, 2002. The group is under the category of conspiracy theory. After observing for the last five days, I have concluded that this group strays away from this categorization and mainly provides different angles on current events. The few rules to this group are email attachments are not acceptable, members cannot hide their email address and messages require approval from the moderator of the group. The yahoo group site has a history of messages per month since the group was created. This group seemed to be the most active in 2003, after it was first created. The Rumor Mill News contains its own web page separate from the yahoo group page. I visited this site and discovered that it is cluttered with advertisements up and down each side of the page. The site has its own reading room and other than that seems quite useless. In the past 5 days I have noticed there has been few accounts of common problems usually found in a CMC community. I have only seen one account of possible trolling and free riding. Gender masking is also a possibility in this group because I saw quite a few general names.

Day 4 Observations

best excuse for give away's I ever heard

and those neocons....always whining we CAN'T give food stamps nd medical
care and housing to the poor....

poor them this time...right?


This is a response written by John Stroebel in my email list. I chose to single out this reply, to show how informal most responses are. This response shows that many people within the group must know who he is. Stroebel ended up getting five responses to this reply along with a totally irrelevant response from the user Lefty. This shows possible trolling in the group. In my next observation I intend to get even more specific on events within the group and point out possible trolls or free riders.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Defining Web 2.0

To define Web 2.0, you must first understand the concepts that constructed Web 1.0. In the article, "What is Web 2.0," Tim O'Reilly does a superb job in doing so. He starts off the article by providing a comparison chart between the Web 1.0 and 2.0 technologies, which provides a good start into understanding their differences. O'Reilly then goes in depth, by comparing two similar technologies from both Web 1.0 and 2.0.

The first example is between the software companies of Netscape (Web 1.0) and Google (Web 2.0). In this example, O'Reilly explains how the idea behind Netscape was to act as a "platform for the Internet through a web browser" (pg. 4). Netscape also chose to license and sell their software. This was a common idea behind Web 1.0. On the other hand Google was a free service application that was available to everyone and it also contained a strong data base (pg. 4). As mentioned later in the article by O'Reilly, this type of data base is a key design pattern of Web 2.0 (pg. 22). Another example that is given by O'Reilly is the comparison of Web 1.0's Akamai to Web 2.0's BitTorrent. He mentions that "BitTorrent becomes more efficient as the amount of users on the application increase" (pg. 8). This is a unique characteristic of Web 2.0 technologies, as it allows each user to add their own bandwidth to the server. On the other hand, "Akamai would have to add more servers and not users to increase efficiency" (pg.8).

In the rest of article, O'Reilly goes into describing the key characteristics that help describe what Web 2.0 is. The long tail is another idea behind Web 2.0 that I have not mentioned. O'Reilly defines this as when a service or application "reaches out to the edges of the Internet" (pg. 22).

One principle of Web 2.0 that interests me is the idea that licenses and protection should be limited (O'Reilly, 2005). O'Reilly states that this should be done to promote improvisation in Web 2.0 technologies (pg. 22). I believe that this characteristic can help towards the advancement of the Internet, but at the same time it can also hurt the companies helping to do so. A major problem that has occurred within the Web 2.0 era is the pirating of software. As a participant in this myself, I have seen users of the Internet take key principles of Web 2.0 and use it for exploitation. Applications such as BitTorrent, have been a common ground for the sharing and a rather easy access to these pirated and hacked copies of software. These practices have left many companies out of money and should be watched, as the Internet continues to advance.


1. O'Reilly, Tim. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

Day 3 Observations

I began to focus more on a single user with my observations. The user that I have shifted my focus onto is John Stroebel. Mr. Stroebel is by far the most active member in this email list. He tends to focus all of his posts and replys on news that deals with the countries issues and the upcoming presidential election. His views are opinionated at times, but he seems to know what he is talking about. I also noticed a few wise cracks on an article that states "McCain lacks POW." My favorite response was by the user Tufrmone, who responded with "Old Age."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 2 Observations

In today's observations, I went into a little more depth with the reading. I noticed that most people in the group send a summary of the article and their thoughts along with a link to the article. This group happens to be an extremely active email list. With there being over 30 posts in the past two days. I also came across my first incident of free riding, which was a promotion for an advertisement firm. As I expected, most of the news continued to follow the political theme.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Email List Observations Day 1

After some searching, I joined a yahoo email list group called Rumormillnews. This group offers a wide range of news, 24 hours a day. Lately, I have been trying to keep up with the world, so I figured this would be a good way to help that effort. While scrolling through and reading some articles, I realized that this email list had no advertisments on it. Most of the posts were dominated by by political news and there was also a good amount of information on the recent financial crisis. Many of the posts also offered links to news videos.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Response to Whitaker on new media and web production

For class today, I read the chapter "New media and web production," out of the book, The Internet: the basics, by Jason Whitaker. In the first part of the chapter, much is mentioned of the significant route media has recently taken. Media has now changed over from analog to digital form. The analog form presents information that is taken in its original, continuous form. Digital information contrasts from this because it takes a piece of this original form and translates it into 1's and 0's, which is known as binary code. The computer then decodes the binary code and uses an output, such as a speaker or monitor to present this information (Whitaker, 2002). Whitaker focuses on this advancement in media throughout the chapter. He explains how this step has made the editing of audio, images and video much less complex. Instead of going through the arduous process manually, you can now digitize a picture and change its colors or contrasts through image editing software (Whitaker, 2002.)

In this chapter, Whitaker also gives an in depth and complex background of digital imaging, audio and video. Whitaker explains how the idea of hypertext originated from a draft of a "mechanically linked information retrieval machine, known as Memex" (pg. 59). This idea was created by Vannevar Bush, and had the cross referencing technology that influenced Tim Berner-Lee's, HTML creation. The rest of the chapter is a basic beginner's guide to web production. He mentions the basics of HTML code (hyper text mark-up language) and the different elements that creates a website. The part of the chapter on web development, focuses on color, images, text and layout as being a major part of creating a functional website (Whitaker, 2002).

Whitaker starts off by loading the reader with mass information on the history behind media technologies. It was a good idea to give background information, but it was rather played out in the extent that he did it in. The backgrounds on digital imaging, audio and video interested me because they laid out a concrete image of how far the internet and media has come. It is incredible how digitizing media has allowed us to use cell phones and other hand held devices to view information (Whitaker, 2002). I believe we also need to be careful in the ways we use this technology. I previously watched a segment on the news about image enhancing in movies. The case was about a movie studio enhancing the breasts of Keira Knightley. This shows that people are using this technology to try and appeal to the world in ways that seem wrong and immoral. It is a true advantage to have these new technologies such as digital imaging, but we have to watch out for the misleading information it can bring.


1. Whitaker, Jason. (2002). The Internet: The basics (chapter 3). New York: Routledge

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading Response to Kollock and Smith : Managing a computer-mediated communication system

When the Internet was created not much was known of computer-mediated communication systems. As packet switching was developed in the 1980's and data could now be sent quickly throughout the Internet, the possibility of online communities became a reality. As mentioned by Kollock and Smith in their passage "Managing the virtual commons," the first public community on the Internet was created in 1981 and is known as Usenet. Usenet functioned as a massive bulletin board system and was made up of different newsgroups with each one serving different topics of interest. As the successor to ARPANET, Usenet became an extremely popular CMC (computer-mediated communication) system and thus a large online community was created. To communicate with others on Usenet a simple text editor is needed to post and reply to others. When a post is created it is sent to everyone who is part of the newsgroup. In Usenet newsgroups consisted of every topic imaginable including anywhere from a current event group to a horror movie group (Kollock and Smith, 1996).

In a computer-mediated community face-to-face contact is left out. On Usenet the main communication was through text and some audio. This brings up an issue on how similar an online community is to a real community with face-to-face contact (Kollock and Smith, 1996). To understand how an online community works you must first understand how a real community is managed. As mentioned by Ostrom, in Kollock and Smith's passage, a community that is organized and able to govern themselves has a set list of principles. They are their boundaries are defined, the community has a set of rules and institutions and the behavior of the community according to the rules is effectively monitored and sanctioned.

In Usenet these working face-to-face community principles are implemented. The boundaries of the newsgroups are set up by the name of the group which helps sift out people that aren't interested in the topic and keep free riding to a minimum. Also available are private groups which keep unwanted newcomers out of the newsgroup. As I just mentioned free riding is the biggest problem of Usenet. Many newsgroups contain FAQs which state the rules and regulations of the group and help control free riding. For those of you unsure on what free riding is, some common examples are posting off topic, posting too much (effects the Usenet bandwidth), asking questions and not answering them, and leeching off of other peoples information which is known as lurking on Usenet (Kollock and Smith, 1996).

I agree with Kollock and Smith as sanctioning these free riders and users who don't cooperate with the rules, to be the biggest downfall of CMC communities. Since there is only contact through text in these communities it is difficult to keep people from straying from the norm. Without face-to-face contact there are really no painful consequences for those who consistently disrupt the newsgroups. People can spam many newsgroups at a time with ads and make fun of other users without any serious action taken. The worst thing that can happen to a rebel user is a ban on their account and this can easily be bypassed if the user wants to create another account and keep generating havoc (Kollock and Smith, 1996). I believe this is why a CMC community can never be considered as a real community. A lot is there in a CMC community that resembles that of a face-to-face community, but without the proper enforcement in is more like that of an unruly jungle. I like the way computer-mediated communication is going and I believe it can accomplish a lot in interconnecting the world. Usenet was a good start in this process and with some more beneficial ways of enforcing rules in these online communities like ISP bans or fines. I realize this might be hard to track and implement, but when signing up for an account, if more personal information is given such as your drivers liscense number, this could become possible to do. If these sanctions are taken you might someday see a CMC sytem as a true, functioning community.


1. Kollock, Peter & Smith, Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

First Essay - 5 Defining Characteristics of the Internet

Media is an essential tool for people, that allows them to connect themselves to the rest of the world as well as being a form of entertainment. Many forms of media exist such as television, radio, the newspaper and the Internet. The television allows users to watch recorded and live video whether it being the news or their favorite show. The radio allows users to listen to audio and the newspaper paper functions as a set of text and still images for users to read. However, while each of these have their own set function to communicate media to the world, the Internet is the medium that can take all of these different functions and put them together (Adams & Clark).

The Internet has five defining characteristics that allows it to be the only media that includes video, audio, text and still images at the same time. The Internet is hyper-textual, interactive, digital, packet based and multi-mediated. These 5 characteristics makes the Internet unique and the most popular communication medium (Adams & Clark).

One of the most important characteristics of the Internet is the fact that it is hyper-textual. Hyper-textual comes from the creation of the hypertext markup language. This language was developed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 and allowed for easy navigation throughout the Internet. To further explain, hypertexuality is the underlined words in an article or story on the Internet that are actually links that bring you to another page when they are clicked on. These links usually bring you to a page that further explains something within the article or story. Hypertexuality is a unique characteristic and helps the Internet separate itself from the other media available(Adams & Clark).

The multivocality that is brought to the Internet by the html language leads into the next defining characteristic of the Internet. Interactivity is truly what gives you a different experience than watching television or listening to the radio. The hypertextuality of the Internet allows you to control where you go. Unlike other media you have a choice on what you want to watch, listen to or read. With there being hundreds of millions of websites to choose from on the Internet it makes your options endless. The interactivity of the Internet also gives you the option of communication with other people. Many programs are built for this person to person interaction on the Internet such as instant messaging and email. Even if you are in the mood to be a social butterfly, chat rooms and forums are also available for your use. Computer programs developed for the Internet also allow you to receive information such as weather and other topics you are interested in. All of these options of communication and entertainment available should alone make the Internet different than any other media (Adams & Clark).

With other media, the reliability is not always there. The Internet is packet based which allows it to separate itself in terms of reliability from other forms of media. Packet switching is when a data file is cut up into pieces called packets. These packets are labeled with their origin, place in the file and their final destination. The thing that makes packet switching such a useful characteristic of the Internet is that if one packet can't make it to its destination it is resent again and re-routed another way to reach its destination successfully (Packet switching definition, 2005). The packet switching process was developed because of the possibility of a nuclear attack during the cold war. This means that if there was an attack people outside of the attack zone could communicate to people on the other side. If you tried to send a radio wave or television signal through the attack zone they would be broken up. The fact that packet switching is so versatile, makes the Internet the most reliable medium (Adams & Clark).

Digitalization is another paramount characteristic of the Internet. Without being able to make files digital the packet switching process wouldn't work and the Internet wouldn't be where it is today. The digitalization of a file is when the file is put into binary code which is a bunch of ones and zeros. The computer then can take the codes (stands of 1's and 0's) and decode the file which would then show up as the original file on a monitor. This is a huge advantage over carrying around physical files. For example imagine carrying around 2 gigabytes of music. That could be up to 20 cd's you would have to carry around compared to a 2 gigabyte flash drive. Being able to compress data such as music is one of the most useful features of digitalization. Another option would being able to store your physical data as digital data online on servers for easy access from other places that provide the Internet(Adams & Clark).

As I mentioned before, the Internet is the only communication medium that can present a user with still images, video, audio and text at the same time. The ability to show a user this all at the same time makes the internet multimediated source. Television and books are also multimediated but not in such a way as the Internet is. This characteristic makes the Internet not boring. If you get bored with reading an article you can click on a video that gives you a brief summary of it. It's also possible to look at a picture and get a general idea if you want to read it or not. These multimedia options give so many different ways in absorbing information depending on your mood and make it fun while your doing it (Adams & Clark).

The Internet is full of advantages that make using it more simple, entertaining and worth your time over any other media. It allows you to do anything from communicating with one another to easily obtaining information that is personalized to your liking. The five characteristics that I mentioned without a doubt define the Internet and make it possible to be the communication powerhouse it is today.


1. Adams, & Clark, C. What is it? characteristics of the medium.

2. The linux information project.(2005). Packet switching definition.
Retrieved September 7, 2008 from

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Ultimate Communication Medium

Our choice on how we send and receive information has vastly increased over the past century into an endless amount of options. Whether it's watching the latest news events on your television or sending a birthday card via the postal system, information has become more accessible to everyone of this new, information needy world.

What if you need to send that birthday card in one day across the country? As you know that would be impossible due to the restrictions on speed of the postal service medium. Speed is a major restriction of many communication mediums along with the distribution and reliability of the information. The one communication medium that can come closest to satisfying all of these needs is the Internet. In the reading by Adams & Clark, much was discussed on the advantages of the internet and it being the best source for communicating. I agree with this statement as most anyone will. The internet now has the ability to relay real time information via pack switching and the increased speeds brought by digitization of information such as video and pictures. If you want to find out the score of a baseball game you will be able to do this down to seconds delay. The internet also allows interpersonal communication between two people to happen at extreme speeds. With the software being cheap, it is now easy to set up voice over ip chats where you can synchronously chat and see one another over great distances. The internet also allows quick asynchronous chat as well via the email system.

I do believe the internet has some paramount advantages and is by far the most useful communication medium. I mean where else can you control the information you want to see via a hyper textual language. The human is the internet. We are the ones who create what we want to see and know. With these advantages come many constraints that the internet brings to us due to this massive medium of information. The internet is flooded with wrong and biased information. Due to the fact that anyone can be an author on the internet you must be aware and carefully filter the information you are looking for. I would have to say the biggest affordance of the internet is also its biggest constraint. The ease to access information on the internet at great speeds also allows people to discover personal information on you and others via many different methods. By all means the advantages outweigh these minor disadvantages and the internet will remain to be the ultimate communication medium.