Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reaction to Shirky Chapter 9 - Fitting our tools to a small world

For my reaction this week, I read chapter 9 out of Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations, by Clay Shirky. In this chapter, the idea of social networking is broken down. Shirky starts off by using the "Small World" example to identify how these social networks work (p.213). In this example, he mentions how the probability of knowing someone increases, due to what you are doing. This makes sense because similarities are often what brings two people together ultimately creating a friendship. The other key point that came from this example is that people are categorized into two extremes, which are highly connected and barely connected people. In the middle of these two poles is the average person with their average connectivity to other people (Shirky, 2008).

Shirky uses this key idea of the two extremes to further expand on the "Small World" social network. In this social network people are grouped into small groups and large groups. The highly connected individual in a small group connects to another small group by knowing someone, thus creating a larger social network (p.215). Shirky demonstrates on how this works by using the social networking site Dodgeball as an example (p.218). By using this site, you are not only connected to your friends, but also friends of your friends.

Throughout the rest of the chapter, Shirky (2008) recognizes the terms of bonding and bridging capital. Bonding capital represents getting to know people within the small group better, where as bridging capital represents connecting the small groups to other small groups (p.222). These two functions of a person's social network are important and should be balanced to reach a successful social network.

In the reading, many examples of technology aiding the expansion and common maintenance of social networks were given. The rise of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace have made it much easier to stay connected with friends (Shirky, 2008). These sites allow people to build friendships with a limited amount of face to face contact. I believe the main reason for this is the use of pictures on social networking sites, which now substitutes seeing someone in person. The technological advancements in cell phones have also furthered the ability of a person to work on their social networks, leaving place and time a non factor. This has left people with the ability to maintain a larger social network than what was previously capable. Technology has developed accordingly with the person's desire to socialize and has embedded itself into the way we communicate with others.


1. Shirky, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (chapter 9). New York: Penguin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boing Boing wrap up

Today is my last day observing the blog Boing Boing. Through my observations I have learned a lot about the horizontal structure of blogs. My time on this blog was extremely useful as I also generated some discussion. I was excited to see that I received my first response today in the comment section of the e-waste post. The user Not A Doktor replied to be post directly by posting


Two words for you bud, nethack server."

I had no idea what this meant, so I went into Google and searched nethack server. I then discovered that they were giving me another idea of what to do with my old computer instead of recycling it. Boing Boing is an extremely interesting and I will definetely be revisiting it in the future.

Essay #4 - Blogging

The rise of the Internet has brought about a shift in the way people receive information. News and information on the Internet can now be identified as massed media, shifting away from the vertical structure in which it used to be obtained (Barlow, 2008). Without a doubt the vertical structure is still present on the Internet, as many of the major newspaper corporations have created online outlets. However, as Barlow mentions, the popularity of the blog has been created by the horizontal structure we now see (p. 88). A simple definition of a blog, found on SLSConsulting, states a blog as, "An online diary where people can post messages and others may view and respond to the posts." This simple idea has evolved into a new medium where anyone can report information about anything they want to. The horizontal structure found in blogs is makes them a successful communication medium.

Over the past week, I have submerged myself into the blog community of Boing Boing; to observe the horizontal structure first hand. While doing so, I kept a journal of what I saw and what occurred when I interacted with this blogging community. Boing Boing states itself as a "Directory of wonderful things." I agree with this statement as a vast amount of topics can be found on this blog. These topics ranged anywhere from flying cars to information on President elect Obama's food policy. Boing Boing has five authors who are the only ones that can edit and post to the blog. The blog is set up into three main pages. These consist of a general information blogging page, a blogging page focused on gadgets and a blogging page focused on videos they create. It also contains a directory of its posts since January 16, 2000, which gives it some research and more entertainment value. The main interaction tool of this blog that defines it as a community, is the comment tool. To use this, a user must sign up for the blog through create an account. This allows the user to further discuss a blog post with others and expand on the story.

Now that a general outlay of Boing Boing has been given, I can now dig deeper into the discussion of blogs and their horizontal structure. As Barlow mentions in chapter 4 of his book, Blogging @merica, blogs have become a successful way for a non-journalist to relay news and information (p. 89). The fact that anyone can be an author on a blog gives people this power that was once not available. Before the Internet, the news media was monopolized by major news corporations. In a sense it still is, but blogs have proven to be a new and popular outlet for relaying information (Barlow, 2008). While I was observing the Boing Boing blog, I noticed that it had a small amount of the top to bottom vertical structure. This is represented because the five authors are the only ones who can decide what stories can get posted to the blog. As mentioned by Barlow, this power is the only source of vertical structure in blogs (p.86).

As mentioned earlier, Boing Boing has five main authors for their blog. This in a sense also displays a democratic horizontal style because they all can have a say with what is posted (Barlow, 2008). I have yet to see any hierarchy within the five authors while observing the blog. This observation is only a minor representation of the horizontal structure found in blogs. The feature of Boing Boing and other blogs that screams out horizontal structure is the user comments. As I mentioned, a user is able to comment and discuss a story that is posted on the blog. During my observation period of Boing Boing, I decided to become a part of this discussion on a couple of posts.

The first post I commented on was about a man's house that was destroyed by an explosion of a nearby plant in England. This was posted by the author Mark and provided me with visuals of the house via a YouTube video. While I was looking through the comments I noticed that many users were offering their support to the man, as I did. One comment that caught my eye was by a user named Simon, who gave background on this town and the explosion, which wasn't available in the original post. This was a perfect example of the success that the horizontal structure gives a blog. This user gave their input of research on the story thus expanding it. Another user, in the comment section of this story, sparked a separate story within it, by providing a link of a documentary of England law. The fact that everyone has a say in a blog and can create their own story within another person's blog, proves on how successful blogs and their horizontal nature has become (Barlow, 2008).

The other blog post that I commented on was about the e-waste issue that I found within the gadget section of Boing Boing. This time I tried to generate a discussion by asking where I should recycle my old computer. I was quite surprised when the user "Not A Doktor" replied with, "Two words for you bud, nethack server." At first I was slightly confused, but then I looked up what a nethack server was and determined he was enlightening me of another use of my outdated computer. This story has been going around on blogs for a while and was just recently picked up by the television show 60 Minutes. As Barlow mentions, this is an example of crowdsourced journalism, which is another example of the advantages and success of the horizontal structure within blogs (p. 97).

In conclusion, the time I spent observing and interacting with the Boing Boing community was worth it. Through my observations I discovered how the horizontal structure of blogs works and encountered many examples that prove the success of blogs and their horizontal ways. The ability to post whatever information you desire is a unique quality of blogs and is not seen in the vertical structure of other media outlets. Whether its crowdsourced journalism or stories created within an original post, blogs prove to be a new competing medium (Barlow, 2008). With the further advancements in communication technologies, the Internet is becoming available almost anywhere. This gives blogs a bright future and could someday make them the paramount source for news and information.


1. Barlow, Arron. (2008). Blogging @merica: The New Public Sphere. Westport: Praeger.

2. Boing Boing

3. SLSConsulting

Features of Boing Boing

Today I continued to observe and partake in the Boing Boing community. I followed up on my posts from the other day and was unsuccessful on generating any discussion on places to dispose my old computer. On the other hand, the post about the explosion of a man's house in England had some great discussion in the comments. One user, identified as Simon, gave a short and descriptive background Hemel Hempstead, which is he town in where the explosion occurred. He also stated that it was the largest explosion in Europe since World War 2.

One thing I noticed today that I should have looked at the first day was the suggest a link on the front page of BB. This gives the user a set of guidelines if they would like to suggest a link to one of the blog owners. I also noticed that they already have a new blog author since I started observing this blog last week. The name of this author is Joel. BB also has an archive of all of its old content, which dates back to January 2000. I went back to view a couple of the first archived time periods and noticed there was barely any content on their blog at that time. No video or pictures were present, as this is not the case now. I noticed BB also contains some advertising on the right hand side of the page. It's only a small amount of sites and it isn't really distracting at all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Observations continued

Today on Boing Boing i dove into a couple more blog posts. I went under the gadget section and ran into more information on this e-waste situation. I actually need to get rid of my old computer and asked if anyone had any suggestions on the comment and am hoping for some feed back. I also read another post about a man in England who had his house blown up and destroyed when a nearby plant blew up. He suffered a loss in all of his personal belongings and some medical side effects from the explosion. The government or company has offered him no support so I posted and gave my own.

After following Boing Boing for a couple of days, I have noticed that the comments are used heavily for discussion. This discussion ranges from people answering questions for others and comments on the blog post. Although I haven't received any direct response to my comments, I am confident of the discussion on this blog and that this will come if I keep submersing myself into the blog community.

Reaction to Nov. 12th reading

Today I read an article out of the journal First Monday called ""Shout into the wind, and it shouts back." Identity and interactional tensions on LiveJournal." This article is written by Lori Kendall and discusses a social networking site (SNS) known as LiveJournal. LiveJoural is a SNS that includes a friends list and comments with the interactions written in diary form (Kendall, 2007). As mentioned by Kendall, in this site you are able to connect with people through a friend's list and view their posts (para. 2). These posts, range anywhere from personal problems to jokes. Each user is then able to view their friend's LiveJournal entry depending on the filter restrictions of the post. The communication on this site that makes it a SNS is done through comments that a user is able to post on an entry they have read (Kendall, 2007).

In this article, Kendall looks deeper into this SNS by interviewing a total of twenty-six users of LiveJournal (para. 5). By doing this she identifies some problems that come up when a user is communicating in LiveJournal. Kendall mentions that when using LiveJournal a user comes into the conflict of whether to keep their entry private through the filter system. In this filter system a user is able to allow their post to be private, public or set to a list where only friends on this list can see it (para. 39). Via Kendall's research, she discovers that most users prefer to keep certain information private depending on the audience they want to view it (para. 40). In the rest of the article Kendall talks about other issues, such as the lack of control users have over another user's journal and the tension of posting the "right" thing on a friend's journal (Kendall, 2007).

The issue of control over who views your message is an intriguing point brought up by Kendall (para. 39). Many of the LiveJournal users who were interviewed discussed how they use the filter when they post information they don't want certain people to see. The common example was when people complained about someone who they worked with (Kendall, 2007). This issue of privacy is something that needs to be considered when using LiveJournal, blogs or other social network sites. Employers now venture into these online communities searching for information on their potential hire. Just because your journal or blog is set to private does not mean it will be completely protected from public viewing. With search engines indexing your personal blogs and information from these sites, it is now easy to become exposed. I believe personal information that could warrant trouble should be left off your favorite SNS or blog completely. The risk is there and a perfectly good opportunity, such as a job shouldn't be taken for granted.


1. Kendall, Lori. (2007). "Shout into the wind, and it shouts back." Identity and interactional tensions on LiveJournal. First Monday, 12. Retrieved on August 21, 2008 from

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mexican Jumping Bean? and more observations

Yes they are real. Today I read the blog post by Mark Frauenfelder of boingboing on Mexican jumping beans. I have heard of these before, but never knew exactly what made them jump. In the blog post, Mark mentions that he discovered Mexican jumping beans when he was at Burbank airport.

He didn't mention what made them jump, but when I read the comments a member of the blog posted that it was the larva of a Spanish fly. I liked how the communication of the blog helped me discover this. I explored more of the blog today and noticed that they had two other sub blogs called Boing Boing Gadgets and Boing Boing TV. The bbgadgets sub blog featured posts on unique creations they have found. The bbtv featured videos of episodes that they made for the viewers of their blog. This shows that they cover many different audiences within their blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Boing Boing First Look

For my fourth class essay the task is to observe and participate within a blog community. The blog I chose for this task is Boing Boing. I found this blog using the Technorati blog finder, which made it easy for me to find a blog that interested me. BoingBoing is a blog that displays a wide range of topics. For example, I read a blog on the most recent episode of 60 minutes pertaining to the E-waste issue and another talking about the current economic crisis we are in. The blog is ran and edited by five people, which are Mark, Cory, David, Xeni, and John. They are the owners of the blog and are the only ones who may post on this blog. They do offer interaction within their blog through comments, which can be made by any user who signs up for this blog.

After going through the relatively easy and quick process of signing up for the blog, I decided to comment on the blog about E-Waste. I was particularily interested in this post because I watched the episode of 60 minutes tonight. The blog post by Xeni summed up the E-Waste situation and provided a video clip of the 60 Minutes segment.