Monday, November 24, 2008

Small World Networks

When meeting someone new, have you ever thought about the odds that you might have a friend in common? After reading chapter 9 of Here Comes Everybody: The power of organizing without organizations by Clay Shirky, I began to realize this is not as unlikely as it may seem. Social networks are on the rise with the creations of Web 2.0 websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Shirky also mentions another social networking tool called Dodgeball. What these social networks have in common is that they all use the “Small World network.”

A Small World network is efficient because the best form of communication occurs when everyone is allowed to connect with everyone. Or as Shirky simply puts it, small groups are densely connected. “Homophily” categorizes this as the grouping of like with like. To show how this works Shirky explains rather than having a “loose” group of 25 people, create 5 “tighter” groups of 5 people who may know others in different groups. What this does is not only create better connections between the people within that group, but at the same time you are loosely connected with the other groups through common friends (if you don’t already know people in other groups). “A handful of people are extremely critical to holding the whole network together, because as the network grows large, the existence of a small number of highly connected individuals enables the very trade-off between connectivity and effectiveness that makes the Small World pattern work in the first place” (Shirky, p.217). If anybody ever decided to leave or separate themselves from a certain group, Shirky claims that the connection or the links between the other members would not be disrupted.

What really struck my interest was the social networking tool created for mobile phones, called Dodgeball. Shirky narrates how on a random night on the way to the bar Magician, Shirky texts “@magician” to the Dodgeball service. The service not only recognized Shirky as a member, but it recognized the bar as well. Then Dodgeball sends text messages to that person’s friends letting them know where Shirky is; at the same time lets you know if any of your friends are there, or if their friends are there. This is using the friend-of-a-friend network. This resembles the mini-feeds that are being used in MySpace and Facebook, another tool helping people network through social communities. Exemplifying how Small World networks can be efficient.

At the beginning of this chapter I did not think that Small World networks can be so powerful. When members of a certain group have a close connection or relatedness with a few people, it can branch out further to mutual acquaintances you both might know. The use of grouping people together through homophily can not only connect you to people you may know, but people with similar interests as yourself. This chapter helped to break down the use of major social networks and explain how they function effectively. The Dodgeball service was something new and something I had no idea existed. As Shirky explains, although not making great conversation with Andy (friend-of-a-friend), the service allows the person for the chance of expanding their social network. This helps the common person trying to satisfy their desire to meet new people and satisfy their need for homophily.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogging: Is There An Online Community

The creation of the internet has done such wonders for technology and communication. We may sometimes take this for granted and not even realize what we are a part of. Blogging is a new sensation that is taking us by storm. Bloggers are allowed to write freely and respond to others as they wish. You can find blogs that pertain to your interests, or you can even start your own as a personal diary/journal. I never heard any of my friends or any I knew for that matter to be a part of this online trend. According to the website Technorati, they have tracked over 75 million blogs and that number is only expected increase rapidly. Will this be the new sensation that takes over the internet? At the beginning of this semester I have been a part of this “blogosphere” but on a smaller scale. Now I have placed myself as a participant in this new online word I had never been a part of. The question that I attempt to answer is: Is there a real community within these blogs?

After a little searching I finally came to a decision of what blog I have decided to be a part of. I found a blog on the HBO series Entourage. After visiting the website, I noticed there is one blog posted each week about the episode that Sunday. I saw a great deal of interaction amongst the users on the website. They talked about the episode, why they though certain things happened, even what they thought was going to happen in future episodes. Before I even interacted with anyone I began to feel the “online community” Aaron Barlow refers to in Blogging America. I observed three episodes and the blogs about them. The first episode I observed had good conversation and insight on the characters. People were having friendly responses amongst each other. The reactions to the second episode threw me off guard. There was little to no interaction on a very controversial episode where I thought there would be more discussion. When I looked back at the blog in a few days, someone by the name “BJ” posted something negative about the episode. After all everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I looked for more posts from BJ to see if this was a constant trend, and unfortunately he was. Most of the posts he had were nothing of value, and he brags about the episodes most felt were not that great. When the next week came around I was hoping for better results. BJ once again posted two negative comments which took away the focus of the blog and centered the attention on him. Someone by the user name “Hernandez” posted something back to him, and I did as well.

The blogs of the past two weeks made me realize that there is in fact an online community which implemented through blogging. It proved the point that all bloggers are not “weirdo loners in their mothers’ suburban basements” (Barlow, p.37). The purpose of this blog was to unite people with the same interest to interact amongst each other. The prior blogs I was not a part of showed this community exists by exemplifying great relations between bloggers. BJ on the other hand was a disruptive force to this community. He seemed to be a “troller” which was identified by Kollock and Smith in an earlier reading. A troller is someone responds rudely or in an impolite manner attempting to get a rise out of someone. In this particular case he was trolling the blog. By doing so, he destroys the foundation of the blog and the community. People post less on the blogs because they do not want to be bothered with a person who is a nuisance. The quality of communication decreases and if that person is not removed it can potentially destroy the blog all together. A lot of bloggers do no write just to “babble,” but want to write something of relevance and intellect to stimulate good conversations amongst that community. Bloggers like BJ give the bad reputation to blogging; blogging anything they want without consideration to the other participants.

After my experience blogging I no longer would make the assumption that bloggers write anything just to have their voice heard. There are different forms of blogging, one is for personal use and the other is for public. The community that is formed helps to produce good communications and interactions based on a common interest. My question now is what you do with a person who disrupts the community, and has the potential to destroy everything that was created from it. The more BJ posted, the less others posted their reactions and feelings. This was unfortunate to see, because I was hoping for the quality interactions that were there before I joined this blog. I hoped the quality of interaction would have remained the same from when I first began looking at this website.


Barlow, A (2008). Blogging @merica: the new public sphere. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Observation #5 - 11/10/08

In this past Sunday’s episode, there was a lot of drama going on. Eric Murphy, which is Vince’s manager, is trying to get one of his clients a show. The agency wants Seth Green to do the show, but the two have had a bad history over Eric’s ex girlfriend which led to a fight in Las Vegas a few seasons ago. Seth plays games with Eric and his client Charlie the whole episode and then threatens to have both of them taken off the project while sitting in the lobby of the agency. This leads to another fist fight, but this time Charlie throws the first punch after being threatened. After trying to do things his way Vince is convinced by Werner to let him direct the movie his way even if he is losing his lines. Werner tries to explain he does what is best for the movie and essence he is doing what is best for Vince’s character. Vince listens considering Werner had won 2 Oscars for foreign films, and takes his critiques into consideration. Ari tries to bring Klein into the company after convincing Barbara to give him a fair interview. She puts him on the spot asking him to pitch to her as if she was Julie Roberts, and Klein has a panic attack. As Barbara is at her luncheon after being awarded the 33rd most powerful woman in Hollywood, Ari makes presence known. He congratulates all the women for latching on to powerful men for them being where they are. He threatens to split the agency down the middle and makes his exit after another obscene comment. As I checked to see if anyone responded, to no surprise BJ had another 2 negative posts. “Is there anyway this show could be less interesting??? Its not even fun to rag on it anymore….its just so pathetic! Please put us out of our misery!” And “Dude……….they ALL are douche bags on the show……with exception to Ari (and the” Unfortunately this kind of took the aim off the episode, someone by the username “Hernandez” and I responded to his constant negative feedback. We both told him not to post if he does not like the show and to stop wasting everyone else’s time. You can obviously tell he has not watched earlier seasons and had no idea what situations were important. He took the aim of blogging and made it about himself rather than people discussing what happened. But Hernandez did add insight along with his blog referring to Vince’s acting which Ari made an issue a few episodes before. The person who posted the blog also attached a video from the fight in Las Vegas for others to judge whether it was a sucker punch or not. This again took away the focus of the episode to a prior incident on the show. Unfortunately, the blogs for the past 2 weeks were the weakest I seen on the website. The blogs about the last week’s episodes did not focus on the episode and the one before no one participated. I was expecting more from my observations before I chose this site. But the first episode I observed had good conversation going on, I wish it was like that for the past 2 episodes.

Observation #4 - 11/06/08

So I came back to check on the blog on November 6th to see if there were any more posts after the upsetting 3 I saw on Monday. To my surprise there was ONLY 1 post. This really threw me off because there were so many posts on prior episodes and it did not make much sense considering this was a really good episode leaving all of us wondering what is next. The only post was bashing the episode, but the blogger “BJ” gave no evidence to his claims of why he did not like the episode. I also looked earlier blogs to see what BJ had posted; to no surprise most of his comments are negative. The only positive comment he had been on an episode many felt was not important, does not make any sense to me. Maybe people are just waiting for next week to see what happens, but I don’t know why no one else had blogged. I felt like posting something myself would have been useless because, it seemed like everyone forgot there was an episode last Sunday or they were just ignoring the blog altogether. Either way it was very upsetting but there is another episode around the corner, and I am looking forward to seeing if the problems from last week’s episode are going to be resolved. Hopefully next week will have better results and more people participating.

Observation #3 - 11/03/08

I checked the blog on Monday following the episode on Sunday, November 2nd. There were two main story lines in this episode. First Vince began shooting Smoke Jumpers, a little nerve racking considering he hasn’t shot a movie in over a year. All of a sudden his co-star Jason Patric started to steal of his lines and had no idea what was going on. When he approached the director Werner, he told Vince he was aware and he was trying to keep Jason happy. But at the end of the episode we find out that he was giving Jason Vince’s lines intentionally. On the other end Ari, is approached by his old buddy Andrew Klein (played by Gary Cole). They were friends at the original firm they worked at before it split and both parted ways. Klein is dealing with hard times due to the writer’s strike and asks Ari for a $500,000 loan. After looking at Klein’s books, Ari finds he is very successful and rather than giving him the loan he offers to buy his company and bring him back to where he was supposed to be. After arguing over dinner and drinks, Ari reminds him of the time when he was going to go back to Chicago to be a lawyer and Klein responded with: “Do you really want to die a loser lawyer in Chicago?” Ari comes back with “Do you really want to die a loser lit agent in the Valley?” and the deal was made. I was really upset with the 3 posts; none of them were insightful but just obvious observations. People loved the episode but no one stated why or what they liked about the episode. No one liked the co-star Jason Patric, and did not understand why Werner lied to Vince. Although Ari’s co-partner Barbara said no to buying Klein’s company, “Ryan” thought she would come around and I did as well. Especially due to the fact Ari could have left the agency for Warner Brothers and it would have probably fallen apart. Honestly I expected a little more depth from these comments, they were very vague and anyone could have said half the things just from watching the trailer. I am going to check back on this blog later in the week and hopefully there will be more considering last week’s posts were good.

Observation #2 - 10/17/08

The episode on Sunday, October 26th was in my opinion the most important episode so far this season. Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) who is Vincent Chases’ (Adrian Grennier) agent is offered head of Warner Brothers Studios by John Ellis. This is a career decision for Ari, but in taking this job he will no longer be Vince’s agent. Their close personal bond between actor and agent is one of the factors that holds the show together. If Ari takes the job, Amanda Gordon (Vince’s ex-agent, who he is on bad terms with) will get the job of studio head at WB. Ari tries to peacefully bury the hatchet, and Amanda threatens to make sure Vince does not get the role in “Smoke Jumpers,” a movie which he wants to make to revive his career. Ari tells Amanda he is going to spitefully take her dream job in spite of her actions, but later we find out he gets Dana Gordon (his friend and fellow agent) the job by talking to John Ellis in his office. And Dana’s first order of business is to get Vince in Smoke Jumpers. On a side note, his friend Turtle had some naughty interactions with Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano) on their returning flight from Hawaii. Vince’s brother Johnny in awe and disbelief spreads the word around town and it eventually gets back to Jamie. I checked the on blog Monday night to see if anyone responded, there were already 5 posts. Everybody’s main concern was on how Ari made the swap for Dana and still kept his job at his agency and remained Vince’s agent; in essence holding the show together. Apparently no one liked Amanda and were happy with Dana and the way everything ended up. The show had a few episodes with irrelevant sub-plots prior and left everyone in a daze where the season was heading. It felt like a few filler episodes. Some did not believe that John Ellis would have given the job to Dana in reality if Amanda was lined up behind Ari, but you never know if Ari ever explained the situation. The other buzz was about Turtle and Jamie, everybody seemed to be happy for him. But that ended up with Jamie throwing her cocktail in his face when she found the word was around town.

Observation #1 - 10/25/08

Originally I was set on focusing on a blog that had multiple articles and responses throughout the week. My first choice was, since I am a musician this website struck my interest very quickly. After a few days of browsing through the website, I was not satisfied with the quality of posts, and many of them had 0 responses even though hundreds of people clicked and possibly read the article. So I decided to change the blog that I was observing, and decided to switch to movies figuring there might be more interactions. I decided to focus on my favorite HBO show Entourage since the show was mid-season already. The website where I found this blog was The Entourage blog can be found at Since there is only one blog a week, I observed the website from the weekend of 10/24/08 to see more interaction than just for this week’s episode and get a better feel of the website. I also observed blogs on a few episodes that happened earlier to get a feel of what this blog was about. People respond and react to the episode they just saw and can predict or share what they think is going to happen next week. There is a good quality of communication amongst the users trying to figure out what will happen next or why things happened the way did. I am curious to see what other people have to say about the upcoming episodes.

Autonomy vs. Desire for Comments

For today’s blog I had read the article “Shout into the wind, and it shouts back,” which was written by Lori Kendall. This article pertained to some constant tensions that the users of LiveJournal have to face when they participate. According to Kendall, LiveJournal is an easy to use weblogging system with features that help enhance social networking. My focus on this article is the constant friction between autonomy and the desire for comments.

As Kendall mentioned, people using LiveJournal are aware of an audience. This may limit how much information someone may disclose about themselves. That may also limit how much a person may post to others, since they have no control over who may read their posts. People may never know who is always on the receiving end of their comments. Something that may seem appropriate between you and someone may not be perceived that way by others. Being harshly criticized by someone that you may not even know can prevent a person from being autonomous.

There is a tendency when posting on other peoples journals, to avoid the “me too” comments. Therefore many attempt to write something more formal and proofread their writing, taking away from the spontaneity the reaction once had. This may ultimately limit the amount someone may post to others and vice versa. The users of LiveJournal feel that they should contribute more, but the lack of control over their own comments can make them reluctant to do so. This dilemma according to Kendall can lead many to “comment on trivial matters than important ones” (Kendall, p.13).

Although people may use LiveJournal as a personal diary, they are aware that there is a certain audience watching them. The fear of a negative perception by others can limit a person’s freedom on LiveJournal. Not being able to have control over who reads and views your words and opinions can limit your autonomy, even though you may have full control over your own journal. This may cause the inefficiency of LiveJournal, because people may not have the courage to post anything meaningful.

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: