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Displaying articles for: December 2010

The science of social: HP Labs research shows that "superusers" power the social web

(Editor's note: read this Sunday's "The Year In Ideas" issue of The New York Times Magazine to learn more about HP Labs social computing research in a section called "Social Media as Social Index")


After recently publishing work on content monetization and patterns of influence on Twitter, HP Senior Fellow and HP Labs Social Computing Research Group director Bernardo Huberman has turned his attention to explain the science behind a previously unquantifiable social media insight, which he calls ‘the paradox of cooperation’ in a new paper.


The paper starts by asking: why do people willingly contribute to crowd-created sites like YouTube, Digg, and Wikipedia when they can receive plenty of value from those sites without ever contributing a thing?


Apply a classic ‘tragedy of the commons’ frame to that question and it’s clear that the most rational thing to expect of everyone visiting the sites is for them to freeload. And yet people do contribute, making these ‘crowdsourced’ sites hugely successful.


Citing HP Labs research that analyzed tens of millions of Wikipedia edits, Diggs, Gnutella downloads, and YouTube videos, Huberman concludes that “the puzzle is explained by the fact that those contributing to the digital commons perceive it as a private good rather a public one.” And the private good they receive is attention.


Look at the data another way, though, and you get to another insight: that the more attention people get for their posts, the more they contribute.  That’s an observation that has consequences for the people who own, run or want to create competitors for crowd-sourced media.


“While any user can contribute to these forums,” Huberman explains, “a disproportionately large percentage of the content is submitted by very active and devoted users, whose continuing participation is the key to the sites’ success.”


The takeaway:  even though successful web sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Digg are built on the notion that anyone can contribute, they should be looking for ways to actively nurture their relatively few “superusers” if they want to remain successful into the future

HP Labs: Social Media and the Paradox of Cooperation



Research by the numbers

Huberman’s paper cites research conducted by HP Labs (and others) analyzing such phenomena as peer-to-peer file sharing, YouTube, and Twitter.


Some of the raw data analyzed in this research:


- 3,100,464 files from 33,335 hosts on Gnutella (“Free riding on Gnutella”)

- 50 million edits to Wikipedia on 1.5 million articles (“Assessing the value of cooperation in Wikipedia”)

- 9,896,816 YouTube videos submitted by 579,471 users (“Crowdsourcing, attention, and productivity”)

- 59,853,763 Diggs made on 2,676,160 stories (“Feedback loops of attention in peer production” [PDF])


Why is HP conducting research on social media?

HP believes that information is becoming the greatest resource we have for addressing problems in business and society.  Social media is increasingly becoming many people's interface to IT, and these media interactions produce an enormous amount of data.  However, data isn't necessarily information as it contains a lot of noise.  Creating software, hardware, and services that can automatically analyze enormous and noisy data sets to help people make informed decisions is an extremely challenging technical task and an area of focus at HP Labs.


Has HP published other social media research?

This is not the first report that Dr. Huberman and his fellow researchers have published on the subject of social media.  Earlier this year, for example, Dr. Huberman and Dr. Asur at the Social Computing Lab released a report that found Twitter to be a surprisingly accurate predictor of the box office success of Hollywood film releases.  For more of HP’s research in this area, visit the Social Computing Research Group.

Labels: HP labs

How Asimov’s I, Robot influenced HP CEO Léo Apotheker

I, RobotEver wondered how kids are influenced by the books they read?  Take a look at Mike Cassidy’s new San Jose Mercury News column where HP’s CEO, Léo Apotheker (among other Silicon Valley tech titans) discusses how his favorite book, I, Robot, began his fascination with technology:


"When I was young, my favorite book was I, Robot by Isaac Asimov," Apotheker says. "I read it with fascination, and looking back, it had a great influence on my life.  I, Robot was the beginning of my lifelong passion for technology. It also made me a science fiction buff, and to me, science fiction is really all about imagining a better world."


Cassidy’s column was inspired by The Mercury News' annual The Gift of Reading book drive which is hosted by Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT), a non-profit that supports local teachers. The drive is helping get books to school children whose families may not be able to afford them.


Even though the drive is ending today, you can still get involved and help these kids by volunteering or donating to RAFT, an organization that supports teachers through providing innovative project ideas and hands-on learning materials. Through contributing time, technology and talent, HP has been a long-standing partner of RAFT.


In addition, both RAFT and HP have partnered together to support National Lab Day, a grassroots initiative designed to reinvigorate science and math education in the nation's schools and after-school programs and a key component of President Obama's "Change the Equation" campaign. The partnership fosters collaboration among HP employees/retirees and RAFT educators.

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