Summary of the HICSS Social Media Workshop in Tweets and Notes

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Below is a rough summary of the Social Media Research Workshop at HICSS on 5-Jan-2016. The workshop consisted of a social media research confessional and three roundtables on: 1) IRB/Ethics of Social Media Research, 2) Terms of Service/Data Challenges, and 3) Funding Social Media Research.

Social Media Research Confessional

The workshop opened with a social media research confessional –  discussion of cases where things did not go as planned. These detours, challenges, and mistakes are often smoothed out in our final publications. Confessions were tweeted during the workshop and included below. Note that any identifying information was not shared outside of the workshop in order to keep the identity of the confessor confidential.

Social Media Research Ethics Roundtable

The first roundtable focused on the challenges of conducting ethical social media research. The panelists included Jordan Eschler from the University of Washington, Mary Gray from Microsoft Research’s Social Media Collective, and Britta Ricker from the University of Washington Tacoma. The panel was moderated by Bob Mason from the University of Washington.

Social Media Research Data and Terms of Service Roundtable

The second roundtable focused on how we conduct research in light of changing and restrictive platform Terms of Service agreements. Panelists included Jason Thatcher from Clemson University, Amelia Acker from the University of Pittsburgh, and Shawn Walker from the University of Washington. The panel was moderated by Jeff Hemsley from Syracuse University.

Social Media Research Funding Roundtable

The third roundtable focused on funding social media research. Panelists included Cecilia Aragon from the University of Washington, Roman Beck from the IT University of Copenhagen, Kevin Crowston from Syracuse University, and Bob Mason from the University of Washington. The panel was moderated by Jason Thatcher from Clemson University.

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HICSS 2016 Workshop on Social Media Research

Posted by on Dec 12, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Workshop on Social Media Research

Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
HICSS-49: January 5-8, 2016 Grand Hyatt, Kauai
9am – 4pm, January 5, 2016, Grand Ballroom 5

Full-day Workshop
SWT Theme: Scientific Inquiry and Research Methods

Social media has exploded as a topic in academic journals and the practitioner press. New lines of inquiry have emerged that use social data to describe how individuals organize for social action, to develop models for forecasting financial markets, and to develop better algorithms for text analysis. That such research is important and maturing is evident in its prominent placement in top journals across the computing disciplines, including computer science, information systems, information science, and systems science.

The Research on Social Media workshop at HICSS has emerged as an important channel for sharing information on contemporary methods and issues connected to using social data for a broad range of topics – from cyberbullying to knowledge sharing. This year’s workshop discusses the limitations of the trace data, how to construct research questions and designs, methods for reporting results, approaches to data cleaning, and the plethora of ethical issues researchers face. We are particularly interested in providing attendees the opportunity to openly reflect and discuss these issues through a series of interactive roundtables. The morning will focus on challenges and ethics; while the afternoon will focus on issues researchers on data and funding issues.

The morning session will open with a series of ‘research confidential’ style presentations focused on issues researchers faced before and during data collection, but were not described in conference presentations or published papers. The rest of the day will consist of three interactive roundtables where panelists will focus on seeding the discussions of how to address specific challenges in the social media research space. The morning roundtable will focus on the ethics of collecting and working with social data. The afternoon roundtables will focus on data restrictions (Terms of Service changes, API restrictions, etc) and funding in the social media space.

Join the confessional at the Social Media Workshop

Social media research is an emerging area of study. As we explore the space, collect data, apply existing methods, and develop new ones sometimes things do not always go as planned. These detours, challenges, and mistakes are often smoothed out in our final publications. We invite you to share and discuss these “social media confessions” at the start of our workshop so we can learn together.

In addition to our panels on ethics, the implications of Terms of Service for data collection and research and funding for social media research, we invite you to join our workshop and optionally share a confession. No formal presentation required — just share an informal, short description of your experience. Optionally, we are happy to share anonymous confessions. Short descriptions of your confessions or questions can be submitted to


Tentative Schedule

9:00 to 10:30: Opening and Social Media Research Confessional
Moderator: Shawn Walker, University of Washington

10:45: Ethics / IRB Roundtable
Moderator: Robert Mason, University of Washington
Jordan Eschler, University of Washington
Mary Gray, Microsoft Research
Britta Ricker, University of Washington, Tacoma

Lunch – 2:30: Data / Terms of Service Roundtable
Moderator: Jeff Hemsley, Syracuse University
Amelia Acker, University of Pittsburgh
Susan Etlinger, Altimeter Group
Jason Tatcher, Clemson University

2:45 to 4:15ish: Funding Roundtable
Moderator: Jason Thatcher, Clemson University
Cecilia Aragon, University of Washington
Roman Beck, IT University of Copenhagen
Kevin Crowston, Syracuse University
Bob Mason, University of Washington

Workshop Leaders

Shawn Walker (Primary Contact)
The Information School
University of Washington

Jeff Hemsley
School of Information Studies
Syracuse University

Robert M. Mason
The Information School
University of Washington

Jason Thatcher
Social Analytics Institute
Clemson University

Jim Thatcher
Urban Studies
University of Washington – Tacoma

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Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A new website for the SoMe Lab @ UW is being developed and should be available before the end of September.  We’ll keep this site, even though we have not kept it up-to-date.  When the newer site is published, we will link to this original site for those interested in the historical record.  The older posts and links to articles will remain for the foreseeable future.


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Ephemerality and decay and erosion. Oh my!

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Methods | 0 comments

cross stitched 404 Not Found ImageOne of the oft-discussed challenges of working with social media data, especially Twitter, is the ephemeral nature of the data.  If we do not collect the data in real-time, it disappears.  While it is possible could purchase historical data from GNIP or DataSift; the cost is out of reach of most researchers. It’s easy to think that we’ve dodged that bullet of ephemerality once we’ve built an archive of tweets and other social media data about a specific event or topic.  But have we? 

What about the URLs in these tweets?

Twitter is a microblogging service in which the text of each message or tweet is up to 140 characters long.  The tweet text can contain various elements including mentions of other users, hashtags, emoji, and URLs.  What happens when a URL is included in the text of the tweet? Do the contents of the URL become part of the tweet?  Can you understand the content and context of the tweet if you only read the text alone?  Does the URL, in a way, extend the text of the tweet beyond 140 characters?  

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The Magic of Metaphors

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Ethics, Methods, Modeling, Research | 0 comments

curious rabbit

Metaphors are magical.  Unlike similes or analogs, which express a one-to-one mapping of concepts, metaphors are equivocal; they imply and suggest qualities that are not immediately apparent.  Presented with a simile, we can accept or reject it.  Offered a metaphor, we’re likely to respond with a “yes, but…” or with a quizzical “in what way do you mean this?”  The mystery of the metaphor charms us into examining more closely what it is and how it fits into the context.  A metaphor engages us; it invites us to think about how different aspects of the metaphor can create new meaning and understanding of the situation.

Metaphors are ambiguous.  Through this ambiguity, they can provoke reflection, initiate discussions, and even provide a bridge to the unknown from something known.  At their best, metaphors help us make sense of new situations and gain insight about the nature of disruptive events and evolving situations.   

But at their worst, metaphors can constrain our thinking and limit our imagination.  Instead of magic and engagement, a metaphor can be a sleight of hand that focuses our attention away from the critical actions and significant issues.   This misdirection can happen implicitly without our awareness, as many metaphors have become so embedded in our discourse that we forget they are metaphors.  References to space and vision are particularly evident in our everyday research discussions:  I see what you mean [do we acknowledge that seeing is not comprehending?]; my area of research [deliberately bounding our interest and limiting our range of attention]; the information superhighway [directing us to consider that information and knowledge, as if they were in containers, move along predetermined paths]; etc. 

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The MakeR way: Using R to reify social media data via 3d printing

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in Data Visualization, Information Visualization, Methods, Modeling, R, r-project, Social Networks, Uncategorized | 6 comments

small_3dprintIf you’ve read any of my previous posts you know that I am constantly experimenting with different ways to represent and explore social network data with R. For example, in previous posts I’ve written about sonification of tweet data, animation of dynamic twitter networks, and various ways to plot social networks (here and here). In each case the underlying idea is finding different ways to explore data under the assumption that sometimes just looking at something from a different point of view reveals something novel. In this post I will briefly discuss how to go from data to 3D model network, to 3D object using R most of the way.

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The Era of Pretended Transparency

Posted by on Aug 28, 2013 in Transparency | 0 comments

Finally and for the first time, Facebook released a report that allegedly discloses the global government requests for data. The report details (among other things) the name of country, the number of requests and the percentage of disclosed data by Facebook.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 5.54.41 PM

It is NICE that Facebook finally publishes a report about government data request. OK, it is important!

Google for example has been doing that regularly since 2009 with the Google Transparency Report. A report that is more detailed and gives more casino pa natet information (as it should) to users.


“Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook ”  the report says. But now after Snowden-Gate, we know that certain governments (say the US) have direct access to data from Facebook and other big companies.

Shouldn”t Facebook disclose information about this as well? How much data and what kind of data is extracted on a daily basis by governments (say the US)? Of course Facebook is not the issue. The same request can be made to Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft or name it.

Publishing a report and pretending it is transparency, is a good way to mask relevant information that should be accessible to users.

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