Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's on Wikipedia, what's not...?

When researching online you can never quite be too sure what you’re going to get. You go to your favorite search engine, type in some key words then review the results. The chances that one of those results are going to be a Wikipedia entry are very likely, and according to Royal and Kapila, especially if the content you are searching is relevant to the time. Royal and Kapila, authors of What’s on Wikipedia, and what’s not…?, conducted a research study to determine the content they found on Wikipedia. Their results yielded several forms of bias in the content of information found on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, free to all. Wikipedia is run by its users providing entries and constantly updating those entries. Royal and Kapila’s study looked for the relationship between currency, importance, population of countries and economic power in determining how much information was provided on each Wikipedia entry. By the conclusion of the study it was found that the content on Wikipedia relied heavily on those factors. With very few exceptions, all of the previous factors increased content and word count on the Wikipedia pages, especially when compared to text versions of encyclopedias.

The results from this study offer much to think about. I look at the results as an increase in the power of Web 2.0. We as users have found a way to filter out what we are really looking for. Chances are if you want information on something that happened last week, it’s not going to be in a print version of an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia of modern time. Those who want to look to the past can do so by looking elsewhere. Companies with more economic power are most likely more known to people, so why wouldn’t they have more information. Web 2.0 is all about technologies becoming more user friendly and if the content on Wikipedia is what the people want, then it’s fulfilling its purpose.

Royal, Cindy & Kapila, Deepina. (in press). What’s on Wikipedia, and what’s not…? Social Science Computer Review.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Essay 3

With the millions of different types of sources and information made easily available to us though the power of the World Wide Web, it’s hard to determine who to believe and trust. People today are becoming far more educated and able to contribute to the information that is out there. Years ago, common people, such as the housewife, the average teenager or even grandma had no idea how to add pages to the World Wide Web. It was commonly left to the scholars of the world. So now with everyone having the ability to contribute to the information that is out there, how does one determine what is credible and what is not? Is it up to us to use and trust certain search engines, or is the user responsible for searching with the correct key terms to ultimately find what we are looking for? Uncertain of the answer, what I do know is that research will help determine whether we should only trust certain search engines, or if as a user, we just simply need to search smarter.

The task that I have at hand is to search a specific Web 2.0 medium. I have chosen the fascinating world of blogging. I started my journey with a basic Yahoo search. It’s one of my home pages because I like that when you being to type text into the search box, it starts to offer suggestions. Now it is not the only site to do that, however, I believe that it was when I set my home pages. I decided to start basic by typing the word “blogging”. The first page on my list of results is the Wikipedia page for blogging. I think that Wikipedia is a good source of information because it is often written in a simple language where you do not have to be an expert in the field to comprehend the information that you are reading. There are detailed explanations that are broken down into sections to make research a little simpler. Wikipedia states that “A blog (a contraction of the term "Web log") is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.” That seems like a pretty concrete and detailed description of what we were looking for. However, once must use extreme caution when using Wikipedia, as it is not known as a credible source. Wikipedia is a site that can be updated by anyone at any time, and although it may appear helpful and there are people constantly monitoring the information, no one can really be certain that wrongful information has not slipped through the cracks. I would use Wikipedia in a quick, informal search for personal use, but not for anything with academic purpose.

The second page that comes up on my Yahoo search is an article dated September 15th, 2005 from ABC news titled “What is Blogging"ABC news seems like a credible source. The article gives a description of the craze known as blogging, different types of blogging and even gives readers tips on how to start their own. The only thing that turns me off to this result is the date. Considering this is the second page that shows up on a list of 648,000,000 results, one would think that it would be a little more up to date. Although 2005 is not that long ago, when you consider the fact that the World Wide Web is updated every single second, and technologies like blogging have advanced since, it seems like centuries ago. With this in mind, I turn my search to a different engine. Google, the next most common search engine that I use is where I turned. The first thing that comes up is the same to the result of my Yahoo search, the Wikipedia page. Having already looked into that page, the next one on the list was Blogger, Google’s official blogging tool. I can’t help but wonder if the results all come back to paid advertisements. As I learned when creating my own profile on blogger for this course, you must provide personal information. As we read in Zimmer’s “The externalities of search 2.0: the emerging privacy threats when the drive for the perfect search engine meets Web 2.0”, search engines gather information to tailor to your needs. They have a goal of personalizing each search experience to custom what you are looking for. So does Google have alternative motives in Blogger being so far up on the results list?

Google gave me 115,000,000 hits when simply using the term blogging, so I decided to narrow it down by asking “what is blogging”. Web definitions came first. Also, a page for introduction to blogging came up which I found to be useful because it discussed different rules of the community of blogging. As we learned from Kollock and Smith in “Managing the Virtual Commons: Cooperation and Conflict in Computer Communities”, these virtual environments are communities in and of themselves and they each have their own rules. Looking at a different source, Ask Jeeves, I found articles by the BBC,a definition from What , that was full of advertisments and a blogging 101 tutorial from a university’s website.

In searching through our University’s library through Com Abstracts I found an article by Li and Walejko that talks about some of the problems associated with blogging. I would use this in the future because it not only comes from a credible search, being a University, but it also talks about the downside of blogging, something not yet touched upon. In Com Abstracts, I also found an article by Hodkinson that looks at blogging as a new means for communication. These are all good resources for any research because they provide more than just the simple definition.

In my search for the perfect results for my questions regarding blogging, I found many things. Advertisements were there on sties like Yahoo and Google and Ask Jeeves, maybe because not as popular, did not yield as many results as the previous two. I would use some of the definitions that I found on the search engines, and possible some of the articles. I would feel most comfortable using the school’s library database, because I can be certain they are from credible sources. I learned that as users the particular search engines that we utilize are not as important as the key words that we use and the intellect that we personally use to filter out the non credible sources.


Hodkinson, Paul (2007). Interactive online journals and individualization New Media & Society. 9 (4, August), 625-650.

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.
Li, Dan, and Walejko, Gina (2008). Splogs and abandoned blogs: The perils of sampling bloggers and their blogs Information Communication & Society. 11 (2, March), 279-296.

Zimmer, Michael. (2008). The externalities of search 2.0: The emerging privacy threats when the drive for the perfect search engine meets Web 2.0. First Monday, 13. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Search engine privacy

In the most recent reading I did for my COM430Z class entitled “The emerging privacy threats when the drive for the perfect search engine meets Web 2.0” by Michael Zimmer, discusses the ever so prevalent issue of privacy on the internet. According to Zimmer, search engines are on a quest to create personalized search results for each and every user. They do this in several ways. Zimmer states that these search engines such as Google and Yahoo! are using the latest user friendly Web 2.0 technologies, such as Facebook or Flickr, to compile information on each person. This craze is being referred to as Search 2.0. In Search 2.0, Zimmer says that perfect recall is used to track and monitor one’s history and the commonly searched topics you’ve looked for. The sites use resources such as you’re “… IP addresses, cookie ID, date and time, search results…” (p.3) to personalize your results leading to the user to be more likely to return to this particular search engine in the future, therefore leading to the search engine to charge more for targeted paid advertisements on their sites.

Although search engines are ultimately using Search 2.0 to better each user’s experience, the whole thing is a little frightening. The article talks about a case where a man’s emails that he thought were deleted, and search results were demanded in a court, and it was found that he searched for murder methods. Is that considered hard enough evidence to charge someone? I think the scariest thing about this whole phenomenon is that most people aren’t even aware that it exists. I learned about it for the first time last year in a course I was taking on computers, and I have to admit, I was disturbed. Something is literally tracking you, and that information can possibly be used against you at some point, when you didn’t even knowingly give it up. The whole idea of personalized search results does help to narrow ones search when there are millions of things out there on the World Wide Web, but at what cost is it affective. People should be made more aware of it. Maybe there could be a disclaimer when you enter the site, or when you set up your accounts. People should have options.

Zimmer, Michael. (2008). The externalities of search2.0: The emerging privacy threats when the drive for the perfect search engine meets Web 2.0. First Monday, 13.Retrieved August 21, 2008 from