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Pithy comments from Social Media Convention, Oxford University, Session 1

Last updated on June 3, 2017

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Social Media Convention, Oxford Institute, #oxsmc09

From weblogs to Twitter: how did we get where we are today and what are the main impacts to date?


Dave Sifry, Technorati @dsifry

Bill Thompson, BBC @billt

Bill Dutton, Oxford University @billdutton

Nigel Shadbolt, University of Southampton @nigel_shadbolt

Chair: Kathryn Corrick @kcorrick

Although the dates of the earliest ‘weblog’ are a matter of some debate, the majority of their growth in popularity has arisen over the past ten years. What are the most important milestones in that process of evolution, and what are the factors that have shaped the successes and limitations of social media? Why (if at all) should we expect them to have an inherently democratising or egalitarian effect? Each speaker will be asked to conclude by identifying the most significant ways in which they think that blogs and social media have had any social, political or economic impact.
Dave Sifry

1. Web as library vs web as conversation.  What are people saying about me? [Technical issues].

Question from chair: real-time search?

Search interfaces vs filter interfaces [*]

Bill Thompson.

2.  Social media is not yet taken-for-granted but what has changed is that “I am no longer in charge”.  Permission is no longer need.  The internet is a facilitating service.  A new literacy is developing.  Innovation is possible because we have removed the requirement to ask.  We are waiting for the last 5bn to join the 1bn online.

Bill Dutton

3.  Constant reinvention of the internet day-to-day but it has always been social.  Email is the core application: social and under your control. 98% of people online go their to use email.  2007 17% of Britons over the age of 14 used a social network.  49% today. 22% [?] have created a blog and younger people are the most likely to have done so.  Technology reconfigures how we communicate with people.  Reinforce existing social networks.  But we also meet new people.  35% of internet users have met someone on line that they haven’t met before and many have gone on to meet them in person.

20% of newly married couples met their spouse on line.

Social networks are competing with search engines for referrals.  [?4 sources : adverts, real, social network, search ?]

Nigel Shadbolt

4.  Thirty years ago, it was easy to have a sense of overview of the internet.  The web demonstrates the unreasonable effectiveness of data.  When we have scale, remarkable emergent things happen.

AI has become augmented intelligence.

Semantic web:  infrastructure that is document-centre to something that gets behind into the data.

Why can’t we anticipate this stuff?  Why are we disarmed by what emerges.  See “Websites”.  Cannot understand cause and direction.  Why did blogs take off?  Social interaction scale allows things to take off.  Self-publication has always been there but pings and trackbacks seem to underly take off of blogs.

Why are we mopping up descriptively rather than anticipating what is to come?

Social media have an exquisite balance between enough features and sufficient?  How is this designed?  Or is it simply, Darwinian “try and discard”?

Social media activity in China varies from here [? details].

How do large scale structures like Wikipedia become stable? And will they pay for increasing amounts of oversite?

Or do societal structures emerge anyway?  Does the web support extremism? Or do people get pushed into the most influential part of the space?  Battle for our attention.

Kathryn Corrick

5.  Web is social.  Got more exciting as it got cheaper.  Reinvention and continuity. Emerging and augmented intelligence.  Problems:  How do we find out what is interesting?  How do we find out what is interesting in China and Africa?


6.  BT (non-twitterer):  Chinese urls will be come available.  Do we need to learn Chinese?  Bill Thompson:  the internet will translate?  The real issue will be our cultural expectations about what is interesting and what we will pay for.

Nigel Shadbolt:  Massive areas of the internet not available to us.  Spanish network is different.  “Bido” the Chinese search engine searchs material that Google doesn’t cover and includes micro-blogging.  We have good translation because stats does a fairly good job of translating.  And how will we communicate with people who are illiterate.

Kathryn Corrick: I only get English results.  Dave Sifry: you need to ask for the languages you want.  Enormous corpus of data has [trumped] rules.  .  .  .  Liberating and dangerous at the same time.  Did WoW expect to create a virtual market in China and India?  Will we encourage open access to tis information?  Democratizing and centralizing.  Globalizing and encouraging xenophobia.  Will the Chinese start building their own protocols?  What will happen to the openness we take for granted.


7.  ?? : Facebook compresses the space for first names.  Bill Dutton: Net English – unintended consequences.  Multiple identities.  Nicknames.

Bill Thompson:   Having one name is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Imperfections in the tools create serendipty.  Ideas are not linked because they are similar but becuase of deeper conceptual matching.

Nigel Shadbolt:  Structure and typology.  Condensed areas with weak links between.  Unanticipated arrivals in other places.

Dave Sifry: .  . . we don’t like to be challenged.  How easy or difficult is it to get attention to a  meaningful conversation? How can someone with quality ideas become heard without going through money and capital?

KathrynCorrick:  Doesn’t fragmentation make it difficult?

Dave Sifry:  Not sure that is a problem.  The larger issue is trust.  No singular person to [referencing Walter Cronkite].  Don’t have the same level of massive singular change – is that a bad thing.  We will find out from our friends.

Kathryn Corrick: e.g., Iran, difficult to verify.

William Dutton:  Remind everyone that TV/newspapers/mass media still exists.  More flexibility.  Institutional networks.  Individuals – news platforms on line.  Another independent source of accountability.  Not replacing mass media yet.

Bill Thompson:  Not sure I agree.  Something happening underneath.  Trust grows and is broken quickly.  Mass media challenged, checked and undermined.  Indefensible practices.  Is corrosive rather than additive?


??  Can we anticipate stuff better – raise quality of thinking.  Is concept broad enough?  Ppl don’t use tools like ping back etc.  Contemporary social phenomenon of self-expression.  I tweet therefore I am. IS this @Nico_Macdonald.  I find people who agree with what I say [I find people who can explain what I am interested in!] .  Politics is driving the web not the technology.  Is webscience broad enough in its engagement with societ?

Nigel Shadbolt:  Exteme nich opinion get marginalized.  Conversation about intentions drives people to consensual . . . Not a union of everything but more than an intersection – key areas that acccount for what we see.  Small differences in technology influence social interaction and can be invisible to ordinary user.

William Dutton:  Continuity and change.  A few years ago a few experts . . .  internt more central across all sectors and users reinventing the web as dramatically as computer scientists.  Cannot understand the internet except interdisciplinarily ..”{?]


@inkuna Free at point of use.  Does panel think #So.ME revolution spinning into public policy?  e.g. US health care debate.  Is free-at-point-of use (F) becoming the model?

KC: wonder whether anything

Dave Sifry: How related to US healthcare debate?  . . ..  Ah ……..I see!  Never really thought about it in those terms.  Gut . . . not really.  . . . Someone has got to pay . .  for sustainable business that lives beyond you.  In media around for a long time . . . tradeoffs . . . get users then figure out how to monetize . .  . interesting . .

Bill Thompson:  I destroyed the newspaper industry.  I am sorry.  It was a mistake.   . . Guardian  . . . 15 years  later paywalls are futile.  One more nail in the coffin.  If payments had been required earlier, it might have been different.  Businesses changing so fast maybe only investors are concerned.

William Dutton:  If you charge by use on internet, invisible. BBC online doing well. Advertising doing well – distribution of revenue is the issue.


Brian Kelly:   71 people using #oxsmc09.  The bankchannel is no longer private because on screen in front of us.  We know we are successul if we get spam – e.g., taxis asking us if we want a taxi at end.  Are we seeing commercialization of social media?

Kathryn Corrick:  Until technology gets ubiquitous, it doens’t get interesting.


Shane ?:

KC: Brave new world.

Nigel Shadbolt:  Ecology of applications, information types and needs – much richer shape than used to –  typical with [enriching] technologies.  .  Surprising ways that twitter is being appropriated.

Issue is trust -trust in media, content, services “someon not inspecting our packets”[?]


William Dutton: People who use internet trust it more than authorities.  Trust is based on experience.  More educated more skeptical but trust dependent on experience.

Bill Thompson:  Dream some more dreams.

Dave Sifry:  Clay Shirky – it is not social media if you can’t spam it.

Before: high signal to noise ratio.  The openness of a hashtag # is that it invites spam.

SEO – how to get traffic – have more interesting material.

Is it OK for a taxi cab to enter the twitter stream.  What are acceptable social mores?

Published in Business & Communities


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