28 August 2007
23 August 2007
Weblog conversations revisited: speed of linking
Has been playing a bit more with the data from Anjo... This we are looking at the speed of linking (=number of days between two linked posts) for links to own weblog and links to others. One of the hypotheses is that people would be more likely to link to their own "very old posts" than to those of others (simply because it's much easier to remember relevant things in one's own weblog. The results are below (in both cases number of links on the left is cumulative):
- There are more self-links (1086 total) than links to others (635 total), which is strange given that most of bloggers in our sample do not link much to their own content.
- I guess we should look at the influence of outliers and to see if grouping bloggers by their self/others linking behaviour we give different picture.
- Another reason for that could be in our dataset, since only links between bloggers in the sample are counted. So, may be there is someone who links a lot outside this group and those links are not in the picture.
- Number of links decreases as time passes (=older posts are less likely to be linked)
- Makes sense
- For longer time-frames could be screwed up by the nature of dataset: if someone links to a post which is not in it those links are not counted.
- As expected, linking to others is more "short-term" than linking to self.
- Some numbers
- Linking to others: 50% of links come within 3 days, 90% - within 51 day, longest time between posts is 283 days
- Linking to self: 50% - 20 days, 90% - 169 days, longest time - 356
- Does it mean that conversations with self are more longer-term?
Paper - Blogging Practices: An analytical framework
It took me a while to blog that Jan's paper on blogging practices has been published:
Schmidt, Jan (2007): Blogging Practices: An analytical framework. In: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 12, Nr. 4. Available online: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol12/issue4/schmidt.html
Abstract. This article proposes a general model to analyze and compare different uses of the blog format. Based on ideas from sociological structuration theory, as well as on existing blog research, it argues that individual usage episodes are framed by three structural dimensions of rules, relations, and code, which in turn are constantly (re)produced in social action. As a result, "communities of blogging practices" emerge - that is, groups of people who share certain routines and expectations about the use of blogs as a tool for information, identity, and relationship management. This analytical framework can be the basisfor systematic comparative and longitudinal studies that will further understanding of similarities and differences in blogging practices.
I wrote on it before (Jan Schmidt on blogging practices, Blogging practices, episodes and uses), but rereading it now. A couple of sidenotes:
Also, Jan points to other blogging articles in the same JCMC issue:
15 August 2007
Weblog conversations revisited: conversations with self vs. conversations with others
Weblog conversations revisited: an introduction
Weblog conversations revisited: is there more than one?
Weblog conversations revisited: conversations with self
Anjo came up with new visualisation that illustrates how conversations with self and with others are connected for a particular blogger:
- Black: a conversation. All details about the conversation are hidden (in an interactive environment zooming in is always possible).
- Yellow: a boundary link. A self-link into a conversation. That is, there is a personal link inside the conversation already, but no one else links to a boundary link.
- Pink: a secondary link. A self-link to a boundary link or another secondary link.
I was almost jumping than I saw that, since it visually confirms my feeling that:
Weblogs as a conversation medium could be particularly interesting in a knowledge management context, as they provide a distributed space for perspective making and perspective taking (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995), thus creating potential for developing innovative ideas (Bonifacio & Molani, 2003). [Efimova & de Moor, 2005: 9].
Of course, not all bloggers in our dataset behave this way and there is a long way between visualising linking practices and actually saying that those help to develop knowledge :).
Finally, a picture of what I do (given that my own practices are different from the majority I have to look at the few methodological issues around it, but the good thing is that there is someone else with similar profile :).
Weblog conversations revisited: conversations with self
So, in our experiments with extracting weblog conversations we've got one that included 1000+ blog posts from 34 bloggers. Once we included self-linked posts in the analysis, several independent conversations got "glued" together by chains of self-linked posts, turning the whole thing into a mess.
Looking into self-linking was another of my interests to revisit the original research. For me self-linking is one of the indicators that (some) weblogs are written as a conversation with self:
In the simplest case, a weblog post is fully and only embedded into "a conversation with self", a personal narrative used to articulate and to organise one’s own thinking. A single blogger could have several of such conversations simultaneously, returning to ideas over time. Next, each of the posts can trigger a conversation with others that can take several rounds of discussions as well. (Efimova & de Moor, 2005: 9)
Anjo and me have discussed a few possibilities to visualise those conversations with self (at least as far as one could do based on self-linking). One was inspired by Thread Arcs of Bernard Kerr from IBM research (which I actually found referenced in a thesis chapter by Manuel Lima describing precedents of Blogviz).
What Anjo did with it is different, but provides a nice way to visualise some patterns:
The above image is an example of a variant on the Thread Arcs idea. Left to right is time, and the arc that links connected posts is filled with a colour: the darker the colour the shorter the time span of the linked posts.
Another example. Visualisations like this can, at the very least, differentiate between those who use their weblog to create an intricate structure of linked posts over a long period of time, compared to bloggers who hardly refer to their own posts.
The final example depicts Lilia's self-linking practices. I see waves, woods ...
In the visualisations you can see clearly that self-linking is more of a personal habit rather than something that every blogger (in our sample) does consistently. Actually, as you can see from the last image, my own weblog is an extreme example of self-linking; others link to their own posts rarely.
Eventually I want to lok at the reasons for self-linking: Why some people do it and others don't? Is it related to their uses of a weblog to document and organise their thinking? or wanting to inflate google rank? Do people who have easy tools to organise and retrieve their blogs posts (e.g. with categories or tagging) link to themselves less? Is it related to a number of blog posts? to the breadth of topics covered? to some strange personality trait? Does it change over time?
However, those visualisations still help a lot. They indicate that there are probably only several people who (because of chains of their own posts linked to each other) link separate conversations between bloggers into a whole big mess (connectors?). And they help thinking on detangling the mess :)
14 August 2007
Weblog conversations revisited: is there more than one?
Context: Weblog conversations revisited: an introduction.
One of the obvious problems with analysing only one conversation in the paper is that it's difficult to say how representative is that one for the community under study, so I wanted to use the advantage of having tools to do more automatic analysis now to say if there were other similar conversations in the community.
Basic facts of the initial conversation:
- mapped manually, by following outgoing links and trackbacks
- includes self-linking posts (those that are not linked to/from other bloggers)
- two languages (English and German)
- 23 Nov 03 - 18 Jan 2004
- 17 blogs, 30 posts, 59 comments (only 1 post and 3 comments in 2004)
- 32 people (27 of whom are bloggers; other 5 - not clear)
So what do we have now:
While experimenting with mapping the conversations we tried two approaches: (1) only focusing on links between posts of different weblogs and (2) including self-linked posts. Obviousely, going with the second choice is needed for compatibility with the original conversation. However, when trying to extract all groups of linked posts we run into a problem: apart from several small conversations, we would get one of 1028 posts with all 34 blogs participating (I'll blog on possible explanations later).
So, what Anjo did to detangle the whole thing (Anjo, correct me if wrong :)
- extract groups of posts that do not inlude self-linking
- add self-linking posts only to those in a conversation
So, those would look more or less like those pictures on the right, where pink blockes are self-linked posts added (scale and colors have changed between iterations, this is just for an idea).
An overview of what we've got is below (size of the bubble represents number of conversations with X blogs and Y weblog posts). From total of 182 conversations, most are very small (2 blogs, 2 linked posts), but there is a number of bigger ones. Our originally studied conversation would be in the top right area of the graph (~ conversations of that scale do happen, but not that frequently).
If you look at the graph, you can see that most of the conversations on the right shift up (number of posts in a conversation increases due to self-linking). I guess it indicates that the more complex a conversation becomes (more weblogs, more posts), the more likely it would be connected to other (=not belonging to the conversation) posts of bloggers who participate. So, it seems that people tend to get inspired by complex conversations in their future thinking (or at least find it useful to link to later on).
12 August 2007
Weblog conversations revisited: an introduction
I'm taking another look on the work on weblog conversations we did with Aldo de Moor in 2004 (Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices). Then we did a manual analysis of a single conversation between multiple weblogs and proposed a number of characteristics of conversational blogging practices.
Since then many things changed. Not only there is much more research on all weblog things, but also now there are more tools to do weblog analysis. For my dissertation I want to use weblog analysis tools developed by Anjo (an overview - Understanding weblog communities through digital traces: a framework, a tool and an example) to extend the analysis to more conversations.
The plan is to use the data from KM blogger community. Since I still don't have a good answer on a way to define boundaries of a weblog community, I decided to go with the data collected for the weblog community mapping work (Finding 'the life between buildings': An approach for defining a weblog community): posts of 30+ weblogs in year 2004.
Given that it's 2007 now the decision to work with the old data might be strange, but I want to do it to insure compatibility with the analysis in the paper, which is based on the conversation in Nov 2003-Jan 2004. I'm pretty sure (based on non-systematic observation ;) that blogging practices have changed from 2004, most likely in respect to the following things (mainly those affecting linking between weblog posts that is at core of our definition of a weblog conversation):
- Relations between people have evolved and many conversations are moving from weblogs to other media. An example of that is in my paper with Andrea, but I guess many longer-term bloggers could tell similar stories.
- Number of (relevant) weblogs have expanded, so reading practices of some people have changed (do you read weblogs of others as closely and as consistently as in 2004? I don't.)
- Large scale introduction of tagging and evolution of categorisation-related features of weblog tools might have changed practices of organising one's thinking in a weblog, so there is less need to rely on linking to one's own posts.
Other issues with the dataset:
- The community membership is defined in some (attempting to be objective, but far from perfect) way. Some members are probably missing, others do not necessary belong to the community if defined in other ways (e.g. based on topical analysis).
- We have only weblog posts (and not comments) in the dataset, which limits the analysis (e.g. we can't do a proper comparison with the conversation analysed in the paper with Aldo, which included weblog posts and comments).
- Some conversations may span boundaries of a community, so those will not be discovered or will be "truncated".
07 August 2007
Mama's day: breastfeeding and work
Tuesday is my "mama's day" – formally I work 4 days a week now to have one day to take care of Alexander. I thought that would be a good day to blog about things that are important, but not extremely work-related.
This Tuesday I'd like to contribute to the world breastfeeding week by sharing my own tips for combining breastfeeding and work.
- Read some books on breastfeeding. Ideally before you need them, but it also helps to have one in hands in case you need information later on.
- If you only can buy one book on breastfeeding and you are (planning to be) a working mom, get Milk memos (full review that got me into buying the book). It's funny, sweet and practical (e.g. it had a section on bottle-strike that I couldn't find in other breastfeeding books I read). Besides that the story is based on what has been written by breastfeeding mothers in a shared notebook at work, so I can even pretend that it fits my research readings as some strange kind of employee blogging :)
- Read breastfeeding blogs - pick up the one you like at one of breastfeeding carnivals.
Early days tip (from our kraamzorg). Buy a jar of jam (the cheapest one, without seeds and pieces of fruit), put a couple of spoons in a little plastic bag, freeze. When in need for a cold compress, take out of the freezer, put a thin cloth around it and apply. Because of sugars it doesn't freeze solid, but turns into a cold gel (also handy for all other occasions).
Feeding in public tip. Buy (or make) a couple of breastfeeding outfits - they make a lot of difference by giving you an opportunity to feed discreetly, without any discomfort of being cold or trying to cover. The good ones seem to be expensive, but it pays back (I tried several, but there are two that I couldn't do without - plain black Anna Cecilia T-shirt and Glamourmom tanktop; if buying in NL, check Prettymum).On those occasions when I took Alexander to work-related events I was especially happy with having that special "gear": next to being plain practical, being able to feed him while listening to a presentation gave me a very special feeling that motherhood and work could be compatible after all.
Getting back to work tips
- Know your rights. Those things are different between countries (Netherlands is pretty good in this respect). Breastfeeding facilities (is there a private place to express milk? a fridge to keep it cold?), time you are allowed to take, etc. Knowing that not only helps in any conversations with your employer, but also gives some idea of what resources should be available in other organisations in case you have to be at an external meeting long enough to need them.
- Check at work if you can have extra flexible schedule for the first few weeks. I ended up working half days (to let Alexander get used to daycare gradually), going to the daycare to feed him while the whole bottle business didn't work and working at home on the days Robert was babysitting, so I could just go downstairs to feed Alexander and then get back to work. Being able to do all that made the transition to work much easier for everyone.
Bottle strike tip [this is when your baby refuses to drink your milk from a bottle]. I guess there are no silver bullets here. What helped in our case? Ladies in our daycare. Not only they had a lot of experience of bottle-feeding babies in different circumstances, but they also tried feeding Alexander from different types of bottles, so eventually they found the one he liked (this is pretty difficult to do at home unless you want to spend a lot of money).
Expressing and storing milk tips
- Invest in a breastpump (get one indicated for "daily use"). I've got two used ones from friends and I could feel the difference. I use the better one (old version of Medela pump in style) regularly at work and (since I have the luxury of having two) simpler Medela Mini Electric plus very occasionally at home.
- Get some spare parts. When at work I don't want to lose too much time by washing and cleaning pumping gear, so I've got packages of clean shields for every pumping round and wash everything at once at home.
- If your baby doesn't drink as much as you express and you have to freeze the leftovers, think of using breastmilk storage bags (e.g. those by Medela or Lansinoh) for that to avoid the risk of having all your bottles in the freezer. They also take less space than bottles if you have to travel and make a perfect back-up stock in the office in a case you forget some bottles (it actually happened to me).
- Ziplock bags are great for storing sterilised parts (and lots of other things too :)
- And, finally, if you need a motivator to make expressing milk easier you might go a bit geeky by starting a slide-slow of your baby's photos on whatever digital device is around (I run slide-show of Alexander's photos at Flickr on my desktop :)
Some resources that might help are at del.icio.us/mathemagenic/breastfeeding.
06 August 2007
I figured out fast that with Alexander blogging is difficult: it's either doing it at work or at those precious moments when he is asleep or taken care by Robert. Last few days it's even more difficult - although I have a few half-written posts, getting them online seems to be impossible.
The explanation is simple - Robert is fishing in a guys-only company in Sweden, so our little guy keeps me away from blogging (and nots of other things too :)
02 August 2007
PKM models revisited: background
Over time my PhD research has gone through several shifts of focus: since the end of 2003 my research questions oscillate in a space that involves knowledge work and blogging (e.g. PhD outlines in December 2003 and Audgust 2006). In all that process it looks like I moved away from my work on personal knowledge management, which is not truly so.
In my approach of understanding PKM using weblogs as a lens (starting here, more refined), I was torn apart between focusing on the PKM side of knowledge work and focusing on weblog uses by knowledge workers (that in turn should be shading light on PKM). At a certain moment I had to make choices: I decided to reduce the complexity by focusing on blogging practices of knowledge workers*. So, my work on PKM became a way to inform and structure my research on blogging, rather than a research focus.
In my earlier work I tried to define PKM as an alternative to the task-based view on knowledge work and to focus on a knowledge worker perspective as an alternative to an organisational perspective on KM. Since my interest have always been in the middlespace between personal and organisational issues around knowledge work and PKM model (version 1, version 2) was pretty much at the personal level, I ended up struggling with figuring out how to integrate the organisational dimension in my research (one attempt is here - blogging practices in three contexts).
However, recently I found myself coming back to my PKM models as a way to position the choices of case-studies for my dissertation. In that process I've got some ideas of how to address the issues that didn't make me happy.
Two posts to come :)
*That was after coming back from Microsoft and also had a "pragmatic" side to it - I had lots of good insides on the blogging practices of knowledge workers, but also figured out the complexity of generalising those to PKM/knowledge work in general.