Boardtracker adds AuthorLine visualizations to threaded discussion search service

Boardtracker is a search engine and reporting service for threaded discussions.  Recently, the BoardTracker folks implemented a visualization of author activity overtime that was inspired by work Fernanda Viegas and I did in 2003/2004 called “AuthorLines”.

AuthorLine visualizations represent the weekly rates and nature of contribution from a single author over the span of a year.  Each vertical strip of bubbles represents the activity of that author in a week.  The 52 strips of bubbles in these images represent a year of contribution history.  If users reply to threads other users initiate, they get blue bubbles that  sit below a middle dividing line.  Each thread to which they contribute in that week is represented as a separate bubble.  Each additional message contributed to that thread in that week adds to the size and transparency of the bubble.  If the author initiates new threads, they get a red bubble that sits above the line.

The results is an “at-a-glance” view of the pattern of participation for a year in the life of a threaded conversation message contributor.  The two images below illustrate just how different contributors can be in their patterns of engagement in a threaded conversation environment.  This image represents a contributor of mostly reply messages who starts a small amount of thread initiation at the end of the year but who contributes significantly more to threads started by others.  They have a habit of engaging in lengthy discussions, adding dozens of messages to one or more threads almost every week of the year.

Contrast this image with the distinct pattern created by this author who heavily initiates new threads while responding to those started by others more modestly until the pattern inverts at the ned of the year where they shift to a more heavy reply rather than initiation pattern.

The paper that described the early work on these visualizations can be found in the HICSS 2004 conference:

Viégas, Fernanda B., Marc Smith. “Newsgroup Crowds and AuthorLines: Visualizing the Activity of Individuals in Conversational Cyberspaces“, Proceedings of Hawaii International Conference on Software and Systems (HICSS) 2004. [Best Paper: Persistent Conversation Minitrack]

A related paper applies these visualizations to document the range of variation found in social media spaces built around threaded discussions.

Tammara Turner, Marc Smith, Danyel Fisher and Howard Ted Welser, Picturing Usenet: Mapping computer-mediated collective actionJournal of Computer Mediated Communication, 2005. [Local copy]

[Thanks to BoardTracker CEO Ron Kass for these images!]

Event: Maker Faire 2009


I attended the Maker Faire down the hill in San Mateo at the County Fair Grounds.

The event is the gathering of the many forms of craft, tinkering, building, mashup, hacking, and experimental communities.

Here are some photos from today’s event.

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My highlights: the full sized replicas of TV and movie robots from Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet; the littlebits snap together circuits, the LED bicycle wheel displays, the Telsa coils (of course), the flame throwers (of course), and the rolling metal ball robots.

It was a well attended event with many great displays.

Conference: 2009 International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media in San Jose

ICWSM 2009 in San Jose

Another conference focused on research on blogs and other forms of social media is “ICWSM” – the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.  I was able to attend the previous meeting of this conference last March in Seattle and give a talk about different classifications of social media and I am looking forward to attending this year’s meeting in San Jose.  Last year we had a poster paper in the conference about the ways some users in a blog system called Wallop were able to hold other users in the system.

Some Users Pack a Wallop: Measuring the Impact of Core Users on the Participation of Others in Online Social Systems
Thomas M. Lento, Eric Gleave, Marc A. Smith, Howard T. Welser
2008 ICWSM - Some Users Pack A Wallop

There was also a paper about the lessons learned from managing large corporate online community efforts.

Space Planning for Online Community
Danyel Fisher, Tammara Combs Turner, Marc A. Smith

This year, we have a poster in the conference that is focused on the ways network structures created when people reply to one another can be used to predict whether a message or thread is a question and answer exchange or a long discussion or debate.

Distinguishing Knowledge vs. Social Capital in Social Media with Roles and Context
Vladimir Barash, Marc Smith, Lise Getoor, Howard Welser

The conference attracts some great people and features the state of the art in research at the intersections of computer science, natural language processing, social network analysis, search engine/information retrieval design, information visualization, knowledge management and the social sciences.  That can be eclectic but this is the place for hearing about new work on Wikis, Blogs, Message Boards, and other social media systems like social networking services, micro-blogging systems, and mobile software.

2009 ICWSM in San Jose

The conference is held this year in May, from the 17th-20th, in San Jose, California.

Here are my pictures from last year’s ICWSM in 2008, held in Seattle, Washington.

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There is also a nice picture from Joe McCarthy of Tom Lento and me in front of our poster at ICWSM 2008.

Tom Lento and Marc Smith @ ICWSM 2008
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