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CHI 2013: Managing Social Media

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CHI 2013 Bleu Room

In the first of a series of posts detailing our experiences at CHI Paris 2013, we look at the opening session "Managing Social Media".

A long train journey and some dawdling on the Metro prevented a quick entry into this 11am session, but I was lucky enough to catch some excellent talks that more than made up for my accidental sightseeing.

The topic of this session was Social Media. Featuring some heavyweight papers with significant involvement from Facebook, this was a must-see set of presentations that opened the day nicely.

Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks

An absolutely standout study. Michael Bernstein took us on a journey of Facebook statistics exploring the facts behind the perception that only a small selection of friends see someone’s Facebook posts.

Invisible Audience Chart

In a nutshell, users underestimate by up to 4x how many people actually see their Facebook posts. This led to some interesting exploration of how this perception affects behaviour of users when posting and interacting on the site. A few years ago it might have seemed rather ethereal to discuss such a topic, but with so many people staging a large portion of their friendships just on Facebook, it is an increasingly relevant study.

The study used its findings to debate whether Facebook can do more to articulate how content is being distributed. Keeping a ‘black box’ from users is a dangerous game when you are reliant on their enthusiasm and faith in the system, but transparency is sometimes a bridge too far. Facebook have already investigated this idea with groups displaying who has seen your post. Will we see this elsewhere?

Facebook "Seen by" behaviour

The full paper is available online and is well worth a read.

Gender, Topic, and Audience Response: An Analysis of User-Generated Content on Facebook

“Gender, Topic and Audience Response” was an interesting study concept that perhaps didn’t have the presentation time for Moira Burke to do it justice. Analysing keywords and topics discussed on Facebook, it compared the behaviours of males and females through conversation.

Whilst fascinating, featuring great data and good analysis, there was a real sense that a large part of the presentation confirmed what are already commonly understood differences between genders. Sadly more of a footnote was the incidental behaviour of how different genders respond to this content. As an academic study it feels like it’s got real legs and I’d love to have seen further details around incidental behaviour based on gender.

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