Online popularity can be thought of as analogous to an earthquake; it is sudden, unpredictable, and the effects are severe. While shifts in online popularity are not inherently destructive – consider the unprecedented magnitude of online giving via Twitter following the disaster in Haiti – they indicate radical swings in society’s collective attention. Given the increasingly profound effect that large-scale opinion formation has on important phenomena like public policy, culture, and advertising profits, understanding this behavior is essential to understanding how the world operates.
In this paper by Ratkiewicz and colleagues, the authors put forth a web-wide analysis that includes large-scale data sets of the online behaviors of millions of people. The paper offers a novel model that is is capable of reproducing all of the observed dynamics of online popularity through a mechanism that causes sudden, nonlinear bursts of collective attention. These results have been mentioned in the APS and PhysOrg websites.
I will talk about some work related to to the problem of predicting the popularity of online content, and some initial results from my experiments in this area. More in detail, I’ll overview work by Leskovec et al and Huberman et al on modeling and predicting growth, then outline the results of two initial experiments.
“The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work.” — Zeroeth Law of Wikipedia
One of the most important social and intellectual phenomena of the 21st century, the collaboratively-edited online encyclopedia Wikipedia is vexing in its ability to produce informative articles on a multitude of subjects. Leveraging graph theoretic techniques to measure the degree to which latent connections between articles are present in the Wikipedia corpus we demonstrate that the collaborative editing process produces, over time, an increasingly logically-connected information artifact. Moreover, using the public-domain 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica as a benchmark corpus for the single-author-article paradigm, we demonstrate that Wikipedia contains a growing core of mature articles which exhibit a degree of logical connectedness significantly surpassing that found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Taken in conjunction with an understanding of Wikipedia’s accuracy and topical coverage, this conclusion paints a rich portrait of the strengths and weaknesses of both collaboratively- and single-author-edited encyclopedias.