Thursday, September 25, 2008

Essay # 2

After observing this USENET group for five days, I now can finally form an opinion of this type of message board. alt.sportbikes was a pretty active group with a little over 400 members, and a wide variety of topics was discussed there. The real problem though is that there is no real experts on the board, or anyone who exhibited way more knowledge than anyone else. There was also very little background information of who you are actually talking to on this message board -- Do they even own a bike? If so, what gives them the authority that they are knowledgeable enough to give advice out? It also seemed like there was a good amount of off topic postings, and I also observed some instances of spamming on this message board, and what I thought to be "free riding".

First, like any other forum there should be a place for off topic posting, if anyone wishes to make a post that is not of regular discussion. On the message board I observed, there was no place for off topic posts, so members would post many random things, but mostly I observed instances of spamming and advertisement. On this message board there were many off topic posts, and random advertisements for things that have nothing to do with bikes, such as porno advertisements. Kollock and Smith advise us to just ignore these types of actions on message boards and they will disappear eventually. (Kollock and Smith p.124)

As with many other online forums that I have seen, this message board has the constant issue of "free riders." It was apparent to me on this message board that a lot of the time people would post questions and never respond after they receive an initial answer from another user. So in this message board, you have a lot of people asking questions, but never following up or posting any replies after the initial post. I believe that is a form of "free riding", Kollock and Smith state "interacting work that is necessary to keep a conversation going is a kind of public good in the sense that it is possible to free-ride on others efforts using and abusing the conversation without contributing to its maintenance" (Kollock and Smith p. 115) This was happening frequently -- if people are barley replying to other users posts, those users who are replying are only answering half of the posts question because they feel that the initial poster is not paying attention anyway. This creates a cycle of "free riding", and the message board will never reach its full potential without dedicated users working toward a collective good.

The other issue is the apparent lack of knowledge observed on these message boards. You have a lot of users giving out advice, and you have no idea if they have ever even owned or rode a motorcycle in their lives. What gives them the confidence to be advising other members what type of oil is correct for your brand of bike? A motorcycle is a performance machine, much like a race car and needs to be taken care of properly to insure that the operator does not get injured or killed. If a user on one of these message boards advised me on how to put my components of my front brake calipers back together, who's to say it's 100% correct? You're taking your life in your own hands.

I would never use this type of message board because I barley trust the information I receive on a regular forum. I feel the users of this forum lack a lot of knowledge about sport bikes in general and they don't really care about helping other users figure out their problems. This is the kind of message board to just talk generally about motorcycles and pass some time. Over these past few days I really learned a lot about these USENET groups and how many different types of groups there are out there.

Bibliography: Kollock, Peter & Smith, Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Web 2.0

Today the class was assigned to read "What is Web 2.0" by Tim O'Reilly. Web 2.0 differs much from Web 1.0, because a lot of the applications from Web 1.0 have become faster and sleeker and Web 2.0. For example, Britannica Online became Wikipedia, became Napster, and personal websites have made a huge shift to blogging.

Although there is much controversy and debate about what Web 2.0 actually is, some say it is just a "buzzword," and it is meaningless. Dale Doughtry describes Web 2.0 as making the web much more exciting and important then ever before. With "Exciting new applications and sites popping up with surprising regularity" (O'Reilly p. 1) this makes Web 2.0 much better and more usable then before.

Reilly also discusses another addition to Web 2.0 that has made a signficant impact -- blogging. Blogging allows users from all over the Web to create their own blogs and write about whatever they choose to. Anybody can read these blogs and comment, which increases interactivity. People can also post media on their blogs, such as text, graphics, and video. The media on blogs also increases interactivity on the Web, and of course makes them more interesting to look at. Blogs can be published on the Web with just a click of a button, and in just seconds are available for millions of people to view.

I think that Web 2.0 is amazing because it allows us to do so many things on the Web that people thought would never be possible. The Web is now faster, easier to use, and much more interactive than it ever was before. I use the new applications that are part of Web 2.0 on a daily basis, such as blogs and Gmail. I think that it is fascinating that people can use these applications, and interact with one another on the Web to find new information each day.

Observation 5

September 24, 2008

Today one of the users spoke of a friend he lost in a motorcycle accident when he lost control of his bike, and detailed how it happened and linked a news article to this story. A lot of the other users showed sympathy, and shared stories of friends they lost, and similar riding experiences that have happened to them. This post showed emotion among the online community, because losing somebody is something most people can relate to.

After observing this board for five days, I feel that the board lacks knowledgeable users because no one user is repeatedly posting or responding ever. There was not one person that stood out as an expert in the group, and the people who did give advice had no sources to back their information up. I think it would be a good idea for users to post links to the information that they post, so there will be proof that what they are saying is accurate. I would not join this group personally because I do not trust the people in this group -- there is no proof where they get their information from. Anyone in the world has the ability to go on the board and mess around, telling people the wrong information and causing a lot of damage to someone's bike.

I personally belong to several motorcycle forums, CBR World and the users there are all very knowledgeable and a few of them are experts in this field. In these forums you can view the actual users motorcycles and other useful profile information. In these types of forums you will get "torn" apart by other members if you give false information or misleading. There is no sign of that in the news group I observed over these past few days. I feel that alot of the people talking in the news group I observed have very little knowledge about motorcylces to begin with and shouldn't be giving advice at all. I ve been riding motorcycle's since I was 12, and been street riding since I was 16, and have had over 6 different bikes at this point. I have owned multiple different types of motorcycle's from cruisers to sport bikes. Specifically sport bikes I ve owned multiple Honda CBR's and Suzuki GSXR's over the years, and currently own a 2006 Suzuki GSXR 1000 and I have personally been working on bikes for almost five years now. So I can say I am knowledgeable in this subject of sport bikes.

Observation 4

September 23, 2008

On this day, two users engaged in a conversation in affirmative action, and what their views on the subject were. This was another example of an off topic post. Another post by the user "andrew" was talking about his/her views about the a new type of motorcycle, specifically the new model by Buell. Some other users gave their opinions about it, and it sparked a good conversation about how this new design was innovative. I also found today that you can look at profile of other users and find their other posts and you can also use a search function which will find information within the group.

Observation 3

September 22, 2008

Today user "dcwong" invited group members to a suspension work shop, that is being held in California. Free of charge users who attend this session will learn the basics of tuning their suspensions on their motorcycles. This would be a great way to meet other members from the group and learn something about motorcycle mechanics and performance tuning. This seems to be the only active post for today, and although no other users posted any replys, I am sure people know about it. Today was the first day that I noticed off topic posts also, the user "henry" was speaking of World Trade Center conspiarcies. The post itself was very long and no other user responded to this weird off topic post.

Observation 2

September 21, 2008

Late last night I observed another user complaining of oil that was bought at Walmart. User "Alfire" was trying to find the correct oil for his/her bike, which was a Yamaha FZ 1. This is more of a touring/performance bike, and a lot of the other users advised him/her of what kind of oil should be run. The problem is that if you have a performance motorcycle, its much like a Porsche or Ferrari and it's a high performance machine and has to be taken care of with special oil, much different then a normal car. The oil you put in a performace bike should be a special blend such as Motul, and bought at a motorcycle dealer, not at Walmart. Not one of the other users ever mentioned this, but they all still responded to the post that same day, providing some of their own insight even if it is wrong.

Observation 1

September 20, 2008

I have chosen to view a group on Google Groups called alt.motorcycle.sportbike. The group seems to be pretty active, and has about 400 some odd members. The topics have a wide range and encompass many different motorcycles, as the name would imply. The topics seem to range from problems and modifications to all kinds of motorcycles, not only sportbikes. I am sketptical of the users of this group because the topics are of such a wide variety, and people tend to think they are experts when sometimes they have no idea what they are talking about. There is very little information about these group members, and where is the proof that they actually own a bike?

On the first day the user "ridinn" complained of problems on a 1999 Suzuki GS 500, which is very far from a being a sport bike. The group provided this user with possible solutions to the problem with the bike. This was done in a timley manner a few hours after the post, even though only one user responded.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The article "New media and web production" begins by explaining what the term "new media" (Whitaker p. 57) is all about. The author explains that "new media" is any media that makes up "digital production" which can be found on the Internet and off the Internet in audio and video. This article then branches off into what the difference of "new media" and "old media" are, and how our technologies that are being produced today are becoming more digitized and are no longer analog. It then goes into how these technologies of production are changing and becoming better.

This article really stresses how important and fundamental hypertext is to the Internet as we know it today. Whitaker suggests that without the invention of hypertext the Internet would have a lot of information not linked together in any way, making it much more difficult for the user to navigate the web. The author also suggests perhaps the original idea for hypertext was created in 1945 in a paper called "as we may think" describing something that operated on word associations. The author acknowledges that hypertext is necessary and a convenient way that is useful for connecting information from all over the web.

Whitaker then goes into digital imaging and music, and video is all over the web. The author suggests this kind of media is becoming popular and used widely, especially MP3 over the last 10 years and a merging of television and Internet for digital broadcasting is becoming possible.

The rest of this article covers HTML, web production, layout and other various elements of web design.

This article made me realize how different the Internet would be without hypertext, and how difficult it would be to navigate. It makes the Internet what we know today, and the Internet would be much less usable without it. I also learned that MP3 has been around since 1987, which I found intersting because i always thought it was a new technology. I think this article is defintley not for someone wihtout a technical background. It uses alot of accronomyns and hard to understand terms, that someone thats not familar with this would be lost.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Managing the Virtual Commons

In my summary of "Managing the Virtual Commons," the authors, Peter Kollock and Marc Smith, address the topics of computer mediated communication systems and their "powerful effects on social relationships." The authors state, "this new form of social interaction encourages wider participation, greater candor, and an emphasis on merit over status." To me, this means that social hierarchies are made less apparent, and less emphasis on status. The authors then address what a public good is, which they state: "A public good is a resource from which all may benefit regardless of whether they helped create the good." I think this means that people that do not help produce the good still benefit from it as much as the people who are involved in creating it. The authors call this the "free rider problem," because regardless of whether they participate in helping, the people enjoy the efforts of the others and the collective good is not produced. The authors of the reading from here on address the issues of overcoming the "free rider problem," and then they focus on something called the Usenet.

Usenet is one of the largest computer mediated communication systems in existence. It was developed in 1981 as an alternative to ARPANET (The Advanced Research Process Agency Network made by the department of defense.) This Usenet has grown massively and has several thousand groups for discussion which they call newsgroups. They suggest that about 2 million people from all over the world participate in these newsgroups. Usenet is also very similar to bulletin board systems, which work by leaving messages on a board, following by people checking them and submitting a reply.

The authors then go over what they call "social dilemmas in cyberspace." In this part of the reading, the authors highlight problems in providing collective good in Usenet. One of these problems is that there is not an unlimited amount of space for users to contribute to these newsgroups. The reason that this is an issue is that everybody wants to post messages on these bulletin boards, but only a limited amount can.

Then, a study was conducted by Ostrom in 1990 of face-to-face communities, which were known for their success of maintaining and producing the collective good. Ostrom found seven characteristics that were present in the successful groups, and almost "governed" these groups in a sense.
These principles were:
1. "Group boundaries are clearly defined," which is the most common and accepted rule. And then the study suggested, "larger the group, the less it will further its common interests," which I think means that cooperation is more difficult with the bigger group.
2. "Rules governing the use of collective goods are well matched to local needs and conditions." This study found "any successful community will have a set of rules - whether they are implicit or explicit that govern how common resources should be used and who is responsible for producing and maintaining collective goods," which I think has the upmost importance because online communities need rules and regulations since it would be chaos without them.
3. "Most individuals affected by these rules can participate and modify the rules"
4. "The rights of the community members to devise their rules is respected by external authorities"
5. "A system for monitoring members' behaviors exist; this monitoring is undertaken by the community members themselves"
6. "A graduated system of sanctions is used"
7. "Community members have access to low cost conflict resolution mechanisms"

This reading really educated me on the history of how important Usenet was for people to communicate at the time. I also feel that this reading focused on the "free rider problem," and how important it is and how much it plays into the online community. People don't contribute anything, and they enjoy the same benefits as everybody else. Ostrom's study was also interesting because without rules in the online community, online would be a less user-friendly place.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Five Significant Qualities That Distinguish The Internet From Television

The Internet as a Meta-medium is much different then television. With the Internet, many things become possible that were not before. Meta-medium as defined by Adams & Clark means that the Internet has become a "medium of media" (Adams & Clark p. 29). This means that through using the Internet, we can view many different forms of media. We can watch live video, listen to radio in other countries and make our own videos for the world to see. All of this makes the Internet so much more versatile and much more interactive than television. I believe that there are five qualities that make the Internet much different then television. These qualities are multi-mediated, hyper -textual, interactive, packet based and digital. Each one of them distinguishes the Internet from any other medium of Communication that exists.

The first quality, multi-mediated, gives the user the ability to work with many forms of media including photos, video, audio. The user also has the ability to run Plug-Ins, such as Adobe, Quick Time, Real Player, Windows Media Player, and Flash. So now, the user can play games and listen to music in much more interactive way than they could on television through these different Plug-Ins, which makes the Internet much more versatile. The user is able to watch all kinds of videos from around the world, and watch different television shows from another era. With the addition of flash player the user can interact with cool websites, and animation becomes possible. "A significant change that the Internet brings to mediated communication is its capacity for mixing together a wide range of media." (Adams & Clark p.35) I believe that the authors Adams & Clark meant that the ability the Internet has for bringing together many different forms of media as a "meta-media" is unique, and an essential difference from television today. Television simply is not capable of showing the viewer all these different forms of media.

The next quality, hyper-textual, means that the Internet makes it possible for content to be linked to any other type of content. This allows the user to view virtually anything with the simple click of a button. This puts them in control of the Internet -- they could find and view whatever they desire, as specific as possible. These links are found everywhere on the Internet, from e-mails, to virtually every website and anywhere else you can possible imagine on the Internet. This gives users endless possibilities of content that they can view on the Internet. Users have the ability to create these links themselves when owning a blog or any other type of website.

Another quality is interactive. The Internet works both ways -- you can interact with the Internet, and the Internet can interact with you. You can interact with your friends via email, Instant Messaging and message boards. The Internet can interact with you by recognizing your interests and catering to those interests. For example, if you are on Amazon's website, they recognize past purchases and keep a record of it, so they can recommend new purchases that match your interests. If the Amazon website sees that you’re purchasing many golf products, it will recommend more golf products, such as new clubs, golf bags, and other golf related products. In a way, the Internet is interacting with you, which would never be possible with television in the same way.

Packet based is the the next quality, which means that information never gets lost and always finds its route through many hundreds of possibilities, which means, the information always gets to the user. The user always gets what they are supposed to when they are browsing the Internet. If there is some sort of problem, the Internet will give you an error message. Internet users can rest assured that they will always get a complete web page. This also makes censorship extremely difficult because there are so many routes the information can travel through. So unlike televisions where censorship of its content which is present at all times, the Internet becomes very difficult to control its content. This is also a major difference between the Internet and television -- certain television networks censor or will not air television shows with questionable content. Television shows and commercials have been pulled off the air because of negative feedback from viewers. Many commercials have never even been aired because of television network policies and other limitations. With the Internet, the content will never be censored because there is no network director saying otherwise. Any content the user wants to view will most likely be out there on the Internet.

Finally, digital, which is making information into zeros and ones, means that data can be transferred much faster and information has the ability to be encoded into the message. This is good for obvious reasons, the user now has the ability to download full books off various websites, without ever leaving home. They can also download new music off I Tunes without ever waiting at all virtually. Also, Websites now have screening software for ratings, so parents have the ability to restrict their kids from looking at certain websites that they believe are in bad taste. With TV, parents do not have this ability. Kids can choose to watch whatever channels they want and watch them.

The Internet as a Meta-medium can easily be distinguished from television with these five qualities. These qualities have never been possible with television, thus giving people a reason to turn to the Internet more often. Technology today has given the Internet the ability to fulfill all kinds of possibilities in the communication world, allowing people to interact and the Internet can interact with them with the simple click of a mouse. The technology and power the Internet has already is astonishing it can do so much. Who can imagine in years to come what advancements will be made and what the Internet will be capable of then?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Internet as a Communication Medium

The reading goes into the how the Internet is a Macromedium, which means that it is much like Macroeconomics is on a global scale as it is concerned with a mass audience. The net reaches such a vast number of people around the world. However, the Internet can also become very interpersonal in the sense that even the smallest bits of data that individuals put on there make it very personal and indivdual. The reading then goes into the six different fields of communication, which are interpersonal, small group, public speaking, and finally, mass media.

The article then explains how the two major factors of speed and distribution are what is making the Internet everything it is today. Speed has undergone a major evolution in the past few decades. In the 1970's, the Internet operated at 56,000BPS as opposed to today, which is over 45 MPS. This makes data transfers, video, and all kinds of other features possible on today's Internet. As far as distrubution goes, a study revealed that 45% of houses have the internet, which makes it right behind cable T.V., which 65% of houses have.

Then, the article goes into the six defining qualities of the Internet, which show that the net is multimediated, hypertextual, interactive, synchronous, packet based, and finally, digital. All of these qualities make what communication has become on the Internet. The reading then goes into Plug-Ins that are changing the Internet and making it what it is today. One popular Plug-In is Real Player, which plays audio and video and is used all over the Internet. Another is Quicktime, which is another media player that offers the same features as Real Player. Then there is Flash, which is used on websites all over the internet, allowing animation and enabling users to play games and watch movies. Finally, there is Adobe Acrobat, which is used for all kinds of textual purposes such as downloading books and various types of readings.

I agree with the point that the author was trying to make about the evolution of the Internet. When I think of the Internet, I think of photos, audio and video. These features that are mentioned in the article are what make the Internet what we know it today. We can go on Web sites like YouTube and watch all kinds of videos and listen to music. We can post photos on the Web in a matter of seconds, where they will be available to be viewed by millions of people. It is amazing that the technology that we have today enables us to communicate on the Internet in so many ways.