Author Archives: paolo

Models of economic production, Encarta vs Wikipedia, and sober economists

An excerpt from Dan Pink’s TED talk “The surprising science of motivation

The mid-1990s, Microsoft started an encyclopedia called Encarta. They had deployed all the right incentives, all the right incentives. They paid professionals to write and edit thousands of articles. Well-compensated managers oversaw the whole thing to make sure it came in on budget and on time. A few years later another encyclopedia got started. Different model, right? Do it for fun. No one gets paid a cent, or a Euro or a Yen. Do it because you like to do it.

Now if you had, just 10 years ago, if you had gone to an economist, anywhere, and said, “Hey, I’ve got these two different models for creating an encyclopedia. If they went head to head, who would win?” 10 years ago you could not have found a single sober economist anywhere on planet Earth who would have predicted the Wikipedia model.

MIT Press book “The Reputation Society” (containing a chapter by me) is out!

The MIT Press I contributed to with a chapter is out! It is titled “The Reputation Society: how online opinions are reshaping the offline world” and edited by Hassan Masum and Mark Tovey.
It is available on MIT press and on Amazon.
The chapter I wrote is titled Trust It Forward: Tyranny of the Majority or Echo Chambers? and on it I ramble about objectivity/subjectivity, minorities/majorities, etc.

If reputation systems weight all perspectives similarly, they may devolve into simple majority rule. But if they give each user reputation scores that take only other similar users’ opinions into account, they run the risk of becoming “echo chambers” in which like-minded people reinforce each others’ views without being open to outside perspectives. Massa discusses design choices and trust metrics that may help balance these two extremes and the broader implication for our future societies.

the reputation society book cover The book received endorsements by people I really admire.
“As our societies expand from local villages to global networks, our ways of assessing and sharing reputation—the foundation of trust and community—must also evolve, but how? The thoughtful and thought-provoking essays in The Reputation Society bring a wide range of perspectives to this question, including the design of technological solutions, applications in philanthropy, science and governance, and warnings about the loss of privacy and autonomy. It is a fascinating collection of readings not only for scholars, but for anyone interested in the dynamics of the reviews and recommendations that shape our decisions—or in the future of how we will judge and be judged.”
Judith Donath, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University

“Today is tomorrow’s yesterday. These provocative essays, by some of the leading thinkers in the domain of reputation systems, illuminate how reputations regulate actions across time and social distance and point to the opportunities and obstacles that reputation systems present for commerce and democracy.”
Paul Resnick, Professor, University of Michigan School of Information

“The Reputation Society enriches the discussion of reputation by bringing together technologists, philosophers, legal scholars, and industry leaders to sort through the promise and perils we face today. It covers the practical, for those interested in the nuts and bolts of the challenges we face today, and the theoretical, for those looking to engage in broader discussions of the ethical and moral concerns. In short, a terrific and enlightening read!”
Danielle Keats Citron, Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law

The list of my co-authors is also very delightful.
Trust, reputation systems, and the immune system of democracy / Craig Newmark
Building the reputation society / Hassan Masum, Mark Tovey, & Yi-Cheng Zhang
Designing reputation systems for the social web / Chrysanthos Dellarocas
Web reputation systems and the real world / Randy Farmer
An inquiry into effective reputation and rating systems / John Henry Clippinger
The biology of reputation / John Whitfield
Regulating reputation / Eric Goldman
Less regulation, more reputation / Lior Strahilevitz
The role of reputation systems in managing online communities / Cliff Lampe
Attention philanthropy : giving reputation a boost / Alex Steffen
Making use of reputation systems in philanthropy / Marc Maxson & Mari Kuraishi
The measurement and mismeasurement of science / Michael Nielsen
Usage-based reputation metrics in science / Victor Henning, Jason Hoyt, and Jan Reichelt
Open access and academic reputation / John Willinsky
Reputation-based governance and making states “legible” to their citizens / Lucio Picci
Trust it forward : tyranny of the majority or echo chambers? / Paolo Massa
Rating in large-scale argumentation systems / Luca Iandoli, Josh Introne, & Mark Klein
Privacy, context, and oversharing : reputational challenges in a Web 2.0 world / Michael Zimmer & Anthony Hoffman
The future of reputation networks / Jamais Cascio
“I hope you know this is going on your permanent record” / Madeline Ashby & Cory Doctorow.

The cover of the book reads as follows.

In making decisions, we often seek advice. Online, we check Amazon recommendations, eBay vendors’ histories, TripAdvisor ratings, and even our elected representatives’ voting records. These online reputation systems serve as filters for information overload. In this book, experts discuss the benefits and risks of such online tools.

The contributors offer expert perspectives that range from philanthropy and open access to science and law, addressing reputation systems in theory and practice. Properly designed reputation systems, they argue, have the potential to create a “reputation society,” reshaping society for the better by promoting accountability through the mediated judgments of billions of people. Effective design can also steer systems away from the pitfalls of online opinion sharing by motivating truth-telling, protecting personal privacy, and discouraging digital vigilantism.

Article about Manypedia on Italian newspaper Corriere

I’ve been interviewed by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera about Manypedia (and Wikitrip). If you know Italian, you can read the resulting article titled “Every Wikipedia represents its own culture: even the concept of controversiality is controversial” at corriere.it. The journalist liked to stress the fact both Manypedia and WikiTrip are open source, which is a good thing I think.
Manypedia on corriere.it

My presentation at Wikisym: studying (current) history by analyzing Wikipedia

Wikisym was a great conference! Below you can find my presentation about the paper on Collective memory building in Wikipedia. During the presentation, I provided evidence and possible research lines in order to argue how it is becoming possible to study history (of current events) by analyzing what it is written about these events by thousands of editors on Wikipedia.

WikiTrip: animated visualization over time of gender and geo-location of Wikipedians who edited a page

WikiTrip allows to have a trip in the process of creation of any Wikipedia page from any language edition of Wikipedia. WikiTrip is an interactive web tool empowering its users by providing an insightful visualization of two kinds of information about the Wikipedians who edited the selected page: their location in the world and their gender.

If you want to investigate, for example, where in the world are Wikipedians who edited the page “Peace”, WikiTrip is the right tool. And you can check also the origin of edits for the equivalent page in the Arabic Wikipedia or “Amani” in the Swahili Wikipedia. Moreover, if you have ever wondered if a specific page was edited more by male or female Wikipedians, WikiTrip allows to explore this information as well. How many edits are performed by males and females respectively on Wikipedia on average? What is the page most edited by females? On Wikirip you can explore your own ideas about these questions and more.
Visualization of both information is available over time so that you can appreciate the evolution of the page over years, from its creation up to the present.
More information about WikiTrip at our whitepaper but the best way to enjoy WikiTrip is at http://sonetlab.fbk.eu/wikitrip/.
We would love to hear the Wikipedia pages you found more interesting as they are visualized by WikiTrip and of course we wait for your feedback!

Wikisym and collective memory building of current events on Wikipedia

In few hours I’ll start the long journey towards Mountain View, California, for the Wikisym conference where I’m going to speak about WikiRevolutions presenting the paper “Collective memory building in Wikipedia: The case of North African uprisings“.
In the paper, we highlight the intense edit activity by Wikipedians on articles related to protests and uprisings in North African countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen focusing mainly on the Egyptian revolution.
We cast the phenomenon as a process of collective memory building in which thousands of Wikipedia editors were involved as the traumatic events unfolded.
We explore and suggest possible directions for quantitative research on collective memory formation of traumatic and controversial events in Wikipedia.
I’m in a Wikisym session titled “Wikipedia as a Global Phenomenon” in which I will have the pleasure to speak after Brian Keegan that is addressing the same topic of how on Wikipedia it is possible to analyze how editors cover recent events in real time; the paper is “Dynamics, Practices, and Structures in Wikipedia’s Coverage of the T?hoku Catastrophes” (joint work with D. Gergle, N. Contractor).
Probably at Wikisym there will be also people from Ushahidi, such as Heather Ford, which recently announced WikiSweeper, a joint project with the Wikimedia Foundation to track breaking news trends on Wikipedia so I think we will have wonderful exchanges of points of views and possibly future collaborations.
I’m really looking forward for what looks like a fabolous conference!

Credit: The image on top is Creative Commons BY-SA.

P.S.: At Wikisym I’m also going to demo our web tool on comparing points of view of different language communities of Wikipedia, i.e. Manypedia.

FBK researcher awarded by Google with 50,000 dollars and … emotion ;)

One of my colleague at Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) in Trento, Carlo Strapparava, was awarded with $50,000 by Google as an incentive to continue his research, especially with the participation of young researchers. Carlo proposed algorithms for distinguishing some of the nuances and emotions expressed in written language.

Dealing with the emotional, persuasive, or other aspects of creative language content in the texts – Strapparava explains- is commonly considered to be off limits for any computational ability. Actually, these features are a key part of communicating, and it is important that research in the field of natural language processing deal with it. The usefulness of automatic recognition of these aspects is nowadays even greater, given the enormous daily production of texts on the web. Through these technologies, it will also be possible to predict the emotional or persuasive content of a text.

Congrats Carlo!

Manypedia: Comparing Linguistic Points Of View (LPOV) of different language Wikipedias


As part of our investigation of the social side of Wikipedia in SoNet, Federico “fox” and I created Manypedia, a web mashup which I really like ;)
On Manypedia, you compare Linguistic Points Of View (LPOV) of different language Wikipedias. For example (but this is just one of the many possible comparisons), are you wondering if the community of editors in the English, Arabic and Hebrew Wikipedias are crystallizing different histories of the Gaza War? Now you can check “Gaza War” page from English and Arabic Wikipedia (both translated into English) or from Hebrew Wikipedia (translated into English).
Manypedia, by using the Google Translate API, automatically translates the compared page in a language you don’t know into the language you know. And this is not limited to English as first language. For example you can search a page in the Italian Wikipedia (or in 56 languages Wikipedias) and compare it with the same page from the French Wikipedia but translated into Italian. In this way you can check the differences of the page from another language Wikipedia even if you don’t know that language, sweet!
Well, the Gaza War is just one of the topics which might have very different LPOVs on difference language Wikipedias but there are many more. As a starting point, you can check the Wikipedia page “List of controversial issues” which lists many controversial articles grouped around 15 main categories. Actually it is interesting to compare the controversial articles page on English and Chinese Wikipedia (the English Wikipedia is slightly more centered around topics important for US/Western culture and in particular the Chinese Wikipedia page reports pages such as “Anti-Japanese War”, “Nanjing Massacre”, “Taiwan”, “Human Rights in China”, “Falun Gong”, “Tiananmen Incident”, “Mao Zedong”, “List of sites blocked by China”) or on Catalan Wikipedia (in which controversiality arises around what is a country, Catalan countries and Valencia).
On top header of Manypedia there are some featured comparisons handpicked by us (and a random one is loaded on the main page) but actually you can search in real time for any page that appears in any language Wikipedia. Currently we support 56 languages so that for example, you can search for a page in the Arabic Wikipedia and compare it with the same page in Hebrew Wikipedia but translated into Arabic. Or from Italian compared with French, or from Tagalog compared with Catalan, or from Hindi compared with Irish, or from Turkish compared with Yiddish, or from Persian compared with Swahili … well, you’ve got the idea ;)
Of course if you have any suggestion or feedback, we would love to hear it in order to make Manypedia better and more useful.
You can contact us via Twitter (Manypedia@Twitter) or via Facebook (Manypedia@Facebook).

Researcher position available in SoNet at FBK, Trento, Italy about social side of Wikipedia

A position is available in the SoNet (Social Networking) research unit at Bruno Kessler Foundation, Center for Information Technology, Trento, Italy. The SoNet research unit focuses its research on the social side of Wikipedia and wikis in general.

The successful candidate will join our group working on a project whose goal is to mine, analyze and computationally model the individual and collective behaviour in communities and social networks of Wikipedia users.
The ideal candidate should have:
* Ph.D. level education in a relevant discipline
* A good record of relevant research published in peer-reviewed conferences or journals
* Strong empirical and analytical orientation, with experience in handling large amounts of data coming from user action logs and social networks
* Experience with statistics and with analysis of complex networks
* Knowledge of at least one of Python, Perl, C/C++, R, Java
* Proficiency in both written and spoken English
Additional requirements:
* Prior experience in using social media for disseminating personal research
* Interdisciplinary background
* Experience with GNU/Linux systems

Type of contract: co.co.pro (collaboration contract) for one year. Initial appointments are for one year and renewal is based on performance. Gross Salary offer will be approximately Euro 22.500,00 and can be increased based on experience and skills of the candidate.

Feel free to contact me if you have any question and you can find more information about how to apply.

Report of ACM Hypertext 2011 conference

Past week I attended the Hypertext 2011 conference in Eindhoven where I presented the paper “Social networks of Wikipedia” discussing two different algorithms for extracting networks of conversations from User Talk pages in Wikipedia and evaluating them against the manual coding of all messages in User Talk pages of the Venetian Wikipedia. The main point was listing all the many details in Wikipedia practices and formatting styles that you need to be aware of if you want to derive realistic results from your quantitative analysis. The code of the algorithms is available as open source and some network datasets extracted from Wikipedia as well.

The conference was smaller than what I expected but interesting. There were some people working on Wikipedia and I had many interesting conversations with them.
The best talk was hands down the one by Noshir Contractor titled “From Disasters to WoW: Using Web Science to Understand and Enable 21st Century Multidimensional Networks”. He spoke about the many different great works is doing in an entertaining and funny style. The main methodological take-away message I got is that he is looking at networks at the edge level, considering the “motivation” for each edge (positive/negative links, in fact) and seeing how much different established sociological theories such as homophily, social balance, winner takes it all, etc are able to explain the topology of the network. For example 4 networks extracted from 4 different kinds of interactions of the same users of an online massive multi player game (I think “who fights with whom, who is in guild with whom, who exchanges messages with whoms, who trades goods with whom) exhibit different patterns and the particular orientation of a certain network can be explained by the balance of the motivations explained by the different theories. In particular the network of “who trades goods with whom” has special “motivations” that are influenced by the presence of so-called goldfarmers, people typically in China or other average-low-income countries who play online games doing repetitive tasks with the goal to acquire in-game currency that is usually sold against real-world currency to other players. One of their paper about this “Mapping Gold Farming Back to Offline Clandestine Organizations: Methodological, Theoretical, and Ethical Challenges” won the award for Best Paper at the recent Game Behind the Game conference. What I was really surprised to hear is that he is working as well on Wikipedia!
In fact, in his keynote, Noshir presented some recent work he has been doing with one of his students, Brian Keegan, about Wikipedia’s coverage of breaking news articles such as the Japan earthquake. Interestingly Michela Ferron and I wrote a paper titled “Wikipedia as a Lens for Studying the Real-time Formation of Collective Memories of Revolutions” in which we highlight the richness of the phenomena of collective memory building on Wikipedia about the current north-African revolutions (all the Wikipedia pages get created few minutes or days after the events and receive an incredible number of edits from many different users, what we interpret as a process of collective memory building) and we discuss research directions (more info about this in a next blog post). Out article was recently accepted in the “International Journal of Communication” and we are of course delighted by that. Actually the editor of IJoC is Manuel Castells, who will be giving a keynote at the upcoming ICWSM about … guess what? Social Media and Wiki-Revolutions: The New Frontier of Political Change. I guess it is really a hot topic nowadays, which is both conforting (we are doing cool stuff) and worrying (because these guys are really good and it is hard to do better … but we will try ;)
Actually in two weeks Noshir will come to Trento to give a one week course on Social Network Analysis which I’m really looking forward to attend and I hope to gather further insights via discussions with him.
The other guys who presented works about Wikipedia at Hypertext conference were David Laniado and his colleagues from Barcelona Media who presented “Co-authorship 2.0: Patterns of collaboration in Wikipedia“, an interesting analysis of networks of coediting on Wikipedia and its comparison with networks of scientific co-authoring. He was also there with a poster about “Automatically assigning Wikipedia articles to macro-categories”, joint work with Jacopo Farina and David Laniado.
There was also another very interesting work titled “Social Capital Increases Efficiency of Collaboration Among Wikipedia Editors” presented by Keiichi Nemoto of Fuji Xerox who was working with Peter Gloor and Robert Laubacher of MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. They found the more cohesive and more centralized the collaboration network of Wikipedia editors and the more network members were already collaborating before starting to work together on an article, the faster the article they work on will be promoted to good or featured article.
Overall it was good to discover interesting projects and meet good people working on Wikipedia which I hope I’ll keep meeting at future conferences.