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Friends and foes: Multiple relationship types in online communities



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Tad Hogg, Gabor Szabo, Dennis M. Wilkinson, and Michael J. Brzozowski
Information Dynamics Lab, HP Labs

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Information Dynamics Lab

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Social network sampleEssembly encourages its users to form online social relationships; the types of the links become central to how the user experiences the service. A sample of the social network is shown, with the different relations indicated. (Full detail)

Traditionally, online social network sites like Facebook and MySpace allow people to form links to "friends" but do little to qualify the semantic meaning of the friendship. As a result, many users "collect" friends on these sites, conflating "acquaintances" with "friends". Essembly, a "fiercely non-partisan social network", on the other hand, lets its users enrich the meaning of their relations to others by explicitly labeling them "friends", "allies", or "nemeses". Essembly then allows its members to post resolves reflecting controversial opinions on political issues. As a defining activity on the site, members can vote on these resolves on a four-point scale ranging from complete agreement to full opposition.

We examined how the uncommon link semantics affects users in casting their votes. In particular, Essembly prominently highlights the activities of users' acquaintances, and the question arises if this makes them more likely to participate, and if so, how this information affects votes. It is widely assumed that social networks enhance, if not drive, the popularity of online services; what does an additional layer of link classification add to them?

» Friends and foes: Ideological social networking

To appear in Proc. of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing (CHI 2008, April 5-10, 2008, Florence, Italy). ACM Press.
Decision tree for predicting voting behaviorTraditional online social network sites use a single monolithic “friends” relationship to link users. However, users  may even more in common with strangers, suggesting the use of a “similarity network” to recommend content. This paper examines the usefulness of this distinction in propagating new content. Using both macroscopic and microscopic social dynamics, we present an analysis of Essembly, an ideological social network that semantically distinguishes between friends and ideological allies and nemeses. Although users have greater similarity with their allies than their friends and nemeses, surprisingly, the allies network does not affect voting behavior, despite being as large as the friends network. In contrast, users are influenced differently by their friends and nemeses, indicating that people use these networks for distinct purposes. We suggest resulting design implications for social content aggregation services and recommender systems.
» Short paper (PDF)
Brzozowski, M., Hogg, T., and Szabo, G. 2008. Friends and foes: Ideological social networking. In Proc. of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing. ACM Press.

» Multiple relationship types in online communities and social networks

in Proc. of the AAAI Spring Symposium on Social Information Processing (AAAI SIP 2008, March 26-28, 2008, Stanford, CA, USA). AAAI Press.
Vote similarities vs. distance in networksOnline social networking is increasingly popular and is a feature of many websites. Providing multiple types of relationship, such as friend, fan or colleague, can enhance the significance of the networks. We present an empirical study of an online political forum where users engage in content creation, voting, and discussion. The users also make explicit connections via three relationship types, forming three distinct networks. We establish a strong correlation between network participation and site activity and show that users stayed faithful to the relationship semantics, in aggregate. Moreover, we demonstrate significant structural differences among the networks, indicating different uses for each. Social networking features may help spread the word about new content, but we show that the networks played a surprisingly moderate role in this respect. Usage and social networking patterns were typical of many web communities, suggesting that multiple relationship types could be successfully featured in other such communities.
» Paper (PDF)
Hogg, T., Wilkinson, D., Szabo, G. and Brzozowski, M. 2008. Multiple Relationship Types in Online Communities and Social Networks. In Proc. of the AAAI Spring Symposium on Social Information Processing. AAAI Press.
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