Sunday, September 28, 2008


When the internet was created one of the main purposes it had was to communicate. As we have seen the internet develop we have also seen the way people communicate advance as well. There are many forms of social media today such as IRC, Usenet, and MUDs/MOOs. Out of all these types of online communication I have chosen to observe a Usenet political group from California. I chose this particular social media because I thought it would be interesting to see the views that the west had on this year’s upcoming election pertaining to John McCain.

This was not my first choice for observation; I was first looking at a Google group or Usenet group that spoke about both sides of the election process. I was excited to see how people from both sides would react to each other in an online forum. I had to change to a different Usenet group after what I had witnessed there, clearly there was a problem of cooperation. In Managing the Virtual Commons by Peter Kollock and Marc Smith they talk about this problem and how it effects the social media community. Kollock and Smith state that “The temptation is to enjoy a public good without contributing to its production, but if all reach this decision, the good is never created and all suffer”. This means that if people just leach off other people’s thoughts and ideas but never contribute their own then the group will die. This also works the other way around if only one person is doing all the contributing and not letting any other members contribute then the group will die as well. According to Kollock and Smith Ostrom states that this is called a “free-rider problem”(Ostrom 1990:6). Kollock and Smith talk about how in a Usenet it essential for contributers to take turns or else the communication will crowd up and breakdown. In this group there was barely any start up rules causing in my opinion a breakdown of communication. Once you join the group it is possible for you to come into the group and create as much noise or spam as you want. So what I witnessed happening in this newsgroup was a collapse in communication. Also on top of that anybody and everybody were bashing each other on any side of the argument. What most Usenet groups do is setup a list of boundaries to prevent this from happening. When observing this group I believe that they wanted this type of wild and free bashing community to spark debate but did not realize that it would be a free for all. After a day in this group I could not stay and moved on to a group with a similar topic but more boundaries.

The new group that I started to observe was called John McCain for president, this was a much better organized Usenet group in my opinion. This group was based in the west coast and this is what really made want to read what people though of this potential president elect. Upon first entering I was not allowed to post anything yet, there were some restrictions which I thought were great. Unlike the first Usenet group I observed I had to catchup on the weeks topic first before I could contribute any of my opinions. This was interesting in a good way to me because that meant people were not coming into this group and bombarding it with spam, it meant that in this group there was an actual form of discussion. What I observed on the first day was that there was a concern for Sarah Palin who is John McCain’s running mate. When she was first announced by McCain to be his running mate there was immediate controversy. She had many topics to talk about and what I read was, since the most media was sceptic of her she had many difficult questions to answer. What I observed was that this really made the group uneasy or at least a couple of key members. They feared this decision would stagger McCain’s progress by filling voters heads with uncertainty.

On the next day there were many issues that I found interesting and humorous. Apparently McCain did not talk about the problems of hurricane Ike very properly. People in the group thought that he could have done a better job. Someone in the group posted a link to a recording of what he had said, so I watched it to get my own opinion. What I saw was great, I thought that McCain had addressed the topic very properly, and informed the public of what he would do if there was another Katrina event. I did not know the problem here but because I was a new member and did not want to bash anybody in the group so I did not say anything. Later in the day I went back to check on the group which I thought was weird, this group was almost becoming an obsession to see what people would say. As Kollock and Smith state almost two million people around the world participate in these groups and I now understand why. When you become part of a group it makes you want to contribute and participate more often . In these types of groups it is like having a bunch of friends who are always in the mood to talk with you about topics you share a common interest in. When I went back to see if anybody posted something new I noticed a post called “Obamonopoly”. After viewing this I thought anybody who saw this would laugh,but everyone in the group was outraged. I guess humor on the west coast is running thin.

When entering the group this time I was very excited. The other day when I left the group I joined the e-mail list to get daily or weekly e-mail of what was going on in recent conversation. The e-mail that I had received was very interesting, it spoke about having a party or event to raise money for McCain’s campaign. This showed me that the members of this group did not only talk about supporting McCain they actually came up with ways to do it physically and monetarily. I received this e-mail from the same man who posted the “Obamonopoly” so I started to think that he is the leader of this Usenet group.

After observing this Usenet group over the past week I have not only learned many things about communication on the internet but I have gotten very interested in using it. I am now a member of this group and have joined two others, I check these groups constantly throughout the week. There is one thing that I wish I could have observed, the way gender plays into social media. Kollock and smith say that because the internet is blind to gender you can assume any roll you please. I have yet to see when the roll you take if man or woman really effects you in a group yet, but I hope to see how it plays out. Seeing how the internet transforms our world and the way we communicate is very interesting to me, and now that I am a member of multiple groups it is like having an inside look on what is happening next.


Kollock, Peter & Smith Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communications: :Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Last day with McCain

Today is the last day with my Google group and nobody has even mentioned the recent news of many of the large banking firms going under. I thought that this would be a major topic especially for the upcoming elections. I felt a need to post something about McCain's views on the matter but since i was a new member anything i posted would go through a comity first before it appears on the groups postings. I know this would have not taken long but I decided not to post anything. The topic today was McCain's chief of staff speaking to all district 6 republicans. I looked into this and could not even understand what people were trying to contribute. Members of the groups were posting links over other people's links so I did not know which to go to and left.

Palin still taking the heat

Today I received an e-mail from the group talking about having a party to raise money for John McCain/Palin. I thought this was a funny great idea I was invited but unfortunately I am not in California. After I went to see what my group was buzzing about and people were still concerned about how the media was treating Palin. I was not surprised with the attention she was getting good or bad. I soon left after reading these post, and hoped for tomorrow that someone would post of a topic towards McCain's statements on a new fiscal policy.

McCain under fire

In today's observation of the Usenet there was an onslaught of back fire towards McCain. Many people were talking about his past reaction to hurricane Ike, and the most popular conversations was "Obamonopoly" which I thought was a very funny post but other people were outraged. Many members of the group posted back on how things need to be changed, and what McCain' s campaign needs to do in order to fix things like this. That was all for today untill later.

John Mccain usnet

Today was special for me I actually change my topic to a more specific thing so that people were not free writing each other constantly. I moved myself to a John McCain for president Google group, which can be found at . When I first got on it let me chose what state i was from to get involved with people around me, but I opted to chose California because I wanted to see what the west was talking about. What I noticed today was that there was some concern about the troubles that Palin was facing in some hostile news interviews. I had to leave to I signed up for the e-mail list so I would be posted for tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

first obs

For the past few days I have been looking in to some political google groups to see how they work and how people act. What I have noticed is that in these groups there is a free exchange of people's opinions and political views. I have not yet been able to tell which person or member of this group is the leader or if there even is one, but I am excited to find out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Web 1.0

Over the past couple of weeks we have been reading about the internet, how it started, all of its growing uses, and how it is a new communication medium. For today I examined web production and the internet as a new media, this was really interesting to me. In the article by Jason Whitaker The Internet: The Basics (chapter 3) he speaks about the convergence of analog to digital formatting and how to use some of the basic tools to set up a well designed web page. In The internet: The Basics (chapter 3) Whitaker states the improvements and new uses of existing web technologies such as, audio and video, digital photography or digital imaging, text and hypertext, and web radio and webcasting. Over a short period of time many of these tools have progressed into new form of technology. With these new advancements we are now able to put some of these technologies together to make an interactive functioning webpage. In The Internet: The Basics (chapter 3) Whitaker speaks out on the new age style of web design. He states that now a day it is not only a matter of function but look and experience as well. For web designers today they have to deal with the not only the fundamentals of HTML (hypertext markup language) but the complex as well says Whitaker. Also the problem of layout and content is now introduced in this new age of growing technologies.

While trying to understand this reading I learned many new and applicable functions in web design. The reading by Jason Whitaker shows how to successfully create and layout a web page. It was fascinating to me to learn about the dynamics of web design from a web 1.0 stand point. After reading The Internet: The Basics (chapter 3) Whitaker explains to me how even the basics in web design are not easy. The creation of a well designed web page depends on your skill and effort put in. After reading about Whitaker’s techniques I am eager and nervous about creating my own exciting functional web page.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Managing the Virtual Commons

In today’s reading on managing the virtual commons Peter Kollock and Marc Smith talk about cooperation and conflict in computer communities. One of the main computer communities of their focus was called Usenet. Kollock and Smith say that Usenet was one of the largest computer communication systems that were ever created. Usenet had a similar system to e-mail and the bulletin board system as all three systems were a way of getting your information out and talking to other people who had the same ideas and thoughts as you. Usenet used a newsgroup system where there would be a specific topic in each of these newsgroups and only that topic would be discussed. A user of Usenet can be a member of multiple newsgroups and topics. In this ever popular Usenet system arises the problem of free-rider, a person who does not follow the norm of cooperation and coordination in the system, says Kollock and Smith. As stated Usenet has great potential to provide collective goods but people use this system in a way of spamming instead of information sharing then the collective good is not reached. So while some users up hold their end of the contract by not using too much bandwidth (volume of information per unit time that a computer can handle) the majority of users do not show restraint causing this free-rider problem. Kollock and Smith say that this is not the only problem the success of a newsgroup depends on the content provided. If users are not going to stick to the topic of the newsgroup or spam the bandwidth then the Usenet will not succeed.
These problems were examined by a man named Ostrom (1990) and he says that there are seven things that needed to be followed in order for newsgroups to successfully organize and govern themselves. There must be clearly defined set of boundaries, this along with group size are important in the sense that the more people there are the less probable it is for there to be a major common interest. Ostrom states the necessity of boundaries to this system for the purpose of closing outsiders from reaping the benefits and for encouraging cooperation and frequent interaction. Ostrom also says that any accomplishing community will need a set of rules and institutions. He says that these rules are very important but will not be effective if not properly applied to the right community or newsgroup. The next things that Ostrom talks about is Monitoring and sanctioning. This is the basis for continual success in newsgroups; it acts as a checks and balance system for the newsgroup. Even though there are a great set of rules and institutions in place someone might be breaking them and in effect hurting the group, so monitoring and sanctioning helps fix this problem.
I believe just like Kollock and Smith that Usenet has great potential for collective good once it can function more fluidly through its problems. Usenet has no real main authority and I think that this is its main problem. To me it does not make sense to have such a large flow of open communication with no main authority governing it because eventually confrontation or conflict will arise. Ostrom states that there are certain things needed for these types of social communication systems to survive. One thing that he neglects to mention in the rules of joining groups, I think it would have been more successful if when joining a group there was a period of time one had to watch and read what was going on before jumping in and putting more noise in the group. I thought this was a great reading it is fun to see where the origination of forums and other computer mediated communication came from. I am a member of multiple forums and it is weird to see that even today some of these problems still exist.

Monday, September 8, 2008

First essay

The internet as we know it today is not the same as it was when it first became, and will not be the same tomorrow. The internet is an always ever evolving way of communication in the world today. There are many innovations that led to what we now see the as the internet today such as packet switching, the creation of TCP/IP, e-mail, and the formation of Hypertext Transfer Protocol. I believe that these four things are what made the internet what it is today.
When the internet first became it was developed for the sole reason of communication in case of an emergency. During the time of the cold war the United States were scared that in the case of a nuclear attack that they would not be able to relay the proper information needed to help the situation. So the United States formed RAND, while reading about this research and development group I learned that their goal was to try and create a galactic network. RAND developed a system that would work through computers, and only needed to find a working line with another computer. In other words if New York was attacked and had to get a message to Florida but the direct line was interrupted this system would find another computer to relay the message so that there would never be a stop in communication.
This process of computer communication was soon improved with the introduction of packets. What the packet system did was take your message or data and break it down into smaller bunches of data so that the “traffic” could then be more controllable. Also with this process it made the message sending more reliable in the sense that if some of the message does not make it the hope that at least the major parts of the message will get through. Now that there was a more reliable way to transfer data you could now send more data and now there is more data transfer happening. Soon came the introduction of packet switching which speeded the process of data transfer even more. With packet switching your message would travel and find its way through the line of least resistance. So now your message is broken done into many smaller packets and not all of these packets would travel the same path. Each packet was given a header which was basically the who, what, where, when, and how. This header made sure that each packet got to the designated location (Adams & Clark).
Packet switching was governed by TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol. TCP/IP was what the internet was waiting for it not only safeguarded information but made it faster and more reliable to transfer data. TCP/IP was not like the old existing protocol it was built into every network host instead of governing nodes. So we see because of this we see the data transfer and packet switching moving a great deal faster than before. As stated in the readings from Adams and Clark the major amount of packet conversion was done onsite before ever released into the network. After this great improvement TCP/IP became the “industries standard” for protocol of online communications (Adams & Clark).
With this new advancement in technology of communication people began more to use this medium of communications for personal message sending. “In 1972 a man named Ray Tomlinson created the first e-mail system that delivered messages through Arpanet (Adams & Clark). So now people can send messages to their friends even though the use of this medium was still pretty exclusive. From internal audits we know that almost 75% of the network activity going on was e-mail. So now on a day to day basis you saw people were using e-mail to send personal and non-personal information to their colleagues instead of analyzing data (Adams & Clark).
When I say the word internet you might immediately think of the World Wide Web (WWW) but in fact they are not the same. The WWW was introduced to us in 1991 by a man named Tim Berners-Lee. The WWW is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet ( In other words it is a place to send and receive information through computers. Through the use of HTTP or hypertext transfer protocol one can link any document or information to another which in my opinion really makes the internet so important. With this people can access information on many things at the same time authored by different people, this take us to an age of endless possible growth of communication.
Over time the internet has taken huge steps forward to become what it is today. Even though you might not see the changes all the time the internet is ever evolving. These four innovations along with many others help us use the internet in the way we use it today. I am excited for the future and what it brings with the internet because I feel the possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Characteristics of the medium

     For this weeks class we had to read about the how the internet compares to other internet mediums, and what problems they faced in distant communication.  The internet is a new and always evolving form of communication.  It hold many characteristics of other forms of communications but is hard to specify the internet into one catagorey of communication. The internet is a sum of many communication tools, it uses interpersonal communication in online chats, public speaking with group e-mail, and mass media when a news station post it information so that many people can view the news. These are not the types of communication the internet use there are many more, so now we have to ask how do we catagorize the internet as a communications medium? 
     Since the internet is always changing it is hard to put an exact term for what it does or how it works, but for now we can use the terms macromedium and metamedium. We can say that the internet is a macromedium because the word macro in sense means "large", and so the internet on a large scale is use to connect people from far distance.     It can also be considered a metamedium because it take the sues of old mediums and combindes them into one functioning unit.  With this you can listen to music while making a video and checking the weather, "it enables us to use both ends of traditional mass media" 
      There were three main problems the the developers of the internet were concerned about speed, reliability and distribution.  Speed was not the issue at first but once people started to send bigger documents and wanted to send pictures speed became an issue. Developers had to eliminate the the problem of place and space. As they worked on tis speed started to increase and now you can send streaming video with little problems. Reliablility was a major problem, how do you make it so the your message will reach the other end and the other person will understand it? what developers did was put the message in packets so that there was an insurance in a way that the reciver will always have a sense of the message. The last problem was distribution who was using it, where it was being used these were things that had to be solved.  After researching this problem it became apparent that it is almost impossible to figure these things out, but one main conclusion was that the more money a country had the more likely they are using the internet.