Is there a future for the academic social capital held on twitter? | Impact of Social Sciences

This, by Mark Carrigan, makes many good points re The Developments at Twitter and what they mean for academics, academics institutions, and the wider society (

Illegal AfD donations, Hobbes, #rstats, and social-media wars: 5 links I liked

Illegal AfD donations, Hobbes, #rstats, and social-media wars: 5 links I liked 1

More on the AfD’s donation scandal(s): media report that the ultimate source of the illicit donations to Alice Weidel is a German billionaire dynasty. The family also donated to the Swiss SVP. You will not be surprised to hear that they have pan-European global interests, moved to Switzerland, became dual nationals, and divide their time between London & Zurich. When you are a member of the global elite with lots of money, it just makes sense to support populist, nationalist, anti-migration parties for the lolz.

I always suspected that old Hobbes (the philosopher, not the cartoon character) was a party pooper. I’m just surprised that this was so literally true.

Dealing with packages in R can be somewhat painful, at least for me. Here is pak, a package that claims to make installing more packages less of a hassle, once you’ve managed to install it.

With less than two months to go until the EP elections, it is time to stir up some social media moral panic. And there is good reason for that. Here is an interesting piece by someone who claims to be involved in the development of youtube’s recommendation engine. Shock, surprise: apparently he helped create a monster that has learned that the average youtube viewer wants to see more, more, more anti-media content. Judging by my own recommendations, the monster delivers.

Staying with this theme, here is a post on social-media marketing your research. I read it twice to make extra sure that is indeed satire. YOU WILL BE SHOCKED. And now click on that darn link to demonstrate that the trick works.

Look Ma, no Brexit link!

Wakelet as a tool for archiving online debates on (academic) events

Wakelet as a tool for archiving online debates on (academic) events 2

Wakelet – what is it, and why should academics care to “curate” tweets about events? Bear with me for a second.

The sad state of curating and social story telling

Until about about a year ago, there was a Their business idea was that people would “curate” tweets, facebook posts and other stuff found on social media to narrate stories on the interwebs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the idea of “curating” stuff as a mass phenomenon is industrial-grade bullshit. No one wants hordes of people linking half-read stuff together in a bid to be completely ignored by even more people. And so storify was acquired by Livefyre, which was in turn purchased by Adobe, and the whole “curating” business moved away from the masses into the realm of enterprise customers.

Why would a researcher ever think about social story telling?

My scepticism aside, there was at least one use case for storify in academia. When Prof Jane Ordinary is organising any sort of event these days, it is in her and other people’s interest to create a bit of a social media buzz. It is not just outreach and stuff: Jane wants to project at least a vague sense of awareness of her project into the wider world, and journalists and other researchers who would never read a four-pages press release may well want to follow parts of the debate in an informal setting.

The problem here: by its nature, social media is ephemeral. After the event, any buzz will be buried under billions and billions of newer posts. And even during the event, the silo-like structure of the current social mediascape as well as the frequent failure to agree on a single hashtag for smaller events makes it very difficult to get an overview of what people are saying online. Here, storify was useful, because one could link every (presentable) post into a story. Then, one (or one’s capable RA) could share the whole shebang or embedded into a more durable web page, either after or during the event.

Clearly a wake, not a wakelet
Photo by MadeByMark

From storify to wakelet

Looking for a replacement for storify to archive (curate??? seriously???) the online/offline story of the policy dialogue that we organised last week, I came across wakelet (apparently, giving your product a dorky name is still a thing in Silicon Valley). Wakelet does everything that storify did, and then a bit more. Basically, everything that has an URL can be linked into a “collection” (also called a wakelet). Tweets and videos get a special treatment: they appear in a “native” format, i.e. as a tweetbox or within a video player, respectively. It is possible to add images and texts, too.

While wakelet is sometimes a bit rough around the edges. I had to press reload a couple of times after re-ordering elements for everything to reappear. Also, wakelets could load a bit quicker. But nonetheless, wakelet very elegantly plugs this particular gap.

What I don’t see, however, is a sustainable mass-market business model. Currently, the service is free for anyone who wants to showcase something. Interleaving collections with adverts would defy the showcasing aspect. But I don’t see that casual users would be willing to pay for a subscription. And so, in the medium term, it’s turning into another enterprise service or going bust, I presume. But for the time being, wakelet is a useful, if highly specialised addition to the academic toolbox.

Policy Dialogue: immigration, local decline, the Radical Right & wakelet

Within our ORA project SCoRE, we look into the relationships between local decline, local levels of immigration, immigrant sentiment, and (radical right) voting. Obviously, our findings have (or should have) implications for public policy. And so we organised an event at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. We had a great panel, a sizable crowd of interested folks, and distributed about 100 copies of our policy brief. And then it was over.

But if you are interested in what the speakers said, how people reacted, and what it was like,  simply browse the wakelet that I embed below this post. At least until  some other, more profitable company buys them.

Don’t feed the troll

2016 was a year of outrage. All over the globe, angry white men (well, mostly) were outraged over something (the EU, refugees, people of colour, feminists, and whatnot), and many took their outrage to the social media. One of the most outraging of them all will soon tweet from the White House. And all over my filterbubble, people are retweeting this outrageous dribble to show the world how outrageous it is, because they are, well, outraged. 

Now, some of them are waking up to the fact that, for rather obvious reasons, this is not necessarily a clever idea.

In an Internet galaxy far, far away, a long time ago, before social media or even the invention of the world wide web, people on the Usenet would occasionally engage in “flamewars” – protracted, hostile exchanges of opinion with a very low discourse quality index. Does this sound vaguely familiar? 

Traditionally, a flamewar would end with a final insult, followed by the addition of the opponent’s name to a “killfile” (the equivalent of blocking that person). Sending a very large binary file to the other side’s mailbox (then a deadly weapon that could bring down a whole computer system) was optional.

The wiser denizens of the Usenet, however, would spot a provocative statement that was likely to trigger a flamewar and simply ignore it. Instead of picking up the fight, they would try to warn off others who were about to get involved  with a mantra that was repeated with Yoda-like patience: “Don’t feed the troll.” 

Technology may have changed a bit. The nature and needs of the internet troll are remarkably constant.So: retweet responsibly.