Social Media in Live Events publication

December 10, 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 16.25.46I wrote a few times already about the SMiLE project led by Lisa Harris and Nicole Beale that I am part of. The team presented at the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) conference a few months ago and the paper of that presentation is now included in the online proceedings. You can access the full version on the PLE website or through my bibliography. The paper presents some early findings on our social media strategy applied to the CAA conference 2012 in Southampton.

More cool stuff is to come from the SMiLE team, and we have some great innovative network analysis things in the pipeline, so stay tuned 🙂

Harris, L., Earl, G., Beale, N., Phethean, C., & Brughmans, T. 2012. Building Personal Learning Networks through Event- Based Social Media : a Case Study of the SMiLE Project The Growth of the “ Backchannel ”. In PLE Conference Proceedings, Personal Learning Environment Conference 2012,

In this paper we report on early findings of our SMiLE project which is evaluating how effective various online social networking channels can be in supporting how people network and learn from a major ‘live’ conference. The event took place at the University of Southampton in March 2012. We consider the dynamics of the relation- ship between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ communities in the development of personal learning networks, for example how social networking impacts upon participants’ interaction and engagement before, during and after the event as the community of practice de- velops. Assessing the impact of social networking activity on ‘real world’ outcomes has historically been a difficult task, but we argue that recent developments in social network visualisation and analysis now enable valuable insights to be generated for the benefit of both event organisers and attendees seeking to build their subject knowledge and extend their networks.
We begin with a brief review of networking theory and the emerging role of the
online backchannel at ‘live’ events, before describing the approach we took to the col- lection and analysis of social media data from the CAA Conference. We then discuss the implications of our findings for people looking to build learning networks through the increasingly blurred boundaries of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ networks. We conclude by highlighting some lessons learned and possible directions for future research. Our findings also have relevance to the PLE conference itself – which this year has the added dynamic of two face to face locations for the conference operating at the same time to pose new multi-channel communication and learning challenges for partici- pants.

Facebook wins: where do other social networks fit in?

August 7, 2012

Since 2008 has been collecting stats on a very wide range of online social networks. Now for the fifth time they published their annual report, making available a wealth of valuable data. The 2012 report reveals that the Online Social Networks market seems to become increasingly saturated, with a few giants dominating the market whilst the vast majority sees a decrease in interest. Work by Soton DH members in the SMiLE project (Social Media for suppporting Live Events) throws a different light on this ‘saturation’ by exploring how a combination of networks can be sensibly used on-the-spot, live. Does this report suggest that such an approach is doomed to fail? Not really. Although a small number of networks might dominate the field, these could form the glue or hubs in an integrated approach drawing on the specific functionality of a multiplicity of networks.

Here is what Brian Chappell of has to say about the report:

2011 marked the second year in which many social networks started to wain as social network saturation kicked in. The questions remains, how many social networks can you actively stay up to date on? As Facebook became the mainstay for many users in late 2009 and into 2010 and continuing into 2011, we see the continued fallout in interest for many other social networks. There are still a few social networks that are growing, year over year, however, such as Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter, to name a few.

And here is the methodology they used to collect the data:

Reporting is the same as last year – most sites’ search stats were pulled back by querying just their name. For example: “Twitter”, instead of “” However, with that said, certain networks such as still needed to utilize the variation, since people looking for tribe could be looking for a myriad of things, thus corrupting the data set.

All data continues to come from Google because they have one of the largest data sets on the web. We continued to use their Google Ad Planner and Google Insight for Search products to pull demographic and geographic data.

The Top Cities and Top Region reports show proportionate interest levels to the area based on the given search query.

The Demographic and Geographic reports have Y axis numbers that are percentages out of 100, therefore if the score is .52 then it is 52% of the population.

The Search Traffic reports are based on proportionate search traffic for the given query. It is on a scale of 100. Therefore if a given month shows the chart near 100, then that is the busiest month for query searches ever reported in Google during that given time frame.

SMiLE: excellence with impact

July 30, 2012

Our SMiLE (Social Media for Live Events) project is on an advertising high! On 25 July a SMiLE article appeared on the Research Councils UK website, under the Digital Economy theme. In fact, SMiLE emerged from the Southampton Digital Economy University Strategic Research Group, a group co-directed by Dr. Lisa Harris, coordinator of the SMiLE project. This post also reveals a teaser image of my network analysis of the SMiLE data, more about that later 🙂

SMiLE: But who is going to read 12,000 tweets?!

July 9, 2012

A second blogpost about the SMiLE project I am involved in appeared recently on the London School of Economics website. I wrote about the project’s aims before as Nicole Beale and Lisa Harris explained it on the LSE website earlier. This second blog post introduces a first glimpse at the results including a short discussion of Twitter network visualization and analysis. Exciting!

In fact, this second blog post reveals some of the really cool work the project members have been up to. MSc students here in Southampton have been busy using the collected social media data in creative ways for their projects. The project is also working with the Oxford e-research centre on a guide for best practice for using social media at conferences. But that’s not all! We are also working on depositing the entire social media archive with the Archaeology Data Service in York, and publishing some of the results in Internet Archaeology.

The rest of the blog post goes on to discuss some of the issues surrounding all this. How does one go about depositing an electronic social media archive? Lisa and Nicole looked into some of the comments of the conference delegates, provided in feedback forms, to get a more qualified picture of the issue and how to proceed. The blog also discusses the issue of developing an interface through which this dataset can be explored. Mark Borkum and I are looking at using network analysis tools for this. More on the network side of things will be revealed in later posts.

Have a look at the original article, definitely worth a read!

Social Media at CAA2012 on London School of Economics blog

May 23, 2012

The London School of Economics blog today features a post titled ‘If you don’t have social media, you are no one: How social media enriches conferences for some but risks isolating others’. It introduces some preliminary findings of the ‘Social Media in Supporting Live Events’ (SMiLE) project by Southampton’s Digital Humanities members Nicole Beale, Lisa Harris and their team… of which I am lucky to be part 🙂 They extracted data from over 13,000 tweets, 430 photos and a number of videos, all derived from the social media strategy the project set up for the Computer Applications and Quantitative techniques in Archaeology (CAA) conference held at the University of Southampton in March. Because the social media strategy was developed in detail before the event the SMiLE team managed to convince a large portion of conference delegates to use social media and collected way more data than they expected.

The blog post reveals some very preliminary results, but this rich dataset promises to provide many more fascinating insights in the use and potential of social media at a Humanities conference. Keep an eye out for SMiLE on the LSE and SotonDH blogs! And of course this one as well 🙂