Scribbled Ideas for “Research” Around the OU Online Conference…

So it seems I missed a meeting earlier this week planning a research strategy around the OU’s online conference, which takes place in a couple of weeks or so… (sigh: another presentation to prepare…;-)…

For what it’s worth, here are a few random thoughts about things I’ve done informally around confs before, or have considered doing… I’ve got the lurgy, though, those this is pretty much a raw core dump and is likely to have more typos and quirky grammatical constructions than usual (can’t concentrate at all:-(

Twitter hashtag communities: I keep thinking I should grab a bit more data (e.g. friends and followers details) around folk using a particular hashtag, and then do some social network analysis on the resulting network so I can write a “proper research paper” about it, but that would be selfish; because I suspect what would be more useful would be to spend that time making it easier for folk to decide whether or not they want to follow other hashtaggers, provide easy ways to create lists of hashtaggers, and so on. (That said, it would be really handy to get hold of the script that Dave Challis cobbled together around Dev8D (here and here) and then used to plot the growth of a twitter community over the course of that event. What’s required? Find the list of folk using the hashtag and then several times a day just grab a list of all their friends and followers (So we require two scripts: one to grab hashtaggers every hour or so and produce a list of “new” hashtaggers; one to grab the friends and followers of every hashtagger once an hour or so (or every half day; or whatever… if this is a research project, I guess it’d make sense to set quite a high sample rate and then learn from that what an effective sample rate would be?). Then at our leisure we can plot the network, and I guess run some SNA stats on it. (We could also use a hshtagger list to create a twitter map view of where folk might be participating from?) One interesting network view would be to show the growth of new connections between two time periods. I’m not sure if the temporal graphs Gephi supports would be handy here, but it’d be a good reason to learn how to use Gephi’s temporal views:-) If the conf is mainly hashtagged by OU users, then it won’t be interesting, because I suspect the OU hashtag community is already pretty densely interconnected. As the conference is being held (I think) in Ellumniate, it might be that a lot of the backchannel chatter occurs in that closed environment…? Is it possible to set up elluminate with a panel showing part of someone’s desktop that is streaming the conference hashtag, I wonder – ie showing backchannel chat within the elluminate environment using a backchannel that exists outside elluminate? (Thinks: would it be worth having a conference twitter user that autofollows anyone using the conf hashtag?) Other twitter stuff we can do is described in Topic and Event based Twittering – Who’s in Your Community?. Eg from the list of hashtaggers, we could see what other hashtags they were using/have recently used, helping identify situation of OU conf in other contexts according to the interests of people talking about the OU conf.

Facebook communities might be another thing to look at. The Netvizz app will grab an individuals network, and the connections between members of that network (unless recent privacy changes have broken things?). This data is trivially visualised in Gephi, which can also determine various SNA stats. Again it would make sense to grab regular dumps of data in maybe two cases: 1) create a faux Facebook user and get folk to friend it, then grab a dump of it’s network every hour or so (is it possible to autofriend people back? Or maybe that’s a job for a research monkey…?! Alternatively, get folk to join a conference group and grab a dump of the members of the group every hour or so (or every whenever or so). The only problem with that is if the group has more than 200 members, you only get a dump of a randomly selected 200 members.

– link communities – by which I mean look at activity around links that are being shared via eg twitter (extract the links from the (archived) hashtag feed) , or bookmarked on delicious. I’ve doodled social life of URL ideas before that might help provide macroscopic views over what links folk are sharing, and who else might be interested in those links (e.g. delicious URL History: Users by Tag or edupunk chatter). From socially bookmarked links, we can also generate tag clouds.

– chatter clouds: term extraction word clouds based on stuff that’s being tweeted with a particular hashtag.

– blog post communities: just cobble together a list of blogs that contain posts written around conf sessions.

– googalytics, bit.lytics: not sure what Google analytics you’d collect from where, but an obvious thing to do with them would be to look at the incoming IP adddresses/domains to see whether the audience was largely coming in from educational institutions. (Is there a list of IP ranges for UK HEIs, I wonder?) If any links are shared in the conference context, eg by backchannel, it would might sense shortening all those links on with a conf API key, so you could track all click throughs on shortened versions of that target link. The point would be to just be able to produce a chart of something like “most clicked through links for this conf”.