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Wybo is a sociologist and PhD/DPhil student at the Oxford Internet Institute.

He studies online social behaviour. Especially: How social media affect protest movements such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wallstreet. More...

Also: MSc in Social Science of the Internet, MA in Digital Humanities (distinction), 3 BAs (firsts/cum laude) in History, Philosophy of Information Science and Information Science

Papers feed

Simulating the Emergence of Critical Mass:

How Forums Grow by Stimulating User Contributions

Attaining critical mass is notoriously difficult for online platforms, and many online communities fail because of this. A common feature of most successful communities, are threads, which are found on forums, Facebook, and on Quora, among other places.

In this paper Agent-Based Simulation was used to examine the impact of variations in thread-structures on growth and critical mass attainment.

What was found was that threads perform better than no threads at all, and indented thread-structures that allow users more control over what to read, improve engagement even further.

The Invisible Hands of Time:

How Timezones Shape Online Communities

A popular view of online communities is that they transcend time and place. As threads and comments are posted during the circadian cycle, however, participants will see different (new) threads as they arrive, which then affects who interacts with whom and the social ties that form.

A case-study of the Hacker News community was conducted to measure these effects. Strong time-pressure effects were found at the thread-level. For social ties statistically significant effects were found as well; especially for users at the edge of the network. Even the two-week gap between the introduction of daylight savings time in the US and UK had an impact.

These findings indicate that online communities may not be as global as generally believed, and might limit the validity of purely social interpretations of online reply structures.

The Validity of Surveys:

Online and Offline

Online surveys are generally considered cheaper, faster, and more convenient. They also have a potential for international reach, allow for elaborate skip-logic, and eliminate errors in data-entry, to name a few of their benefits.

But many wonder about their validity.

In this paper all the important threats to the validity of both online and offline surveys are assessed. Such as lack of a sampling frame, and things such as experimenter effects.

As long as the pros and cons are taken into account, there is room for both, and with the arrival of smartphones, there might be a sampling frame for web-surveys soon.

Enclosures of the Mind:

Intellectual Property from a Global Perspective

The copyright system has become morally problematic and alternatives should be developed.

It is outdated first of all: Copyrights were initially introduced as regulation for the printing industry. But due to the spread of digital technology, copyrights now reach into all personal communication. Making upholding it not only impossible, but also mutually exclusive with privacy.

Second, in essence it consists of creating artificial scarcity. It negates the third reasons for why markets are effective in the physical realm: 1) decentralized decision-making, 2) efficient allocation of investments, 3) efficient use of resources. Not restricted use, but ubiquitous use is efficient for digital goods, because they can be multiplied at zero cost.

A levy-system could replace it.


Philosophy Beyond the Paper

This paper sets out to show that philosophy has much to gain from the web, and argues that it will inexorably go beyond on-line journals, and the distribution of .pdf files.

The failure of historical attempts at making the web work for philosophy are investigated and explained. LogiLogi, a prototype of a philosophical discussion platform, is then introduced. It is different from forums and wikis and tries to overcome their limitations by aiming for an informal middle-road between good conversations and journal-papers and by providing a form of quick, informal publication, peer-review, and annotation of short philosophical texts.

The paper concludes with a tentative analysis of what philosophy on the web should be like, and how LogiLogi is tailored to such a conception of philosophy.


The Quest for Critical Mass

Social software needs an active user community before it becomes attractive to new visitors.

This paper analyzes and describes an attempt at attaining such critical mass for LogiLogi.org, an innovative philosophical discussion platform (described in this paper).

The paper examines the limited literature on critical mass, and reports on two usability studies that were done on LogiLogi. LogiLogi was then improved in ways that would maximize its chances of attaining critical mass (which did not succeed).

The literature review, as well as some of our conclusions may be useful to other web-applications.

A Global Advisory Parliament Integrated with the Social Web:

Why it Would Improve Legislative Functioning, and How it Could Attain Critical Mass

Eventhough they were unable to attain a permanent voice, the reach of Occupy and similar movements showed that there is a democratic deficit within Western democracies.

The feasibility of introducing an advisory on-line parliament based on Transitive Delegative Democracy (TDD) is examined in this paper. TDD is different from direct democracy in that people can opt to delegate their vote (as can delegates). This caters to ‘lazy’ voters, while increased voting weight adds incentives for delegates to vote.

Integrating a TDD app with an online social network such as Facebook, and having it replicate the agenda of national parliaments, increasing its recommendations relevance to news-media, could help it attain critical mass.

A Measure of Aggregate Syntactic Distance

(There is a later paper on this)

We compare vectors containing counts of trigrams of part-of-speech (POS) tags in order to obtain an aggregate measure of syntax difference. Since lexical syntactic categories reflect more abstract syntax as well, we argue that this procedure reflects more than just the basic syntactic categories.

We tag the material automatically and analyze the frequency vectors for POS trigrams using a permutation test.

A test analysis of a 305,000 word corpus containing the English of Finnish emigrants to Australia is promising in that the procedure proposed works well in distinguishing two different groups (adult vs. child emigrants) and also in highlighting syntactic deviations between the two groups.

Automatically Extracting Typical Syntactic Differences from Corpora

We develop an aggregate measure of syntactic difference for automatically finding common syntactic differences between collections of text.

With the use of this measure, it is possible to mine for differences between, for example, the English of learners and natives, or between related dialects.

It enables us to find not only absence or presence, but also under- and overuse of specific constructs and allows for testing hypotheses for statistical significance.

Our earlier publications on it are: crude version of the method, testing it, applying it, and applying it a second time.

Filled Pauses as Evidence of L2 Proficiency:

Finnish Australians Speaking English

(There is a later paper on this)

e paper discusses the application of the technique described here to detect the linguistic sources of the syntactic variation between two groups, the ‘Adults’, who had received their school education in Finland, and the ‘Juveniles’, who were educated in Australia.

The main – and perhaps expected – finding was that second language learners pause more often.

Also see this paper for more details.

Detecting Syntactic Contamination in Emigrants:

The English of Finnish Australians

(There is a later paper on this)

The paper discusses the application of the technique described here to detect the linguistic sources of the syntactic variation between two groups, the ‘Adults’, who had received their school education in Finland, and the ‘Juveniles’, who were educated in Australia.

The results show that some features described here as ‘contaminating’ the interlanguage of the Adults can be best attributed to Finnish substratum transfer. Other features in the data may also be ascribed to more ‘universal’ primitives or universal properties of the language faculty.

Applying Language Technology to Detect Shift Effects

(There is a later paper on this)

This paper discusses an application of a technique to tag a corpusautomatically and to detect syntactic differences between two varieties of FinnishAustralian English, one spoken by the first generation and the other by the second generation.

The technique utilizes frequency profiles of trigrams of part-of-speech categories as indicators of syntactic distance between the varieties.

The paper examines potential shift effects in language contact. Results show that some interlanguage features in the first generation can be attributed to Finnish substratum transfer. Other features are ascribable to more universal properties of the language faculty or to “vernacular” primitives.