Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Debate

In Blogging America, by Aaron Barlow, the author discusses the functions and complications of blogs in society. We learn that blogs are a new form of communication media on the Internet. People can now become authors to voice their opinion or display information that they want to share with the world in just a matter of minutes. Blogs can differ from posting personal information about ones life to any topic in society ranging from politics to pets, and anything in between. With this endless range of topics come a broad variety of authors. With all the complexities that exist within the internet, many bloggers ask themselves the question, “Should I reveal my identity on my blog?”. This chapter weighs out reasons for releasing or not releasing your identity on your blog.

Aaron Barlow discusses reasons not to reveal your identity that he extracted from Chris Harris’s article in the School Library Journal. Harris’s first reason is that giving your opinion on a topic may not always be the right choice. Sometimes writers do not think before they speak and this can cause a problem between two parties. A second reason is that sometimes stories that are told should not be said at all. This theory comes into play because releasing information about people or a topic may cause someone to get in trouble or put them in potential danger. Aside from these reasons, there are many others. Another reason not to reveal your identity would be to avoid threats. There have been many cases of people receiving death threats or other forms of harmful statements towards themselves because of information or topics posted on blogs. An easy way to avoid all of these potential happenings would be to conceal your identity.

But even after hearing all of these reasons to keep your identity private, there is still a main reason that people wish to display their identities. Barlow states (2008), “The freedom that facelessness provides (and one’s online manifestation can be faceless, if one so desires) can bring down the entire structure.” (p.40) This tells us that, we are in fact free to be anonymous on the internet if we want to be, but at the same time it can damage the whole foundation and meaning of the blogosphere. By authors revealing who they are on their blogs, makes the ‘structure’ of the ‘online community’ more realistic because actual people are talking about their own personal lives and the reader can now get a sense of who they are. (Barlow, 2008)

After reading about reasons to reveal your identity or to keep that information private in this chapter I feel that it is crucial to the online community to use your real name on your blog. I agree with Barlow’s argument that it adds depth and structure to this growing form of media. It is important because it allows the reader to connect to the author and gain a sense of personal insight to the author’s thoughts and arguments.

Barlow, Aaron. (2008). Blogging America. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Problem in the Commons

According to Managing the Virtual Commons: Cooperation and Conflict in Computer Communities, by Peter Kollock and Marc Smith, newer forms of communication media, such as the internet, are leading to a greater amount of personal interaction via the computer. This form of communication levels the playing field, as social structures from the past are eliminated. These social structures are now obsolete because with this type of media everyone can participate in conversation and discussion and no longer makes it limited to the higher end of the social pyramid. Although this description sounds great, there is still a big problem communicating by this form, and that problem is free-riding.

One area on the internet where this problem of ‘free-riding’ exists is the Usenet. The Usenet consists of thousands of discussion groups ranging from any topic that you can think of. There is no central host that manages or organizes the Usenet, but is rather based on the users participation. After hearing about how the Usenet works, one question that is brought to mind is, “How can all of the users on the Usenet exist, with the ‘free-rider’ topic at hand?” Kollock and Smith discuss that, “Whenever one person cannot be excluded from the benefits that others provide, each person is motivated not to contribute to the joint effort, but to free-ride on the efforts of others. If all of the participants choose to free-ride, the collective benefit will not be produced.” (from Ostrom, 1990) This quote is explaining what the actual concern of free-riding on the internet is. Free-riding means that users that do not contribute to the discussion are taking information from other users and are not contributing any of their own. If this happens Usenet groups and other newsgroups will not reach the ultimate success that they could reach if everyone contributed.

After reading and discussing this article I feel that Kollock and Smith bring up a major point that I agree with. The problem with free-riding is extremely crucial to the success of a Usenet group. I have first hand experience with this and understand what they are speaking about. I am part of a sports blogging site, and many of us post useful information about baseball and football stats. But there are many more users of the site than those of us who actually post. Others are coming on to our site, and ‘free-riding’ off of our information and not contributing any of their own. In order for the site to reach maximum success everyone should post their own relevant information towards the topic.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Conducting Research

The Web 2.0 communication medium that I have chosen to research for my final essay is the platform of BitTorrent. From the article that we read in class, I learned that, “BitTorrent, like other pioneers in the P2P movement, takes a radical approach to internet decentralization. Every client is also a server; files are broken up into fragments that can be served from multiple locations, transparently harnessing the network of downloaders to provide both bandwidth and data to other users.” (O’Reilly, 2005) Aside from this article, I have located and researched nine other sources regarding the platform of BitTorrent, finding results to be both credible and non-credible.

The first database that I used to search for sources was EBSCO through the University at Albany Library. Before I conducted my research, I explored the EBSCO webpage and found out that it had many complex search techniques. There were many different options of where in the article to search for the phrase typed in. When I began to search I typed in the keyword, “BitTorrent” and it returned to me over a few hundred scholarly articles that it had found in its’ database. When I saw these results I began to the look over the articles to see which ones could be relevant for my project. After looking over the first few pages of results I found two scholarly and credible journal articles that I could use for my final project. They both discussed the P2P movement over the internet and how this way of sharing files actually works. The articles also discuss possible ways to try to prevent free-riding as well. (Park & van der Schaar, 2008) & (Li & Yu, 2008)

After I found those two articles I decided to stick with EBSCO because it returned good results. I changed my keyword search to, “p2p file sharing” and once again plenty of articles came up. The one that I selected spoke about the decentralization process and node clustering schemes. This source was also from a scholarly print journal and was credible as well. (Ramawamy & Gedik, 2005) My last source I found through EBSCO was conducted with the keyword search of, “BitTorrent works”. One result came back to me, but when I located the article and read it I found it to be extremely resourceful. It was from PC Magazine, and explained how all torrent programs functioned and discussed how they manage to stay legal. (Norton & Freedmart, 2006)

The next database I decided to use was LexisNexis. This also is a database within the University at Albany Library. The keyword search phrase I used was, “BitTorrent file sharing.” Although the results were not as broad as I thought they would be I did find one useful source for my paper. It came from a popular newspaper in London and spoke again about what makes torrent programs function and also how people are beginning to make false torrent sites to try to harm computers and piracy. (Bradbury, 2007)

My third search engine that I used was google. When I typed in the searched, “BiTtorrent” thousands of results came up, however the first five pages of results that I looked over did not seem to help me out. All of these results were actually sites for torrent sharing programs and information on the internet decentralization process itself. After this I modified my keyword search to, “how BitTorrent works” and sure enough better results came back. A great article came up on the torrent process and included in the article were many diagrams giving me an animated view of what actually occurs during this type of file sharing. After I stayed within google, but changed the keywords to, “torrent p2p software”. Again another scholarly and credible article came up on the description of the software as well as research conducted about the software that is used.

The final search engine that I used was yahoo. I typed in the keyword search, “using BitTorrent” and thousands of sites came back in the results. Here was where I found results that would not be useful towards my final project. The first article I came across had non-credible written all over it. When I went to the page I could not find an author, a date of publication, and there were more advertisements on the page than information that I was looking for. My last source that I found was also a non-credible or resourceful site. It was written by a person who called himself, ‘Ernesto’. The site also had many advertisements and did not include a works cited section to credit where he obtained the information he used to write the article.

After conducting this research on BitTorrent using different search engines and databases I have learned that there is a very wide range in the level of credibility amongst articles about the same topic. I found that using the databases through the University Library game me mostly in depth and scholarly results about what I was looking for. While Google and Yahoo gave me both credible and non-credible results for the research I was conducting.

Works Cited:

Bradbury, D. (2007, April 12) Technology: Can Stuck Torrents Beat Pirates?. The Guardian. pp.1.

Li, M. & Yu, J. (2008). Free-Riding on BitTorrent-Like Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Systems: Modeling Analysis and Improvement. IEEE Transactions on Parallel & Distributed Systems. 19(7), 954-966.

Norton, P. & Freedmart, A. (2006, February). Torrents. PC Magazine. 25(2), 112-116.

O’Reilly, Tim. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

Park, H. & van der Schaar, M. (2008). Coalition-Based Resource Reciprocation Strategies for P2P Multimedia Broadcasting. IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, 54(3), 557-567.

Ramaswamy, L. & Gedik, B. (2005). A Distributed Approach to Node Clustering in Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Networks. . IEEE Transactions on Parallel & Distributed Systems. 16(9), 814-829.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Perfect Engine Vs. Personal Privacy

For today’s class, I was assigned to read “The Externalities of Search 2.0: The Emerging Privacy Threats when the Drive for the Perfect Search Engine meets Web 2.0” by Michael Zimmer. In his article he discusses the endless quest for the perfect search engine and how key components of Web 2.0 are contributing to this experiment. However, once you look deeper than the surface, one may realize that in order to receive this ‘perfect search engine’ you must give up your privacy on the World Wild Web.

In order to discover the perfect search engine there are two key components that are needed. As Zimmer states, “To attain such an omnipresent and omniscient ideal, search engines must have both “perfect reach” in order to provide access to all available information on the Web and “perfect recall” in order to deliver personalized and relevant results that are informed by who the searcher is.” (p.2) ‘Perfect reach’ gives web users the options to whatever they want on the web as they please by being able to access anything that is needed. ‘Perfect recall’ then “understands the searchers wants” and automatically understands what the searcher is looking for based on prior web encounters. (Zimmer, p.3) An example of this would be typing in a search of the word, ‘Mitsubishi’ and the computer knowing to return results of the less popular television set rather than the automobile made by the same company.

For these technologies to work properly, one’s web activity must be closely monitored in order to know what results to display. This is where the problem comes into play. By tracking a users activities on the internet they lose their personal privacy. They lose their privacy by having records created of what sites they visited, items that are being bought and even e-mails that are being read or written. With this vast technology of ‘perfect recall’ a user’s entire web history is netted into these technologies and the once private lives of web users now may be exploited at any time and are permanently kept on record.

After reading this article I now understand the key issues and concerns that are brought up regards to creating the perfect search engine. I feel that in order to accomplish this notion of the perfect search engine the user has to ask the question, “Is it worth giving up my privacy?” In response to this I feel that technology is only increasing, so there is nowhere else to turn besides taking part in this revolution of the perfect search engine.

Zimmer, Michael. (2008). The externalities of search 2.0: The emerging privacy threats when the drive for the perfect search engine meets web 2.0. First Monday, 13. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from