Farmville in PNAS

Look out, Interwebs. The SciCom slugs are coming to a social network near you.

By the end of the quarter, we have to commit an act of journalism using social media. My limited attempts to build an online community were not too successful, so I’m dubious about this project. Will our creations spread through our networks?

According to a post from John Timmer at Ars Technica, the answer could lie in Farmville, a popular Facebook app. Researchers tracked Farmville installs during the summer of 2007. They found that social networks began to positively influence user downloads once the application received 55 downloads daily. When the application became too popular (over 5000 downloads), installs decreased. Conclusion: social influence is either on or off, there are no shades of gray.

“Not having seen anything like this before, the authors don’t appear to know what to make of it,” Timmer says.

My feeling exactly. Rather than using science to explain network influence, perhaps I’ll have to do science to create a community. After all, social media appears to be just one big experiment.

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One Response to Farmville in PNAS

  1. hestermandl says:

    I feel you. Just working on our assignments in class, I’m always fretting about the thing I didn’t get to mention. At least on our class assignments, we get a few days to weigh the information and decide what is important to cover and what isn’t. In general, the problem is that there is too much information and we have to synthesize and condense. Are you finding that your challenge is just the opposite in newspaper reporting?

    With policy reporting, there is an extra layer of responsibility. Yes, newspapers are the first draft of history, but it might be one of the only drafts where people like the fishermen get to weigh in. You can only do what time and space allow. If you’re lucky, you’ll at least get a fisherman that can speak to the you are covering.

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