Tag: usage

Facebook -vs- Twitter short message usage?

The other evening, we started an interesting discussion with some colleagues about usage of Twitter and Facebook. Obviously most people in the room were (and are) using Facebook and knew about the feature (“status”) allowing you to share text messages with your friends (and the whole world). Less people were aware of Twitter, although is also offers the possibility to share text messages with your friends (and the whole world too). I was wondering why most (if not all) people in the room were registered on Facebook but almost none of them were registered (or even using) Twitter. Do not even mention Identi.ca, the open source alternative to Twitter.

Both Facebook and Twitter play in the “social networking websites” circle and both are proprietary. You must register with both to be allowed to participate although no registration is required to read Twitter messages (they are public by default). No such thing with Facebook: only registered users can read what other users posted. Another difference: Facebook allow you to share more than just text messages (photos, videos, play games, etc.) while Twitter relies on third-parties for that (although they are rolling out a photo sharing service). Is that difference in features that make most people prefer Facebook on Twitter? Is that just a snowball effect?

Twitip states that “Facebook appeals to people looking to reconnect with old friends and family members or find new friends online; the mashup of features like email, instant messaging, image and video sharing, etc. feels familiar, while Twitter is a bit harder to get your arms around at first. […] Twitter on the other hand, encourages you grab ideals in byte-size chunks and use your updates as jumping off points to other places or just let others know what you’re up to at any given moment.” Even with those differences, Facebook and Twitter had very similar demographics in 2010, according to Digital Surgeons.

Sharing information via social channels (Facebook, Twitter and alike) grew fast between 2009 (14%) and 2010 (24%) according to Social Twist. It even overtook instant messaging. But this shouldn’t hide the fact that most people still use e-mails to share links. Is it because most people using social media are still “old” (25-35 years old) and used to send and receive e-mails. Of course, Social Twist only records a special kind of measure (media sharing) and I wonder if the supposed use of social media in “Arab revolutions” will have an impact on the 2011 usage. It would be interesting to see the trend in the coming years.

Coming back to the initial question, I think most people in that other evening were mostly using Facebook (and not Twitter) mainly because of the snowball effect (most of the friends are also on Facebook). I mainly use Twitter to share information and Facebook to keep in touch with my friends’lives.

And you, do you use Facebook and Twitter in different manners?

P.S. If you want you can follow me on Twitter and, yes, you can find me on Facebook 😉

How are you using tags?

I’m wondering how people are using tags and how it differs from keywords usage in the scientific literature.

Usually when I add tags on web services like del.icio.us or Flickr, I tend to add as many tags as possible. For example, even if a man is not the main subject of a photo, I’ll use the tag “man”. The rationale is we never know if, one day, I (or someone) would like to find a photo with a man and a tree (for example), the tree being the main subject. The problem is that I think I’m “diluting” the power of main tags. Another example … about a website helping find post-doc jobs, I’ll use the following tags: “jobs postdoc research science grants PhD job”. The problem is that “grants” is not really related (there are no list of available grants but only some jobs require grants and you never know what you’ll look for later).

In the biomedical sciences field (and many other scientific fields, I guess), we are using “keywords” when submitting a paper to a peer-review journal. This helps in the selection of peer-reviewers but, more important, it allows us to find interesting papers. The main difference with tags, imho, is that we only use a small number of keywords. For example, in this article, the author only used 4 keywords (and it’s considered sufficient). If this article would have been a webpage, I would have added some more tags: MS, Mw, pI, proteomics, …

Why is there a difference? Is it relevant? How are you using tags? Is there a “good” strategy?

I collected tag-lists from some del.icio.us users and tried to compare (*) to my tag list …

user abbrev N links N tags Mean citation per tag Max citation for a tag
je 401 757 3.52 84
ad 614 1123 3.07 98
do 113 195 2.33 27
ch 2320 582 15.86 326
de 3528 1550 13.29 923

With 5 people, I don’t pretend that it’s significant … We have clearly two groups: me and my friends (the 3 first lines) with < 1000 links and a mean citation per tag of around 2-3. The two last lines are from 2 people taken “at random” (well, I eliminated people with < 1000 links like the 1st group). When I plot the histogram of tags usage, I always get the same trend: a huge amount of tags used a few times and very few tags cited very often (as expected, see figure below).

histogram of my tags usage

Rashmi Sinha’s cognitive analysis of tagging is a good start to understand the tagging process. But it could be nice to find other important ressources and/or learn from others experiences …

(*) data and Python scripts available upon request. I had to write my own Python scripts to retrieve data since, unfortunately, Michael G. Noll’s Unofficial del.icio.us Python API for research are not available anymore.

Update on May 6th (a bit later): Michael’s API is back! I’ll use it later 🙂 Thanks Michael. If you want to spend your holiday in Canada, you can go to the ACM Document Engineering 2007 where he’ll introduce a paper related to this subject. Another thing: when I looked again at the table above, there are two “trends” (remember, I don’t pretend to be exhaustive nor significant): people with < 1000 links have more keywords than links ; with > 1000 links, more links than keywords. Is there a more precise limit? I guess this has something to do with the fact people are only interested in a “small” number of subjects and tend to collect as many variations (links/webpages) as possible on the subject.