Andreas Weigend | Social Data Revolution | Fall 2012
School of Information | University of California at Berkeley | INFO 290A-3

Class 2: September 10, 2012

Assisting Andreas with preparation of class (discuss after previous class, due Thursday before this class):

SDR Topic Voting

Please vote by 11am on 9/11 on the topics by distributing 10 points across the 12 topics discussed in Class2 (If you have any trouble accessing the form, please email Divya:

Student editors:

Class materials:

Class Introduction

Class began with three brief reminders and presentations by members of the class:
  • Carl and Jeremy presented about the creating a book about the Social Data Revolution, to be published by Snapfish.
  • Divya reviewed how we're using the to share links, and continue discussions about what we’re covering in class.
  • Shaun Tai presented about the videography, and discussed how their are a number of tasks that students can volunteer for. He is looking for students to help with filming, collecting stories, creating an online survey, additional research, and establishing relationships with supporting departments. Jeremy also has some videography experience, and offered to help students with the video equipment made available to the class.

Andreas began his lecture with a recap of our previous class, asking for student participation in revisiting various definitions related to social data, and what the Social Data Revolution is.

The Tradeoffs of Sharing Data

There is always a tradeoff that you need to make when sharing information. The choices you make daily when using your mobile device, or connecting with your friends via social network force you to sacrifice your privacy for some gained convenience. Some tradeoffs users are willing to make more easily than others. However, the sharing of social data is neither good nor evil.

Examples of Tradeoffs

Foursquare is a social location game. By providing location to the Foursquare there are multiple benefits: you can be provided deals at local businesses, signal your status (Mayor of Peets) and help friends are aware of your location. However, others may know where you’re at too. LinkedIn is a professional networking site helping build new relationships. However, if a user wants to look up a work colleague, Linkedin communicates that you were looking at their profile, without any notification to the user. Users are able to make these tradeoffs effectively when they understand the information they are giving up and the information they are gaining. Problems arise when users don’t understand the tradeoffs or businesses are not clear about the information that are collecting and storing. In fact, law and policy has lagged behind the exponential growth of data, and as a result consumer protections have suffered.

Example of Lack of Regulation*
Skout is a social dating application. Meeting new people online is not always what its cracked up to be. Identity online often goes unvalidated. As a result tools that were built to promote open communication, end up being used for unexpected reasons, like date rape. Should regulators step in to protect minors? under-agedones too.

Examples Government of Regulation
Insurance companies, despite having rich data for pricing auto insurance, are not able to leverage certain types of data. For instance zipcode can not be used to price insurance as it has been found to be highly correlated with race. The government often institutes these policies when they have a compelling government interest.

Why is there a Social Data Revolution?

As Kevin Kelly eloquently stated (where?), "We live in the time when the world became connected".
The number of people joining the connected web is experiencing exponential growth. The number of sensors, mobile devices, and social connections are also seeing incredible growth. Data is a valuable resource, it is the new oil, and like oil, needs to be refined.
As a result new jobs have been created (ie. data scientist) to meet the growing demand.

The world is changing at such an incredible rate, and people are thinking about about social data differently than they did ten years ago. As a result societal norms.[[[ | are changing]]]. People do not get a clean slate on a daily basis, their digital life follows them around. The revolution is now because we can now capture data that "existed" before. Interactions with the digital networked world, almost by necessity, leave traces -- typically these were previously unrecorded. Although many digital transactions do not leave behind the explicit social traces that we have become accustomed too. For instance, Xobni, Outlook plugin, for using social graph from email to prioritize emails.

  • Negative feelings travel faster and stronger signal.Companies are moving towards self-expression.
  • Power structure is getting shook up, more people have a voice than ever before.
  • From our class, no one bought more than $20 from iTunes. Most people stream.

Examples of Change

  • Snapfish: changes our behavior. [ratings & reviews changing how businesses interact w/ customers]
  • British Telecom V.P. opened up up his email communication to the entire company. As a result the amount of bickering throughout the company decreased dramatically. The sharing of social data has the ability to change and modify behaviors.
  • Physical Store vs. Virtual Store **
The virtual store allows businesses to change prices on the fly, reorganize merchandise, and yields insights into the users shopping experience that would never be possible in the physical store. Michael Ross., eCommera. Even more promising is the shift towards bridging the digital and physical. In the future businesses will all be coffee shop, merely a show room for products. Book stores will simply display single books, and purchases will be digitally sent to users.

Discussion: Was there an SMS revolution?

Short Messaging Service (SMS) is a widely used communication platform. We had a brief discussion about why SMS is not a revolution in and of itself. While not final conclusions were drawn, the main difference is that SMS did not change social norms in the same way. The book below discusses at great length the effects of SMS.]

Examples of Social Data Services

Leisure and Entertainment

Implicit sharing: Google Latitude, Facebook location,
Explicit sharing: Foursquare, SCVNGR
Bridge phys and digital worlds / Webcams: opentopia

Hipmunk, Kayak

Instagram, Flickr, Twitpic

Consumption/Sharing Platforms
Yelp Reviews, IMDB, Amazon Reviews,

Car Sharing and Parking
Zipcar, Wheelz, RelayRides, Zimride, Ridejoy, Avego, QuickPay, Parking Panda

Rdio, Pandora, Spotify,, Hypemachine, Mog,


LinkedIn, BranchOut, XING

Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Gogobot,


HealthyLabs, Ginger, PatientsLikeMe, Healthtap

Real estate
Zillow, ZipRealty

23andMe, Halcyon Molecular, DNAnexus

Fitbit, Fitocracy, Greatist, Massive Health

Kahn Academy, Coursera, 2tor, Voxy, Noodle

Social Capital

Mint, Square, Amazon, Groupon, PayPal

OkCupid, eHarmony, Grindr, Blendr, Skout


Americorps, Code for America, Votizen,

Sunlight foundation

Kiva, Kickstarter

The Future of Social Data, Services, and Devices?

Queena Kim from American Public Media Marketplace visited our class to have a conversation about the future of social data and services with respect to the upcoming iPhone release. It led to a discussion detailing the differences between tech companies: their culture, vision, budgets, and possible directions.

What Will the Landscape Look like in 10 to 20 Years Leisure and Entertainment
Companies with strong technology culture such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft are growing their industry role beyond developers of software and hardware. Many of them are investing resources into building ecosystems media, advertisements, and apps. Its further made difficult to predict when users, policymakers, or the zeitgeist are driving towards or away from an ends to their own means.

The Current Landscape
R&D Spending by Major Companies

Quite often we need to make trade-offs. Do you want to live in a “country” where information is heavily taxed or there is a freeflow? People will make choices influenced by how these companies and countries currently deal with information. People will vote w/ their dollars and clicks about the type of "country" they want to live in. Apple developed the first app marketplace and has a sizeable amount of information collected (including: phone number, email address, and access patterns). Today, this information is walled off from outsiders (though it does not appear to be leveraged by Apple). The walled off garden has helped Apple provide a great user experience and continued growth despite the high margins it charges on hardware.

In contrast, Google has had a culture of openness and product simplicity. They took up the mantra Don't Be Evil as a response to the perceived actions of Microsoft and how it used its place in the IT revolution to its benefit. Google provides its services for free, but as the saying goes, "You're the product". Google is paid to put advertisements in front of its users eyes and collects an immense amount of information about its users to improve its services. It has also acquired a number of content producing companies (e.g. Zagat, Frommers) making its "Don't Be Evil" more difficult when it owns properties its may benefit from sending users to.