Thursday, 21 May 2009

Computers could police social web bullies

A consortium of european universities, Professor Mike Thelwall of the University of Wolverhampton is leading a group of universities trying to develop software which can guage the emotional temperature of social websites like myspace of facebook. Bill Goodwin reports this story in Computer Weekly.

The potential for bullying is one of the many reasons schools, colleges and career advisers have shyed away from encouraging use of social networking sites for educational purposes. Schools also report they are regularly dealing with the aftermath of cyber bullying when pupils are inside the school gates!

The software has been trialled using myspace, and was found to correctly determine the emotional temperature in 60% of cases. While that may sound poor, it is as good as a human being reading the text entries. One of the problems is people mean different things when they use the same words. And those reading a negative comment meant as a joke, may not appreciate the joke, or misinterpret the original author's intentions.

The researchers plan to wire up human volunteers to measure the impact of emotional statements on users. Ultimately software could be developed which quickly detects deteriorating conversations, and steps in, perhaps alerting moderators, or temporarily blocking users.

Interestingly the researches found much more positive emotion than negative, countering the expectation that young male social networkers would be more likely to share nastiness than anyone else!

I'm not sure educators will be convinced they can totally dispense with moderation, but software which part automated the process of monitoring student online behaviour could help counter those who argue the social web is too challenging to use educationally because of the dangers of cyber bullying.

Image credit: Sybren Stuvel

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Turn to Twitter for *** instant*** jobs

Sky News has an interesting report about people using Twitter for jobhunting.

The link to Twitjobs is wrong though. You can find out about them at They actually have a number of Twitter profiles targeting different broad occupational sectors. You can check out twitjobs here where you'll find around 5,000 people are following vacancy details being advertised on Twitter in the UK.

But there are also:

TwitJobsMedia TwitJobs_Sales twitjobsGRAD twitjobsCreativ and twitjobsFashion

The article also talks about the US site CLJOBS on Twitter, which checks and then tweets vacancies advertised on Craigslist every 15 minutes. Few people would have the patience to trawl Craigslist or similar classifed sites every few minutes in case of a new posting. This service takes that hassle away, and alerts you via Twitter of new jobs. Carefully composed twitter searches can be used to deliver you customised job notices via RSS feed to your chosen reader!

Both these sites are interesting. There's an urgency about jobhunting using Twitter, and CLJOBS particularly emphasizes the importance of being FIRST (or shall we say in the first few) across the recruiter's desk. I suppose it's quite appropriate to say in this case that the early bird catches the worm!

Image credit Matt Hamm