Threading is Sticky: How Threaded Conversations Promote Comment System User Retention

The Guardian newspaper’s introduction of single-layer hierarchical threading to its comment section creates a natural experiment for CSMR researchers to better understand the consequences of this design change. Consistent with the publisher’s aims, their research shows that the new design was followed by an increase in the rate of individuals returning to post again, both on any given article, and via the commenting service as a whole.

Ceren Budak, University of Michigan
R. Kelly Garrett, Ohio State University
Paul Resnick, University of Michigan
Julia Kamin, University of Michigan

The Guardian—the fifth most widely read online newspaper in the world as of 2014—changed conversations on its commenting platform by altering its design from non-threaded to single-level threaded in 2012. We studied this naturally occurring experiment to investigate the impact of conversation threading on user retention as mediated by several potential changes in conversation structure and style. Our analysis shows that the design change made new users significantly more likely to comment a second time, and that this increased stickiness is due in part to a higher fraction of comments receiving responses after the design change. In mediation analysis, other anticipated mechanisms such as reciprocal exchanges and comment civility did not help to explain users’ decision to return to the commenting system; indeed, civility did not increase after the design change and reciprocity declined. These analyses show that even simple design choices can have a significant impact on news forums’ stickiness. Further, they suggest that this influence is more powerfully shaped by affordances—the new system made responding easier—than by changes in users’ attention to social norms of reciprocity or civility. This has an array of implications for designers.

Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 1, CSCW, Article 27 (November 2017), 20 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3134662 

Social Media as Social Transition Machinery

Social Media as Social Transition Machinery

CSMR research into life transitions describes the ways that different Social Media platforms work together to enable people to carry out different types of transition work, while drawing from different types of support networks. To best facilitate online transition work, Social Media platforms should be designed to foster social connectivity while acknowledging the importance of platform separation.

Oliver L. Haimson, University of Michigan School of Information

Social media, and people’s online self-presentations and social networks, add complexity to people’s experiences managing changing identities during life transitions. I use gender transition as a case study to understand how people experience liminality on social media. I qualitatively analyzed data from transition blogs on Tumblr (n=240), a social media blogging site on which people document their gender transitions, and in-depth interviews with transgender bloggers (n=20). I apply ethnographer van Gennep’s liminality framework to a social media context and contribute a new understanding of liminality by arguing that reconstructing one’s online identity during life transitions is a rite of passage. During life transitions, people present multiple identities simultaneously on different social media sites that together comprise what I call social transition machinery. Social transition machinery describes the ways that, for people facing life transitions, multiple social media sites and networks often remain separate, yet work together to facilitate life transitions.

KEYWORDS Social media; social network sites; life transitions; identity transitions; online identity; Tumblr; Facebook; transgender; non-binary; LGBTQ.

PACM Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 2, No. CSCW, Article 63. Publication date: November 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3274332 .

9th Annual U-M Social Media Day

9th Annual U-M Social Media Day

UMSI Assistant Professor Florian Schaub on Social Media Privacy and Action: https://twitter.com/UMich/status/1012800331363831808 "Privacy is not just about protecting yourself, it's about protecting your community."

When Online Harassment is Perceived as Justified

When Online Harassment is Perceived as Justified

CSMR students and faculty presented a paper on online vigilantism and counterbalancing intervention at the Twelfth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. Their research helps platform companies understand and moderate the effects of social conformity and the propensity for retributive justice.
Lindsay Blackwell, University of Michigan School of Information Tianying Chen, University of Michigan School of Information Sarita Schoenebeck, University of Michigan School of Information Cliff Lampe, University of Michigan School of Information Most models of criminal justice seek to identify and punish offenders. However, these models break down in online environments, where offenders can hide behind anonymity and lagging legal systems. As a result, people turn to their own moral codes to sanction perceived offenses. Unfortunately, this vigilante justice is motivated by retribution, often resulting in personal attacks, public shaming, and doxing— behaviors known as online harassment. We conducted two online experiments (n=160; n=432) to test the relationship between retribution and the perception of online harassment as appropriate, justified, and deserved. Study 1 tested attitudes about online harassment when directed toward a woman who has stolen from an elderly couple. Study 2 tested the effects of social conformity and bystander intervention. We find that people believe online harassment is more deserved and more justified—but not more appropriate—when the target has committed some offense. Promisingly, we find that exposure to a bystander intervention reduces this perception. We discuss alternative approaches and designs for responding to harassment online.
Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) International Conference on Web and Social Media, June 27, 2018. https://aaai.org/ocs/index.php/ICWSM/ICWSM18/paper/view/17902

“Genderfluid” or “Attack Helicopter”: Responsible HCI Practice with Non-Binary Gender Variation in Online Communities

"Genderfluid" or "Attack Helicopter": Responsible HCI Practice with Non-Binary Gender Variation in Online Communities

Researchers at CSMR and Yahoo have developed guidelines and a practical case study in the careful and ethical analysis of gender in Social Media platforms. The authors argue that careful and sensitive study design, analysis and interpretation is an important commitment for the HCI research community.
Samantha Jaroszewski, Yahoo Danielle Lottridge, Yahoo Oliver L. Haimson, University of Michigan School of Information Katie Quehl, Yahoo ABSTRACT - As non-binary genders become increasingly prevalent, researchers face decisions in how to collect, analyze and interpret research participants' genders. We present two case studies on surveys with thousands of respondents, of which hundreds reported gender as something other than simply women or men. First, Tumblr, a blogging platform, resulted in a rich set of gender identities with very few aggressive or resistive responses; the second case study, online Fantasy Football, yielded opposite proportions. By focusing on variation rather than dismissing non-binary responses as noise, we suggest that researchers can better capture gender in a way that 1) addresses gender variation without othering or erasing non-binary respondents; and 2) minimizes "trolls'" opportunity to use surveys as a mischief platform. The analyses of these two distinct case studies find significant gender differences in community dimensions of participation in both networked spaces as well as offering a model for inclusive mixed-methods HCI research. Author Keywords - Survey research; social media; gender; non-binary; transgender; LGBTQ; online communities; trolling; Tumblr; Fantasy sports. ACM Classification Keywords - H.5.3. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI): Group and Organization Interfaces: Collaborative computing, Computer-supported cooperative work, Web-based interaction.
Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Publication date: April 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173881 .

Announcing Pregnancy Loss on Facebook: A Decision-Making Framework for Stigmatized Disclosures on Identified Social Network Sites

Announcing Pregnancy Loss on Facebook: A Decision-Making Framework for Stigmatized Disclosures on Identified Social Network Sites

CSMR researchers have developed a six-factor framework for disclosures of pregnancy loss on Social Media sites (Facebook, e.g.): self-related, audiencerelated, societal, platform and affordance-related, network-level, and temporal. While pregnancy loss was the focus, the framework could be applicable to other sensitive Social Media disclosures.
Nazanin Andalibi Andrea Forte ABSTRACT - Pregnancy loss is a common experience that is often not disclosed in spite of potential disclosure benefits such as social support. To understand how and why people disclose pregnancy loss online, we interviewed 27 women in the U.S. who are social media users and had recently experienced pregnancy loss. We developed a decision-making framework explaining pregnancy loss disclosures on identified social network sites (SNS) such as Facebook. We introduce network-level reciprocal disclosure, a theory of how disclosure reciprocity, usually applied to understand dyadic exchanges, can operate at the level of a social network to inform decision-making about stigmatized disclosures in identified SNSs. We find that 1) anonymous disclosures on other sites help facilitate disclosure on identified sites (e.g., Facebook), and 2) awareness campaigns enable sharing about pregnancy loss for many who would not disclose otherwise. Finally, we discuss conceptual and design implications. CAUTION: This paper includes quotes about pregnancy loss.
Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Publication date: April 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173732 .

Keeping a Low Profile? Technology, Risk and Privacy among Undocumented Immigrants

Keeping a Low Profile? Technology, Risk and Privacy among Undocumented Immigrants

CSMR researchers interviewed 17 Latinx undocumented immigrants for insights into technology use practices, risk perceptions and protective strategies. Their findings demonstrate an opportunity for the design and provision of educational resources, and the design of transparency and privacy mechanisms.
Tamy Guberek, Allison McDonald, Sylvia Simioni, Abraham H. Mhaidli, Kentaro Toyama, Florian Schaub, University of Michigan ABSTRACT - Undocumented immigrants in the United States face risks of discrimination, surveillance, and deportation. We investigate their technology use, risk perceptions, and protective strategies relating to their vulnerability. Through semi-structured interviews with Latinx undocumented immigrants, we find that while participants act to address offline threats, this vigilance does not translate to their online activities. Their technology use is shaped by needs and benefits rather than risk perceptions. While our participants are concerned about identity theft and privacy generally, and some raise concerns about online harassment, their understanding of government surveillance risks is vague and met with resignation. We identify tensions among self-expression, group privacy, and self-censorship related to their immigration status, as well as strong trust in service providers. Our findings have implications for digital literacy education, privacy and security interfaces, and technology design in general. Even minor design decisions can substantially affect exposure risks and well-being for such vulnerable communities. ACM Classification Keywords H.5.m. Information Interfaces and Presentation (e.g. HCI): Miscellaneous; K.4.2 Computers and Society: Social Issues. Author Keywords Technology use; privacy; online risk; surveillance; undocumented immigrants; immigration; integration
Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Best Paper Award. Publication date: April 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173688 .

University of Michigan Experts Discuss Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

University of Michigan Experts Discuss Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

University of Michigan Teach-out on Privacy, Reputation, and Identity, in the Digital Age.
Sol Bermann, University Privacy Officer Garlin Gilchrist II, Director of the Center for Social Media Responsibility Florian Schaub, Assistant Professor, School of Information The segment provides learners with ideas on questions such as:
  • What are actions users can take to help protect their privacy or better manage their data on social media platforms?
  • What are the biggest lessons companies, organizations, and users of social media should take away from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica matter?
  • What is the role of privacy laws, regulations, and norms? How do they affect both industries and consumers?
  • Aside from following its own policies and the law, does a social media titan like Facebook have a greater ethical and social responsibility?
The Facebook & Cambridge Analytica segment is part of the University of Michigan Teach-Out: “Privacy, Reputation, and Identity in a Digital Age."

Fragmented U.S. Privacy Rules Leave Large Data Loopholes for Facebook and Others

Fragmented U.S. Privacy Rules Leave Large Data Loopholes for Facebook and Others

Florian Schaub, Assistant Professor of Information, writes for The Conversation, reprinted by permission in Scientific American:
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony will discuss ways to keep people’s online data private, which I’m interested in as a privacy scholar. Facebook and other U.S. companies already follow more comprehensive privacy laws in other countries. But without comparable requirements at home, there’s little reason for them to protect U.S. consumers the same way.

More Specificity, More Attention to Social Context: Reframing How We Address “Bad Actors”

More Specificity, More Attention to Social Context: Reframing How We Address “Bad Actors”

CSMR faculty research online harassment, identifying how articulating community standards and providing more-appropriate ways of connecting with others can help mitigate "bad actor" behavior, and lead to more effective intervention strategies.
Libby Hemphill, University of Michigan To address “bad actors” online, I argue for more specific definitions of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and explicit attention to the social structures in which behaviors occur. Author Keywords feminism, harassment, online communities ACM Classification Keywords H.5.m [Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI)]: Miscellaneous
CHI 2018 Workshop paper: Understanding "Bad Actors" Online. Publication date: February 2018. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1802.08612.pdf