Wednesday, September 24, 2008


As the internet grows into a bigger medium of communication many have become aware that with the good also comes the bad. This bad that I am referring to is not always seen by the naked or in this case the computer user. Many times people are easily mislead by the Internet due to their ignorance of the medium as a whole. Not knowing the ins and outs of the Internet can allow for someone to be taken advantage of that much easier. Unlike any other medium the Internet provides people with an abundance of resources at the click of a mouse. However along with providing access to various resources (the good) the Internet has also managed to pick up some parasites along the way who attempt to damage the medium (the bad). Since this is such a new medium which is changing everyday; many fail to notice just how easy it is for someone to exploit it. In order to understand just how easy it is for someone to misuse the Internet an observation will be done. In this observation a focus will be placed on one of the Internets many problems through the use of a communication medium called Usenet. In doing this observation I will take the role of a “Free Rider” and try to understand why these people seem to be such problems amongst the Internet world. As a free rider I will act as a bandwidth sucking leech that does nothing but sit back and read others ideas/information not giving any response or feedback. This observation will hopefully help to shed light on the Usenet as well as the problem of free riders. In the end it will be seen just how easy it is for someone to become a free rider within the Usenet medium.

Before focusing on anything else one must first understand what the Usenet actually is and how it works. According to researchers Kollock and Smith, “the Usenet is one of the largest computer- mediated communication systems in existence”(Kollock & Smith, p.111). Developed in 1981, the Usenet is simply an interface which provides users with various discussion groups where they can share similar likes and dislikes amongst one another. Within these groups people usually post topics of discussion that pertain to the type of group it is; i.e. sports, entertainment, gossip, and etc. However, overtime many have decided to misuse the medium and post information which is useless and unnecessary creating what is called noise within the groups. This noise within the groups has not only made people mad but also caused many to leave the Usenet medium for good. The only people that can be thanked for this are free riders whom create the noise.

To gain a better understanding of what a free rider is a five day observation was done on the Usenet medium to capture a few of the problems that they generate. For those who may not know, a free rider is simply someone whom accepts the benefits of something without contributing to it. Within this medium of communication the free riders are people who post useless information, do not give feedback to discussions, simply read, and engage in various other parasite like actions. On the first day of observation I decided to join a Hip Hop music group called which was simply a group where people who enjoyed Hip Hop music and culture could interact. Upon entering the group I immediately became overwhelmed with the number of various topics that were posted for discussion. I also noticed that some of the topics had nothing at all to do with Hip Hop. From my prior knowledge I was able to realize that this posting of useless information was the work of a free rider. This also allowed me to understand just how easy it was to be a free rider within this Usenet newsgroup. During the next few days of my observation I began to face the realization that I too was a free rider. I wasn’t providing any feedback to the discussions I was reading on day to day bases. Over the next couple of days I noticed another thing about the group that was quite interesting. What I’m referring to is the choice to use inappropriate language by various people within the group. Many people were doing a lot of name calling and ranting that I’m sure they wouldn’t do if someone knew who they were. This showed my just how invisible (unseen/unnoticed) people could be when talking in these groups. By the end of my observation I managed to learn about a number of important elements of the Usenet medium. Upon becoming a successful free rider I began to quickly understand why this role was not the best one. Why would you want to just sit back and not contribute to the discussion at hand, what if everyone else decided to the same? The outcome of course would be that there is no discussion.

In conclusion, after gaining a keen understanding of the Usenet medium and how it is to be a free rider I have learned an abundance of useful information. I have not only giving insight into how the Usenet works but I have also taken the time to get familiar with the medium. My observations also allowed for me to see just how easy it is to become a free rider almost overnight. In researching this medium of communication I have gained an understanding as to why so many dislike free riders. These free riders are taking up valuable space that someone could be using to post useful information and it’s not fair at all. I personally feel that the only way to combat free riders actions within these groups is to monitor them often. Then those who violate the norms of the group should be immediately revoked of their membership. All in all from this observation of the Usenet through the eyes of a free rider, it’s become clear to me just how easy it is for someone to simply see the good and overlook the bad of the Internet.


1.Kollock,Peter & Smith, Marc.(1996). Managing the virtual common: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer Mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross cultural perspectives(pp.109-128).Philadelphia: John Benjamin
2.My Blog from Sept 10
3. Groups :

Essay #2 Journal 5

Today when i entered the hip hop newsgroup i noticed that there were a lot of new post. One post that caught my attention was one about a new hip hop song that was just released. When i clicked on the post i immediately began to read the discussion to see if people liked or disliked the song. Some of the comments were quite interesting because people were saying things like the song is good but i hate the artist who's singing it. I also noticed that a number of people were talking about things within the discussion that had nothing to do with the new song. One comment in particular was centered around the election. It seemed like they just wanted to spark people's interest on the election but i strongly feel this was not the place for it. All in all from my 5 day observation i have become better familiar with the Usenet medium. I have also come to understand why the free rider problem is such a problem within this medium.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Essay #2 Journal 4

Today when i entered the Hip Hop music Usenet group I've been observing for the past few days i noticed a few new things like post and increased membership. When looking at the post i realized that the amount of people who make post on the weekends is a lot less then those made during the week. I assumed this might have something to do with people being out during the weekend versus being at work during the week. When looking at the number of people subscribed to the group i noticed a slight increase. Besides these two things expressed above nothing else really changed besides the post. One post in particular that caught my attention today was a post entitled "it's been a long time!" made by someone who has just returned to the group after some time away. This was quite interesting because the person who initiated the discussion seemed like someone whom was very involved in the group because a number of people responded to his post with welcome backs and other salutations. Who knows whats going to happen tomorrow when i observe, the post are extremely random and unexpected.

Reading # 5 Jennifer Stomer-Galley

In Com 430z, I was assigned to read Jennifer Stromer-Galley’s article entitled “Democratizing Democracy: Strong democracy, US political campaigns and the inter net.” In this article a focus is placed on various aspects of the Internet and how they could possible contribute to creating a “strong democracy” amongst citizens. “Strong democracy” is a word coined by researcher Benjamin Barber which simply refers to an increased interest by citizens in their political process.(Stromer-Galley, p. 36) In order to support the claims of the Internet having an effect on citizen’s involvement in politics a number of characteristics where highlighted by Stromer- Galley. These characteristics included cost, volume, directionality, speed, targeting and convergence. Upon highlighting each of these characteristics key political examples were used to show how some elements worked and others needed tweaking. In the article Stromer-Galley takes a look at the ability to eliminate the cost of buying television ads by running a campaign strictly on the Internet. The story of an ex-professional wrestler gone politician helped to show how the sole use of the Internet could save a campaign millions of dollars in advertising. (Stromer-Galley, p.44) After focusing on each of these elements it becomes clearer as to how useful it would actually be for a campaign to use the Internet rather then another form of media like television or newspaper. The article continues, pointing out the ineffectiveness of the public using these other mediums during election time and this in return causing many to stray away becoming involved in the democratic process. As the article wraps up, it’s heavily stressed that if candidates/government don’t begin to use the Internet for campaigns they will not gain the support they want from many citizens.

After reading this article I noticed a few things about how useful the Internet could be to political process and citizen’s involvement in their government. One part of the article that caught my attention was when Stromer-Galley discusses the problem of “citizens experiencing government second hand, through the lens of the camera or through the pen of a journalist.” I strongly agree with this idea because all the media is worried about is getting their ratings and they will go to any extreme to do so. However, with the help of the Internet useful information can be unveiled without all the personal opinions and fabricated Hollywood stories.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Essay # 2 Journal 3

Today when i entered the Usenet newsgroup a post about a popular music producer caught my attention. The topic headline read "Scott Storch:RIP"; from this i immediately thought he died so i had to get some information. Once inside the group i clicked a hyperlink which took me to the actual article so i could read it. After reading the article i realized that he wasn't actually dead, they were referring to his financial situation. With this knowledge i went back to the discussion to see some responses to the news. To my surprise people were slandering the producer and making claims about his career not being as good as many thought. While there were a few people who supported him this number was in any comparison to the non-supporters. I decided not to subscribe to this group because the amount of spam/unrelated information that is generated within the group is abundant.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Essay # 2 Journal 2

When i logged on to newsgroup today i didn't see that much change except for a few new post. However ,the new post where quite interesting because i decided to click on one due to the topic. When i entered and read the discussion it was funny because i kind of felt like a free rider.ha ha ha. I'm peeking in like a thief on everyone else's conversations not presenting any useful information. I am thinking about subscribing tomorrow because i can't be a free rider. lol

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reading # 4 Whitaker

This week in Com430Z, I was assigned to read Jason Whitaker’s chapter “New Media and Web production” in the book “The Internet: the basics”. In this chapter Whitaker highlights a few old media forms which have since been updated and become better equip for the steady development of the Internet. He also takes a look at some of the advancements in web production like the use of style sheets, java, and scripting. In the beginning of the chapter he specifically focuses on those old media forms which have taken the path from analog formats to digital. The differences between these formats is described in the chapter as one being like rolling down a hill(analog) while the other is more like walking down steps(digital).(Whitaker, 58) He goes on to express how important this path has been to the advancement of the Internet as whole especially increasing its effectiveness to its users. This brings us to one media form which was focused on heavily in the chapter; hypertext which is defined by Theodor Nelson as “non-sequential writing-text that branches and allows choices to the reader”. (Whitaker, 59) It was also stated that besides connecting text it could also be useful for videos and images as well. Besides focusing on hypertext Whitaker also looks at various elements of web production like the style sheets and scripting. These outlets have enabled people to control the entire way in which a web page can look from the colors to the font styles. These two elements have allowed for the advancement of web production from a simple task to something which involves much skill.

After reading this chapter about the new media and web productions of the Internet I have discovered numerous ideas. With these new ideas I have managed to gain a better understanding of some elements of the Internet like hypertext and style sheets. The chapter was very informative and helped me to see how effective the shift from analog formats to digital formats could be.All in all Whitaker's ability to highlight specific channels of the Internet allowed for me to truly see how important it is to stay up to date with what is occurring in the Internet based world we live in.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Essay #2 Journal Entry 1

The social medium i decided to look at is Usenet. Within this medium i will be looking at the Hip Hop music and culture group specifically( The main reason being because i have a huge interest in the music industry and i always like to be up to date on everything that's going on in the hip hop world. So hopefully being apart of this newsgroup will keep me up to date on my info.

Upon entering this newsgroup i really didn't know what was going on. However after a few minutes i caught right on to what was actually going on . I have taken today to just move around through the group and get a feel for whats going on. I noticed that people have posted information within the discussions not relating to the overall topic of this group. I have also seen a number of people posting things talking about the election.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading # 3 Kollock & Smith

In COM 430Z, I was assigned to read Peter Kollock & Marc Smith’s chapter “Managing the Virtual Commons: Cooperation and Conflict in Computer Communities “. This article discusses various aspects of Computer mediated communication and how the conversations that occur on these systems can have an effect on social relationships. In this reading Kollock & Smith specifically take a look at the cooperation and conflicts that occur within this medium of communication. In order to gain a better understanding of this issue they compare the social problems present on the computer to the same problems that are present in societies/communities (face to face). After comparing the two of these communication forms they noticed a number of similarities and differences between them. According to Kollock and Smith the main problem with this computer mediated communication is people simply can’t cooperate effectively thus causing tensions between individual and collective rationality. Along with this they also discussed social dilemmas which are defined as “behavior that is reasonable and justifiable for the individual that leads to a poorer outcome for all”. (Kollock&Smith) An example that was given of this idea of social dilemmas was the “Tragedy of Commons” which simply was a story about herders who were given a parcel of land for their cows to feed on but found problems when an individual decided to take too much land and ruined the entire land for the collective group. It sort of reminded me of the saying that “one bad apple could spoil a bunch”. They also used the example of having a public good which everyone in a community contributes to but if an individual gets the temptation to not contribute it could cause others to the same and all will suffer. To further show how this issue of cooperation on the internet could present problems for everyone they have used the communication system USENET and compared it to a study done by Ostrom on various face to face communities. The USENET system is defined by Kollock & Smith as a collection of several thousand discussion groups that are distributed and maintained in a decentralized fashion. These groups are said to called Newsgroups and they specifically focus on various topics and issues that affect our society. In these groups people are given the ability to communicate with others who share similar interest or problems. The people simple communicate on a back and forth bases, sort of like a call and response and visa-versus. However here is where the problem lies as Kollock and Smith stated people are not always going to respond and post information if they know they don’t have to. These people are defined as free-riders because they simply sit around and enjoy the ride while all the others do the work (contribute/participate). Some of these free riders will even add useless information and overcrowd groups just because they feel like it. This too presents a problem because if a bunch of people are in the group doing nothing it slows down the bandwidth of the group. Bandwidth is similar to those herders parcels of land that they discussed earlier in that if overcrowded could ruin the whole network for everyone. Concerns have been raised that people are not using this bandwidth wisely by posting unnecessary information to groups who don’t need it. They go on to discuss how if rules where setup like in communities with positive production the computer mediated communities may succeed just the same. However this too presents a problem because again with this form of communication people can remain anonymous.
All in all form this reading I get the feeling that Kollock and Smith did an excellent job in figuring out how to solve this growing problem of free riders in computer mediated communication. I can definitely say my understanding of this topic from before reading this to now is a lot clearer. I strongly think that in order for this problem to be solves they must look at it from a community (face to face) standpoint and work from that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Essay #1

Many have wondered how the internet we know today has actually come to be. While some may think it just popped up out of thin air, a number of others have taken the time to do research and find the real answers. In order to gain a better understanding of the internet a focus will be placed on various aspects of the internet as well as the groundbreaking innovations that made it what it is today.
Some of these early innovations that will be looked at include the development of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol), the idea of Packet Switching, the introduction of the HTML, and lastly the first email program created. Each of these inventions will be looked at closely to show their use, importance, and most of all effects on the internet as a whole.
In order to truly understand the internet we must first define what it actually is. According to Webster’s Dictionary the internet is; a vast computer network linking smaller computer networks worldwide (usually prec. by the). The Internet includes commercial, educational, governmental, and other networks, all of which use the same set of communications protocols. (Webster’s 2007) Now with the internet defined its early technical advancements can be looked at closer to show how useful they are to the internet as a whole. While there were a number of various innovations only four major ones will be focused on due to their importance.
The first innovation that will be looked at is “Packet Switching” introduced by programmer Paul Baran in the early 1960s. Packet Switching solved a number of problems with the data transfer on computers. It simply allowed for data to be sent and received a lot more efficiently and in a more compact form. With this new innovation of packet switching to the internet other programmers now had a bench mark to what they could do in the future. (Adams & Clark)
One programmer in particular is Ray Tomlinson who developed the 1st email program “SNDMSG” in the year of 1972. This new program truly changed the face of the internet into what we know today. The email program made it possible to send information, files, attachments and a number of other things from one person’s computer to another person’s computer. This programmer is also created for his creation of the @ symbol which helped to separate the user from the machine. This @ symbol continues to be a staple of the internet medium in our society today. So now with a faster and more compact way of sending data, and the introduction of the first email program a path has began to be laid for the internet we know today. (Adams & Clark Chp .2)
The next advancement that will be focused on is the invention of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol) systems in 1983 by a number of various programmers. Since the invention of this groundbreaking system cannot be credited to one particular person a number of researchers have been given the praise for their unanimous efforts. The TCP/IP allows for computers to communicate with one another, as well as applications on that operating systems. It was said by that the TCP is so central that many often refer to it as the TCP/IP. However what many fail to know is that these are two separate systems one handling the lower level transactions from computer to computer(IP) and the other handling high level transactions(TCP) like a web browser to web server. Basically what this means is that the TCP is responsible for the sequenced transmission of all packets. It also safeguards the reliability of the data sealed in each packet, using check/recheck confirmation systems (How did we get here? Adams& Clark Chp. 1)
After looking at three of the most important innovations that have mapped the path of the internet we know today a focus can now be placed on one more. This innovation is the HTML created in 1992 by Tim Bernes- Lee. The html enabled documents to become interactive. It basically gave people the ability to refer readers to other documents scattered around the internet through their own document. HTML is simply a code in a document that can be clicked on to take you to another website or document. This truly opened up the door for the process of linking similar info in one document to similar info in another.(Adams & Clark)

1. Webster’s Dictionary-
2. Wikipedia –, /tcp/ip,HTML
3. Adams & Clark- How did we get here? Chapters 1 & 2

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reading # 2

This reading helps to explain what exactly the internet is and some of the characteristics of the medium as a whole. However, there seems to be a small problem with answering this question specifcally, this is mainly because the internet is developing more and more each day. This development in return is causing the medium to change and take on different and undiscovered paths. Besides attempting to answer the question of what the interent is the reading also goes onto highlighting how effective the internet has become to the public in general. Reading on it shown how the internet uses a number of different traditional forms of communication such as interpersonal (one to one), public speaking,and mass media just to name a few. These can be seen with homepages,blogs,university websites,news websites, and etc. The reading also pointed out the fact that the internet is a macromedium which besically means it's big and can communicate with large scales of people. Then there was a focus placed on the three main communication problems people faced with the internet like reliability,speed and distribution. The reading then goes onto pointing out the six key qualities of the medium like multimediated ,hypertextual, interactive, (a)synchronous,packetbased, and digital. Each of these mediums helped to give insight into how the internet effectively uses them.