Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media
17-21 July 2011, Barcelona, Spain


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Keynote Speakers: Sinan Aral | Manuel Castells
Industrial Speakers: Jimmy Lin |
Invited Speakers: Foster Provost | Joel Seligstein | Duncan Watts
Invited Panel: Marcus Mabry | Catherine Quayle | Krishna Gummadi | Mor Naaman | Jimmy Lin | Gilad Lotan

Keynote Speakers

Sinan Aral

NYU, Stern School of Business
Affiliated Faculty, MIT

Talk: Content and Causality in Influence Networks
Many of us are interested in whether "networks matter." Whether in the spread of disease, the diffusion of information, the propagation of behavioral contagions, the effectiveness of viral marketing, or the magnitude of peer effects in a variety of settings, two key questions must be answered before we can understand whether networks matter: 1) how the content that flows through networks affects the patterns of outcomes we see across nodes and 2) whether the statistical relationships we observe can be interpreted causally. Aral will review what we know and where research might go with respect to content and causality in networks. He will provide two examples from each area to structure the discussion: One from an analysis of email networks and the information content that flows through them at a mid-sized executive recruiting firm and the other from a randomized field experiment on a popular social networking website that tests the effectiveness of "viral product design" strategies in creating peer influence and social contagion among the 1.4 million friends of 9,687 experimental users.

Bio:Sinan Aral is a PopTech and Microsoft Faculty Fellow and an assistant professor at the NYU Stern School of Business. His research has won numerous awards including an NSF CAREER Award and five best paper awards. His work has been published or is forthcoming in leading journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, Management Science, Marketing Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Science, Organization Science and the Sloan Management Review, and has been mentioned in popular press outlets such as the Economist, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, the Communications of the ACM and CIO Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @sinanaral.

Manuel Castells

Director of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute,
Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Spain

Bio: Manuel Castells is Professor of Communication and the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles. He holds joint appointments as Professor of Sociology in the USC Sociology Department and Professor of Planning in the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development. He is a Fellow of the Los Angeles Institute of Humanities.

He is, as well, Research Professor at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, and Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, where he was Professor of City and Regional Planning and Professor of Sociology from 1979 to 2003 before joining USC.

He was born in Spain in 1942 and grew up in Valencia and Barcelona. He studied law and economics at the Universities of Barcelona and Paris. He received a doctorate in sociology and a doctorate in human sciences from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. He moved to the United States in 1979.

He has lectured in over 300 academic institutions in 45 countries. He is the author of 19 academic books and editor or co-author of 21 additional books, as well as over 100 articles in academic journals. His trilogy "The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture" was published by Blackwell in 1996-98 in the first edition and in 2000-2003 in its second edition. It has been reprinted in English 17 times, and translated into several languages. His most recent books include "The Internet Galaxy"; "The Information Society and the Welfare State: The Finnish Model"; "La societat xarxa a Catalunya" (Mondadori, 2003, co-author).

He has received, as well, honorary doctorates from the Universities of Valencia, Queen's (Canada), Castilla-La Mancha, Twente (Netherlands), San Andres (La Paz), Sao Paulo (Medal of Honor), Higher School of Economics (Moscow), Helsinki University of Technology, University of Leuven (Belgium), City University of London, Universidad de Leon (Spain), East China Normal University (Shanghai), New School University (New York), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Lausanne), and Universite du Quebec a Montreal, jointly with Tele-Universite du Quebec. He has been knighted for cause of scientific merit by the Governments of France (Order of Arts and Letters), Finland (Order of the Lion of Finland), Chile (Order of Gabriela Mistral), and Portugal (Order of Santiago da Espada).

Industrial Keynote Speaker

Jimmy Lin

Visiting Research Professor, Twitter
Associate Professor, The iSchool - College of Information Studies, University of Maryland

Talk: Twitter and Data Science
Twitter provides amazing opportunities for the emerging field of data science. From the perspective of data science as algorithms and systems for mining insights from large datasets, it provides a rich playground for text, graph, and stream processing as well as distributed systems. From the perspective of data science as data-driven scientific inquiry (i.e., "the fourth paradigm"), Twitter provides unprecedented access to the workings of human social groups, driving much work in computational social science.
Nevertheless, both pursuits are fraught with challenges, ranging from data acquisition to scalable algorithms. In this talk, Lin will share some observations from the perspective of someone who has navigated academia as well as built production systems used by millions daily. He'll point out interesting directions for research and reflect on the question of impact, hopefully paving the way for an even more vibrant Twitter ecosystem.

Bio: Jimmy Lin is a Visiting Research Professor at Twitter, currently on leave from the University of Maryland, where he is an Associate Professor in the iSchool. Lin's current research focuses on scalable algorithms for data analytics, particularly on text and graph data. At Twitter, he works on services designed to surface relevant content for users and the distributed infrastructure that supports mining relevance signals from massive amounts of data.

Invited Speakers

Foster Provost

New York University

Talk: Social Targeting for Privacy-Friendly On-line Advertising
Foster Provost will discuss privacy-friendly methods for finding good audiences for on-line display advertising, based on extracting quasi-social networks from browser behavior on social media sites (and beyond). Targeting social neighbors resonates well with advertisers, and on-line browsing behavior data counterintuitively can allow the identification of good audiences anonymously. He will discuss methods for extracting quasi-social networks from data on visitations to social media pages. The data are doubly de-identified: completely anonymous with respect to both browser identity and content. Provost will introduce measures of computing which browsers are close to a set of selected browsers that in the past have exhibited brand affinity. Results show that audiences with high brand proximity indeed show substantially higher brand affinity themselves, as well as higher propensity to take brand actions ("conversions"). As time permits, he also will present additional findings relating to whether the quasi-social network actually embeds a true social network, why click-through on ads is not very useful, how to gather appropriate training data to build targeting models, and the performance of these techniques in practice for real, large-scale advertising campaigns, including whether targeting performance actually improves over time.
This work was done in collaboration with Brian Dalessandro, Rod Hook, Alan Murray, Claudia Perlich, and Xiaohan Zhang. The initial study was published in KDD-2009, and culminated a line of research on Social Network-based Marketing Systems that won the 2009 INFORMS Design Science Award. This research is the basis for the very successful on-line advertising firm Media6degrees.

Bio: Foster Provost is Professor, NEC Faculty Fellow, and Paduano Fellow of Business Ethics (Emeritus) at the NYU Stern School of Business. He just retired as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Machine Learning, and previously co-chaired the program of the ACM KDD conference. He is Chief Scientist for Coriolis Ventures, a NYC-based early stage venture and incubation firm. Prof. Provost's recent research has focused on social-network based predictive modeling, and on the application of micro-outsourcing systems (e.g., Mechanical Turk) to enhance predictive modeling. Foster has applied these ideas in practice to applications including on-line advertising, targeted marketing, network diagnosis, fraud detection, counterterrorism, and others. His work has won best paper awards at KDD, IBM Faculty Awards, a President's Award at NYNEX Science and Technology, and his work on social network-based marketing systems won the 2009 INFORMS Design Science Award.

Joel Seligstein


Talk: Trends in Facebook Messages
Over the last few years, digital messaging has seen dramatic shifts in the mediums used to communicate, message length and priority, and expectations about who can contact who. The most recent release of Facebook Messages aims to recognize these trends and ease the complex scenarios these create. In this talk, Seligstein will go over how they've addressed each problem and the challenges these solutions have created.

Bio: Joel Seligstein is a lead engineer on Facebook Messages. He's led the team through multiple releases of Facebook's inbox, including the newest release which focuses on strong social filtering, mixing different mediums into one stream, and other evolutionary features. He holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Tennessee.

Duncan Watts

Principal Research Scientist,
Yahoo! Research

Talk: The Virtual Lab
Crowdsourcing sites like Amazon's Mechanical Turk are increasingly being used by researchers to construct "virtual labs" in which they can conduct behavioral experiments. In this talk, I describe some recent experiments that showcase the advantages of virtual over traditional physical labs, as well as some of the limitations. I then discuss how this relatively new experimental capability may unfold in the near future, along with some implications for social and behavioral science.

Bio: Duncan Watts is a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directs the Human Social Dynamics group. Prior to joining Yahoo!, he was a full professor of Sociology at Columbia University, where he taught from 2000-2007. He has also served on the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and Nuffield College, Oxford. His research on social networks and collective dynamics has appeared in a wide range of journals, from Nature, Science, and Physical Review Letters to the American Journal of Sociology. He is also the author of "Six Degrees: The Science of A Connected Age" (Norton, 2003), and the forthcoming "Everything is Obvious (Once You Know The Answer)" (Crown Business, 2011). He holds a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of New South Wales, and Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University.

ICWSM-11 Invited Panel

Is Social Media Making News Generation and Consumption Better?

Monday, Juy 18, 5:30 - 7:00 PM




The proliferation of social media is changing the ways news are produced and consumed. Recent events in the Arabic Spring showed the power of user-generated content such as amateur videos on YouTube, and Twitter posts, in instigating change. The question we ask in this panel is how technologies can be used to channel people's energy and enable the continuous generation of relevant, timely and trusted content. We span a wide range of questions covering reliable connection, social spam and centralized/decentralized news curation. On the consumption side, we contrast news dissemination from popular trusted sources and viral propagation from friends. We also explore event extraction and adapting existing techniques such as opinion mining to process large amounts of news in a way appealing to users. Those are some of the questions that will be raised by our panelits who have a wide range of expertise in using or developing social media technologies to enable news delivery today.

Sihem Amer-Yahia is Principal Research Scientist at the newly-open Qatar Computing Research Center (QCRI), part of Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar. Sihem leads the Social Computing group. Her interests are at the intersection of large-scale data management and analytics, and social content at large. She was Senior Scientist at Yahoo! Research for 5 years and worked on revisiting relevance models and top-k processing algorithms on datasets from Delicious, Yahoo! Personals and Flickr. Before that, she spent 7 years at AT&T Labs in NJ, working on XML query optimization and XML full-text search. Sihem is an editor of the W3C XML full-text standard. Sihem is a member of the VLDB Endowment and the ACM SIGMOD executive committee. She chaired multiple conferences and serves on the editorial boards of prestigious journals: ACM TODS, the VLDB Journal and the Information Systems Journal.

Marcus Mabry is editor at large of The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. He is based in London and Paris. Prior to arriving in Europe in March, Mabry was Associate National Editor of The New York Times, responsible for domestic political coverage, and prior to that he was International Business Editor of The New York Times. Before coming to the Times, Mabry was a long-time correspondent and editor at Newsweek, where he was based in Paris, Johannesburg, Washington and New York.

Catherine Quayle is interactive editor-in-chief of Need to Know, a national news magazine show on PBS. She spent seven years at Court TV where she ran the award-winning daily news website, and previously worked as an editor for a long list of small magazines, where she wrote about the environment, technology, regulation, architecture, crime and robots. For her writing, she has a Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism from the Chicago Headline Club and two Excel magazine feature awards. Catherine has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and was a Lannan fellow.

Krishna Gummadi leads the Networked Systems research group at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS) in Germany. He received his Ph.D. (2005) and M.S. (2002) degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington, Seattle. Krishna's research interests are in the measurement, analysis, design, and evaluation of complex Internet-scale systems. His current projects focus on enabling the social Web. Specifically, they include (a) understanding the structure and evolution of social network graphs, (b) understanding how content and information propagates through social networks, (c) leveraging social networks for building better information sharing systems (i.e., better search results and content recommendations as well as filtering unwanted communication and content), and (d) building scalable infrastructures for supporting social networking sites and their workloads. Krishna's work on online social networks, Internet access networks, and peer-to-peer systems has led to a number of widely cited papers. He also received best paper awards at OSDI, SIGCOMM IMW, and MMCN for his work on Internet measurements and peer-to-peer systems.

Mor Naaman is an assistant professor at Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, where he runs the Social Media Information Lab. His research interests include social media and multimedia information systems, examining the technical, social and human aspects of information. Prior to joining Rutgers, Mor worked as a research scientist at Yahoo! Research Berkeley, and received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. Mor is a recipient of a NSF Early Faculty CAREER Award, a Google Research Award, a Nokia University Collaboration Award, and three best paper awards. Find out more about Mor at

Jimmy Lin is a Visiting Research Professor at Twitter, currently on leave from the University of Maryland, where he is an Associate Professor in the iSchool. Lin's current research focuses on scalable algorithms for data analytics, particularly on text and graph data. At Twitter, he works on services designed to surface relevant content for users and the distributed infrastructure that supports mining relevance signals from massive amounts of data.

Gilad Lotan is the VP of R&D for SocialFlow, a New York based startup that develops technology that optimizes content for social media channels, deep network and language analysis. Previously, Gilad served as a program manager at Microsoft's FUSE labs. Past work includes 'Retweet Revolution', visualizing the flow of information during the 2009 #IranElection riots, and a 2011 IJOC study investigating the relationship between mainstream media and social media channels during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. Gilad's work has been presented at TED, IXDA, Summit Series, Berkeley BCNM, Boston Book Festival, and published at HICCS, CHI and Ubicomp.


Google Engineering

Microsoft Research/Bing

Yahoo Research

Church and Duncan Group, Inc.

University of Michigan School of Information

Find more about sponsoring ICWSM-11 over here