Monday, December 9, 2013

Selfie tops Twerk as Oxford's word of the Year

Selfie' has been named the word of 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries, beating 'twerk', 'binge-watch' and 'showrooming' as the most popular new term of the year. Editors from Oxford Dictionaries said selfie has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph. It beat terms such as 'twerk' - made famous by Miley Cyrus and her appropriation of the move during a performance of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, 'binge-watch' referring to when somebody watches a number television episodes in one sitting and 'showrooming', where a product is examined at a shop before being bought cheaper online. A selfie is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: "A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website."
In alphabetical order, the shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 are:

bedroom tax, noun, informal:
(in the UK) a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than is necessary for the number of the people in the household, according to criteria set down by the government.

binge-watch, verb:
to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming. [ORIGIN 1990s: from BINGE + WATCH, after BINGE-EAT, BINGE-DRINK.]

bitcoin, noun:
a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank. Also, a unit of bitcoin. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from BIT, in the computing sense of ‘a unit of information’ and COIN.]

olinguito, noun:
a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family. (Taxonomic name Bassaricyon neblina)  [ORIGIN 2013: diminutive form of OLINGO, a South American mammal resembling the kinkajou.]

schmeat, noun, informal:
a form of meat  produced synthetically from biological tissue. [ORIGIN early 21st century: perhaps from SYNTHETIC and MEAT, influenced by the use of ‘- -, schm - -’ as a disparaging or dismissive exclamation (e.g. fancy schmancy: ‘some of the gourmet sauces you get in fancy schmancy places are just too spicy for me’).]

showrooming, noun:
the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from SHOWROOM ‘a room used to display goods for sale’.]

twerk, verb:
dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance. [ORIGIN 1990s: probably an alteration of WORK.]


One of the most popular selfies of this year was arguably the first one to feature a member of the Vatican, showing Pope Francis posing with teenagers in a selfie that quickly went viral. Mr Cameron also found himself embroiled in a selfie faux pas by his wife's sister on the morning of her wedding day, showing the Prime Minister asleep on a four poster bed.Oxford Dictionaries said the earliest known usage is an Australian online forum post from 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped over and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection as Word of the Year.”

She added: “Social media sites helped to popularize the term, with #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004, but usage wasn't widespread until around 2012, when selfie was being used commonly in mainstream media sources.” “In early examples, the word was often spelled with a -y, but the -ie form is more common today and has become the accepted spelling. The use of the diminutive -ie suffix is notable, as it helps to turn an essentially narcissistic enterprise into something rather more endearing. Australian English has something of a penchant for -ie words – barbie for barbecue, firie for firefighter, tinnie for a can of beer – so this helps to support the evidence for selfie having originated in Australia.”

The frequency of the word selfie used in the English language has increased by 17,000 per cent since this time last year. This figure is calculated by Oxford Dictionaries using a research programme which collects around 150 million English words currently in use from around the web every month. Oxford Dictionaries has been awarding this title to words that attracted a lot of interest during a particular year since 2004. Previous words of the year include "omnishambles" (2012), "squeezed middle" (2011), "refudiate" (2010) and "unfriend" (2009).

Which words have been selected as Word of the Year in recent years?

Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year
Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the Year
carbon footprint
credit crunch
big society
squeezed middle
GIF (verb)

Hashtag History

Hashtag History
Hashtag History
Hashtags are now used regularly by millions of social media users, especially among members of the largest micro-blogging community Twitter. Many are curious what the very first hashtag was and how it spread quickly across the internet. A hashtag is created by online users to discuss specific events and relevant issues. These are categorically arranged so that other online users can easily search for the topic and participate in the conversation, no matter where they are in the world. Information is updated and shared by social media users. Following in Twitter’s footsteps, Facebook incorporated the hashtag this year. And a March 2013 survey by RadiumOne found that more than half of mobile-device owners regularly use hashtags. So it’s hard to believe that at one time, hashtags weren’t a part of the Twitter lexicon. Not only that, but Twitter initially rejected the idea of hashtags.

The First Hashtag

Chris Messina, a social technology expert, is credited to have come up with the very first hashtag on Twitter.
He first posted the hashtag #barcamp in August 2007. The whole tweet appeared like this:

“how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

Messina came up with the hashtag with the purpose of gathering discussions and online exchanges regarding Barcamp, a technology unconference gathering activity that spans worldwide. His handle is @MrMessina. Since then, hashtags have spread to other social media sites and all over the internet to become one of the most widely used functions. According to reports, Evan Williams, Twitter founder, actually shared to Messina that he didn’t think that hashtags were going to be very popular because of their very technical approach. Messina said that IRC influenced this pioneering concept. Hashtags were rather common in IRC before Twitter came into existence and dominated the way people communicated online. Messina posted “Whispering Tweets” on Twitter on August 25, 2007 with the idea of creating inner circles on the website. The goal was to provide users the proper restrictions that would limit conversations to more specific ones that would only relate to a particular audience. He shared how tweets should target certain members of the inner circle so that people can easily respond to these. Creating the inner circles would also lead to targeted users and avoid random visits from individuals who may not be truly interested in a particular issue or topic. In the blog post, Messina elaborated what he wanted these “channel tags” to do:

“What’s really interesting, however, i[s] how these channels can be used as tags within Twitter to open up entirely new possibilities.

Every time someone uses a channel tag to mark a status, not only do we know something specific about that status, but others can eavesdrop on the context of it and then join in the channel and contribute as well. Rather than trying to ping-pong discussion between one or more individuals with daisy-chained @replies, using a simple #reply means that people not in the @reply queue will be able to follow along, as people do with Flickr or Delicious tags. Furthermore, topics that enter into existing channels will become visible to those who have previously joined in the discussion.”

Hashtags Today

Today, hashtags are created by several social media experts, educators, institutions and major companies from all around the world to bring in more followers and increase brand recognition. You can check how well a hashtag is doing by exposing it to analytics tools that will tell you how many tweets are being made with it, how many impressions it is making online, who are talking about it, what other hashtags are being used and what people are saying exactly. These have shown to be one of the most useful features on Twitter and other social media platforms to bring in relevant audiences that will help spread information about related products and services. Hashtags or chats are regularly held to keep targeted audiences informed and for companies to get actual feedback.

The use of hashtags became mainstream after October 2007, when citizen journalists used them to give updates about a series of forest fires in San Diego. Messina said he sent a private message to one of the men covering the fire, Nate Ritter, asking him to use the hashtag #sandiegofire.

“That was one of the really great examples of citizen journalism aided by the use of the hashtag,” Messina said. In 2008, conservative politicians in the U.S. started using the hashtag #dontgo to keep Congress in session to vote on an energy bill. Now, Twitter has a whole guide on how to use hashtags. The company doesn’t mention Messina but says the hashtag “was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” Twitter wouldn’t formally comment on hashtags.

“Maybe 20 years from now hashtags will seem quaint, but they’re solving an important problem today,” Messina said, “allowing people to express more about the content they share in order to connect with more people.”

Hashtags are now used to chronicle events from Syria to the Emmys, to the SuperBowl to the government shutdown. When Kate Middleton went into the hospital to deliver the #royalbaby, the hashtag was used more than 900,000 times, according to Twitter.They have also spread to other social networks, like Google+ and Facebook, something Messina said he is happy to see.

Facebook Love Guru

Individuals Facebook Network
Individuals Facebook Network

Facebook knows who your romantic partner is, even if you keep that information private, and can even predict if the relationship will last. It’s not in the stars after all. Instead, it seems, the shape of a person’s social network is a powerful signal that can identify one’s spouse or romantic partner — and even if a relationship is likely to break up. So says a new research paper written by Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell University, and Lars Backstrom, a senior engineer at Facebook. The diagram picture above depicts the shape of a random individual's Facebook network. Each dot represents a friend, and the lines connecting the dots represent mutual friendships. Can you figure out which dot is this user's romantic partner, just by looking at the diagram? Well Facebook can!

The pair used a hefty data set from Facebook as their lab: 1.3 million Facebook users, selected randomly from among all users who are at least 20 years old, with from 50 to 2,000 friends, who list a spouse or relationship partner in their profile. That makes for a lot of social connections to analyze, roughly 379 million nodes and 8.6 billion links. The data was used anonymously. It found that the best indicator of romantic involvement was a network measure called high dispersion, which is what happens when a couple’s mutual friends are not well connected to one another. This might go against the grain of common intuition, but what this means is that the number of mutual friends that two people share is actually a weak predictor of whether they're in a relationship.

For example, if you look at the image at the top of the page again, you'll notice that there are two large clusters of connected friends at the top and on the right side of the diagram. The one at the top represents the user's co-workers and the one at the right is the user's old college friends. The user's spouse is contained in neither cluster. Rather, (s)he can be found in the lower left section. It's the node that appears isolated, but which connects many of the more remote dots of the diagram. This yardstick measures mutual friends, but also friends from the further-flung reaches of a person’s network neighborhood. High dispersion occurs when a couple’s mutual friends are not well connected to one another.

“A spouse or romantic partner is a bridge between a person’s different social worlds,” Mr. Kleinberg explained in an interview on Sunday.

Their dispersion algorithm was able to correctly identify a user’s spouse 60 percent of the time, or better than a 1-in-2 chance. Since everyone in the sample had at least 50 friends, merely guessing would have at best produced a 1 in 50 chance. The algorithm also did pretty well with people who declare themselves to be “in a relationship,” correctly identifying them a third of the time — a 1 in 3 chance compared with the 1 in 50 for guesswork. Particularly intriguing is that when the algorithm fails, it looks as if the relationship is in trouble. A couple in a declared relationship and without a high dispersion on the site are 50 percent more likely to break up over the next two months than a couple with a high dispersion, the researchers found. (Their research tracked the users every two months for two years.)

For Facebook, the research is part of its automated efforts to look more closely at the relationships among its users to tailor content and ads. Mr. Backstrom is the engineering manager in charge of Facebook’s News Feed, which delivers content from a user’s friends.The more Facebook knows about a user’s relationships, the more appropriately tailored the News Feed can be. Do you want to see pictures of a child’s swimming lesson yesterday? Probably yes, if it’s from a family member or close co-worker, but probably not from someone on the fringes of your network of 2,000 “friends.”

So much of social-network analysis confirms what we already know. Relationships that last are ones in which the other person widens our world? Well, yes. Still, it’s kind of nice to have it confirmed with lots of data and algorithms. “We hadn’t had this view of it before,” Mr. Kleinberg observed.