November 14, 2007

A Different Kind of Random Sampling

Here at the Pew Internet Project, we spend much of our lives poring over data gleaned from random samples of the U.S. population. And as fascinating as it can be to discover surprising patterns and stories living beneath a heaping pile of numbers, sometimes you can’t fully capture that narrative in numbers or words. Lately, I’ve been feeling this way about the Web 2.0/ user-generated/social media phenomenon. It has always been an elusive trend to describe, and doesn’t seem to resonate with people fully until (appropriately enough) they participate and experience the tools themselves.

However, for those who are interested in getting a taste of the social media sphere in a more passive, sit-back-and-watch kind of way, two enterprising programmers have created these handy and completely engrossing tools:

Twittervision

Flickrvision

Wikipedia Vision

Of course, one of the main factors that has influenced our ability to enjoy these real-time snapshots of digital creation and sharing all over the world has been the big increase in broadband adoption in recent years. Yet, as a backgrounder piece by our colleague, John Horrigan, just released today notes, local and international standards for broadband measurement are still emerging, so reliable cross-country comparisons remain somewhat elusive. Still, given that content creation is so closely linked with broadband access, one can get a really rough and dirty sense of the lay of the global broadband land just by watching these flickrs, twitters and wiki edits pass across the screen.