Gordian knots in research methods


Whenever I have a project in mind that involves Facebook, there’s a methodological stumbling block that almost always comes up: Most of what’s interesting isn’t accessible unless you are friends with the people you’re trying to study. So maybe you rework the research questions, or you come up with a way to address them using survey data, etc.

But now I see that I was overlooking the obvious solution: Just create fake profiles to friend people with, as a group of four researchers at the University of British Columbia did. For them, it was entirely necessary, as they were studying the vulnerability of online social networks to malicious bots, so they basically created their own benign bots and observed what they accomplished. The very first phase resulted in about a 20% friend-acceptance rate, so if you’ve got a good sampling method, this is looking decent enough as a way of getting real, live Facebook content.

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    • Guest

      Another possibility: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,2099409,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

      They used the advertsing tool to pinpoint a specfic audience and advertise to participate in their study.  

    • Facebook Friends

      Some study found that we can see who you are through your friends on Facebook.
      Some people have numerous FB friends who are not even their real/close friends.
      Some people try to keep their very close friends or family in private (not publicly, not online…).
      My close friends do not communicate/interact with me via Facebook.
      Those who like to talk to me on Facebook simply got access most of the time.
      Yet, they are really not my close friends…