Carnegie Mellon University: 05-320 / 05-820 Fall 2013
The Social Web: Content, Communities, and Context

Class: Tue Thu, 9:00-10:20

Room: NSH 1305

Course site:

Instructor:    Niki Kittur  Email:       Office: NSH 2504A

                  Lisa Yu       Email:       Office: NSH 2504B

Course Description
With the growth of online environments like Twitter, Facebook, World of Warcraft, Wikipedia, blogs, online support groups, and open source development communities, the web is no longer just about information. This course will examine a sampling of the social, technical, and business challenges social web sites must solve to be successful and help them understand the social impact of spending at least part of their lives online. Note that the course is not designed to teach students the technical skills needed to analyze, design or build online communities, but a term project provides the opportunity to students who want to build a social site.

This class is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students with either technical or non-technical backgrounds. Course work will include lectures and class discussion, homework, class presentations, and a group research or design project.

Required Texts
There are no required texts for this course. There will be readings assigned for each class, most of which will be available online. Some of these readings are on the ACM digital library, which means that you have to access the URL from campus or use VPN to log in (here is info about CMU's VPN software). Others may require access to a password protected directory.  We will provide the user id and password for that directory in class.

Note that this class is heavy on reading.  Here are some suggestions for helping you read efficiently and effectively.


Your final grade in this course will be based on:

 · 30% Posts and comments on course discussion forum

 · 30% Class attendance and participation and discussion leading

 · 40% Final project

Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive no credit for the assignment on which the cheating occurred. Additional actions -- including assigning the student a failing grade in the class or referring the case for disciplinary action -- may be taken at the discretion of the instructors.

Class Attendance and Participation
A good portion of the learning in any upper level class comes from intelligent discussion involving the instructor and the students. If you don't attend class, you cannot participate, and your performance in the class may reflect that. This portion of your grade will consist of:

 ·         The instructors knowing your face and name

 ·         Participating in in-class exercises

 ·         Asking interesting questions

 ·         Contributing to class discussion (think quality, not quantity)

We expect that each student will make an effort to attend all lectures and contribute constructively to the discussion.

Keep your laptops closed in class unless you are taking notes. Do not use your laptop in class to read email, chat on IM or surf the web unless you are examining a site relevant to the immediate class discussion. You learn less when you multi-task, interfere with fellow students who are activity participating in class and are disrespectful to the instructors.

Let us know in advance if you have interviews or trips to conferences. The instructors' judgment of your class participation will influence your final grade.

Course Final Project

Students will work on semester projects in groups of four to six that include students with a variety of areas of expertise. 

Each project group will propose a project. Although your project can be on any topic related to the course, we anticipate there will be three main types of projects:

 1.      The design and implementation of a social web site (i.e. an implementation-oriented project).

 2.      A hypothesis,  implementation and evaluation to improve one or more facets of an existing social site (e.g., a focus experiment).

 3.      An analysis of one or more existing social sites is able to gain insight into how those web sites are used or how they manage to be successful (i.e., an empirical analysis of an existing site). This analysis can either be quantitative (e.g., the role that physical location plays in a social networking site) or quantitative (e.g., the impact of a social support site on its members).

Groups with ideas for other types of projects should discuss them with the professors before submitting their project proposals.  A key element in any of these projects is to relate your work on these we are covering in course readings and discussion.  More details about the project will be posted soon.

Each student needs to:

  • Each week, do the assigned course readings
  • Attend class and participate in discussions
  • For the semester, do a course project (with groups formed later in the semester)

Subpages (1): Annoucements