Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Volokh, the slashdot and the NYT effects

Back in 2007, Paul Ohm, a law professor in the University of Colorado law school, guest-blogged in a popular law blog called The Volokh Conspiracy. He guest-blogged for one week about two of his papers: "The Analog Hole and the Price of Music: An Empirical Study" and "The Myth of the Superuser: Fear, Risk, and Harm Online." Being more computer-savvy than the average law professor (he has a B.Sc. in Computer Science) he wrote a script which checked the number of abstract views and downloads of his papers from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Both have gone up. Then his posts were linked to by Slashdot, and the numbers went up even more (graph taken from Professor Ohm's paper).

Currently, "Superuser" has been downloaded 1,434 times and its abstract viewed 8,859 times. The "Analog" paper has been downloaded 412 times and its abstract viewed 2,942 times. According to Google Scholar, "Superuser" has been cited 29 times and "Analog" only five, so there is a certain correlation (which I admit I didn't calculate) between downloads and views in SSRN and citations (assuming GS' citation count is more-or-less accurate. Do that as your own risk).

But that's not the entire story. Looking through Ohm's other papers, I've noticed that this paper: "Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization" has been downloaded 5,827 times and its abstract viewed 22,528 times, even though it was only published last year. A quick Google search brought up the possible reason: the paper has been mentioned in a New York Times blog, as well as in this site. It has also been cited at least 4 times (GS is a bit confusing because it presents two entries for this paper).Naturally, there are many more variants at work here (for example, the subject of the paper) but I think this is a demonstration of the power of central, as opposed to niche blogs and sites.

Paul Ohm (2007). Do Blogs Influence SSRN Downloads? Empirically Testing the Volokh and Slashdot Effects U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper

1 comment:

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