Improving group communication by harnessing information from social networks and communication services

Abstract: On-line social networking and communication services are increasingly popular methods to communicate with friends, family and communities. Statistics shows that users of services like Facebook and Twitter stretches across geographical locations, professions, age groups and habits. Smart mobile devices with Internet connectivity simplifies access to these services at anytime and from almost anywhere. However, the huge amount of user-generated content makes it difficult to identify useful information. A challenge is to create micro-communities where users may join in from heterogeneous social networks using proper user and identity management. The increasing number of social networks and communication services are also creating new challenges in social media content filtering, micro-community discovery, automatic group communication initialization. This licentiate thesis proposes to utilize social graphs for improving group communication. It therefore presents a framework that manages information harnessed from social-networking services and personal devices such as mobile phones and laptops. The framework can identify individual communication patterns and use these to calculate a social strength between users expressed as a weighted social graph. The central component of the framework is a social recommendation engine for social content filtering, group management and communication pattern discovery. The engine harness personalized social data (both content and contact) from the social-networking services and personal devices. The framework also contains methods for social strength calculation based on a unified interaction model that supports communication pattern discovery. A comparison study is presented together with the framework, which evaluates different social strength computation methods based on a simulated interaction dataset. The feasibility of social data collection from social networks and communication services are also discussed to illuminate potential benefits of the framework for the next generation of communication tools (such as mobile video conferencing). Evaluation of the framework is initially done by proof-of-concept prototypes that illustrate functional feasibility. Two prototypes are presented in this thesis, a presence information viewer that filters and prioritizes contacts and a real-time photo sharing application utilizing calendar data for initiation of group communication. In conclusion, improving group communication by offering services for micro-communities, based on our communication habits, personal interests and context (such as activity and location) is technically realistic and feasible.

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