More on Ripples

BACKGROUND NOTE: This blog is (1) a continuation of an earlier blog I wrote on Ripples, (2) a follow up from being triggered by an article I read on a G+ post by Mike Allton, and (3) an aha-moment I had as I revisited two G+ posts — (3a) the first post that I had originally posted a few weeks ago, and (3b) a second post that David Amerland had posted as a follow up.

The article by Mike Allton talked about the benefits we gain from the Google’s Ripples tool from the perspective of social networking in the business world. I can see the benefit for business, but I am in the business of education, so while I’m thrilled at the existence of the Ripples tool, I am frustrated that it’s design is not (yet) developed to benefit the objective of learning

Ripples measures re-shares. From the lens of learning this type of quantitative data is not very useful, even though it does qualitatively present a “sociogram“, -ie. a visual representation of the people-networking, emanating from a particular G+ post. The problem is that the existing Ripples-sociogram (merely) represents a very shallow level of “thinking”. Ripples (in its present form),  is a value system based on statistical dichotomyre-share or not re-share.

In order to be useful for learning, what Ripples should do instead, is to measure comments. By tracking and quantifying the reactions and follow-up contributions from people in relation to an original post, then, the sociogram that is generated would represent a deeper level of cognitive response to the original post.

Let’s look at a few hypothetical examples…

Example 1:

Let’s say original post #X has 3 comments, original post #Y has 30 comments, and original post #Z has 300 comments. This would imply that original post #Y triggered a discussion that is more successful in engaging dialog than original post #X, and that original post #Z is a catalyst for hyper-engagement.

Example 2:

If both original posts #C and #D have 20 comments each, but if the comments from original post #C are contributed by 20 people, while comments from original post #D are contributed by only 2 people, this would suggest that the comments to original post #C are reaction-comments (as the discussion has only reached a single-layer of responses), while the comments to original post #D are probably  reflection-comments (as the discussion contains multi-iterations of dialog). In other words, the depth of dialog and/or level of engagement in the latter is deeper than the former.

Example 3:

If both original posts #E and #F have 50 comments each, but if the comments from original post #E occur within a span of 1 hour, while comments from original post #F are spread out over a period of 5 months, this would suggest that  original post #F triggered a longer duration discussion, -ie. a more sustainable life-span. This would suggest that the author of original post #F and/or the responders to original post #F, were successful dialog facilitators who managed to sustain ongoing engagement.

Now, let’s look at two real examples:

ripples1Ripples diagram for Post #A

Post #A:

by Roz Hussin (me) originally shared publicly – Jul 14, 2013

1 re-share, 12 +’s, 84 comments, 33 pages, 9614 words

ripples2Ripples diagram for Post #B

Post #B:

by David Amerland originally shared publicly – Jul 14, 2013

10 re-share, 49 +’s, 72 comments, 22 pages, 5056 words

RankRoz RankDavid

Analysis and research questions:

Measurement / Engagement Criteria

Post #A:

by Roz Hussin

Post #B:

by David Amerland

Observation / Analysis

Hypothesis / Research Questions

G+ posts



Author of Post #B is ≈ 20 times more influential online than Author of Post #A

Does the quantum of re-shares (valuing a post to be important / useful for others) and endorsements (valuing a post to be interesting / containing useful content) depend on the author’s online influence status?




Post #B had 10 times more re-shares than Post #A




Post #B had 4 times more re-shares than Post #A




Number of comments in both posts are comparable

What criteria influence the quantum of discussion engagement? Duration? Intensity? Sustainability? Depth? Detail of discussion? Number of reference URL links quoted in the discussion? Number of people “pulled” into the discussion?




Total length / duration of discussion engagement of Post #A is 30% longer than Post #B




Total depth / volume of content of Post #A is double that of Post #B

Questions raised:

If the author’s “influence” is a factor in determining discussion engagement, then WHY does Post#B only have HALF of the depth/volume of discussion than Post#A? (despite the fact that Author of Post#B is 20 times more influential that Author of Post#A)

If the number of re-shares and number of +’s are statistical numbers that are indicative of the post’s “value”, then WHY does Post#B have a THIRD less content than Post#A? (despite the fact that Author of Post#B is 10 times more re-shares and 4 times more endorsements than that Author of Post#A)

Judging from the simple analysis above, it looks like there are many more unanswered questions than clarifications regarding the issue of discussion engagement and the criteria that determines the levels of such engagement.

This reminds me of my elementary and middle school days… where the “popular kids” are popular because of publicity reasons, and not because of their actual contributions in school… Isn’t this sad? That the adult online world is no different than our childhood popularity nightmares? (David Amerland… No offense OK? I love your blog posts, and I sincerely appreciate the accolades you gave me in your post… but in the name of research, I hope you forgive me for using your post as an example).

IF online discussion is to be seen as the key vehicle for engaging online learners in online courses, wouldn’t the protocols of engagement in online discussions be an important literacy? How would online learners gain these competencies? Where do instructors and learners learn about these issues? Who is researching and discovering these findings? Who is teaching people how to maximize this knowledge? Anyone?


As technology continues to develop, I hope that the keepers de jure of the online domain -ie. coders, programmers, policy makers, business investors – pay a little more attention to the needs of online learners, and not just of online consumers and suppliers. After all, isn’t online learning a business too?


2 thoughts on “More on Ripples

  1. Enjoyed post – as ever, it will take digesting, revisiting and mulling over. I thought of a another recently post that seems relevant and finally remembered the source,

    Is there a data theme in the air? This showed up in yesterday’s catch, on fetishing big data

    So is this the universe’s (or maybe the internet’s) way of telling me to think about a data post… or take the LAK mooc when it comes around again?

    PS have a great presentation at the Distance Learning Conference. Don’t feel obliged to break a leg…

    • Vanessa, Thanks for your reply. I JUST saw it today… two weeks later! Got caught up with work and two conferences. Apologies. I will check out the links and revert after I look through… Thanks again.

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