I received the inaugural Michael Schwartz Award for Excellence in Sociology. Being recognized by my peers and colleagues as an exemplary graduate student is quite an honor. I was selected for this award as an acknowledgement of my scholarly achievements, service as a good departmental citizen, and excellence in teaching.


I was invited to speak at the Provost’s Graduate Student Lecture series at Stony Brook University. Three PhD students  are selected to present their research, which highlights some of the most promising scholarship being produced at Stony Brook. Thanks to Tim Moran and Arnout van de Rijt for nominating me.

Here is the abstract of the talk:

Why do people volunteer thousands of hours of free labor to create public goods online such as Wikipedia and open-source software? In this talk, I present evidence from a series of experiments designed to test the theory that in the absence of formal or material incentives, contributors’ efforts can be sustained through community recognition of work performed. According to this theory, there is a social solution to the problem of collective action, where individuals are believed to have a tendency to ‘free ride’ rather than contribute to the public good:  groups reward individuals who work hard with status in the community, which in turn motivates additional effort, fostering a virtuous cycle of work and reward. Results from the experiments on Wikipedia’s editing community show that highly productive contributors who are given an informal award, or “Barnstar,” subsequently increase their workload by about 40% compared to a control group. These recipients also accumulate additional awards from third parties at a six-times higher rate than non-rewarded peers, suggesting that pro-social behavior can help sustain contributions to public goods by fostering a self-reinforcing dynamic. I conclude by calculating the surprising magnitude of additional volunteer labor that is generated from such pro-social behaviors.

American Sociological Association 108th Annual Meeting Logo

The theme for the 2013 ASA conference (Linking Micro and Macro) was a good fit for my presentation with Arnout:  “No Praise without Effort: Experimental Evidence on the Matthew Effect in Wikipedia.”

The CITASA round table session was well-attended:  I don’t remember ever seeing so many people crammed around one table, and in fact there was a second ring of chairs around the presenters! Our paper provided an intriguing contrast of the virtues of “big data” and “small data” – in our case, how small data from an experiment can clarify the causal processes observed in big data studies. Our paper is currently under review at PLoS ONE as a follow-up to our previous study.

I’m very fortunate to be affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook University, through my advisor Arnout van de Rijt.

This is a great opportunity to expand my research with “big data” capabilities. As a critical-reflexive sociologist, I am wary of the the over-exuberance surrounding this latest trend in science; given the choice, I always prefer better, richer, or more meaningful data rather than simply more data. However, I am very excited about the Institute’s focus on inter-disciplinary collaboration, as well as the obvious methodological sophistication that comes with advanced modeling and statistical computing.

Here is an excellent short talk by Arnout about how the IACS will benefit sociologists trying to better understand the social world:


What a great honor! I have been selected to receive the 2013 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student, in recognition of my teaching endeavors with the School of Journalism’s News Literacy program as well as my Sociology courses on Technology and Media. At the award ceremony, Dean Miller said some incredibly flattering things about me; but the most uncomfortable part was standing on stage (alone!) while being showered with praise. That’s not typically my style, but I had better get used to it since the alternative – not being the best I can be at what I do – is not an appealing alternative to me!

Thanks so much to Dean Miller and Howard Schneider who nominated me for this award. It means a lot to have my hard work and dedication to my students recognized by my university. More than that, several fabulous students wrote letters of support for me. This type of across-the-board support and recognition of my teaching proficiency is very gratifying. I hope I can continue to serve the cause of education and continue to make a difference in my students’ lives.


I attended ASA’s professional conference in Denver where I was on a very thought-provoking panel about Group Procceses.

Organizer was Stephen Benard at Indiana University. Discussant was Robb Willer at UC Berkley. All of the papers had to do with social status in one way or another. I appreciate Stephen’s efforts at finding papers that contribute research on the same topic. Also, Robb’s comments and questions at the end of the session were spot-on and really challenged my thinking, so I am grateful to him for that as well.

My paper with Arnout van de Rijt, entitled “Experimental Study of Informal Rewards in Peer Production,” was based on our PLoS ONE article.

Interestingly, another team of researchers had a paper on the identical subject, which made for a nice discussion where we tried to resolve the different (but complementary) findings. That one was “Social Signaling and Collective Action:  A Field Study of Awards on Wikipedia.” The authors were Benjamin Mako Hill at MIT, Aaron Shaw at UC Berkeley, and Yochai Benkler at Harvard.

The room was quite full, and it was a great opportunity to speak to a number of interested scholars about my research. Afterwards, I spoke to Mako a bit more about our papers and I think our work points in the same direction. Overall, a nice experience.