My Secret Insights

Information about you and your social network

Since online social networks provide users with the possibility to manage real life friendships and to communicate online, they are well suited for information exchange in any form. This intensive information exchange comprises influence and trust processes and leads to formation of opinion as well as decision making. In contrast to real life interaction, online social networks make it possible to study this process by providing much of the information the user was exposed to, before making his decision. This data helps researchers to understand what led to an opinion, a decision, or an action in general, as they have most of the relevant information at their hands.

While there has been a lot of work on influence and specifically the effects of influence in online social networks, there has not been enough work to fully understand the reasons for the measured influence. Furthermore, a lot of work applied very specific and narrow definitions of influence, as influence was mainly measured by the ability to encourage others to some activity. Accordingly, these definitions of social influence only cover external effects but ignore internal effects and thus are measuring only a part of social influence.

Also trust has been the subject of many works in different fields. Models of trust relationships are highly required and could be employed by many applications, such as security and e-services. However, not all facets of trust are fully understood, e.g., how trust relationships are built or how trust is gained and maintained. Moreover, a representation of trust values associated with relationships is difficult. Current approaches try to infer trust from objective data with the help of rather simplistic assumptions, but their validity and goodness have not been proven.

These shortcomings strengthen the call for more detailed investigations and modeling of influence and trust. This work presents a framework for subjective assessment tests in an online social network. It allows asking test users for subjective opinions on relationships with their friends. At the same time objective data about the structure of their social network and about their interactions can be obtained. This fosters research on both subjective and objective aspects of interactions in online social networks. The game MySecretInsights was implemented and integrated into Facebook and a test for assessing influence and trust was designed. The results provide insights into the subjective rating of the social influence of and interpersonal trust in Facebook friends. Note that the online social network is not considered to be a closed environment. This study acknowledges that social influence and trust may initiate from both sources within the online social network, like exchanged messages or posted pictures, and external sources, like direct conversations or joint activities. Thus, in this work, Facebook is used as a means for acquiring study participants and their subjective opinions on real world friends together with objective social network data, which was exposed by the users and is accessible by the test framework. Still, the concepts of social influence and interpersonal trust can be assessed in a holistic way comprehending all kinds of influence factors.

MySecretInsights is part of a research project between University of Würzburg, Chair of Communication Networks and Prof. Tran-Gia Informationstechnik GmbH.


Seufert, M., Lorey, K., Hirth, M., Hoßfeld, T.: Gamification Framework for Personalized Surveys on Relationships in Online Social Networks. 1st International Workshop on Crowdsourcing and Gamification in the Cloud (CGCloud). , Dresden, Germany (2013).

Seufert, M., Burger, V., Lorey, K., Seith, A., Loh, F., Tran-Gia, P.: Assessment of Subjective Influence and Trust with an Online Social Network Game. Computers in Human Behavior. (2016).

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