I've just returned from a brief trip to Las Vegas where I had been invited by Sam Gosling and Kate Niederhoffer to participate in a panel at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. I was very happy to participate with Tom Lento from Facebook and Winter Mason from Yahoo Research. The panel topic was Forging connections between Social Media and Social/Personality Psychology and was intended to help bridge the gap between researchers in the social-psych field and those of us in industry working with social and personal data.
Perhaps the most salient point that came out of the discussion was the difference between current social-psych methods and the data scale of the online social world. To help understand this new world, and for social-psych researchers to make the transition, an ability to code and to deal with large amounts of data is required. There was genuine interest in this (provoking questions about the specifics we had in mind, such as working with scripting languages) and I believe a real interest in the opportunity that lies in this data rich online world.
In terms of facilitating interactions, Winter probed the audience regarding knowledge of key conferences for web data analytics, etc. such as WWW and ICWSM. I consider the later to be a perfect forum for this discussion to continue, and with Sam's help I think this can really happen.
The conference itself is run in a manner quite different to that which computer scientists are used to. No papers are submitted and acceptance (which runs high) is based on short abstracts (generally paragraphs). I managed to see one of the poster sessions and was fascinated by the topics (extremely focused accounts of certain behaviours and traits) and the methodologies.
I feel that there is a lot to learn and the the ultimate winners in the social space will be those companies farsighted enough to really embrace this field and who figure out how to integrate such insights about users into their products.