Universities develop new academic programs on social media

May 30th, 2007

Sandor Dornbush pointed us to an article in yesterday’s WSJ, At Some Schools, Facebook Evolves From Time Waster to Academic Study, that talks about universities that are establishing new academic programs in social media.

After years of worrying about how much time freshmen spend on Facebook, schools are incorporating the study of social networking, online communities and user-contributed content into new curricula on social computing. The moves, like other academic expansions into fields like videogame design, are part of an effort to keep technology studies relevant to students’ lives – and to tap subjects with entrepreneurial momentum. Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are among the tech companies that have invested in schools’ social computing programs.

The article mentions programs and projects at Michigan, MIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, Cornell, Berkeley and the University of Abilene and also mentions some specific courses that address social media.

The article also cites the high level of industry in social media and quotes researchers from Yahoo and Microsoft.

Marc Smith, a sociologist who works as a senior researcher for Microsoft, said it’s important for social scientists, and not just technologists, to study the Internet. “Things like Wikipedia or newsgroups, Web boards, email lists, the Web itself… A lot of value is collectively constructed” by many users, he said. A major aspect of his job, he said, is to identify “ecosystems” in online communities: What kind of people tend to pipe up with helpful answers in a news group, for example, and what percentage of them are needed to sustain a vibrant discussion.
        A social-science approach has benefited Cameron Marlow, a Yahoo researcher who received a Ph.D. in media arts and sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. His dissertation was about how information spreads through blogs. At the time, he found it difficult to find many people studying online social behavior. He joined Yahoo in September 2005, and said that since then, “there’s been a shift in the thinking or the hiring” toward people with training in social computing, including the recent hire of Columbia University sociology professor Duncan Watts.

First post from another reality

May 28th, 2007

xkcd: tcmp

How newspapers can survive the Web

May 26th, 2007

It’s all about the pipes. WSJ’s Andy Kessler has a good op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the newspaper problem — as in how they can survive the Web. His piece, A future for newspapers is behind the WSJ firewall but is also available on his blog.

“New technology is mucking up the media, and newspapers seem to be taking the brunt of it. Craigslist and eBay took away classified ad sales, direct advertisers are allocating budgets to search engines and circulation is receding faster than Bruce Willis’s hairline. Investors seem to prefer the safety of television broadcasters and cable companies, with their nice, government-mandated franchises and pipes that reach directly into homes. Media, after all, is about owning a pipe — some conduit between the creation of news or entertainment and the eyeballs that consume it.”

Kessler believes that print media, newspapers, magazines, books, will persist because people will still want to have ink on paper.

“Unlike music which can be copied once and stolen a million times, newspapers live in the material world. Thankfully, as an author, it’s the same for books. Even a 30-inch screen can’t match the readability of what cheaply spits out of a printing press. I really believe that the copy protection mechanism for newspapers is their consumer interface, in the form of ink spurted on newsprint.”

and that technology will increasingly subvert the pipes for controlling video and television.

“BitTorrent and eDonkey are the top P2P networks and half the usage is for TV shows. P2P hogs something like 35% or more of all Internet traffic. Thirty-five percent!”

He also sketches an approach he recommends for newspapers.

“In the meantime, rather than just charge for content, I’d be licensing every type of newfangled software and Web service until I could come up with a tight community of interest around my newspaper, local or national. Don’t just start the discussion, keep it. This means comments, reviews, personalized newsfeeds, social networks of like-minded readers, whatever.”

New Yorker on Gordon Bell and MyLifeBits

May 25th, 2007

This week’s New Yorker has a story about Gordon Bell and his MyLifeBits project.

Remember This? A project to record everything we do in life. by Alec Wilkinson

It’s partly a story about Gordon Bell, partly about the concept of capturing one’s life in electronic snippets and partly about the MyLifeBits project, which is Microsoft describes as

“MyLifeBits is a lifetime store of everything. It is the fulfillment of Vannevar Bush’s 1945 Memex vision including full-text search, text & audio annotations, and hyperlinks. There are two parts to MyLifeBits: an experiment in lifetime storage, and a software research effort. .. Gordon Bell has captured a lifetime’s worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. He is now paperless, and is beginning to capture phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio.”

The New Yorker article elaborates on Bells lifebits:

Bell’s archive now also contains a hundred and twenty-two thousand e-mails; fifty-eight thousand photographs; thousands of recordings of phone calls he has made; every Web page he has visited and instant-messaging exchange he has conducted since 2003; all the activity of his desktop (which windows, for example, he has opened); eight hundred pages of health records, including information on the life of the battery in his pacemaker; and a sprawling category he describes as “ephemera,” which contains such things as books he has written and books from his library; the labels of bottles of wine he has enjoyed; and the record of a bicycle trip through Burgundy, where he tried to eat in as many starred restaurants as he could (he averaged 2.2 stars per meal—“I do a lot of measuring,” he says).

One new thing I learned about the project was the use of the SenseCam:

Since late 2004, however, he regularly wears around his neck a Microsoft device-in-development called a SenseCam. A SenseCam is a black box about the size of a cigarette pack which contains an infrared system—“same as in a burglar alarm,” Bell says. “It senses heat—it takes a body a certain size to throw off enough heat to be recognized—and when it finds a person it takes a picture.” It also takes a photograph when the light changes or at intervals up to a minute, depending on how it is set. To turn off the SenseCam, Bell puts it in his pocket—the darkness makes it stop working.

As I read the article and some if its descriptions of Bell shifting through the electronic fragments of his life, I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim character (Slaughterhouse-Five) who kept traveling back and forth through time to (re) experience different part of his life.

AI courses meet growing industry demands

May 19th, 2007

The British paper The Independent has a good article last week on the increasing need by industry for engineers who know AI concepts and techniques.

Artificial intelligence courses meet growing industry demands

Robots are being built to do our chores – and those who are creating them are already debating whether their rights should be recognized. Kate Hilpern reports

Most people don’t realize the extent to which AI is already used in our everyday lives, believes Browne. “For instance, AI is used in supermarkets to work out what products should be placed with other products, and whether certain products should be stacked vertically or horizontally. Companies invest a huge amount in AI in these kinds of ways to get people to spend a bit more money.” AI is also used to create robot technology to do things like construct our cars, clean our floors and even perform delicate microsurgery. Military and agricultural applications of AI are also on the rise and increasingly, AI is being used to assist disabled and elderly people. …

Read the rest of this entry »

Lambda calculus for eight year olds

May 16th, 2007

Bret Victor has a novel way of using aligators to teach the lambda calculus to young children. Oh, and some eggs are involved, too. Actually, his whole web site is pretty interesting. (spotted on LTU)

Interactive SPARQL demonstration site

May 16th, 2007

SPARQL is the de facto standard query language for RDF (it’s now in last call) and many think that it will play a major role in hastening the adoption of the W3C’s vision of a Web of Data. I think Ora Lassila and Jim Hender said it very well in their recent Internet computing article, Embracing Web 3.0:

“SPARQL’s emergence as the standard query language for RDF lets many data stores expose themselves as SPARQL endpoints, thus enabling flexible data exchange among systems. It is leading the way toward Web applications that exhibit a kind of “fractal” structure, with patterns in which one component uses another as a data source (via SPARQL, for example) and acts as a data source to yet another component. Such architectures open up new possibilities for the original vision of Web services and loosely coupled distributed systems.”

OpenLink Software has a great interactive SPARQL demo that is very helpful in exploring both the SPARQL language and protocol. You can try out any of the RDF Data Access Working Group (DAWG) test case queries or enter your own ad hoc ones, on their data or yours. You an also easily see the actual request and response that go over the wire. I think this is a great aid to deepening your understanding of SPARQL.

CFP: Web Scale Infrastructures for Semantic Mashup, Search and Retrieval

May 16th, 2007

The Workshop on Web Scale Infrastructures for Semantic Mashup, Search and Retrieval will be held in conjunction with the IEEE International Conference on Semantic Computing, 17-19 September 2007 in Irvine California. Relevant topics include:

  • Web scale Semantic Web searching
  • Web crawling for structured and semi-structured data
  • Integration of unstructured data into the Semantic Web
  • Entity consolidation and global identification issues
  • Web scale ontology mapping, matching and merging
  • Distributed/grid algorithms for large scale semantic processing
  • Integrating trust in large distributed semantic architectures
  • Ranking of semantic sources
  • Interaction models and APIs for people and software clients

Papers should be submitted by 10 June 2007. Accepted papers will will be included in ICSC proceedings, included in IEEExplore and indexed in EI.

CFP: RuleML Symposium

May 15th, 2007

RUleML 2007The International RuleML Symposium on Rule Interchange and Applications (RuleML-2007) will take place, 25-26 October 2007, in Orlando, Florida, co-located with the 10th International Business Rules Forum . RuleML-2007 is devoted to practical distributed rule technologies and rule-based applications which need language standards for rules operating in the context of, e.g., the Semantic Web, Intelligent Multi-Agent Systems, Event-Driven Architectures and Service-Oriented Computing Applications. A RuleML-2007 Challenge with prizes will be organized to demonstrate tools, use cases, and applications. Abstracts are due 15 June 15 and full papers 29 June 2007.

Why use Latex and not Word?

May 14th, 2007

Why use Latex and not Word?

As seen on Using LaTeX on Windows.

Malicious Traffic Alerts

May 4th, 2007

One of the reasons that I stopped actively working on VANET based traffic systems was my belief that it would be difficult to secure the system. For example a malicious business owner could create false messages that there was an accident in front of their competitors store. That owner could expect to get more business as drivers are directed away from the competitors place of business. This problem has not prevented Dash GPS from going forward with a commercial version of such a system.
I believe that my concern has been validated by recent reports that even the centralized traffic systems have been recently hacked. In these reports Italian hackers have shown a way to introduce erroneous messages into the traffic signal sent to GPS devices. It appears that data sent over the Traffic Message Channel (TMC) of the Radio Data System (RDS) does not have any encryption or authentication. It is possible to introduce security and authentication to a centralized system, however securing a distributed peer-to-peer ad-hoc network is an active research area.

When cat herders daydream

May 3rd, 2007

when cat herders daydream