Comparison of Online Social Networks in Terms of Structure and Evolution

April 30th, 2008

Marcella Wilson will defend her dissertation, The Comparison of Online Social Networks in Terms of Structure and Evolution, at 11:15am May 1st in 325b ITE. Here’s the abstract.

Social network systems on the Internet, such MySpace and LinkedIn, are growing in popularity around the world. The level of such activity is now comparable to that associated with email and blogs. Our research addresses the question of whether people in different demographic groups use these systems in the same way. We also examined the relationship between membership in on-line social networks and face-to-face networks, especially with respect to different age cohorts. Older Americans tend to use email the same way as Americans in general. The usage of blogs, however, is different, with significant differences in the temporal and structural patterns of post and response in blogs being evident in different demographics. Our research has implications for the design of social network software for older Americans, as well as the algorithms used in search engines for such systems.

Fonolo is google for phone menus

April 30th, 2008

Remember when finding information on the Web was done by navigation using Gopher or Yahoo’s directory? I worked and we thought it was pretty good, at least until the search engines came along. Then we realized that search was much better than navigation for most tasks, especially as the size of the Web grew.

Recall how we get information from a big organization by phone today — we call customer service and navigate a confusing phone menu over the phone and after 10 minutes, end up being told to dial a different department. Dealing with such IVR (Interactive voice response) systems is part of the cost of living in our modern society. But maybe w can do better…

Fonolo offers a service that uses a search engine on their site to find the right spot on a company’s phone menu and connect you to it by a callback to your phone. You can even bookmark the point on the phone menu.

How do they do this? Here’s an explanation from IVR search: a ‘Google’ for phone menus?, a post on Telco2.0:

“And Fonolo wrote a web spider that visits large companies’ public phone numbers, and iterates through all the options on all the IVR menus from all the numbers, logging everything it finds. Then it’s just a matter of plotting it all on a directed graph, and making the whole thing searchable and available on the Web. And then the bit we like. You click on the bit you want to get through to, and their system uses the map to dial and navigate the IVRs for you, thus “deep dialing” the user directly to the point in the IVR they need. Every time someone dials through Fonolo, they use the interaction to re-validate that path through the IVR. The search terms that users submit tell them which companies they need to go spider.”

Fonolo is in a private beta mode, but you can sign up to be added to it on thei web site. You can see a video presentation of the idea and some ppt slides

Morgan Stanley Internet Trends: social computing dominates Web

April 28th, 2008

social computingMorgan Stanley’s latest Internet Trends report emphasizes social computing. It contains the interesting observation that seven of the top ten Web sites (ranked by Alexa) are social computing sites — YouTube,, Myspace, Facebook, Hi5, Wikipedia, and Orkut. Yahoo, Google and MSN round out the top ten. Of the social seven, only Myspace made the top ten list just three years ago. There’s lots more of interest in the report, which is available as a 72 page pdf presentation and can be viewed online via slideShare. Spotted on Techcrunch by Yang Yu.

Using semantic policies to manage border gateway route exchanges

April 28th, 2008

In this week’s ebiquity group meeting, Palani Kodeswaran will talk about his research in developing protocols to govern how network routers implement the Border Gateway Protocol. here’s the aabstract.

“Policies in BGP are implemented as routing configurations that determine how route information is shared among neighbors to control traffic flows across networks. This process is generally template driven, device centric, limited in its expressibility, time consuming and error prone which can lead to configurations where policies are violated or there are unintended consequences that are difficult to detect and resolve. In this work, we propose an alternate mechanism for policy based networking that relies on using additional semantic information associated with routes expressed in an OWL ontology. Policies are expressed using SWRL to provide fine-grained control where by the routers can reason over their routes and determine how they need to be exchanged. In this paper, we focus on security related BGP policies and show how our framework can be used in implementing them. Additional contextual information such as affiliations and route restrictions are incorporated into our policy specifications which can then be reasoned over to infer the correct configurations that need to be applied, resulting in a process which is easy to deploy, manage and verify for consistency.”

Our meetings are open to anyone who wants to come, so drop in if you are interested. (10am Tuesday 29 April 2008, room 325 ITE building)

Support for US students attending ISWC 2008

April 28th, 2008

The 2008 International Semantic Web Conference anticipate having funds from the US National Science Foundation to partially support students currently enrolled in US universities in attending ISWC 2008. Students will be required to submit application and include proof of student status and a letter of recommendation. Since the funds are limited, only partial travel support can be provided. Preference will be given to students who are participating in the doctoral consortium, are an author or co-author on a paper, or are presenting a poster or demonstration. Awards will be based on a combination of merit and need and will probably range from US$ 500-1500.

Roberts on Making Computer Science Fun Again, 4pm 4/24, ITE 213

April 23rd, 2008

Professor Eric Roberts of Stanford will talk tomorrow (4:00pm Thur 24 April, 231 ITE) on Rediscovering the Passion, Beauty, Joy, and Awe: Making Computing Fun Again. He’s well known as a master teacher and his his insights into teaching computer science will well worth hearing. Here is the abstract for his talk.

Has anyone considered the possibility that it’s just not fun any more? — Don Knuth, October 2006

Over the last five years, computing education in most developed countries has faced a seeming paradox: despite projections that the field offers tremendous employment opportunities and extraordinary growth potential for the foreseeable future, student interest in pursuing computing degrees has plummeted. In response, many educators have called for a massive overhaul of computing curricula to increase its attractiveness to students. In this talk, I argue that such efforts are misdirected in that they fail to respond to the underlying causes of the enrollment decline, which are the following:

  • Fears about the long-term economic stability of employment in the computing industry continue to have a profound effect on student interest in our discipline.
  • The kind of exposure students get to computing at the elementary and secondary level tends to push people away from the discipline long before they reach the university.
  • The image of work in the field — and, more importantly, all too much of the reality of work in the field — is unattractive to most students and no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison to other opportunities that bright students might pursue.

I will conclude the talk with suggestions as to what universities, schools, industry, and government can do to address this problem.

ASUS P527 mobile smart phone

April 22nd, 2008

asus p527I was very impressed with the ASUS eee PC, which is a well designed and engineered product that delivers a lot at a modest cost. Forbes has a story, :Eee! A New Cellphone!, on ASUS’s plans to manufacture mobile smart phones. In fact, their latest phone, the P527, is already available for sale in the US (e.g., $590 at Amazon, unlocked).

“ASUS says the P527 has a raft of features, including a touch screen, wi-fi, a camera, Windows Mobile software and a number of practical-minded applications. To distinguish it from competitors like the Samsung BlackJack or Motorola (nyse: MOT – news – people ) Q, ASUS loaded the phone with GPS, an FM radio, a business-card scanning program and a “travel log” feature that lets users record their travels and peg photos to specific locations using Google Earth. Even more unique: a feature that acts as a remote control for PowerPoint presentations (via Bluetooth) and an “S.O.S.” service that can track a user’s location and send it, along with a text message, to up to five numbers. “We’re trying to get a unique edge by thinking what users would want on the road and how they could carry less gadgets,” says Huang.”

Reviews, such as this CNet review, are mixed with many complaining about the phone’s slowness.

Put cloud computing in your shopping cart

April 21st, 2008

Wired has a new article on Amazon’s Web Services, Cloud Computing. Available at Today.

“Click on “Amazon Web Services.” Key in your Amazon ID and password and behold: a data center’s worth of computing power carved into megabyte-sized chunks and wired straight to your desktop. Clones of that HP tower cost 10 cents per hour — 10 cents! — and they’re set to start spitting out widgets as soon as you upload the code. Virtual quad cores are a princely 80 cents an hour. Need storage? All you can eat for 15 cents per gigabyte per month. And there’s even a tool for monitoring your virtual stack with an iPhone. No precious cash tied up in soon-to-be-obsolete silicon, no 3 am runs to the colo cage. Outsource your infrastructure to Amazon!”

It’s expensive and a major hassle to keep a lab full of servers running, up to date and secure. As soon as you buy them they start becoming obsolete. This is a very attractive option.

The 25 billion dollar eigenvector

April 21st, 2008

Is that a catchy title or what? No, and the story doesn’t involve Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. See The $25,000,000,000 Eigenvector: The Linear Algebra Behind Google by Kurt Bryan and Tanya Leise. Here’s the abstract.

“Google’s success derives in large part from its PageRank algorithm, which ranks the importance of webpages according to an eigenvector of a weighted link matrix. Analysis of the PageRank formula provides a wonderful applied topic for a linear algebra course. Instructors may assign this article as a project to more advanced students, or spend one or two lectures presenting the material with assigned homework from the exercises. This material also complements the discussion of Markov chains in matrix algebra. Maple and Mathematica files supporting this material can be found at

These techniques, and the mathematics behind them, are important in modeling many kinds of social phenomena.

Jiawei Han: Research Challenges In Data Mining, 10am 4/22 LH8 UMBC

April 21st, 2008

Jiawei Han will give a talk tomorrow, Research Challenges In Data Mining at 10am in UMBC’s
LH8 (1st floor ITE building). Here’s the abstract.

“Research in data mining has led to advanced knowledge discovery technologies and applications. In this talk, we will discuss some emerging research issues for advanced technologies and applications in data mining and discuss some recent progress in this direction, including (1) exploration of the power of pattern mining, (2) analysis of multidimensional, heterogeneous and evolving information network, (3) mining of fast changing data streams, (4) mining of moving object data, RFID data, and data from sensor networks, (5) spatiotemporal and multimedia data mining, (6) biological data mining, (7) text and Web mining, (8) data mining for software engineering and computer system analysis, and (9) data cube-oriented multidimensional online analytical analysis.”

The talk is part of a distinguished lecture series sponsored by the UMBC Information Systems Department. Here’s a flier.

UMBC video game class featured in Baltimore Sun

April 20th, 2008

Today’s Baltimore Sun has a good page-one story, Video games, from scratch, on the new UMBC games, animation and interactive media programs. The reporter visited the Anatomy of a Video Game which is being taught by Katie Hirsch (UMBC CS/ART ’05). As luck would have it, another UMBC alumnus, Eric Jordan (UMBC CS ’07), was also there giving a guest lecture. Both Katie and Eric work at Breakaway, one of the many Baltimore area game companies. The course includes students who are majoring in visual arts ans well as those majoring in computer science, making an interesting mix that mirrors the teams that create commercial computer games. The article has some good quotes from both the instructors and students and from Professor Marc Olano, who directs the computer science game program.

BusinessWeek ranks 50 most innovative companies

April 19th, 2008

Businessweek Magazine has a special set of articles on innovation in business in its April 28 issue. As in the past, they identified and tanked the 50 most innovative companies worldwide. The list of companies ranked in order are as follows

01. Apple
02. Google
03. Toyota Motor
04. General Electric
05. Microsoft
06.Tata Group
07. Nintendo
08. Procter & Gamble
09. Sony
10. Nokia
11. Amazon.Com
12. IBM
13. Research In Motion
14. BMW
15. Hewlett-Packard
16. Honda Motor
17. Walt Disney
18. General Motors
19. Reliance Industries
20. Boeing
21. Goldman Sachs Group
22. 3M
23. Wal-Mart Stores
24. Target
25. Facebook
26. Samsung Electronics
27. AT&T
28. Virgin Group
29. Audi
30. Mcdonald’S
31. Daimler
32. Starbucks
33. Ebay
34. Verizon Communications
35. Cisco Systems
36. ING Groep
37. Singapore Airlines
38. Siemens
39. Costco Wholesale
40. HSBC
41. Bank Of America
42. Exxon Mobil
43. News Corp.
44. BP
45. Nike
46. Dell
47. Vodafone Group
48. Intel
49. Southwest Airlines
50. American Express

It’s gratifying to see how many of these are companies based on computing and/or communications or have a business that is largely based on exploiting the latest computing and communications technologies. I think that it is appropriate to look at IT and communications as a group, even though they are traditionally viewed as different business sectors, because the innovations in each tends to be in areas where they overlap.

The distribution of the country in which these 50 companies are based is interesting. Of course, many of these are truly multi-national corporations .

COuntires where the 50 innovative companies are based