Schools watch their athletes on social media

July 28th, 2008

USA today has a story, Schools creating new rules for social networking policies, on how coaches are monitoring what their athletes are doing using social media.

“More college athletic departments are developing or publicizing online social networking policies for student athletes, experts say. USA TODAY researched social networking policies for 27 schools in six major conferences, including the University of Iowa, which will implement a new monitoring policy Friday. Last fall, pictures emerged on Facebook of two 19-year old Hawkeye football players holding cash and liquor bottles.”

I first heard about this new aspect of student life from UMBC Professor Zeynep Tufekci, who talked about how the student athletes in her classes took pains to ensure that their online presence didn’t reveal any evidence of training violations, like being at a party where underage drinking occurred.

Making your profile available to only your friends won’t work for Ohio State athletes:

“Ohio State, on the other hand, requires athletes to have a public profile or add coaches and administrators as friends (which gives access to the private profile).” … OSU senior associate athletic director Miechelle Willis said athletes raised the issue when discussing the policy. She replied that putting something on the Internet made it public. “We have a responsibility to monitor OSU athletics and if you want to be a part of our department we have an obligation to make sure you are representing us in the right way, and try to protect you,” Willis said. “We really have not had any problem with (privacy).”

Five Cloud Computers and Information Sharing

July 28th, 2008

There is an interesting panel to open the Microsoft faculty research summit featuring Rick Rashid, Daniel Reed, Ed Felten, Howard Schmidt, and Elizabeth Lawley. Lots of interesting ideas, but one that got thrown out was the recent idea that maybe the world does only need five (cloud) computers. If something like this really does happen, then perhaps we’ll need to think even more aggressively about the information sharing issues — is there some way for me to make sure that I only share with (say) Google’s cloud the things that are absolutely needed. Once I have given some information to Google, can I still retain some control over it. Who owns this information now? If I do, how do I know that Google will honor whatever commitments it makes about how it will use or further share that information ? We’ll be exploring some of these questions in our “Assured Information Sharing” Research. Some of the auditing work that MIT’s DIG group has done also ties in .

Google find Web page number 1,000,000,000,000

July 25th, 2008

Google reports (We knew the web was big…) that its crawlers have hit a new milesteon in finding their trillionth unique URL.

“We’ve known it for a long time: the web is big. The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there. Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days — when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!”

ISWC 2008 tutorial program set

July 24th, 2008

The tutorial program for the Seventh International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2008) has been announced. It includes includes two full-day and nine half-day tutorials to be held on October 26 and 27 in Karsruhe.

The list of the tutorials and links to pages with more information is available on the ISWC 2008 tutorials page.

UMBC student game company featured in Sun

July 24th, 2008

Today’s Baltimore Sun has a story, Gamer making a career of it, on two UMBC undergraduate students who have their own game development company. Computer Science major Paul Oliver and Mechanical Engineering major Arthur Gould head Legendary Studios LLC as a “game and Simulation development company” that is part of the UMBC Idea Lab and housed in UMBC’s technology center.

More cuts to DARPA budget

July 23rd, 2008

Wired reports more cuts to DARPA’s budget in Pentagon Slices and Dices DARPA Budget.

“The Pentagon’s storied research and development arm turned 50 years old this year, and its birthday present appears to be another $100 million in budget cuts, according to a Defense Department document provided to DANGER ROOM. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is having a tumultuous financial year: in June, DARPA faced a $32 million cut because it was “underexecuting”, leading the agency’s director, Tony Tether, to strike back by saying the Pentagon’s “comptroller apparently does not believe in accountability.”
   Whether those comments sparked an all-out comptroller-DARPA war is open for speculation, but the latest “reprogramming,” signed on July 11, may speak for itself. The document includes a number of Pentagon-wide cash transfers, but it hits DARPA particularly hard. Cognitive computing systems, which has previously been hit by congressional cuts, will lose another $13 million, while Network Centric Technology is sliced by $19 million. Another $18 million is being diced from biological warfare defense, and a big cut is taken out of DARPA’s Electronics Technology program, which loses $26 million. The cuts also indicate that DARPA’s high power fiber laser program has apparently been canceled.”

To put a $100M cut in context, the yearly DARPA budgets have been over $3B recently. Still, many of these cuts will be painful within specific R&D communities.

The Google walks from London to Paris

July 22nd, 2008

Here’s a Google suggested walk from London to Paris: 246 miles in 2 days 12 hours. Well, maybe five days if you are in good shape but need to sleep. Check out the part in the middle! Leave a comment with your favorite walk!

Google Maps walking directions from NYC to LA

July 22nd, 2008

“Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas” warns Google as if ask for walking directions in Google Maps. That’s always good advice I suppose.

Google Maps now gives directions for getting from one place to another in three modes: by car, by public transit and by walking. After experimenting with a few examples, I found the that the walking routes differed from the driving ones and were generally pretty reasonable.

Look, they even found a way to walk from UMBC to BWI which they say is 4.4 miles and might take an hour and 33 minutes.

It seems that Google’s legs get tired after walking about 30 miles, so if you ask for directions from Baltimore to DC, it won’t show you the walking option. But, you can force it to produce a walking route by appending a dirflg=w argument to the URL for directions.

Here’s Google’s plan for walking from NYC to LA, covering the 3,012 miles in 41 days and 2 hours. Here’s another interesting trip: Seattle to Key West covering 3,643 miles in 48 days and 3 hours. (Btw, Google is unwilling to plan some walking trips, like Fairbanks to Key West.)

Being a machine, Google doesn’t understand the concept of getting tired and needing to rest or, worse yet, sleep. The walking times seem to be calculated by figuring three miles an hour, 24/7. For the trip to LA you’ll have to keep up the pace even as you go over the Rockies.

It’s great the Google has added this. Now, if they would only add by bicycle

Amazon S3 problems

July 20th, 2008

I guess this explains the problems we have been having with our Twitterment search engine for Twitter: Amazon S3 Down.

Stanford Superconducting Supersocializer seeks elementary particles of social interaction

July 20th, 2008

Last month we blogged about UMBC Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci who views social media from the perspective of social physics.

Sociologist Kieran Healy puts the ideas together with a different result, as his post on discovering the elementary particles of social interaction) shows. (Spotted in a post by Mark Liberman on Language Log)

“I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences this fall. Think of the CASBS as the CERN of social science: even as we speak, hard-working technicians are putting the final touches to the Stanford Superconducting Supersocializer, which will come online once the relevant IRB gods committees have been placated with a sufficient amount of cargo detailed forms. The SSS will propel local college sophomores at tremendous speeds into unfamiliar groups of people in an effort to plumb the structure of the elementary particles of social interaction. Despite the success of the standard model, there is much to be learned.”

“The organization of the Quirks is of course well known, with some of the early triumphs of post-war research focused on the internal dynamics of the quirk-matrix (Up, Downer, Charm, Strange, Top Bloke, Asshole). The complex of interactions centered on W and Z remains wholly mysterious, however. The Liketons, too, pose difficult questions, though the recent discovery of observer-dependent YouTube effects has gone some way toward clarifying their role. Finally, the famous Biggs Hangeron also remains problematic, as it is not only notoriously easy to observe but in fact also impossible to ditch at parties.”

Proposals sought for hosting ISWC 2010

July 19th, 2008

The Semantic Web Science Association (SWSA) has begun the process of selecting a site for the 9th International Semantic Web Conference to be held in 2010. Since ISWC’08 will be located in Karhsruhe Germany and ISWC’09 in the DC area in the US, locations in Asia and Australia are preferred for 2010.

Interested groups should submit a statement of interest by 9 September 2008 by email to Rudi Studer at

SWSA will invite a short list of candidates to submit a more detailed bid by 15 October and present it at the SWSA meeting in Karlsruhe during ISWC’08.

Aim for the fat part of the tail

July 18th, 2008

I like this image from Seth Godin’s post on The Long Tail and the Dip.

Profit pockets on the tail

He argues that shooting for the head (#1) takes too much effort and money, but it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to life out on the thin part of the long tail (#3) — you can aim for “profit pocket #2”.