UMBC ebiquity
2011 August

Archive for August, 2011

Gingrich Twitter followers not fake, just inactive

August 25th, 2011, by Tim Finin, posted in Social media, Twitter

Three weeks ago, it was widely reported that an analysis by PeekYou concluded that more than 90% of Newt Gingrich’s 1.3M Twitter followers were fake accounts, probably purchased to make him appear more popular. Further analysis by Topsy supports Newt Gingrich’s assertion that his Twitter followers were real people and that his campaign did not purchase any.

“Former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was correct in his explanation for why he has relatively few active accounts among his 1.3 million Twitter followers, an analysis requested by Mashable has revealed.

The initial analysis of his followers was apparently based on a a few trivial features, mostly the fact that the vast majority of them were inactive. But most of his followers came from the early days of Twitter when Gingrich’s account was on Twitter’s short list of suggestions for interesting people to follow. Mashable says:

“So there is no smoking gun to suggest that Gingrich, or any of these politicians, bought any of their followers. But what this kind of analysis also reveals, says Topsy, is how hard it is to say which Twitter accounts are for real and which aren’t. Spam bots are getting more sophisticated; many now have fake profile pictures, fake bios and generate fake tweets. “The fact is, a large proportion of all Twitter accounts are inactive anyway,” says Ghosh.

Sorting the humans from the fakes is a problem that companies like Topsy — and Twitter itself, which now has more than 200 million accounts — will be wrestling with for years to come.

2011 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies

August 24th, 2011, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL

The hype cycle concept has been used by IT consulting company Gartner since 1995 to highlight the common pattern of “overenthusiasm, disillusionment and eventual realism that accompanies each new technology and innovation.” While Gartner’s hype cycles represent one company’s opinions, the underlying concept seems right and it is always interesting to see where they place the current crop of computing related technologies.

Here is their 2011 hype cycle for emerging technologies


and some comments from the accompanying press release.

“Themes from this year’s Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle include ongoing interest and activity in social media, cloud computing and mobile,” Ms. Fenn said. “On the social media side, social analytics, activity streams and a new entry for group buying are close to the peak, showing that the era of sky-high valuations for Web 2.0 startups is not yet over. Private cloud computing has taken over from more-general cloud computing at the top of the peak, while cloud/Web platforms have fallen toward the Trough of Disillusionment since 2010. Mobile technologies continue to be part of most of our clients’ short- and long-range plans and are present on this Hype Cycle in the form of media tablets, NFC payments, quick response (QR)/color codes, mobile application stores and location-aware applications.

Transformational technologies that will hit the mainstream in less than five years include highly visible areas, such as media tablets and cloud computing, as well as some that are more IT-specific, such as in-memory database management systems, big data, and extreme information processing and management. In the long term, beyond the five-year horizon, 3D printing, context-enriched services, the “Internet of Things” (called the “real-world Web” in earlier Gartner research), Internet TV and natural language question answering will be major technology forces. Looking more than 10 years out, 3D bioprinting, human augmentation, mobile robots and quantum computing will also drive transformational change in the potential of IT.”

You can get a copy of the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Summary Report by giving your contact information, but the full report on this or any of the other 26 topical hype cycle reports will cost you money.

Free online courses on AI, databases and machine learning

August 16th, 2011, by Tim Finin, posted in AI, CS, Database, Machine Learning, Social media, Web

Stanford is experimenting with an interesting idea — offering some of their most popular undergraduate computer science courses online for free and simultaneously with their regular offerings. An AI course was announced several weeks ago and now there are similar offerings for databases and machine learning. These are taught by first rate instructors (who are also top researchers!) and are the same courses that Stanford students take.

  • “A bold experiment in distributed education, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” will be offered free and online to students worldwide during the fall of 2011. The course will include feedback on progress and a statement of accomplishment. Taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, the curriculum draws from that used in Stanford’s introductory Artificial Intelligence course. The instructors will offer similar materials, assignments, and exams.”
  • “A bold experiment in distributed education, “Introduction to Databases” will be offered free and online to students worldwide during the fall of 2011. Students will have access to lecture videos, receive regular feedback on progress, and receive answers to questions. When you successfully complete this class, you will also receive a statement of accomplishment. Taught by Professor Jennifer Widom, the curriculum draws from Stanford’s popular Introduction to Databases course.”
  • “A bold experiment in distributed education, “Machine Learning” will be offered free and online to students worldwide during the fall of 2011. Students will have access to lecture videos, lecture notes, receive regular feedback on progress, and receive answers to questions. When you successfully complete the class, you will also receive a statement of accomplishment. Taught by Professor Andrew Ng, the curriculum draws from Stanford’s popular Machine Learning course.”

If successful, this might be a game changer. Two weeks after the online AI course was announced, 56,000 students had signed up! The approach might work for many disciplines, not just CS. The Kahn Academy is a related effort.

Universities should keep an eye on them and think about how to adapt if they are successful. Most of our students will probably benefit from taking our traditional courses. If so, we should be able to explain the benefits from taking them (and make sure we deliver those benefits). At the same time, we may want to leverage the online material from these courses in a synergistic way.

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