Archive for June, 2009

Discussing the Netflix Prize

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

After my last blog post, I was contacted by a journalist who wanted to discuss the effects of the Netflix prize. It seems that now that the competition is winding to an end, one of the real questions that emerges is whether it was worth it. Below, I’m pasting part of my side of the dialogue; other blogs are posting similar discussions, and I’m curious as to what any of you fellow researchers may have to say.


Cybercrime spreads on Facebook

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Cybercrime is rapidly spreading on Facebook as fraudsters prey on users who think the world’s top social networking site is a safe haven on the Internet…

Reuters article.


Monday, June 29th, 2009

The program of SocialCom is out. My picks:

  • Deriving Expertise Profiles From Tags (
  • Ranking Comments on the Social Web (
  • Structure of Heterogeneous Networks (
  • Online User Activities Discovery based on Time Dependent Data (
  • Evaluating the Impact of Attacks In Collaborative Tagging Environments (
  • Community Computing: Comparisons between Rural and Urban Societies using Mobile Phone Data (

Netflix Prize Nearly Finished?

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

A combined team of the leaders of the Netflix prize (teams BellKor, Pragmatic Theory & BigChaos – together know as BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos) has recently submitted an entry to the Netflix prize which surpasses Cinematch by 10.05%.

According to the competition rules, an announcement should follow soon saying that 30 days remain for competing teams to submit their final entries. A quick look at the leaderboard, however, shows that 5 of the top 10 leaders are members of one (or combined) of the groups who look like they are soon to win $1,000,000.

Interestingly, this submission appears just as researchers were discussing whether a 10% improvement was at all possible, while others rallied together to try and surpass the magic barrier. Also, funnily enough, I tweeted about the potential for this to happen a while back – and nearly got the team names right.

I hope that the competition ends soon; and I also wonder:

  • Will the winning algorithm ever be used by Netflix?
  • Now that the accuracy goal has been reached, what will researchers care about? (how many of them will stop caring?)

Recommender system research has definitely benefited from the competition (thanks to Netflix). But we all know that there is more to a recommendation that an intelligent, accurate forecast of what star rating I’m going to give something. Many things come to mind – but for now, congratulations to team BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos.

Update: The notification email has been sent out; participating teams have until July 26, 2009 18:42:37 UTC to send in their submissions!

Social Camp: MyPoliceService the winner

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

MyPoliceService – a new online service to encourage people to report crime and find out what’s happening in their community – was the successful winner of the first Social Innovation Camp held in Scotland.

Why I blog about this: Social Innovation Camp is full of ideas for cool student projects ;-)

The future of mobile search: synchronization & personalization

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

1) “In an amusingly titled WWW 2009 paper, “Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my!” , a quartet of Googlers offer some thoughts on where mobile search may be going. In particular, based on log analysis of iPhone searches, they claim search on mobile devices is not likely to differ from normal web search once people upgrade to the latest phones. They go on to predict that an important future feature for mobile search will be providing history and personalization synchronized across all of a person’s computers and mobile devices.” (here)

2)  Enhancing Mobile Recommender Systems with Activity Inference by Kurt Partridge and Bob Price “  This paper describes how to infer a user’s high-level activity automatically to improve recommendations. Activity is determined by interpreting a combination of current sensor data, models generated from historical sensor data, and priors from a large time-use study. We present an initial user study that shows an increase in prediction accuracy from 62% to over 77%, and discuss the challenges of integrating activity  representations into a user model.

3) Potential for personalization.  To appear in ACM:Transaction on Computer Human Interaction 09

Why I blog about this: Very relevant to Licia‘s research on Pervasive Social Computing

WEIS 09 at UCL

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Workshop on the Economics of Information Security at UCL today and tomorrow. Live blogging by Ross Anderson.

Email patterns can predict impending doom

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

(new scientists) “Menezes says he expected communication networks to change during moments of crisis. Yet the researchers found that [in the Enron dataset] the biggest changes actually happened around a month before. For example, the number of active email cliques, defined as groups in which every member has had direct email contact with every other member, jumped from 100 to almost 800 around a month before the December 2001 collapse. ” The title of the paper is “Identification of Organizational Tension Using Complex Networks”. Workshop program

Why I blog about this: Some of us (e.g., Neal) are studying the evolution of social/recommender networks over time. This paper is a nice example of  social net evolution analysis put to good use ;-)

Geographic Information in a web-based world

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

An interesting conference at CASA (UCL) of few months ago. Few titles of interest:

  • GMapCreator and MapTube: Web-Based Mapping for Sharing and Visualising Geographic Information (pdf)
  • Public Engagement: The London Profiler, Public Profiler and the E-Society Classification (pdf)
  • Mapping Peoples Mood: Crowdsourcing Spatial Surveys (pdf)
  • Understanding Crowdsourced Geographical Information: An Analysis of OpenStreetMap(slideshare)
  • Cellular Census: Explorations in Urban Data Collection (pdf)

IBM investing $100M in mobile research

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Article (via xamat)


Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Ushahidi (blog) is an open source platform for collecting, visualizing, and distributing information related to a crisis or ongoing public problem, such as swine flu, election fraud,  and political violence:

Plus, there is also the OMC – it is all about open source mobile phone software, with a focus on humanitarian needs.

Tonight: Is internet-based social networking antisocial?

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Peter Bentley of CS UCL is hosting the Royal Institution’s cafe scientifique at 7pm at the RI cafe. Today he’ll discuss: “Is internet-based social networking antisocial?” with Meg Pickard, the Head of Social Media Development, Guardian News & Media, responsible for developing and managing existing and new social web strategy and interactive experiences.

sigmond09 papers

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Microsoft’s Robust Location Search

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

The primary goal of this  project is to explore novel and effective ways to search geo-spatial data and leverage multi-lingual technologies within maps.

Evaluating search engines: blindsearch

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

BlindSearch is a simple and neat site that collects ‘objective’ opinions on search quality by showing query results from Google, Yahoo and Bing side by side without identifying which is which and inviting you to select the best.