Archive for the ‘project’ Category


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Placing Flickr Photos on a Map. They place photos on a map based only on the tags of those photos. They exploit both info from nearby locations and spatial ambiguity

When More Is Less: The Paradox of Choice in Search Engine Use. They show that increasing recall works counter to user satisfaction, if it implies a choice from a more extensive set of result items. They call this phenomenon the paradox of choice. For example, having to choose from six results yielded both higher satisfaction and greater confidence than when there were 24 items to choose from

Telling Experts from Spammers: Expertise Ranking in Folksonomies. They presented a method in which power early-adopters  score highly. I call power early-adopters those who promptly tag items that happen to then become popular in the future.

Good Abandonment in Mobile and PC Internet Search. ” Investigation of when search abandonment is good (when the answer is right in the results list – no need to open page). Good abandonments are much more likely to occur on mobile device as opposed to PC; varies by locale (looked at US, Japan, China) and by category of query. “Our study has three key findings: First, queries potentially indicating good abandonment make up a significant portion of all abandoned queries. Second, the good abandonment rate from mobile search is significantly higher than that from PC search, across all locales tested. Third, classified by type of information need, the major classes of good abandonment vary dramatically by both locale and modality.”

Page Hunt: Improving Search Engines Using Human Computation Games.
Called Page Hunt, the game presents players with web pages and asks them to guess the queries that would produce the page within its first five results. Players score 100 points if the page is no.1 on the list, 90 points if it’s no.2, and so on. Bonuses are also awarded for avoiding frequently-used queries.

danah boyd’s gave a GREAT talk titled ‘The Searchable Nature of Acts in Networked Publics‘. In it, she debunked 3 myths about social networks:
1. There is only one type of social network. NO! There are 3 types of net
1) sociological network  (created from sociological study)
2) articulated network (created from listing friends)
3) behavioral network (created from interaction patterns)
those nets are very different but we have a tendency to assume they’re the same thing!!!

[Student Project Idea] Test whether the 3 types of social networks are related to each other and, if so, how!

2. Social ties are all equal. NO. The context of those ties and how strong they are are two important aspects, for example. (we have been discussing why context matters)
3. Content is King. In the tweet ‘i’m having for breakfast…’, the content isn’t important at all – it’s all about the awareness of sharing an experience.
danah then argued that social network sites are a type of networked public with four properties that are not typically present in face-to-face public life: persistence (what you say online it stays online), replicability (content can be duplicated (and can be taken of out-of-context – often u can’t replicate context)), searchability ( the potential visibility of content is great), and invisible audiences (we can only imagine the audience).  This networked public creates a new sense of what is public and what is private. For example, young people care deeply about their privacy, but their notion of privacy is very different from that of audults. finally,  danah introduced few stats on twitter (5% of accounts are protected, 22% include http://, 36% mention @user, 5% contain #hashtag, RT 3% are retweets, & spam accounts are proliferating) and highlighted some interesting research points for the future: 1)  how to make sense of content for such small bits of text; and 2) how social search can exploit analysis of the  network of twitters,  of context, and of tie strength.

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 ;-)

Twitter as CRM tool – student projects

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Since monetizing from ads wouldn’t work for Twitter (“click through rates on social networks are low – people are there to communicate with each other, not to search for information”), Jeremiah Owyang suggested that Twitter should tap into the lucrative CRM space by offering its own CRM system (or its own analytics system to brands).

That’s not easy, not least because there are unsolved problems that revolve around building a brand management system out of Twitter. The goal of such system would be to make it possible for companies to  “monitor, alert, track, prioritize, triage, assign, followup, and report on the interactions with their brands”. So here is a list of cool student projects:

  • Build tools for  mapping real IDs and pseudonyms  (mapping Twitter ID into customer ID –many don’t use their real names)
  • Build tools for identifying those people on twitter who influence buying behavior
  • Build product recommendation tools that are able to sense and react to users who ask their peers for product recommendations at the point of sale (right in the store).

Useful read: The Facebook Era

Experts tend to be hedgehogs and aren’t good at predicting

Friday, March 27th, 2009

From today’s NYT “Learning How to Think“:

“The expert on experts is Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His 2005 book, “Expert Political Judgment” (New Yorker Review),  is based on two decades of tracking some 82,000 predictions by 284 experts. The experts’ forecasts were tracked both on the subjects of their specialties and on subjects that they knew little about.

The result? The predictions of experts were, on average, only a tiny bit better than random guesses — the equivalent of a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board. … The only consistent predictor was fame — and it was an inverse relationship. The more famous experts did worse than unknown ones.”

Idea 1: This result partly explains why crowdsourcing may be more accurate than aggregating expert opinions.

(Project) Idea 2: Since “we trumpet our successes and ignore failures”, we need a system that monitors and evaluates the records of various experts and pundits as a public service

Lesson: “Hedgehogs tend to have a focused worldview, an ideological leaning, strong convictions; foxes are more cautious, more centrist, more likely to adjust their views, more pragmatic, more prone to self-doubt, more inclined to see complexity and nuance. And it turns out that while foxes don’t give great sound-bites, they are far more likely to get things right.”

Rich RDF Data for building Music RecSys (by BBC Music)

Friday, March 27th, 2009

The new BBC Music website was launched yesterday – a lot of RDF data. For example:

More in this post. Up to  build a recommender systems from this data?

The Internet for Activists: The Good and The Ugly

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I just got back from the Internet for Activists conference. It was a very stimulating experience: Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads spoke about the importance of SEO techniques for activists who wish to get their message out there. Laurie Penny who writes on Penny Red gave activist bloggers two main recommendations:

  • Engage in comments (openly accept comments and REPLY to them; however, don’t let stalkers take over your blog and do so by moderating comments with clear guidelines)
  • Go for quality not quantity (write less posts but write them well)

who does her PhD at UCL recounted her experience of using Facebook for rescuing Guy Njike from deportation. Finally, Karin Robinson talked about how she coordinated the activities of the Americans Abroad for Obama campaign. Interestingly, people earned points on the Obama social net website only if they didn’t sit in front of their computers but went out there.

These examples of online activism show that social net websites reduce communication and coordination costs and, as such, help people to organize off-line activities as well: people who live in the same neighborhood physically meet for the first time because of shared interests on the Internet (e.g., activism). Those examples also show that there is little merit in Susan Greenfield’s contemptible campaign. Frankly I don’t blame those who think she should go.

During these presentations I was thinking about a student project idea:

  • Design a platform for building campaigns. Ideally, such platforms should be easy to use and should allow people to not only engage in online activities but also to easily coordinate their off-line activities (e.g., street demonstrations, writing letters to MPs)

The dark side of activism: The Ugly Mask

The representative of Anonymous was also invited, and his (?) intervention was quite controversial. He concealed his identity with a mask and spoke on behalf of Anonymous. Here is what Anonymous is:

  • (from The Economist) Now Scientology is under attack from a group of internet activists known only as Anonymous. Organised from a Wikipedia-style website (editable by anyone) and through anonymous internet chat rooms, “Project Chanology”, as the initiative is known, presents no easy target for Scientology’s lawyers. It is promoting cyberwarfare techniques normally associated with extortionists, spies and terrorists. Called “distributed denial of service attacks”, these typically involve using networks of infected computers to bombard the target’s websites and servers with bogus requests for data, causing them to crash. Even governments find this troublesome.

The campaign against Scientology may all be very well. However, the assumption behind these self-organizing activists is that they are always right (they are anonymous and, as such, they are not accountable). Unfortunately, this assumption does not always hold. Indeed, most of the activities the Mask presented were either jokes the audience failed to understand or Internet bullying activities. Worringly, this self-organizing entity finds it acceptable to launch DoS attacks against websites that happen to disagree with the entity’s views. Is this the right way to go? Can this be even called activism?

WWW Science: p2p lending; dunbar number in twitter; and eBay for ideas

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Today, The Economist talks about Science inspired by the WWW (find the article here – it’s cool). From it, few notes on crowdsourcing, on p2p lending, and on the Dunbar number in Facebook and Twitter. Finally, a project idea: eBay for ideas.


Informal Networks from Movements

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

I’m looking for  academics/practionaires interested in the following research  and for companies willing to give me access to relevant data ;-) My website. My email:

To facilitate the flow of information or to promote cultural change, companies often focus on formal organizational charts. Alas, those charts do not reveal the invisible networks that employees use to get things done. One way of identifying invisible networks is to keep track of how staff moves and, more specifically, “who talks to whom”. This can be done automatically by programming mobile phones to keep track of their owners’ location and proximity to other people.  By aggregating data on those phones, one  then produces “informal networks” and can harness them to:

  • Make change stick by identifying influential employees. If management can persuade influential people to be proponent of a big change, then the change is far more likely to succeed.
  • Focus on points in an informal network where relationships should be expanded or reduced. Imagine that, from its informal network, a company finds out that old personnel are extraordinary well-connected and central to collaboration, while many newcomers are stuck on the periphery. To fix the situation, the company may launch “mentoring programs” in which old personnel (central to collaboration) mentor newcomers. That is just one example of how the study of informal networks can break down barriers that hinder collaboration.
  • Measure the effectiveness of major initiatives. Informal networks are also a way for companies to measure the impact of changes. By measuring key network metrics (such as density, cohesion, and centrality) before and after a change, companies can asses whether the change has been a positive one. For example, if an informal network shows higher density after introducing a mentoring program, then the program has been a positive change in that it has reduced the number of steps for any individual to get in touch with a colleague.

StoryBank – using mobiles to share stories in an Indian village

Friday, July 18th, 2008

StoryBank (website, description): EPSRC project for a rural village in India.

Idea: Villagers make short stories of up to six images and a two-minute audio track on the phones. They can then go to the village’s community centre and upload their content to the StoryBank – a large touch screen display.  Stories that have been featured include: how to grow rice, local crops, sheep rearing, the medicinal uses of plants,  beauty tips, mythical stories, songs and, in one case, pictures and descriptions of a student’s best paintings.

We have large screen displays (one at the entrance and few in offices/labs). Are we missing the village?

Barcode wikipedia

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

“You could snap a photo of your product’s barcode or tap in buy viagra from canada the numbers and get back information (Wikipedia entry) that helps you decide whether it’s good to buy.” Designing and building such an architecture would be a nice group project for our Master students. How to bootstrap the (wiki) user base? By focusing on university-related products?

The 6 ideas of the Socila Innovation Camp have been briefly explained in this video (starting from minute 2:55)

P.S. How about tagging ‘project’ the posts that suggest ideas for student projects? One never knows what can come out of it ;-)