MIT Did a Huge Study on MOOCs

MIT did a huge study of MOOCs. “The study, one of the largest ever undertaken on the topic of MOOCs, examined 68 courses offered through the edX platform, encompassing 1.7 million participants, 10 million participant-hours, and 1.1 billion logged events—or clicks, recorded by the edX servers. edX is an online, non-profit learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard in 2012.”

Forensic Linguistics and the Internet

Language use is so important, and the way you use language online can be incredibly unique! Check out this article on forensic linguistics. “Experts claim a regular anonymous internet user may be tracked through linguistic clues they unwittingly leave behind in their writing. According to Dr Tim Grant in an article for The Conversation, ‘everything from the way someone uses capitalization or personal pronouns, to the words someone typically omits or includes, to a breakdown of average word or sentence length, can help identify the writer of even a short text like a Tweet or text message.’ “

Google, Universities Working Together on Internet of Things

A group of universities are working with Google to develop a platform for the Internet of Things (IoT). “Carnegie Mellon researchers will work with colleagues at Cornell, Stanford, Illinois and Google to create GIoTTO, a new platform to support IoT applications. Initial plans for GIoTTO include sensors that are inexpensive and easy to deploy, new middleware to facilitate app development and manage privacy and security, and new tools that enable end users to develop their own IoT experiences.”

Is Google’s Ad Targeting Discriminatory?

Is Google’s ad-targeting discriminatory? “Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute built a tool called AdFisher to probe the targeting of ads served up by Google on third-party websites. They found that fake Web users believed by Google to be male job seekers were much more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown a pair of ads for high-paying executive jobs when they later visited a news website.” Advertisers on AdWords CAN limit their ads to show only to males or females, but I can’t imagine why you’d do that with employment ads. Besides just being a stupid idea, can you imagine a corporation being busted for just showing executive ads to men (or just women)? They’d get sued into oblivion.

Terrifying Research on False Popularity in Social Networks

Terrifying research from the University of Southern California. The article is called The Social-Network Illusion That Tricks Your Mind. It’s about how human and social networks can be mislead into thinking something is common and popular when it’s not. “That’s interesting work that immediately explains a number of interesting phenomena. For a start, it shows how some content can spread globally while other similar content does not—the key is to start with a small number of well-connected early adopters fooling the rest of the network into thinking it is common.” What’s so terrifying about that? The issue is that Facebook distributes posts among friends based at least partially on early reactions to it. They may be applying a skewed amount of weight – and giving an untoward amount of power – to a small subset of users. This research could explain why viewpoints that are truly minority, or overtly antisocial, […]

University of Kansas Study on How Latinos Use Social Media

More studies on the use of Twitter, this time from the University of Kansas. “A University of Kansas professor has co-authored research examining the reasons Latinos and whites use the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, finding the former use them significantly more for advocacy and identity exploration than their counterparts. Mike Radlick, content creator at Come Recommended, a public relations firm in Maryland, and Joseph Erba, assistant professor of journalism at KU, surveyed 140 white and 115 Latino Facebook and Twitter users to determine why and how they use the platforms and the gratifications they take from them.”

Live Streaming: Social Control from Afar

Interesting article from MIT Technology Review: Live Streaming: Social Control from Afar. “…there is something about the dynamics of a remote audience that seems to inspire otherwise reasonable people to cause trouble. This was one of the lessons we learned from an experiment we conducted at the MIT Media Lab in 2001. The setup was that an actor equipped with a camera mounted on her forehead and a backpack full of electronics would do whatever the audience (the “directors,” connected via the Internet) collectively decided she should do. Directors could suggest and vote on actions; every few minutes the highest-rated one would be sent to the actor to carry out. She ended up dancing on the table and eating from other people’s plates. Suggesting something transgressive was irresistible. “

The Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress: Challenges for Information Practice and Information Policy

Michael Zimmer has a really good article at First Monday: The Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress: Challenges for Information Practice and Information Policy. “In April 2010, the U.S. Library of Congress and the popular micro-blogging company Twitter announced that every public tweet, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library and made available to researchers. The Library of Congress’ planned digital archive of all public tweets holds great promise for the research community, yet, over five years since its announcement, the archive remains unavailable. This paper explores the challenges faced by the Library that have prevented the timely realization of this valuable archive, divided into two categories: challenges involving practice, such as how to organize the tweets, how to provide useful means of retrieval, how to physically store them; and challenges involving policy, such as the creation of access controls to the archive, […]

Social Query: a Query Routing System for Twitter

I have an Academia.edu account just to ask people to upload papers. And Jonathas Magalhães did! His paper, Social query: a query routing system for twitter, is now available. “Social Query is a new and efficient way to get answers on the social networks. However, the popular method of sharing public questions could be optimized by directing the question to an expert, a process called query routing. In this work, we propose a Social Query System for query routing on Twitter, currently, one of the most popular social networks. The Social Query Systems analyzes the information about the questioner’s followers and recommends the most suitable users to answer the questions.” While Quora is an amazing resource, easily finding experts to answer questions is still a search area that could stand a lot of exploration.

Google Open-Sources Neural Network Trippy Art Tool

You remember that mention I made last week of Google’s research that let a neural network make trippy art? Google’s open sourced the tool. “A small group of Google software engineers have open sourced a new tool that can take an image and create an artistic spin on it using deep neural networks…. To use the tool, people will also need to set up NumPy, SciPy, PIL, IPython, or a scientific python distribution such as Anaconda or Canopy.”

The Fragility of Twitter Social Networks Against Suspended Users

Interesting paper from Wei Wei and three other researchers (Wei Wei is getting the credit because I found it on his site at CMU) – The Fragility of Twitter Social Networks Against Suspended Users. “Social media is rapidly becoming one of the mediums of choice for understanding the cultural pulse of a region; i.e., for identifying what the population is concerned with and what kind of help is needed in a crisis. To assess this cultural pulse it is critical to have an accurate assessment of who is saying what in social media. However, social media is also the home of malicious users engaged in disruptive, disingenuous, and potentially illegal activity. A range of users, both human and non-human, carry out such social cyber-attacks. We ask, to what extent does the presence or absence of such users influence our ability to assess the cultural pulse of a region?”

Google Delivering “Degraded” Search Results?

Oooh. A study claims that Google is delivering “degraded” search results by ranking its own content higher than other, competing content. “In a study sponsored by Yelp – one of the companies listed as a complainant in the EU antitrust case against Google, former FTC advisor Tim Wu from Columbia Law School and Harvard Business School’s Michael Luca found, when given the option, users were more likely to click on results ranked by relevancy versus results that gave preference to Google’s self promoted content.”

Pulling Fossil Data from Research Papers

Interesting stuff from Nature: exploring ways to automatically pull fossil data from research papers. “For a field whose raison d’être is to chronicle the deep past, palaeontology is remarkably forward-looking when it comes to organizing its data. Victorian natural history museums meticulously organized their collections with handwritten cards that survive to this day. And over the past 15 years, researchers have collectively entered records of more than a million fossils into an online database, allowing them to track broad trends in the history of life. Now, palaeontologists are exploring the use of machine algorithms to pull fossil data from their research papers automatically.”

Research: Is Facebook Useful for Online Learning?

Research: Could Facebook be useful for online learning? “In a first-of-its-kind study, Michigan State University’s Christine Greenhow found that high school and college students engaged in vigorous, intelligent debate about scientific issues in a voluntary Facebook forum….[Christine] Greenhow, recognized as one of the most social media savvy professors in America, analyzed the students’ activity on the Facebook app and found their discussion on various science issues to be largely on-topic, civil and sophisticated.”