The thriving Russian black market in dissertations—and the crusaders fighting to expose the country’s fake Ph.D.s.
Fascinating. There's a market for PhDs in Russia which means many plagiarized dissertations. And this group is trying to find them by creating automatic plagiarism detectors.
toblog  research 
1 hour ago
Fraudulent claims made by IBM about Watson and AI | Roger Schank
Roger Shank goes ballistic about IBM Watson...

Of course, what upsets me most is not Watson but what IBM actually says. From the quote above:

Unlike traditionally programmed computers, cognitive systems such as Watson understand, reason and learn.

Ann Rubin, IBM's vp of branded content and global creative, told Adweek that the commercials were needed to help people understand the new world of cognitive computing.
I wrote a book called The Cognitive Computer in 1984:

I started a company called Cognitive Systems in 1981. The things I was talking about then clearly have not been read by IBM (although they seem to like the words I used.) Watson is not reasoning. You can only reason if you have goals, plans, and ways of attaining them, and a comprehension of the beliefs that others may have and a knowledge of past experiences to reason from. A point f view helps too. What is Watson’s view on ISIS for example?

Dumb question? Actual thinking entities have a point of view about ISIS. Dog’s don’s but Watson isn't as smart as a dog either. (The dog knows how to get my attention for example.)

I invented a field called Case Based Reasoning in the 80’s which was meant to enable computers to compare new situations to old ones and then modify what the computer knew as a result. We were able to build some useful systems. And we learned a lot about human learning. Did I think we had created computers that were now going to outthink people or soon become conscious? Of course not. I thought we had begun to create computers that would be more useful to people.

It would be nice if IBM would tone down the hype and let people know what Watson can actually do can and stop making up nonsense about love fading and out thinking cancer. IBM is simply lying now and they need to stop.
artificial_intelligence  machinelearning 
12 hours ago
How Factory Farms Play Chicken With Antibiotics | Mother Jones
Turns out I'm not the only one asking. Dr. Bob Lawrence, the director of the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins, which has generated reams of research on the dangers of routine anti­biotic use on farms, ran into ceo Jim Perdue at a conference recently. Lawrence asked Perdue what had driven the company's flight from antibiotics. "I was hoping he would say, 'The research coming out of your center,'" Lawrence says. Instead, Perdue credited worried consumers.
How presidential campaigns are building the perfect website | Fusion
Campaigns using Optimizely to A/B test. I don't know how Fusion got access to it though unless they were reverse engineering it.
abtesting  platformization  politics 
2 days ago
Demon Core: The Strange Death of Louis Slotin - The New Yorker
Slotin was one of only two people to die from radiation exposure at Los Alamos while the laboratory was under military control. In those early years, from 1943 to 1946, there were about two dozen other deaths—truck and tractor accidents, inadvertent weapons discharges, a suicide, a drowning, a fall from a horse. Four of the fatalities were just bad luck, involving a group of janitors who shared muscatel wine that was laced with antifreeze. But only Slotin and his co-worker Harry Daghlian, Jr., succumbed to the special hazards of the Manhattan Project. Three months to the day before Slotin’s accident, Daghlian had been working with the very same plutonium core, performing a different criticality experiment that used tungsten-carbide blocks instead of the beryllium tamper. He dropped one of the blocks, and the core briefly went critical. Daghlian took nearly a month to die.
2 days ago
A Trump campaign will only increase the Democrats’ advantage in data and analytics - The Washington Post
The absence of investments in data and analytics by the Trump campaign will only deepen the Republican Party’s disadvantage when it comes to political data. In 2004, practitioners in both parties believed that the reelection campaign of George W. Bush had better voter data and more robust systems for collecting, managing and analyzing it, more sophisticated field efforts and better technologies that supported voter contact. As I have chronicled, the Democrats then invested in new infrastructure, including a voter database and interface system called VoteBuilder, that underpins nearly every Democratic campaign to this day.

While the Democrats were developing this party infrastructure, a degree of complacency set in within the Republican Party. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, hamstrung in part by its reliance on public financing, hired just 15 staffers in the areas of technology, digital, data or analytics over the course of the campaign.

In contrast, the comparatively flush 2008 Obama campaign, which eschewed public financing, hired 131 staffers in technology, digital, data and analytics. The Obama campaign gave resources to many vendors — most notably Blue State Digital and Voter Activation Network (now NGP-VAN) — which helped them build capacity. The Obama campaign also provided the party with an extraordinary pool of small donors, millions of voter contacts generated by its expansive field operation, and staffers with specialized expertise and presidential campaign experience.

This paid dividends for the 2012 cycle, and Democrats are still reaping its benefits today. In an interview with me early in 2012, one former Republican Party staffer summed up the differences between the two parties like this: “where they maybe could have 500 or 1,000 people that could manipulate state level voter data, and we had 50, maybe.”

This meant that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was already behind Obama at the start of the 2012 campaign. That disadvantage was significantly compounded by the fact that Romney faced a protracted primary and Obama enjoyed what I call a “technical advantage of incumbency.”

The Obama campaign had a year and a half and comparably greater resources to start putting together its data and analytics teams, coordinate with the Democratic Party and develop its technology “products.” According to FEC data, Obama’s campaign had $250 million more than Romney’s, which for Romney translated into fewer in-house staffers, technology projects, field infrastructure and political data. (Candidate spending is the most important with respect to political data because campaigns make investments in field infrastructure, data and analytics, while outside groups primarily engage in broadcast advertising.)

For example, of the Obama reelection bid’s 342 staffers in technology, digital, data and analytics, 58 had primary work experience in commercial industry, and 48 came to the campaign with primary work backgrounds for technology or data/analytics firms. By comparison, the Romney campaign hired 87 staffers in technology, digital, data and analytics, 34 with primary backgrounds in commercial industry and seven in technology or data/analytics. These differences are important because these staffers often go on to work for other campaigns, such as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s, or found new ventures that carry political knowledge and technologies across cycles.

[The real story about how the Obama and Romney campaigns used Twitter]

One example is Civis Analytics, a data and analytics firm founded by Obama 2012 veteran Dan Wagner that was staffed by about one-third of the Obama 2012 analytics department. Several former Civis staffers are now working with Clinton’s campaign. Civis is one of 19 new organizations founded by Obama 2012 staffers, compared with three founded by veterans of Romney’s run.
politics  platformization  digitalSTS 
2 days ago
What can I do right now to get into NIPS? : MachineLearning
There's a conference called NIPS and I just saw their website https://nips.cc/ and it says the deadline is in less than 20 hours. I realize that it's cutting it a bit close, but the website says it only has to be 8 pages which doesn't seem like that much. I want to submit a paper, but I can't think of a topic. Can someone help me? What can I do that will get my paper into NIPS? I saw that not all papers get accepted so I only want good ideas. I don't know much about Machine Learning, but I just read the wiki page on it and it seems really interesting.
Edit: Serious replies only PLEASE
machinelearning  artificial_intelligence 
2 days ago
Online School Enriches Affiliated Companies if Not Its Students - The New York Times
Dropout is clearly a major problem with online learning.

"Mr. Lager declined requests for an interview. In an emailed statement on Tuesday, he did not respond to questions about his affiliated companies but said the Electronic Classroom’s graduation rate did not accurately measure the school’s performance.

In the statement, he said many students arrived at the school already off-track and have trouble making up the course credits in time to graduate.

“Holding a school accountable for such students is like charging a relief pitcher with a loss when they enter a game three runs behind and wiping out the record of the starting pitcher,” his statement said.

The statement added that the school “should be judged based on an accountability system that successfully controls for the academic effects of demographic factors such as poverty, special needs and mobility.”

Continue reading the main story


Udacity Says It Can Teach Tech Skills to Millions, and Fast SEPT. 16, 2015

How High Schoolers Spent Their Summer: Online, Taking More Courses AUG. 25, 2015

In an interview, Rick Teeters, the superintendent of the Electronic Classroom, said many of the students were older than was typical for their grade, while others faced serious life challenges, including pregnancy or poverty."
moocs  public_discourse 
5 days ago
How the U.S. Could Regulate Facebook - The Atlantic
JZ on how Facebook might be regulated.

"But even if Thune and other Republicans wanted to regulate Facebook, it’s not clear how they would do it.

“It’s all tricky, because it’s all speech,” says Jonathan Zittrain, a law and computer-science professor at Harvard University and a co-founder of the school’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. At the end of the day, Facebook makes an editorial product, and like any editorial product it is protected under the First Amendment. But federal regulators or entrepreneurial legislators would still have several options.

First, the Federal Trade Commission could require that Facebook choose a slightly less objective-seeming word than “Trending” for its feature.

“They could call it ‘Special Topics’ or ‘Highlighted Topics’ instead of ‘Trending Topics,’” Zittrain told me. “But if you change the label, we’re back to where we started. And the sloppiness in labeling may represent a sensibility that says, ‘it’s really not our responsibility what goes on in the minds of our users insofar as it garners us more clicks,’” he said.

Congress could also insist that certain standards had to be upheld during curation. In the early 1990s, Congress began requiring cable companies to offer a broadcast station (like the local ABC or NBC affiliate) if the signal from that station’s antenna reached a cable subscriber’s home. The courts eventually upheld this “must carry” provision because it was “content neutral”—it regulated speech without abridging the meaning or political view.

But Zittrain said there may be an even more promising way to keep Facebook from acting against its users’ interest. In an unpublished paper that he is writing with Jack Balkin, a Constitutional law professor at Yale Law School, Zittrain recommends that certain massive repositories of user data—like Apple, Facebook, and Google—be offered a chance to declare themselves “information fiduciaries.” An information fiduciary would owe certain protections to its users, closing the “disconnect between the level of trust we place in [online services] and the level of trust in fact owed to us,” according to the paper.

The key to this idea? Facebook might opt into this regulation itself."
facebook  algorithms  regulation 
5 days ago
When Websites Won’t Take No for an Answer - The New York Times
"To help companies gauge where their techniques fall along the persuasive-to-manipulative spectrum, Chris Nodder, a user-experience consultant in Seattle, has developed guidelines for ethical conduct. Systems that nudge people to act in the public interest are “charitable,” he told me, while products like Fitbit, which may help people develop better habits, are “motivational.”

“If the company benefits more than the consumer, I would call it ‘evil design,’” said Mr. Nodder, who wrote a book on the topic called “Evil by Design.” If an approach benefits the company and the customer equally, he added, “you are probably in the realm of ‘commercial design.’"
platformization  nudging 
5 days ago
Innovation for What? The Politics of Inequality in Higher Education | Dissent Magazine
Review of Christensen's The Innovative University. I like the review but the whole prologue on innovation might be misguided -- there is a whole criticism of the innovation that universities are trying to do in their labs by partnering with corporations; but what Christensen is saying is how the university can innovate mainly in its teaching function. That can be criticized on a number of levels, esp. that universities are not a business and they're fundamentally an agent of citizen production and equality. So yes. And also no.
higher_ed  moocs 
8 days ago
The Entrepreneurship Racket | Jacobin
"toyotist" models of production anyone? I wonder how one writes an article to basically say that genuine creativity is declining because academia follows corporations in deciding what the truly innovative ideas or innovations are.

"In other words, US patent law was radically altered to encourage universities to claim intellectual ownership of potentially profitable research, to license it, and to develop, build, and market inventions for the sake of profit.

Since then, at many research universities the model for teaching and research faculty has shifted to something more closely resembling a Toyotist, or just-in-time structure. The university now communicates and coordinates in near–real time with science, tech, and venture capital markets through its centers and executives. Universities actively respond to the flow of industry demand, in the same way that an assembly line is programmed to respond to real-time demand for parts, adapting to industry’s shifting preferences for the kinds of innovation it desires.

Michael Hardt argues that Toyotist models of production are “not simply a more rapid feedback loop . . . but an inversion of the Fordist relationship.” In the entrepreneurial university, this means that the decision to pursue a particular line of research (or to prototype a particular widget) actually comes after and in reaction to a market decision that has already been made. Even pedagogy must change in response to fluctuating market “interests,” oftentimes with consequences for campus culture and resource allocation."
moocs  higher_ed  platformization  toblog 
8 days ago
My sabbatical research pivot | Bits and Behavior
After I stepped down as AnswerDash CTO and begin my post-tenure sabbatical, it became clear I had to pivot my research focus. No more developer tools. No more studies of productivity. I’m now much less interested in accelerating developers’ work, and much more interested shaping how developers (and developers-in-training) learn and shape their behavior.

This pivot from productivity to learning has already had profound consequences to my research career. For a long time, I’ve published in software engineering venues that are much more concerned with productivity than learning. That might mean I have less to say to that community, or that I start contributing discoveries that they’re not used to reading about, evaluating, or prioritizing. It means that I’ll be publishing more in computing education conferences (like ACM’s International Computing Education Research conference). It means I’ll be looking for students that are less interested in designing tools that help them code faster, and more interested in designing tools to help developers of all skill levels code better. And it means that my measures of success will no longer be about the time it takes to code, but how long it takes to learn to code and how well someone codes.

This pivot wasn’t an easy choice. Computing education research is a much smaller, much less mature, and much less prestigious research community in computing research. There’s less funding, fewer students, and honestly, the research is much more difficult than HCI and software engineering research, because measuring learning and shaping how people think and behave is more difficult than creating tools. Making this pivot means making real sacrifices in my own professional productivity. It means seeing the friends I made in the software engineering research community less often. It means tackling much trickier, more nuanced problems, and having to educate my doctoral students in a broader range of disciplines (computer science, social science, and learning science).

But here’s the upside: I believe my work will be vastly more important and impactful in the arc of my career. I won’t just be making an engineer at Google ship product faster, I’ll be inventing learning technologies and techniques that make the next 10,000 Google engineers more effective at their job. I’ll be helping to eliminate the hundreds of thousands of horrific experiences that people have learning to code into more fulfilling and empowering experiences, potentially giving the world an order of magnitude more capable engineers. Creating a massive increase in the supply of well-educated engineers might even slow down some of the unsustainable growth of software engineering salaries, which are at least part of the unsustainable gentrification of many of our great American cities. And most importantly, I’ll be helping to give everyone that learns to code the belief that they can succeed at learning something that is shaping the foundational infrastructures of our societies.

I’ll continue to be part of the software engineering research community. But don’t be surprised if my work begins to focus on making helping better developers write better code than simply writing code faster. I’ll continue to be part of the HCI research community, but you’ll see my work focus on interactive learning technologies that accelerate learning, promote transfer, and shape identity. And for now, you’ll see me invest much more in building the nascent community of computing education researchers, helping it blossom into the field it needs to become to transform society’s ability to use and reason about code as it weaves itself deeper into our world.
moocs  platformization  learning_research  computer_science 
9 days ago
Impact of Social Sciences – What are the most-cited publications in the social sciences (according to Google Scholar)?
Note that Situated Learning by Lave and Wenger is in the top 10 as is Wenger's Communities of Practice. I should quote this.
moocs  learning_research 
11 days ago
Ben Rhodes and the Tough Sell of Obama's Foreign Policy - POLITICO Magazine
The Ben Rhoades profile and its uproar is interesting because it tells us how "messaging" works - including how Twitter is used but also how different visions of the national interest try to message. Pieces worth browsing might be the original piece, Jeffrey Goldberg's response, Fred Kaplan's response, Yglesias' response, also Noah Millman's interesting piece on it etc.

"In general, though, Rhodes and Obama wish the media focused less on the Middle East and the related issue of terrorism. That’s not just because they believe the danger of terrorism is consistently overhyped, although they do believe that. It’s not just because they believe threat inflation helps terrorists spread fear, although they believe that as well. Rhodes worries that the hype cycle ratchets up demand for misguided Iraq War-style responses, and Obama apparently shares that concern."
toblog  journalism 
11 days ago
The inside story of Facebook’s biggest setback | Rahul Bhatia | Technology | The Guardian
I wish people wouldn't make statements like: India is not Tanzania.

But this quote is nice:

When I asked the Facebook executive why the company had failed to heed the growing protests and carried on fighting so hard for Free Basics, he pointed to Zuckerberg’s intense belief in Facebook’s mission. “This happens every time Facebook pushes out a new change,” he said. “New privacy settings? People protest, Facebook changes it just a little, and people get used to it. The same thing probably happened here. Mark would have thought people would get used to it.”
facebook  india  platformization  regulation 
12 days ago
In conclusion, Game of Thrones is a franchise of contrasts. — Medium
For the television series, it’s more complicated. The crucial question is this: How do you take a story that’s written as a deliberate repudiation of 1990s fantasy norms and make it work, twenty years later, with an audience that didn’t necessarily grow up with Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan novels? The story is generally strong enough that it’s managed to survive and thrive; the failures of the Starks are not just reversals of fantasy convention but overall storytelling convention. But the longer the series goes, the less able it is to draw upon such clear subversions.
12 days ago
The Genetics of Staying in School - The Atlantic
Genes for education but not education genes. These genes correlate with staying in school
learning_research  moocs 
12 days ago
This Mongolian Teenager Aced a MOOC. Now He Wants to Widen Their Impact. - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Uff so many problematics with this -- esp. Rafael Reif saying that the developing world and poor people need entrepreneurship classes! Please!
moocs  public_discourse 
12 days ago
The Fearful and the Frustrated - The New Yorker
Most people, in Johnson’s view, are animated by other parts of Trump’s pitch—“that he’s going to get in and make the tough deals, and nobody’s going to screw with him, because he’ll drop bombs.” That coalition—the fearful and the frustrated—is powerful. “That’s how you begin to get to eighteen per cent,” Johnson said.
generalinterest  politics 
13 days ago
What Nicholas Kristof gets wrong (and right) about conservatives in academia
Why doesn't Gross say something like: yes, if more conservatives applied, we'd do our best to make sure that they weren't turned away for their politics? Why does he end by saying we need people to do good empirical work and show how the world is? Hmmmm..
13 days ago
I'm an obesity doctor. I've seen long-term weight loss work. Here's how.
This is something I've witnessed regularly in my own practice. Looking to my experiences working with thousands of patients over the course of the past dozen years, it's clear that liking the life you're living while you're losing weight is the key to keeping it off.

Liking the life you're living while you're losing looks different to each individual. There is no one "best" diet. While different diet gurus and their acolytes will try to tell you that their diet is the best and only diet, there is definitely no clear winner in the medical literature.

Moreover, even if there were a clear winner on paper, if the key to your success is actually liking the life and diet you're living with while you're losing, one person's best diet, if not enjoyed, would be another person's worst.
generalinterest  health 
13 days ago
Facebook Trending: It’s made of people!! (but we should have already known that) | Social Media Collective
But the plain fact of information algorithms like the ones used to identify “trends” is that they do not work alone, they cannot work alone — in so many ways that we must simply discard the fantasy that they do, or ever will. In fact, algorithms do surprisingly little, they just do it really quickly and with a whole lot of data. Here’s some of what they can’t do:

Traditional news organizations face analogous problems and must make analogous choices, and can make analogous missteps. And they do. But two countervailing forces work against this, keep them more honest than not, more on target than not: a palpable and institutionalized commitment to news itself, and competition. I have no desire to glorify the current news landscape, which in many ways produces news that is disheartening less than what journalism should be. But there is at least a public, shared, institutionally rehearsed, and historical sense of purpose and mission, or at least there’s one available. Journalism schools teach their students about not just how to determine and deliver the news, but why. They offer up professional guidelines and heroic narratives that position the journalist as a provider of political truths and public insight. They provide journalists with frames that help them identify the way news can suffer when it overlaps with public relations, spin, infotainment, and advertising. There are buffers in place to protect journalists from the pressures that can come from the upper management, advertisers, or newsmakers themselves, because of a belief that independence is an important foundation for newsgathering. Journalists recognize that their choices have consequences, and they discuss those choices. And there are stakeholders for regularly checking these efforts for possible bias and self-interest: public editors and ombudspeople, newswatch organizations and public critics, all trying to keep the process honest. Most of all, there are competitors who would gleefully point out a news organization’s mistakes and failures, which gives editors and managers real incentive to work against the temptations to produce news that is self-serving, politically slanted, or commercially craven.
Facebook seemed to have thought of absolutely none of these. Based on the revelations in the two Gizmodo articles, it’s clear that they hired a shoestring team, lashed them to the algorithm, offered little guidance for what it meant to make curatorial choices, provided no ongoing oversight as the project progressed, imposed self-interested guidelines to protect the company, and kept the entire process inscrutable to the public, cloaked in the promise of an algorithm doing its algorithm thing
facebook  siliconvalley  algorithms  platformization 
14 days ago
Colloquium Details | Computer Science & Engineering
John Markoff's talk at UW on machines and humans and automation
automation  artificial_intelligence 
16 days ago
At Death's Door | Part 2 - Justice Delayed
Death penalty in India. Lower courts sentence people to death on flimsy grounds that high courts overturn; that accounts for why people are sentenced to death but not executed. but along the way, there's a lot of police torture, forced confessions and all-round chaos.
india  generalinterest 
16 days ago
It’s Time to Get Over QWERTY — A Q&A with Tom Mullaney on Alphabets, Chinese Characters, and Computing » The LARB Blog
“Input” is a slightly tricky thing for people to understand in the alphabetic world, and so let’s close with a metaphor from electronic music: MIDI, or the Musical Instrument Digital Interface. With the advent of computer music in the 1960s, it became possible for musicians to play instruments that looked and felt like guitars, keyboard, flutes, and so forth but that — thanks to digital computing — produced the sound of drum kits, cellos, bagpipes, and more. Just as one can play a cello with a MIDI piano, a drum kit with a MIDI woodwind, or a piano with a MIDI guitar, everyday computer users in China today use QWERTY and the Latin alphabet to “play” Chinese.
research  china  digitalSTS 
18 days ago
Is the Tech Bubble Popping? Ping Pong Offers an Answer - WSJ
Looking at how many pingpong tables a company orders, one can know how it's doing financially.
19 days ago
Online Media Is Tested When Social Platforms Come to Town - The New York Times
How do pre-existing companies typically make the transition from being an independent participant in a particular category to being, basically, a platform constituent? That’s a broad question, but — is there an industry that might have useful parallels to the media industry with something like a major social platform?

Continue reading the main story


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I don’t think it’s true that transitioning from independence to life on a platform necessarily has to make things worse. One thing that I think a lot about — in conversations with venture capitalists and others — is the notion that platforms or marketplaces inherently commoditize. I think more likely what’s happening is the following: I think platforms, or marketplaces, make it a lot easier for, say, the content providers or app developers that are very, very good to rise to the top, and pretty much commoditize everyone else. So if you’re average, it’s definitely going to be very bad. Life is going to be worse on a platform, because you’re exposed to more competition. If you’re very good, life on a platform is a lot better.
platformization  journalism 
20 days ago
What Enid Blyton’s school stories taught me about ethics | Aeon Essays
"Blyton’s vision of Britishness in these books is instinctively post-imperial. The ‘good-hearted and kind, sensible and trustable’ women Miss Grayling wants to turn out are never going to be memsahibs; the white woman’s burden is best left to the frightfully pi. Blyton’s fiction more generally, with its wishing chairs and enchanted woods, its fairies and brownies, its hidden coves and treasure islands, belongs to a heterodox, proudly minor, idea of Britain. Britain to my childish mind wasn’t the imperial metropole but a place of weird, prehistoric magic."
generalinterest  books  literature 
20 days ago
Ezra Klein Profile: Wonkblog's Wise Boy Cannot Be Stopped | New Republic
I noted that the process of being profiled seemed to make him nervous. “Of course, it makes me nervous!” Klein exclaimed. “You know what we do, right?” (By “we,” he meant journalists.) “We take people and we take their stories away from them and refashion them into the format that will make the best article.” The New Republic, he noted, was especially guilty of making their profile subjects look bad, which he was worried would happen to him. “You seem great, but there’s no reason not to be careful,” he said, his frustration herniating through the professorial polish, his voice going tense. “I think journalists are completely irresponsible about how they use people and how they use quotes. All the time.”

“You’re a journalist, right?” I asked him.

“I am,” he agreed. “And I try to be responsible about it.” But by taking the things people told us and spinning them out of context, Klein said, we journalists undermined our own arguments for why people should go on the record with us.

“Do your colleagues here do this?” I asked him, gesturing to the newsroom around him.

“I think everybody that does campaign reporting does this,” he said curtly. “All the time.”

I pointed out that, in spite of his loathing of being subjected to the journalistic gaze, he had agreed to be profiled not only by me, but also by New York magazine—simultaneously. The “people above me” he said, “seem to think it’s a good idea.” It would bring in readership, and Klein felt it would be “hypocritical” not to cooperate with the press when he, the press, was constantly asking people to cooperate with him. It was almost too meta to bear. “You’re sitting there taking notes and recording while I’m sitting here taking notes and recording,” he said. “It’s a peculiar situation!”

Klein’s “underbloggers” quietly clacked away on their keyboards, pretending that this exchange wasn’t happening. The eye of one economics reporter nearby periodically peeked out from behind his cubicle wall. It was obvious that his colleagues were listening.

Klein later told me that he found our exchange “slightly threatening.”

“Don’t take it personally,” one of Klein’s friends explained. “He didn’t get this far being casual about his image management.”
generalinterest  politics  journalism 
20 days ago
After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight - The New York Times
Regaining weight after substantial weight loss is something that seems to happen on its own - partly because of how the body adjusts to the weight loss, by slowing down its metabolism.
health  generalinterest 
20 days ago
The Moral Imperative of Artificial Intelligence | May 2016 | Communications of the ACM
Almost a parody, this article. Says that self-driving cars will save lives, cause disruption to employment (and gives the example of manufacturing which was taken away from the US by globalization not automation), and then says we have to engage with social scientists to think about the consequences of our technologies
toblog  artificial_intelligence  automation 
22 days ago
How Uber conquered London | Sam Knight | Technology | The Guardian
Great article on how Uber slowly established itself.

I think this paragraph really captures what people like about Uber and as we think about it as social scientists, we need to pay attention to this:

"For those signing up to work, Uber was like nothing they had experienced before. It wasn’t just the money. Even in its embryonic phase, chauffeurs have told me, driving for Uber meant simply not encountering many of the standard irritants and daily corruptions that constitute life in London’s private hire industry – the shadow-world of its heavily regulated black taxi trade. There was no tyrannical dispatcher, giving the plum jobs to relatives and arse‑kissers, just an algorithm matching the nearest car to the nearest rider. There was no cash: no pulling up late at night next to bank machines, no fussing around for change. And there was the rating system: Uber riders and drivers rate their respective trips out of 5. Drivers got feedback, and they also had a voice."


"When I spoke to Lamy about what was different about Uber, the conversation wasn’t about diesel consumption or the quickest way to get to Waterloo, it was about liquidity. Liquidity used to be something you associated with the stock market, he explained. But now sharing networks such as Uber and Airbnb are making assets and labour available to consumers in ways that were simply not possible before. “The way I see it, Uber brought a liquid market transaction system to transportation,” he said. “And once you had come up with this mechanism that could create liquidity in the market, it became inevitable.”"
uber  platformization  regulation 
25 days ago
Stealing Google's Coding Practices for Academia
An academic goes to work at Google and comes back with improvements on how to make academic code better and more reusable, change it from being just gradware
platformization  research 
25 days ago
edX Celebrates 4 Years! | edX Blog
Check out edX's poster with statistics - the old age-group is now called "lifelong learners".
moocs  public_discourse 
27 days ago
No pressure: NSF test finds eliminating deadlines halves number of grant proposals | Science | AAAS
Interesting. Is this a behavioral economics thing applied to science deadlines?
28 days ago
An Anticapitalism That Can Win | Jacobin
REsponse to Erik Olin Wright's how to be an anticapitalist
research  capitalism  political_economy 
28 days ago
Can I download MIT and Harward courses and use into my web site? - Google Groups
Interesting info about how edX courses are licensed.

Ned says that to license course, contact university.

Armando replies that in some cases, edX does handle the sub-licensing. E.g. in Berkeley's arrangement with edX, it is edX who gets to manage that. Interesting stuff - concludes with Ben Week's link to some OCW scripts that convert OCW course shells into edX courses.
edx  openedx  forums 
4 weeks ago
Why the Big Banks Can’t Imagine Their Own Demises - The New Yorker
"To adapt a maxim, it appears that the banks have failed to prepare because they are not prepared to fail. The Fed asks for a set of liquidity forecasts, and a bank offers a blithe assumption that it has enough money on hand to prepare for the worst. The F.D.I.C. asks another bank what will happen to assets that are effectively trapped in its foreign subsidiaries, and the bank assumes that everyone will coöperate and money will flow freely across borders. Again and again, the banks’ position is “Let’s not meet trouble halfway.”

Often, when we attribute the failures of the financial industry to institutional psychology or culture, we’re referring to its penchant for greed and undue risk-taking. But the inadequate living wills suggest that these two problems may be less significant than another, larger one. Greedy gamblers can rig interest rates, steal money, or accumulate dangerously large portfolios, but it takes something more than that to blow up an entire bank, let alone a financial system. To do the latter requires endemic, widespread denial, bolstered, perhaps, by something akin to an ego-defense strategy."
finance  generalinterest 
4 weeks ago
This is the real way big business peddles influence in Washington - Vox
"This represents several distinct channels of influence-peddling:

Google's views on policy issues are simply well-known and well-understood by relevant people in Washington thanks to the fact that they are able to spend a lot of money on making them well-known and well-understood.
Google's civically minded work helps make it well-regarded among the general public, so that policy initiatives that have an upside for Google (like unlocking television set-top boxes) play as smart politics in a way that's not the case for widely hated cable companies.
Google is well-regarded in Washington policy circles both inside and outside the government, so influential people are predisposed to hear them out fairly on contentious issues.
Google is genuinely useful to people in the government who are genuinely trying to do good things, which cultivates the mentality that a strong and globally competitive Google is good for the United States of America. It may even be true!"
google  research  platformization  politics 
4 weeks ago
Suicide Rates Are Up, But the Most Obvious Explanations Are Probably All Wrong
I talked to Graham the other day and he told me how Durkheim made suicide an object - through statistical analysis - through which he could analyze the thing called society, and thereby brought both society and social science into being. And now here are constant debates going on over society and suicide. I wonder if this is worth a blog-post.
toblog  research 
4 weeks ago
Populists or just presidential candidates? or hypersubjects in the making, ?
from twitter_favs
4 weeks ago
Intel made a huge mistake 10 years ago. Now 12,000 workers are paying the price. - Vox
Intel made a decision not to make chips for mobiles; that's coming back to haunt it now. Lee uses this as an example of Christiansen's disruption theory. And it is. the problem was never the disruption theory itself - it was the idea that disruption could be managed and a sound mind (i.e. Christiansen's) could manage it for companies that was always the problem.
toblog  research  intel 
4 weeks ago
MIT online learning report notes importance of teachers, instructional designers
The report also lays out the case for a new type of staff member. In order for colleges to build those personalized blended learning experiences for students, the report argues, they need “learning engineers” -- people with terminal degrees in traditional academic disciplines who also have experience with design and interdisciplinary collaboration and an appetite for bleeding-edge technology.
“As they continuously work to translate the research literature into effective practice in local contexts, these learning engineers will by necessity integrate findings from different fields in their designs,” the report reads. “We suggest that the development and deployment of a cadre of such learning engineers may be prerequisite to the wide introduction of the learning reforms suggested here.”
The call for colleges to train more learning engineers has sparked a discussion about the role of instructional designers. Some instructional designers have argued that the term is an unnecessary rebranding of what they already do.
Penny Ralston-Berg, a senior instructional designer at Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus, said in an email that it is important to distinguish between designers and technologists.
“We need to keep in mind that instructional design is a legitimate field of study -- a profession in which people use their expertise to improve the student learning experience,” Ralston-Berg, chair of the Quality Matters Instructional Designers Association, wrote. “Not all designers are technology experts. And instructional designers do not require prior subject matter expertise to succeed in course design. Instructional designers need to be more than generalists in learning theory and strategy.”
Ralston-Berg added that colleges would benefit from letting instructional designers experiment more and involve themselves in research and scholarship.
Willcox acknowledged that the concept of a learning engineer is something of a combination of a faculty member and an instructional designer. She said the researchers chose not to make specific recommendations in the report about how colleges can train learning engineers, leaving it up to institutions to decide for themselves how to define that role.
“What we do recognize is the critical importance of this breed of professional, this person who has deep disciplinary experience -- perhaps a Ph.D. in engineering or science -- combined with a deep understanding of technology,” Willcox said. “The specific blurring of the lines between faculty and learning engineers -- that’s probably something that institutions need to figure out for themselves.”
moocs  learning_research  platformization 
4 weeks ago
The Uber Model, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Translate - The New York Times
Why doesn't the Uber model translate? Manjoo says it's because other sectors were never as inefficient as the taxi industry; so now these apps are stuck playing to the luxury market rather than the mass market, which is fine, but not innovative.
business  uber  sharing_economy  platformization 
4 weeks ago
Why "Uber for X" companies are struggling even as Uber thrives - Vox
Not sure if I agree completely. Yglesias says that Uber was a regulatory hack rather than a technical one which is why other Uber-clones that apply its model to other industries aren't working. I guess airbnb is a regulatory hack too but what about things like finding plumbers or other services?

"What made Uber so noteworthy wasn't the technology per se — it was the way the technology worked as a regulatory hack to unleash economic value that was previously tied up with taxi licenses. There never was a lucrative market in buying and selling licenses to deliver food, so there's no fortune to be made in finding a way to undermine the licensing scheme. There's just modest, incremental improvement to some longstanding and not especially lucrative delivery businesses."
uber  sharing_economy  platformization  toblog 
4 weeks ago
The secret rules of the internet | The Verge
"Members of the public, "as much as ‘the public’ exists," he said, hold one of three assumptions about moderation: moderation is conducted entirely by robots; moderation is mainly in the hands of law enforcement; or, for those who are actually aware of content managers, they imagine content is assessed in a classroom-type setting by engaged professionals thoughtfully discussing every post. All three assumptions, he said, were wrong. And they’re wrong, in great part, because they all miss the vital role that users themselves play in these systems.

By and large, users think of themselves as customers, or consumers. But platforms rely on users in three profound ways that alter that linear relationship: One, users produce content — our stories, photos, videos, comments, and interactions are core assets for the platforms we use; two, user behaviors — amassed, analyzed, packed, and repackaged — are the source of advertising revenue; and three, users play a critical role in moderation, since almost every content moderation system depends on users flagging content and filing complaints, shaping the norms that support a platform’s brand. In other words, users are not so much customers as uncompensated digital laborers who play dynamic and indispensable functions (despite being largely uninformed about the ways in which their labor is being used and capitalized)."
public_sphere  platformization  research 
4 weeks ago
The dark side of Guardian comments | Technology | The Guardian
The Guardian reports on comments it blocked and an analysis of which articles attract most banned comments
research  journalism  public_sphere 
4 weeks ago
Facebook is worried about users sharing less – but it only has itself to blame | Technology | The Guardian
"A situation where people aren’t sharing is anathema to Facebook’s business model, which uses our personal information to fuel its targeted advertising and marketing engines.

Facebook’s response to this problem has been to build new tools for sharing, such as the newly announced live video, instead of better tools for managing privacy – demonstrating Facebook’s prioritization of companies and brands at the expense of the needs and safety of individual users.

This privilege given to corporations over people is evident in the ways Mark Zuckerberg talks about individual users. In 2014, Zuckerberg noted that Facebook was “mostly focused on driving success for partners, whether they’re news organizations that are publishing content that people share or public figures and individuals who are engaging directly on Facebook”.

Consequently, in the last two years the processes of sharing links and importing content into Facebook has become more seamless and aesthetically pleasing; the new “save links” and “share quotes” features announced at F8 expand that further. And it’s only going to get easier for companies to interact with users, with Facebook introducing chatbots that will allow companies to chat with users directly through the site’s Messenger app.

Facebook’s response has been to build new tools for sharing instead of tools for managing privacy
In ongoing research with my colleagues Michael Zimmer and Nicholas Proferes, we’ve shown how Facebook’s commercial interests have also shifted Zuckerberg’s conception of users themselves. As Facebook worked to better accommodate businesses and celebrities on the site, its founder began to describe users as “building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to … If you carry that thinking over from people to things like stores and brands you realize that everyone’s trying to do the same thing …”

Rather than account for the needs and interests of businesses as distinct in some ways from individuals, all user activities are instead filtered through context-flattening, corporate buzz-speak.

But now that we’ve stopped so actively cultivating our personal “brands”, Facebook is worried about the ways in which conflicting audiences in our friends lists might limit or constrain our self-expression. "
facebook  platformization 
4 weeks ago
Is Facebook Trying to Turn You Into a Globalist? -- NYMag
Article expressing fear about how Facebook's decisions might undermine political discourse -- I feel that this is unwarranted - Facebook is an organization and the people who make decisions about its algorithms are probably far from those who comment on national politics. But still - it's a valid fear.

"Here, Zuckerberg conflates political attitudes that directly undermine the foundations of liberal democracy — the stigmatization of out-groups, the embrace of government censorship — with a set of highly contentious policy positions. In elite circles, the desirability of free trade and immigration may seem like dead moral questions, but in the rest of the country they are not. What’s more, Zuckerberg doesn’t just decry the stigmatization of immigrants, or maximally restrictive immigration policies; rather, the CEO characterizes support for “slowing immigration” — advocacy for any rate of immigration more restrictive than the status quo — as an embrace of fear over hope. Zuckerberg has every right to express this view. And personally, I think a world where people could move freely across borders is an ideal worth aspiring toward. But I’m not sure I’d want Facebook feeling a responsibility to prevent the United States from adopting a more restrictive immigration policy."
toblog  facebook 
5 weeks ago
MOOC: Every letter is negotiable | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
A picture with every letter of MOOC contested.. on flickr
5 weeks ago
What happened when I eliminated political dissent from my Facebook feed
pERSONAL essay on bubble chambers and filter bubbles; the author blames ourselves rather than algorithms
algorithms  polarization  politics  platformization 
5 weeks ago
Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired - The New York Times
Dan Lyons is the author of “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.”
6 weeks ago
Adventures in the Trump Twittersphere - The New York Times
Nice piece by Zeynep Tufekci on the alternate media universe of Donald Trump supporters.

"I tried a few conversations that sought to challenge the attendees’ beliefs, but they went nowhere for a simple reason: His supporters and I did not share the same factual universe. At one point, I heard Mr. Trump declare that Congress had funded the Islamic State. I looked around, bewildered, as there was no reaction from the crowd. My social media forays confirm that even that was not an uncommon belief.

Mr. Trump doesn’t only speak outrageous falsehoods; he also voices truths outside the Overton window that have been largely ignored, especially by Republican elites. For example, academic research shows that rather than deep cuts, Tea Party voters actually favor government programs, as long as they perceive a benefit for themselves. It’s fairly obvious that the current model of global trade provides a lot more benefits to corporations than to workers, and yet it took Mr. Trump’s rise to have this basic issue widely covered. In Fayetteville, Mr. Trump complained that much of the military’s expensive weaponry had been purchased simply because the large corporations selling it had political clout. As he said this, the people around me, many of them from military families, leapt to their feet in approval.

The demagogy that Mr. Trump deploys didn’t come out of nowhere, but was encouraged by the Republican leadership. In 2012, Mitt Romney effusively accepted Mr. Trump’s endorsement even though the tycoon had repeatedly questioned President Obama’s citizenship. In this election, the Republican Party may have hoped to engineer a controlled fire that would burn only political opponents — the current president, say, or Democrats as a whole, but not their preferred candidates. That’s a technique that may have worked in the era of mass media. Instead, it now rages, uncontrolled, on social media.

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Many of the Trump supporters whom I’ve been following say that they no longer trust any big institutions, whether political parties or media outlets. Instead, they share personal stories that support their common narrative, which mixes falsehoods and facts — often ignored by these powerful institutions they now loathe — with the politics of racial resentment."
politics  generalinterest  platformization  socialmedia 
6 weeks ago
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