An anonymous reader writes "Ekisto is an interactive network visualization of three online communities: StackOverflow, Github and Friendfeed. Ekisto tries to map our online habitats using graph algorithms and the city as a metaphor. A graph layout algorithm arranges users in 2D space based on their similarity. Cosine similarity is computed based on the users' network (Friendfeed), collaborate, watch, fork and follow relationships (Github), or based on the tags of posts contributed by users (StackOverflow). The height of each user represents the normalized value of the user's Pagerank (Github, Friendfeed) or their reputation points (StackOverflow)."
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theodp writes "Among the patents granted to Facebook this week by the USPTO is one for Inferring Household Income for Users of a Social Networking System. 'For example,' Facebook explains, 'an assumption might be made about a user that reads CNN.com and nytimes.com every day that the user is in a higher income bracket than another user that only reads TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com on the theory that a user who reads newspapers might be assumed to make more money than a user who only reads celebrity gossip blogs.' Advertisements such as those for travel packages, cars, and home mortgages, Facebook adds, 'are targeted to users based on income bracket,' which might also be inferred by 'gathering and analyzing different types of information about a user's geographic location.' Hey, what could go wrong?"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Suzanne Koven, a primary-care doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, writes in the New Yorker that the FDA has currently approved four drugs that will help patients lose weight but few primary-care physicians will prescribe them. Qsymia and Belviq work by suppressing appetite and by increasing metabolism, and by other mechanisms that are not yet fully understood. 'But I've never prescribed diet drugs, and few doctors in my primary-care practice have, either,' writes Koven and the problem is that, while specialists who study obesity view it as a chronic but treatable disease, primary-care physicians are not fully convinced that they should be treating obesity at all. The inauspicious history of diet drugs no doubt contributes to doctors' reluctance to prescribe them. In the nineteen-forties, when doctors began prescribing amphetamines for weight loss, rates of addiction soared. But in addition, George Bray thinks that socioeconomic factors play into physicians' lack of enthusiasm for treating obesity because obesity is, disproportionately, a disease of poverty. Because of this association, many erroneously see obesity as more of a social condition than a medical one, a condition that simply requires people to try harder. Louis Aronne likens the current attitude toward obesity to the prevailing attitude toward mental illness years ago and remembers, during his medical training, seeing psychotic patients warehoused and sedated, treated as less than human. 'What the hell was I thinking when I didn't do anything to help them? How wrong could I have been?' Specialists are now developing programs to aid primary-care physicians in treating obesity more aggressively and effectively but first primary-care physicians will have to want to treat it. 'Whether you call it a disease or not is not so germane,' says Lee M. Kaplan. 'The root problem is that whatever you call it, nobody's taking it seriously enough.'"
Garabito writes "In April 2009, Australia's then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, dropped a bombshell on the press and the global technology community: His social democrat Labor administration was going to deliver broadband Internet to every single resident of Australia. It was an audacious goal, not least of all because Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. ... So now, after three years of planning and construction, during which workers connected some 210 000 premises (out of an anticipated 13.2 million), Australia's visionary and trailblazing initiative is at a crossroads. The new government plans to deploy fiber only to the premises of new housing developments. For the remaining homes and businesses — about 71 percent — it will bring fiber only as far as curbside cabinets, called nodes. Existing copper-wire pairs will cover the so-called last mile to individual buildings."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes with news that a few CS folks are working on a way to present opposing viewpoints without angering the reader. From the article: "Computer scientists have discovered a way to number-crunch an individual's own preferences to recommend content from others with opposing views. The goal? To burst the 'filter bubble' that surrounds us with people we like and content that we agree with. A recent example of the filter bubble at work: Two people who googled the term 'BP.' One received links to investment news about BP while the other received links to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, presumably as a result of some recommendation algorithm." From the paper's abstract: "We found that recommending topically relevant content from authors with opposite views in a baseline interface had a negative emotional effect. We saw that our organic visualization design reverts that effect. We also observed significant individual differences linked to evaluation of recommendations. Our results suggest that organic visualization may revert the negative effects of providing potentially sensitive content."
hessian writes "Despite being extensively pirated worldwide, Iron Maiden have managed to put themselves in the £10-20m for 2012. This means that despite the growing popularity of the band on social media, and the extensive and pervasive torrent downloading of the band's music, books and movies, the band is turning a profit. This is in defiance of the past business model, and the idea that piracy is killing music. In fact, piracy seems to be saving music in Iron Maiden's case. One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it."
mikejuk writes "Researchers have developed an online dating system that not only matches you with partners you'll find attractive, but who are also likely to find you attractive too. The researchers at the University of Iowa have addressed an underlying problem of online dating sites. There's no doubt that such sites are ever increasing in popularity, and have good algorithms taking into account the reported likes, interests and hobbies of the person looking for a partner to come up with a potential match. What's less well catered for is the trickier aspect of the reciprocal interest – you may think person x looks nice, but will they find you equally attractive? The problem here is that if you are Average Joe and try asking out Supermodels Ann, Barbara and Cheryl, you're unlikely to get a reply. Well, not a printable one, anyway. So coming up with yet another supermodel for you to sob over isn't a lot of help.Instead, the researchers add a note of reality by analyzing the replies you get, and use this to work out how attractive you are. This is a scary thought for many of us, and one we may well not want an honest answer to. The results are used to recommend people who might actually reply if you get in contact with them. Fortunately for the attractively challenged, the research is still just that – research. However, given the fact the online dating market is worth around $3 billion a year, chances are someone is going to make use of this. We have been warned."
angry tapir writes "With the look of Google Plus and Facebook-like elements, a new social network named "Syme" feels as cozy as a well-worn shoe. But beneath the familiar veneer, it's quite different. Syme encrypts all content, such as status updates, photos and files, so that only people invited to a group can view it. Syme, which hosts the content on its Canada-based servers, says it can't read it. "The overarching goal of Syme is to make encryption accessible and easy to use for people who aren't geeks or aren't hackers or who aren't cryptography experts," co-founder Jonathan Hershon said in an interview about the service." See also Diaspora.
taikedz writes "A new patent has been filed by Google that tries to analyze your past communications to then construct responses to the overwhelming amount of posts you receive. From the article: 'Essentially, the program analyzes the messages a user makes through social networks, email, text messaging, microblogging, and other systems. Then, the program offers suggestions for responses, where the original messages are displayed, with information about others reactions to the same messages, and then the user can send the suggested messages in response to those users. The more the user utilizes the program and uses the responses, the more the bot can narrow down the types of responses you make.'"
judgecorp writes "BlackBerry has launched BBM Channels, a rather Twitter-like social network that runs on its BBM messaging system. Meanwhile the company had good news in the developing world: it is the second most popular phone in South Africa. From the article: 'The update is available for BBM users on BlackBerry 10 and some older BlackBerry smartphones, but it is promised that support will be added for iPhone and Android soon, with users of those platforms able to access the web version if they have a confirmed BlackBerry ID email address.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "For many education advocates, the arts supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools but research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent. Now the NY Times reports that with the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a large-scale, random-assignment study (abstract) of school tours to the museum has determined that a strong causal relationship does in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes. Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions. Moreover, most of the benefits are significantly larger for minority students, low-income students and students from rural schools — typically two to three times larger than for white, middle-class, suburban students — owing perhaps to the fact that the tour was the first time they had visited an art museum. Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented? 'Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition,' write the authors. 'Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school's curriculum.'"
ericgoldman writes "People often feel passionately about fonts, but government decisions shouldn't depend on what font people choose for their written submissions. In Massachusetts, a sex offender overturned the decision of a hearing officer after it was determined that (among other possible biases) the hearing officer posted to Facebook that he 'can't trust someone who drafts a letter in arial font!' and 'I might be biased. I think arial is inappropriate for most things.' This is just the latest example of how social media rants by government workers are causing problems for the workers — and the people they deal with."
Third Position writes "Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another. But there's a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution. Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy."
vinces99 writes "Digital activism is usually nonviolent and tends to work best when social media tools are combined with street-level organization, according to new research from the University of Washington. The findings come from a report by the Digital Activism Research Project run by Philip Howard, a UW professor of communication, information and international studies. 'This is the largest investigation of digital activism ever undertaken,' Howard said. 'We looked at just under 2,000 cases over a 20-year period, with a very focused look at the last two years.' He and his coauthors oversaw 40 student analysts who reviewed news stories by citizen and professional journalists describing digital activism campaigns worldwide. A year of research and refining brought the total down to 400 to 500 well-verified cases representing about 150 countries. The research took a particularly focused look at the last two years. Howard said one of their main findings is that digital activism tends to be nonviolent, despite what many may think. 'In the news we hear of online activism that involves anonymous or cyberterrorist hackers who cause trouble and break into systems. But that was 2 or 3 percent of all the cases — far and away, most of the cases are average folks with a modest policy agenda' that doesn't involve hacking or covert crime."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Vint Cerf, widely considered one of the 'founders of the Internet,' told an audience at the Federal Trade Commission's Internet of Things workshop that privacy could be considered 'an anomaly.' That workshop, held Nov. 19 in Washington, DC, explored (via speeches and panel discussions) how the proliferation of sensors on everything from cars to household devices is fundamentally changing how people live and work—while raising questions of how to best maintain privacy and security in an environment where more and more things are 'watchers.' 'The technology that we use today has far outraced our social intuition, our headlights,' he added. '[There's a] need to develop social conventions that are more respectful of people's privacy.' Current social behaviors, such as instantly posting images from smartphones to social networks, can result in a whole lot of embarrassment—and maybe even penalties, if data and media happens to catch someone in the act of doing something illegal. Cerf currently works at Google as chief Internet evangelist, which would make him uniquely positioned to comment on these sorts of issues even if he hadn't co-created the TCP/IP backbone that supports the modern Web. (Back in April, he told an audience that, if he had to do it all over again, he'd construct the Internet in the mold of Software-Defined Networking — but that's a whole different, tangled discussion.)"
theodp writes "Google takes Scroogling to new heights with its just-patented Automated Generation of Suggestions for Personalized Reactions in a Social Network, which not only data mines "e-mail systems, SMS/MMS systems, micro blogging systems, social networks or other systems" to get the buzz on your social circle, but also uses the data it collects to make like ELIZA and formulate appropriate responses for you to send as if they were your own (e.g., 'Happy Birthday, Mom!). Wouldn't Turing be so proud! From the patent: 'In a third example, a friend, David, sends Alice public or private message of a particular but regularly encountered message type (e.g., "how are you doing?" a common way to greet someone in the United States). The suggestion generation module suggest a good set of reactions to David, for example, based on the professional profile of David from the social network indicating that David has changed employers. The suggestion generation module generates a reply message such as "Hey David, I am fine, You were in ABC corp. for 3 years and you recently moved to XYZ corp., how do you feel about the difference, enjoying your new workplace?" The content of this suggestion are based on 1) prior conversations between Alice and David, 2) previous messages sent by Alice to other friends and 3) messages (sent by other connections in Alice's friend circle to David) which are either publicly or privately accessible to Alice, or some combination of these. Thus, the suggestion generation module generates messages that are personalized based upon both the sender and recipient using information that is accessible (public or private) to the sender.' Looks like Facebook may not be the only one strip-mining human society!"
jfruh writes "The new Chinese leadership released a document outlining its vision for the country Friday, and most of the attention was paid to reforms, like plans to loosen state control of the economy and end the one-child policy. But when it comes to the Internet, the Chinese Communist government is doubling down on its restrictive policies. The document notes that social networking and instant messaging tools can rapidly disseminate information and mobilize society; the government doesn't think those are good things, and plans to bolster its regulatory systems and increase the scope of their legal authority."
RichDiesal writes "Just as businesses try to make something off of massively online open courses (MOOCs), so do the faculty running them. But instead of seeking money, MOOC faculty seek something far more valuable: a cheap source of data for social science research. Unfortunately, the rights of research participants are sometimes ignored in MOOCs, and successful completion of courses are sometimes held hostage in exchange for mandatory participation in research, as in this case study of a Coursera MOOC. Such behavior is not tolerated in "real" college courses, so why is it tolerated in MOOCs taught by the same faculty?"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kim Gittleson reports at BBC that car insurance firms like Progressive are trying to convince consumers that letting them monitor their driving behavior is actually a good thing. They say that the future of car insurance is not just being able to monitor individual drivers to give them lower prices, but also to make them better drivers. 'Now that we can observe directly how people drive, we think this will change the way insurance works,' says Dave Pratt, who says that Progressive has more than a trillion seconds of driving data from 1.6 million customers. '18-year-old guys pay a lot for insurance, but some 18-year-olds are really safe drivers and they deserve a better deal.' Better big data technologies, like the telematic driving data collected by car companies (PDF) or even information gathered from social media profiles, can help augment that risk profile. 'If I'm a driver that doesn't drive that frequently, and I have a pattern that would indicate that I drive more carefully than an average person with my profile, then I may be able to save 30-40% on my car insurance, and that's pretty significant,' says Joe Reifel. For now, using big data analytics for insurers is still in the early stages. Only 2% of the U.S. car insurance market offers an insurance product based on monitoring driving, but that proportion is projected to grow to around 10-15% of the market by 2017. And other countries, like Italy and the U.K., are already using the data to analyze not just risk profiles but also to determine who is at fault in car accidents. The future, most analysts agree is create a continuous feedback loop between insurers and consumers, so that consumers will react to the big data analyses that insurers perform and change their behavior accordingly. 'Bad drivers will at some point need to improve their driving or accept [having] to pay for the real risk they represent,' says Jacques Amselem."