10 papers you need to read | Science for SEO

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Here’s a list of resources about how information retrieval works. Considering our conversation last night about invocational media and devices and the use of Google searches to illustrate the concept, I thought this might be interesting to classmates, if a bit avocational. hehe.

This is a list of my top 10 freely available papers on the topic of information retrieval.  You will notice that they are rather old, but the techniques used described and the findings are not always dated.  Those that dated are important nonetheless because they provide a good foundation to understanding why things are as they are in information retrieval these days.

Source: 10 papers you need to read | Science for SEO from http://www.scienceforseo.com/information-retrieval/10-papers-you-need-to-read/ retrieved on Wed Apr 08 2009 09:45:36 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

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(re)Revised Thesis: Twitter is Making Us Brilliant.

Twitter's Update Page
Image via Wikipedia

I am revising my thesis again, as per Professor Janes’ suggestion, to “Twitter is Making us Brilliant”

I intend to look at the ways in which our ability to microblog, search the shallow, fleeting web, and ask questions to the world and hear a deafening response will alter the ways in which we currently gather information. One of the ways in which Google is limited is that despite any effort to make Google into artificial intelligence, it is not a co-conversant. It is instead, an encyclopedia of a stored set of knowledge that is only updated with new knowledge as it finds it. It responds with the best estimate of what it thinks you want to hear, but using human language to look for something, rather than crafting a set of keywords, can be a frustrating experience.

Google is a text book.

If you ask 1,000 friends, on the other hand, through something like Twitter, you are far more likely to get the answer that you seek. the more people you add to your network, the greater possibility is that you’ll get a reasonable, accurate response. As the popularity of the service grows, so does its potential.

Twitter is a periodical, a magazine, a fleeting oft-published tract.

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Questions for Readings for Tuesday March 10th, 2009


Article #1
Please read the article How the Web Polarized Politics and blog your answers to the following questions to our class on Tuesday March 10.

1. What does the author mean by political polarization?

The author is referring to the (possibly related to technology) move away from bipartisan or collective politics (e.g central, rather than to the right or left) to hard edged black and white, us vs. them politics. The phrase specifically refers to people moving further towards liberalism or conservatism in polar, diametrically opposed ways.

LONDON - FEBRUARY 12:  Queen Elizabeth II shak...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

2. What are your thought about the statement, “Governments feel they are royalty to some degree”?

I feel that this is but one example of a highly biased and unfounded view shown throughout the article. How can someone make such an unfouded, unsupported statement with such broad strokes? What part of the government are we talking about? Congress? Justices? The President? Post Office workers? Does it suggest that they are partial to robes? The Justices might be. I did not find this article to be especially grounded in scholarly backing or research, or especially supported in terms of facts. The author was likely thinking of specific examples when writing this, but I did not see those examples (the means) being represented, only the seemingly biased conclusion (the ends).

The author also says “I don’t see too many blogs on Government web sites.” Maybe the author needs to look at more sites. Ewing, NJ’s own municipal site, for instance, is running a blog (WordPress) and benefits from many of its blogging features. http://www.ewingnj.org

3. Do you agree/disagree with the statement, “We’ve literally experienced an information tsunami-but more information does not mean better decisions”? Why?

I strongly and heartily disagree. Here is another of those seemingly biased examples, in which information overload and ultra simplification or polarization is the most likely possibility explored, whereas with proper filtering, datashaping, search engines, stream combination and filters, e.g. the right tools, the tsunami turns into a Las Vegas style fountain light show, with choreographed streams of information going just where they should, just when they should, and the inscalable wall of data gets beautful doors and windows.

4. The author states that “the very technology that is meant to solve problems merely makes people more emotional-not more reasonable”. Give an example of a real life digital convergence that can be viewed to make people more emotional.

An example of a real life digital convergence that can be viewed to make people more emotional is the ability to be inspired, become passionate, have a shareable idea, script it, record it, broadcast it, podcast it, put it on you tube, where people (friends, strangers, kings) get it downloaded to their phone, and your ideas get to the people who were most meant to hear them. I can give more examples of ways technology does solve problems, the ways it allows some people to share emotion, the ways it can help those same people to share reason. This article really just felt like an outright attack on the possibilities of technology to change things for the better, which is one of the places in which I see the most potential for it.

Article #2
Please read the article Digital Future of the United States: Part 1–the Future of
the World Wide Web and blog your answers to the following questions to our class on Tuesday March 10.

1. The Web has been a platform for the creation of a wide and unanticipated variety of services. Name one of the commercial services and how you apply the service to your daily/weekly routine.

Just one? That’s tough. I use Google services all day long. The first thing I do when I wake in the morning is to check my gmail account, my google calendar events, and might do a search on Google’s search engine in order to research a problem in one of the emails. I do this on my G1, a phone running Google’s Android operating system. Then later in the day, I might use Google News or Google Reader to find out what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in the technology sector, look at new devices and services, and discover the latest blog posts from my friends and favorite bloggers. I might use Google Maps or Google Earth to discover how to get to an appointment to present somewhere I’ve never been before. I will likely use Google Docs in order to actually give the presentation rather than having to rely on a USB key or email to carry the presentation with me. Then, I might record my presentation at the event in video und upload it to Google’s YouTube service. I would say that amongst all of the services I use daily, Google’s are the most prominent in my use.

2. What does the author mean by “Semantic Web”? How does this effect the future of convergence?

The Semantic Web is defined very nicely at http://www.w3.org/RDF/FAQ but in a nutshell, the Semantic web is the next evolution of the way the web will work. The Sematic Web is a vision in which all of our data, our calendars, our photos, our documents, our media, our posts, our videos, our address books, our accounts, and everything else (our data) will be aware of each other and interactive. As a result, when we add something to one of our services, such as youtube, it might affect all of our other services. If the data is available from youtube about the geolocation where the video was taken, it might let Google Maps know that a video was taken at that spot, it might mark Google Calendar with the creation and upload dates of the video, and it might create a snapshot from the first frame of the video and upload it to flickr. All of my friends on each of these services might be alerted to all of the new information automatically. This will all be possible becuase of the way that the data is encapsulated, tagged, and accessible. We aren’t there yet, but it’s not science fiction… it’s happening.

3. The future of the web has created substantial privacy challenges which are barely addressed by our current privacy laws. What are your thoughts on new data integration? Is the thought of this legal?

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I don’t understand the question fully. My thought is that data is currently integrated in many ways, and we are continuing to trend towards more and more integration. I see it as a good thing to be able to have my data shared, open, and interactive. I make choices about what I make public and what I make private, and I doubt that I will lose that ability, because services that insisted that you give up your privacy will likely be opted out of by users. An example is Google’s service that allows you to share your geolocation using your phone’s GPS. You can choose to turn it on or off. You can choose to share it with everyone, no one, or 3 people. You can turn it off at any time. Many are saying that it is the beginning of the end of privacy, but since you can choose what’s private, I don’t see it that way. The thought of data integration is legal, if I understand the question correctly. Sir Berners-Lee is no criminal.

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Ping – Technology Doesn’t Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds. – NYTimes.com

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Here’s a take, very similar to mine, on the ways in which “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” gets it wrong. The rebuttal is deeper in the article, but I loved the tongue-in-cheek, but almost poetic way in which the author here demonstrates the power of Twitter in summarizing the Atlantic article:

To save you some time, I was going to give you a 100-word abridged version. But there are just too many distractions to read that much. So here is the 140-character Twitter version (Twitter is a hyperspeed form of blogging in which you write about your life in bursts of 140 characters or fewer, including spaces and punctuation marks):

Google makes deep reading impossible. Media changes. Our brains’ wiring changes too. Computers think for us, flattening our intelligence.

via Ping – Technology Doesn’t Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds. – NYTimes.com.

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Week 5: revised thesis: “How Twitter is Making Us Brilliant.”


Here’s my response to Week 5 Questions

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My refined thesis is: “How Twitter is Making Us Brilliant: I will look at how social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook give you the opportunity to create a personalized and hand-built peer-knowledge search engine, one that allows you to piece together the perfect collection of minds to solve your particular problems, build a support network, and tap into that knowledge 160 characters at a time. ”

By using tools like Twitter, we tap into the following digital media convergence ideas:

  • Collective Intelligence (you can read and add to the collective intelligence in the system)
  • Participative Culture (you can mashup and riff on ideas, images, news stories, music, and other media, and use the social networks to advertise, offer, and trade the mashups and mods)
  • Twitter has a social layer (people interact using the system), a technology layer (web based and application interfaces are used to interact with the system), an industrial layer (this is an extension to phones, text messaging, HAM radio, Citizen’s band, and other media), and a communication layer (Twitter is primarily used to broadcast or monocast ideas), each playing their part in the convergence model.

Here are a few more articles I have selected as potential sources for the final paper, along with some summary of why I include them, and their relation to my thesis.

This first one, from ReadWriteWeb discusses some of the origins of the system, and specifically talks about the openness of the system and how that plays into Twitter’s popularity. For the technology layer, I went some authentic information on how it works on the server itself, and this article gives some of that background.

This week on Read/WriteTalk I had the opportunity to talk to Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter. One of the more interesting topics in the podcast was the open platform that Twitter has developed. We also discussed how the team came up with the idea for Twitter, different catalysts over the past year for user growth, and even how they came up with the name. Click here to read a transcript or listen to the full interview.

Address : http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/twitter_open_platform_advantage.php
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:53:32 GMT-0500 (EST)

The following article goes deeper into the specific platform and underlying technology used and some of the inherent problems with the technology in regards to scalability. I want to get into the technology layer very deeply, as I think it’s one of the least understood aspects of Twitter.

Image by lemasney via Flickr

By various metrics Twitter is the biggest Rails site on the net right now. Running on Rails has forced us to deal with scaling issues – issues that any growing site eventually contends with – far sooner than I think we would on another framework.The common wisdom in the Rails community at this time is that scaling Rails is a matter of cost: just throw more CPUs at it. The problem is that more instances of Rails (running as part of a Mongrel cluster, in our case) means more requests to your database. At this point in time there’s no facility in Rails to talk to more than one database at a time. The solutions to this are caching the hell out of everything and setting up multiple read-only slave databases, neither of which are quick fixes to implement. So it’s not just cost, it’s time, and time is that much more precious when people can[’t] reach your site.

Address : http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000838.html
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:56:15 GMT-0500 (EST)

The following is a wiki that is used to document the development of the system, and talks very specifically about the Application Programming Interface that developers can use to interact with the system, even in ways that perhaps Biz Stone and Evan Williams might not have foreseen. The dynamic and open way in which people can develop for the system talks to the participatory cultural aspects of Twitter, as do the aspects mentioned above (e.g. mashups, media sharing, etc).

Welcome to the Twitter API wiki.  What are you coding?


* Frequently asked questions
* REST API Documentation
* Search API Documentation
* REST API Changelog
* Migrating to followers terminology

Address : http://apiwiki.twitter.com
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:57:19 GMT-0500 (EST)

Here is an article that talks about an open source system that provides the same basic functionality as Twitter, but is free as in ‘free speech’ as well as in ‘free beer’, in other words, while Twitter’s API is published so that a controlled interaction can take place, the actual underlying source code for Twitter is not released for reuse. Laconi.ca source code, which is the basis for the twitter-like system called identi.ca, is available for free for you to run yourself, should you want to. This pushes the idea of participatory culture to a new level, and I’d like to speak to that in my paper.

Image representing identi.ca as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

The laconi.ca microblogging platform is as open as you could hope for. That elusive trinity: open source; open standards; and open content.The project is led by Evan Prodromou (evan) of Wikitravel fame, whose company just launched identi.ca, “an open microblogging service” built with Laconica. These are fast gaining feature-parity with twitter; yesterday we got a “replies” tab; this morning I woke to find “search” working. Plenty of interesting people have  signed up and grabbed usernames. Twitter-compatible tools are emerging.

Address : http://danbri.org/words/2008/07/10/367
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:58:35 GMT-0500 (EST)

This article speaks to the social layer of Twitter, the value that it holds for individuals in order to accomplish certain tasks. For me, I think of it as a search engine of active minds. A friend might think of it as a way to gather news. Another might think of it as a research tool. Someone else might see it as live entertainment. It’s a no-size fits all solution that meets a whole lot of different needs. This dynamism speaks very clearly to my idea that it can be a way for each of us to gain pertinent knowledge about our our topics.

Some argue that Twitter has value as a news source, and note that the first snapshots of the Turkish Airlines jet after it crashed near Amsterdam on Wednesday were transmitted via Twitter. But those crash photos could have gotten out just as quickly if sent by cellphone to another Web site. It’s tempting to dismiss Twitter fever as a passing fad, the Pokémon of the blogosphere. But it’s beginning to look more like yet another gateway drug to full-blown media narcissism.

It’s not just television, of course. Ordinary people, bloggers and even columnists and book authors, who all already have platforms for their views, feel compelled to share their split-second aperçus, no matter how mundane.

Address : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/arts/television/28twit.html?th&emc=th
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 18:44:58 GMT-0500 (EST)

This article speaks about the ways in which Twitter and other social network developers must do work to turn what many see as simply a pastime with infrequent hints of social justice, benefits, and assistance into tools that actively pursue those goals. I personally see these systems as being able to both entertain and assist, as well as inform, embrace, and transform us. However, I think the framework for this is there now, and it is up to us as users to use the tools as means to the best possible ends.

But Glen Lyons, professor of transport and society at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, told the conference about a more established social network that is already beginning to deliver on its aims. Zimride is a carpool scheme powered by Google maps, a social network and, according to the Zimride site, a “ride-matching algorithm”. Since its inception in 2007, Zimride claims to have enabled some 300,000 users worldwide to carpool who might otherwise never have met.

Thorpe thinks social media applications like this one might be the way of the future. Facebook users might one day compete to see who can gain the most “global karma points”, he says – working for the greater good, rather than for their own amusement.

Address : http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16681-innovation-how-social-networking-might-change-the-world.html?DCMPeqOTC-rss
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 18:59:21 GMT-0500 (EST)

Here is a video in which one of the developers of the system talks about its explosive growth, and the trials of that kind of success. Also the participative cultural aspects of beautifully unintended uses by users is addressed.

In the year leading up to this talk, the web tool Twitter exploded in size (up 10x during 2008 alone). Co-founder Evan Williams reveals that many of the ideas driving that growth came from unexpected uses invented by the users themselves.

Address : http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/evan_williams_on_listening_to_twitter_users.html
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 19:53:57 GMT-0500 (EST)

Also here is an article on media overload, managing new media, and twitter’s role in that topic.

I am not new to social media, having been in newsgroups and chat rooms since the early 90s. I’m also not new to information overload, as I’ve always been a news junkie and a voracious reader. But every once in a while, my life changes with respect to how I give and receive information, and because everyone online has been discussing the same subject recently, I was driven to self-contemplation. I’ve decided I have been on information overload and have instinctively found ways to deal with it, and I will bet you have, too. How much of the following sounds familiar?

Address : http://blog.stealthmode.com/2009/02/28/rss-twitter-and-information-overload
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 20:32:45 GMT-0500 (EST)

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

The following site lists a number of open source software that provides the functionality of many popular online social networks. I’d like to use this to suggest that Rider, if they wanted, could have a social network of their own to share Rider specific knowledge, happenings, and other bits of collective intelligence. The concepts covered here include collective intelligence, sociality, participative culture (building your own services, for example) and bottom up media.

This is Vivalogo’s list of best free, downloadable, open source social networking software (kinda hard to say all these words 🙂 ).
Unlike some other lists you may find on the net, this one contains only really downloadable and functional software.
Note: listed in no particular order.

Source: Top 40 Free Downloadable Open Source SNS – 城市胡同
from http://www.wujianrong.com/archives/2009/02/top-40-free-downloadable-open-source-sns.html
retrieved on Sun Mar 01 2009 11:49:23 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

Here is an interesting article that talks about a particular cultural activity in Twitter called retweeting, which is, just as it sounds like, tweeting another person’s post again fro your followers. The social action is a way of magnifying the original idea (which may or may not have been available to people in your network) by taking a good or useful thought and rebroadcasting to your network.

Retweeting allows the power of the network to take place, in pretty much the same way a blog link can extend the conversation from one blogger to a great many, sometimes at a very rapid rate. If you Tweet something of interest and you have an audience of 10, or 100 or 1000 and no one retweets it, that is far as your message goes. But if you have 10 followers, and one of them has 100 and he or she retweets you, your message reaches that many more people. If of you of this wider ring… and so on.

Address : http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/10/the-power-of-re.html
Date Visited: Sun Mar 01 2009 14:40:17 GMT-0500 (EST)

My social network
Image by luc legay via Flickr

Finally, David Pogue writes that Twitter is what you make it, which of course underlines the ideas of sociality, participative culture, bottom up media, decentralization, and other key digital mia convergence concepts.

I was serving on a grant proposal committee, and I watched as a fellow judge asked his Twitter followers if a certain project had been tried before. In 15 seconds, his followers replied with Web links to the information he needed. No e-mail message, phone call or Web site could have achieved the same effect. (It’s only a matter of time before some “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant uses Twitter as one of his lifelines.)

Address : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/technology/personaltech/12pogue.html?_r=2&nl=tech&emc=techa1
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 21:02:14 GMT-0500 (EST)

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Is the Internet Warping Our Brains? | LiveScience

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In our ongoing discussion about the ways in which the internet, technology and Google is changing the ways in which we think, I thought this article might be a good one to bring to light.

The Internet is no doubt changing modern society. It has profoundly altered how we gather information, consume news, carry out war, and create and foster social bonds. But is it altering our brains? A growing number of scientists think so, and studies are providing data to show it.

What remains to be seen is whether the changes are good or bad, and whether the brain is, as one neuroscientist believes, undergoing unprecedented evolution.

Texting and instant messaging, social networking sites and the Internet in general can certainly be said to distract people from other tasks. But what researchers are worrying more about are the plastic brains of teens and young adults who are now growing up with all this, the “digital natives” as they’re being called.

via Is the Internet Warping Our Brains? | LiveScience.

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New Search Technologies Mine the Web More Deeply – NYTimes.com

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In terms of convergence, the whole of shared knowledge, and collective intelligence, Google is cutting themselves off from the “Deep Web” — the trillion databases of information that remain untapped as sources of information, cross information, and potentially, artificial intelligence:

Beyond those trillion pages lies an even vaster Web of hidden data: financial information, shopping catalogs, flight schedules, medical research and all kinds of other material stored in databases that remain largely invisible to search engines.

The challenges that the major search engines face in penetrating this so-called Deep Web go a long way toward explaining why they still can’t provide satisfying answers to questions like “What’s the best fare from New York to London next Thursday?” The answers are readily available — if only the search engines knew how to find them.

via New Search Technologies Mine the Web More Deeply – NYTimes.com.

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