All posts by max

Wikidata Human Gender Indicators in the News

Data from my project the Wikidata Human Gender Indicators has started to be cited in the press (BBC, Bloomberg), which is a large dose of validation. Traffic to the data visualizations increased 500% on the day of the BBC publication to 1,000 views/day, which inspires confidence. Moreover, Wikimedia Foundation’s Grants team—who funded WHGI—praised the project in their year-end report, saying:

Grants for research and tools (such as WHGI) – which minimally contribute to the targets of people or articles – have been extremely valuable in improving our understanding of the gender gap and how or why it manifests.

Read the rest

So you want to upload an image to the cloud with Node.js

So you want to upload an image to the cloud with Node.js?

Maybe you want a small raspberry pi webcam to take timelapse footage and send it to a server every hour because of its small harddrive. Maybe you want to build a social network swapping images of Lizard People, and your sever can t handle all the image traffic. Maybe you want to back-up your irreplaceable collection of dead-sea scroll fragments — it’s irreplaceable. You  might want to keep around images or files for many different reasons, and having them publicly accessible in the cloud is better than trying to manage them yourself, for storage and network reasons. … Read the rest

For Harry and Carie on their Wedding Day

Marriage is part of humanity. As Alain de Botton reflected, “[…] the impulse to cluster into small familial groups within which to safely propagate the next generation, is a project that has been known to the largest share of humanity since our earliest upright days in East Africa’s Rift Valley.” And although today Harry and Carie are engaged in this ancient tradition, they are also alternative people that create their own history. Alternative people who appreciate a form of never-ending play, which was has been so well described for myself and our couple in the book Finite and Infinite Games. I’d like to read to you it’s philosophy on marriage, the family project and their choiceful natures:

Infinite lovers may or may not have a family.

Read the rest

Machine Learning in 3rd Grade

The Economist has commented on the irony that machine learning helps school teachers relax after work by choosing what movie to watch, but helps none in determining how to assist their students. In my fellowship this summer, I tried to change that. At DSSG, I worked with the Tulsa Public Schools to do identify which students are at risk of being made to repeat 3rd grade. Using machine learning techniques we were able to predict 95% of the second grade students that would require intervention before the Reading Sufficiency Act destined them to do the year over.

At Data Fest 2016 I gave a fuller yet concise explanation, watch the video below.… Read the rest

Suggestions of Fake Profiles in Couchsurfing

I have been investigating profiles of users of Airbnb and Couchsurfing this year as research into personality differences between users of market- and socially-based network hospitality websites. Along the way I have uncovered some suggestive data supporting a rumor that Couchsurfing may have been manipulating the size of its user-base through fake profiles.

After I had assembled datasets of these user’s publicly viewable data, I started to take a look at the sign-up dates of each profile to gauge the ages of the user bases. In  inspecting the Couchsurfing set, I found an usual spike in sign-ups in 2013.

Conducting a web search for reasons why this would be I queried the web “what happened to Couchsurfing in 2013”.… Read the rest

3 Ways To Access Wikidata Data Until It Can Be Done Properly

Note: This post is quite old. In fact Wikidata can now be accessed “properly” via the Wikidata Query Service (WDQS). However the techniques outlined below still have their advantages.

The inaugural Wiki Research Hackathon went very well, and I’m affirmed that I feel best when I’m conducting Wiki Research. I was asked to give one of the tech talks of the day about accessing Wikidata data programmatically. Here is an outline of the talk


We’ll be viewing Wikidata as file in its own right for research, not as it’s canonical use case of being used in various Wikipedias.

Native format:

Wikidata is a mostly standard Mediawiki instance except that pages don’t store “Wikitext”, they store JSON blobs.… Read the rest

How A Small Bug I Wrote Started Helping Holocaust Deniers

In my early software education, I’d been taught about how untested  software could result in deadly radiation-therapy machines. But since I never planned to be in the medical devices industry, these sort of warnings didn’t apply to me – after all I was only writing Wikipedia bots. But this week I was proved wrong when another Wikipedian messaged me with a query unlike any I’d received before (empahsis mine):

Hi Max, I’ve pinged you a couple of times, but in case you’re not getting them, would you mind commenting?

It’s about an edit your bot made to Wikidata that changed the infobox of a featured article about a book about the Holocaust, Night.

Read the rest

Flavours of Ethanol: Not That Different

I spent a weekend with my friend riding 30 miles between Minneapolis breweries.  We learned some important lessons.

  1. The modern consumer elects to understand arbitrary differences in item-classes.
  2. The corporation co-opts leisure time of the individual to construct an aesthetic.
  3. Even if thebeers are not that different, they will say they are.
  4. This is similar to the divided political “spectrum”, that is, not a spectrum at all.
  5. As a test case take the IPA, the least versatile “acquired” taste.
  6. Once the consumer has developed a false consciousness and accepts  the objectionable and anti-rational quality of IPA ethanol, that consumer has joined the in-group.
Read the rest

U and Why?: Part 3: Highest Recommendaitons

I first discovered Why? in the same way that all new music came to me in my teenage years, pen-pal-ship with my best friend Daniel Cohen. I’d wanted to retain my friends and life when I was stripped from England in ’99, and between annual visits, emails filled in the gaps for us. (In retrospect this comments on the history of chat technology, youngsters able to figure it out around the millennium.) An early symbol of my empathetic practice, in 2004 electro-mails I basically asked Dan questions that Pitchfork media was answering. I’m not taking credit for his current success as a reviewing journalist, but I think he relished the task and I gave him plenty of practice.… Read the rest

Design for Doulas

I have typically avoided the realm of UI design, as I view as fraught with of cults of personalities and nonstop bikeshedding, but this semester I decided to try my hand and find seperate the theory from the style posing as theory. The course I am taking is centered around a large project to design an application that helps a population of people with a need they have. This coincides nicely with a dream I have harbored to make technology for doulas– providers of nonmedical, practical and emotional support for pregnancy.  My partner is a doula and leader in a doula organization, so I have been somewhat privy to the way they use tech to run their program.… Read the rest