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
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
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.
Wikidata is a mostly standard Mediawiki instance except that pages don’t store “Wikitext”, they store JSON blobs.… Read the rest
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.
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
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
While Ceephax has exposed me to a hyperactive, ultrajoyful side of myself, Why? has shown me how to cope with inexorable loss of impermanent identities. Just today I was going to go to an event I’d been looking forward to for over a year; the Stupor Bowl is a 50 mile bike ride in Minneapolis, stopping at 9 bars, and on the coldest day of the year. But after ceding a pool table yesterday to a man who my friends told me looked very much like myself, due to his moustache and cycling jacket, I became paralyzed by the self-awareness of my new identity.… Read the rest
In this Ceephax Acid Crew Live youtube video there’s a comment which says “Love that one guy going nuts.” And it’s true, there is a guy in the front of the crowd feeling the music and letting his body follow. That’s not a particularly amazing fact to many people, but to me its a revelation on a virality with which I’m infected. Because just 24 hours earlier, I was that person in the front.
24 hours even before I was going nuts, I was getting nervous. Ceephax was playing at the Science Museum in San Francisco, and this would be my first opportunity to see him in the flesh.… Read the rest
I didn’t like the Dyson Airblade at first. Its slick futuristic form with neon yellow striping gives the visual indication that it will instantly dry your hands, which it doesn’t. It takes 12 seconds. Still, I claim this represents a revolution. The watch-a-microwave-tick-down waiting time is a small price to pay for leaving the tiled room with hands truly free of water, rather than the less-wet state my whole life prior to this invention taught me was normal.
To understand why the Airblade represents such a leap forward in hand-drying technology, we have to understand the past that Dyson was trying to escape.… Read the rest