Category Archives: PhD

Everything related to my thesis.

House Rules

Click to read full paper.

“I was on holiday, and I saw the same people advertising their room on Couchsurfing and Airbnb.” Two years ago my friend and co-author Benjamin Mako Hill pitched to me investigating the phenomenon of seeing the same exact accommodation available on both the paid site Airbnb, and the totally free site Couchsurfing. My advisor Haiyi Zhu turned to me and asked “what do you think?” I’m not sure how long I took to respond, but in that moment two memories came flooding back. The first was having Couchsurfed with someone who also on occasion Airbnb’d their room.… 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

Against the Grain: Influencing Factors of Opinion Change in Wikipedia’s Article for Deletion Process


This is my final project from my Machine Learning course this past semester. My collaborators and I attempted to find out when, and why users at English Wikipedia’s article for deletion forum, voted against their tendencies. That is, what makes an “deletionist” vote “keep” and when an “inclusionist” votes “delete”? In the end we found that basic machine learning techniques could not perform much better than random, but the intelligence that did emerge came from using information about group herding behaviour, and appeals to the local bureaucratic process.

Against the Grain: Influencing Factors of Opinion Change in Wikipedia’s Article for Deletion Process

Zhiyi Li, Cheng Peng, and Max Klein


On 1 November 2015, English Wikipedia hit 5,000,000 articles; but while article creation is much celebrated, deleting an article is a lesser known process.… Read the rest

Differently Shaped Virtual Paper

The very first time I heard it I was immediately convinced by Killer Mike’s un-festschrift “Reagan”. It’s a lucid, orchestrated, and damning exposé of what Reagan’s legacy has meant for less privileged people in America  “[…] thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits
Cause free labor is the cornerstone of US economics”. However as much I appreciate what Killer Mike spits, and specifically how he’s spitting it, I never felt I could fully connect with the message having never been directly effected by Reagan’s policies – until now.

This week my National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program application was “rejected without review.” The reason given was my application was not conforming to the submission standards, I hadn’t left 1 inch margins.… Read the rest

Data Management: The Plan

Perhaps because it’s not something I would have done on my own, thanks to the prodding of Daniel Mietchen, I  have created a data management plan for my open-PhD adventure. What is a data management plan (DMP), you might ask? Now that I’m up to speed, I can tell you that it’s a document in which you set out the parameters for how you will create, share, and store the outcomes of a project. It’s also the sort of thing you go through in order to pose detail questions to yourself and make rigorous your otherwise slightly sloppy thinking.… Read the rest

Dear NSF: Part 1

In what will surely not be the last time I ask the U.S. government for money, I made the plea to be a fellow of theirs today. The Nation Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSFGRFP)  supports new PhD students in their research aims for 3 years.  And I am told, and also suppose, that I want that. The way in which they ask you to prostrate is a standard multi-essay plus recommendations mode. The essays, when viewed as “papers for which you haven’t done the work,” were useful writing and thought exercises. I am quite energized by firming up a proposal about what I might do in the next three years, even if it seems incomprehensibly difficult and moon-shot-ish  right now.… Read the rest

Am I Doing My PhD In The Open?

Yesterday I clicked on a JSTOR link, and a full text PDF popped up – it wasn’t an Aaron Schwarz liberation plan. I was in the academy reading closed access research. I’m in the academy, and I’m on the precipice of taking it for granted.

Last November I asked if I should do my PhD in the open and answered in the affirmative, but at that point I hadn’t even been accepted by any PhD-granting institutions. Only one month into ensconcing myself in the GroupLens lab, at the Univ. of Minnesota, I somehow forgot about the my commitment to openness.… Read the rest

Preliminary Results From WIGI, The Wikipedia Gender Inequality Index

This is a preliminary list of results from a research project is being compiled into full paper on the subject.

The full paper, in it’s academic form is now available on arxiv.


WIGI is the Wikipedia Gender Inequality Index, a project whose purpose is to attempt to gain insight into the gender gap through understanding which humans are represented in Wikipedia. Professor Piotr Konieczny, and myself thought that, whereas some gender gap research focuses on the editors of Wikipedia directly, we would view the content and metadata of articles as a proxy measure for those editing.… Read the rest

Personal Statement: In Full

The “Personal Statement” for the graduate school application, is the attempt to explain how you will make a difference, not just in your research, but in making the University as a organism more equitable.

Luckily, my proposed research is precisely about  the kinds of social division that that the instructions to this document ask you to address:

Please describe how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree.
In this section, you may also include any relevant information on how you have overcome barriers to access higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.

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