Category Archives: blogs

Awareness of the tragedy in Myanmar

I just became aware of the situation in Burma/Myanmar through this post and if this report is accurate the situation is very grim. I have been pretty moved by what I have read about the situation so I thought I would share what I have read and learned. Below there is a list of news articles relating to the current situation in Myanmar. But first I want to mention a few things that I think are interesting.

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The dangers of posting pictures from a camping trip

Tahoe

I really enjoy taking pictures. I also enjoy sharing my photography. I’ve been busy the last few weeks and my internet access has been somewhat tenuous, but I have finally posted photos from the trip that ACP and I took to Tahoe in August. I like the interface of Google’s photo sharing application Picasa. The integration with Google maps appeals to my compulsion to tag and categorize. When I have more time, I want to post about tagging information on the web and why I think its important. But, after reading a couple scary articles yesterday, I am feeling more reluctant to share anything on the web, let alone tag and categorize what I share.

Scoble sent out a link on his twitter feed to an article by Judi Sohn who was criticizing one of his posts. Reading these articles made me aware of a controversial situation involving a company named Rapleaf (the company posted a somewhat apologetic letter about the situation). As I read more, I felt somewhat sick to the stomach (the situation is even more awkward for me because I know at least one person who works for Rapleaf from undergrad). I started to feel my excitement about the possibilities for using social networking applications to understand human behavior and for other scientific endeavors fade away. I have been meaning to read and write more about the way that social media improves our ability to utilize the vast amounts of data that exist on the web. But now, companies like Rapleaf are already acting on this and abusing the opportunities presented to us by social media. I guess it was inevitable, and I’m sure companies like Google, Yahoo, etc. have been storing up information about individuals on the web for a long time now. Its just disconcerting when you receive an email stating that you have been searched and find out that some random website is displaying all sorts of information about you. Its true that this information is freely available on the web, but it seems wrong to me for a company to compile and display information about a person if that person has not requested or even agreed for that to be done. For example, I want people to read my blog, thats why I write it. But I don’t want what I write in my blog to be scraped and displayed elsewhere. Nor do I want the content of my blog to be analyzed so that I can be categorized by marketing firms. I’m not an expert on this subject, so I’m hesitant to throw around the following terms. But, this seems like a critical moment in the transition from a “social web” to a “semantic web”.

Generalized Blog Propagation

I recently discovered Jonathan Yedidia’s blog through this post by T. As with T, his is a particularly meaningful name for me. Especially after working for a while on my most recent project. Its pretty cool when you realize that there is a real person behind a name. I laughed heartily at the videos that he posted, especially HappySlip’s ballad. If you scroll down to his “Personal Technical Web-sites” sidebar section, you will find an impressively thorough list of who’s who in machine learning/computer science/… (probably theoretical physics too, I wouldn’t really know)

Staying up to date without getting overwhelmed

My attitude about reading feeds tends to cycle. Occasionally, I go on a rampage and subscribe to a ton of feeds in Google Reader. Then for the next few days or weeks, I spend a lot of time trying to keep up with all of the feeds that I have subscribed to. Finally, I eventually start to feel overwhelmed and I stop following the feeds that I am subscribed to all together. This time around I have decided that I want to find some way to avoid through this cycle again. The realization that I came to today is that I subscribe to feeds for at least three reasons. Some feeds I subscribe to because I happen to read an article on a blog or website that was probably linked to from another blog and I feel like I would like to read an occasional article in the future. Other feeds I subscribe to to keep up with news that is important to me. These feeds include those from major news sites like the New York Times or my friends’ blogs. The third category of feed that I subscribe to are those from research journals and conferences that are related to my work (e.g. Nature, Science, Cell… biology related resources seem to be more organized online than those relating to machine learning/computer science ironically). These are, in some ways, the most important feeds to keep up with because maintaining an awareness of what researchers are working on in certain scientific fields is crucial to my work.

So, given this realization, I have just gone through all my feed subscriptions and given each of them one of three labels. One label is for feeds that I want to read occasionally when I have a few moments to spare. Placing feeds in this category will significantly reduce the stressfulness of keeping up with my feed subscriptions because I am effectively stating that I don’t care if I miss most of the articles that get posted to these feeds. The second label is for feeds that I want to try to keep up with so that I can stay current with news about my friends and the world. If I miss a post here and there it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I want to try not to miss too many. The third label is for feeds relating to my work that I want to really try to at least read the title of every post.

We will see how this scheme goes. How do you manage your feed subscriptions?

Google Reader Offline Great For Long Flights

I’m sitting on a plane right now. So, unfortunately I’m not able to type this post directly into my wordpress blog. This fact brings to mind a couple thoughts. One thought, which I have every time I fly, is that flying would be so much more enjoyable if I had internet access. I’ve thought for a while that this technology must not be too far off. I’ve been flying JetBlue a lot for the past year and if everyone on the plane can have their own satellite TV, giving everyone internet access must be pretty doable (although certainly there would be a few extra details to take care of). And… lo and behold, I just read and Engadget post about Lufthansa’s plans to provide in-flight broadband by 2008.

At this point, you might have a couple questions for me. What was your second thought? And, wait a minute, how did you just read an Engadget post while on a plane? I’m glad you asked! Just before taking this trip I noticed that Google Reader added an ‘offline’ feature. Given that I had just gotten back into reading blogs and a six hour plane flight is a great time to slog through some feeds, today was a perfect opportunity to try this new feature out.

I’m pretty fascinated by the idea of taking web applications offline and I’m happy to see Google experimenting with this idea. I’m not sure exactly when Google released this feature. It must have been fairly recently because I just watched a video in which Robert Scoble complained about the fact that he wasn’t able to use Google Reader offline. I wonder if the timing of Google Reader’s offline feature was purely a coincidence, or if Scoble’s remark had something to do with it. Scoble is definitely a Google Reader power user.

I’m looking forward to being able to use more and more web applications while in the air, however that becomes possible.