Monthly Archives: July 2003

engineer vs. scientist

I was speaking with a friend tonite about the structure of communities. During this conversation, he told me that i needed to remember that even in the realm of communities, there are scientists and engineers.

Scientists want to understand the theories behind something and they’re willing to use tools when necessary to get to the core of why/how.

Engineers want to build things and they’re willing to use theory when it will help the construction.

I like this separation.

articulated vs. behavior-driven networks

This morning, i presented Social Network Fragments to an audience of computer graphics aficionados. The talk went well and, conveniently, I finished up by talking about the emergence of articulated social networking systems. I say that this was convenient because folks were riled up to talk about Friendster and thus focused their questions on that.

In the process of giving this talk (and answering 2 hours of on and off stage questions), i found myself addressing a clear distinction between behavior-driven networks (i.e. email, phone records), articulated networks (i.e. LJ, blogrolling, Friendster, etc.) and real social networks. Neither behavior-driven or articulated networks are actually completely representative of an individual’s real network. They are both stand-ins used by researchers and system designers to deal with the fact that people have a deep understanding of the nuances of their relationships, yet they are dreadful at discussing them.

Many social networks researchers ask people to list their closest friends. In these scenarios, there is little motivation to impress the researcher, yet people are still not exact about prioritizing and indicating everyone in their life. In public articulated networks, a whole new conundrum appears one has to articulate one’s network as a public essence and thus must also show face in doing so. Behavior-driven networks are not the end-all-be-all either. I talk to many people more often than my best friend, but it’s the depth and value of our conversations that make her so important to me.

When it comes to devising systems that capitalize on people’s networks, we’re pretty dreadful at assuring that they are truly meaningful. They are improperly segmented, poorly prioritized and their public nature requires them to be quite artificial. Additionally, articulation of our identity in any form is not our best suit. Figuring out how to take this into account is quite fascinating. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between behavior-driven and articulation? Perhaps not.

Surveil Me! Layers of public and private online

Surveil Me! Layers of public and private online is an article discussing the space surrounding surveillance of strangers, friends and potential lovers through trust, reputation, and presence. In covering privacy, it addresses Friendster specifically:

More genuinely novel is the sort of human networking enabled by the increasingly popular Friendster network, where circles of friends can be Venn-diagrammed and browsed in a database that would boggle the mind of the most ardent Kevin Bacon fan. Users post photographs and personal profiles for the perusal of friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends.

The author specifically addresses the notion that Friendster profiles aren’t technically public, but might as well be given the percentage of people beyond your friends who have access to them.

Continue reading launches launched in beta form (discussed on boingboing). Tribe is focused on providing users with a way to use their social network to gain access to listings, recommendations and other Craigslike-esque features. There is also a greater emphasis on “Tribes” (a.k.a. groups) that allows people to gather, post announcements and otherwise share amongst particular groups of interest.

first reflections on SIGGRAPH

SIGGRAPH is usually an opportunity for me to bounce around with a group of my friends and colleagues, learn interesting new things and get into deep creative conversations. Unfortunately, i’m finding that i’m beyond exhausted from my overcomittments this summer and only spending time with my closest friends. In addition to this lack of danah-bounciness, i’m a bit disappointed with SIGGRAPH.

SIGGRAPH is a combination of art, animation, graphics techniques and technical savvy (plus a lot of folks trying to sell wares). I realized that i’ve never actually gone to a Papers session because i can read the papers and there are usually really interesting Panel sessions held simultaneously. I’ve always loved Panels as an opportunity to look at graphics at a more meta level. Unfortunately, there are none this year. Additionally, the Papers talks have an uber emphasis on techniques (mostly 3D techniques, of course). This is sad because, well, i still don’t find much use out of 3D in my work.

One good thing that was apparently added last year was this Fast Forward papers review. Basically, you go and each of the 81 Paper presenters has 52 seconds to describe what they’re going to talk about. This is *perfect* for people with the amount of attention span that i have.

The other good thing is that i had a great conversation with a member of the conference committee on the purpose of Sketches (which actually made me very proud to be a Sketch at SIGGRAPH). The purpose is to provide graphics researchers with a sense of what people are doing to extend graphics beyond the research domain and to provide a groundwork for new research.

Of course, the Electronic Theatre was wonderful and there are a handful of good pieces in the Emerging Technologies (a fun spotlight, a neat interactive dance piece, a well down thermal human detector, etc.). There is also a really bizarre submission at ETech – it involves haptics, condoms and chewing… food simulation, of course. Not sure how i feel about this.

Tonight is the Brown Reunion dinner, which is my complete favorite and tomorrow is my talk (::gulp::). Oh and San Diego continues to confuse me, but at least i get to play around with my best friend as she learns to drive stick (only motivating me further to never drive stick… ever.)

harassing messages

I would like to highlight one of the comments posted in reference to Friendster censoring images. Mer quite succinctly reflects the problem with Friendster’s decision to censor – namely the arbitrary nature of it. In her post, she raises concern that Friendster is willing to censor images arbitrarily, but does not censor messages that could be construed as hate or harassment (or their senders). It will be interesting to see what the implications of their haphazard use of censorship will be.