Author Archives: saltaire

Yep, they created an equation to track how fast rumors spread through the internet.

A group of mathematicians from La Sapienza university in Rome created an equation that defines the speed and power at which rumors spread online.   Their equation will be presented under the title  “Almost Tight Bounds for Rumor Spreading with Conductance” at the Symposium on Theory of Computing (in Massachusetts this June.)

The equation: the time taken for gossip  to spread = estimate of time (log v/phi X log squared 1/phi).

‘v’ stands for number of vertices of communication

and ‘phi’ stands for conductance

I think it’s insane that gossip’s speed can be calculated. Who knew? I mean I guess it was inevitable someone would figure it out. But I really don’t think it can be limited to a single equation.  It has to differ by the type of gossip ! I mean.. amongst friends? across the nation? about who? about what? when?

Response to Social networking

The three articles this week discussed Facebook and other Social networking sites, their users, and their reactions/adaptations to these sites.  Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Social Networking Websites and Teens” discussed the statistical side of users and their profiles.  I wasn’t surprised by the numbers. I had a myspace (key word being had.) I created my facebook in 8th grade. I used mine for connecting with friends, but I know a lot of kids used it to meet new friends.  I honestly have never tried any other sites and never really had any desire to do so. I check my facebook a few times a day. But during the summer I can go for weeks at a time without checking it. And whenever I’m on break, I never check it. So I don’t know what category that would put me in.  I don’t know if I agree with the data about the differences between boys and girl uses. But maybe that’s just because I feel like I don’t fit the build.    I was really glad when facebook merged the highschool and college networks.  I was a little nervous when Zuckerberg opened the site to everyone.  My page is completely private. The fact that some random stranger can learn so much about me having never met me is just too creepy. Hence the high privacy settings.

In the second article, “Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck,” Danah Boyd discusses the reactions to facebook’s release of 2006 the newsfeed.  I know that whenever facebook underwent some major change I freaked, but eventually got used to it.  Boyd states that “technology that makes social information more easily accessible can rupture people’s sense of public and private by altering the previously understood social norms.”  Offline there are boundaries, preset social norms that have been around for as long as any of us can remember, defined by what is “public.” While online, there are different physical properties that distort our sense of what is “public.”  Online discomfort is due to “exposure” and “invasion.”  Cobot’s presence on LambdaMOO would definitely make me feel uncomfortable even though it is just collecting already present data.  I don’t think it is suspicious if people hide things on their newsfeed.  I do.  I don’t want everyone knowing what I’m doing all the time, too weird.  “There is a difference between the ever-growing address book and the list of people that individuals pay attention to on a daily basis.”  The latter being more personal and more investing.  “Social media might be detrimental to friendship maintenance”  This “stream of social information” gives us a fake sense of intimacy with others that we don’t actually  know that well.  Boyd states that “control is lost with social convergence” and that  “privacy is not an inalienable right – it is a privilege that must be protected socially and structurally in order to exist. The question remains as to whether or not privacy is something that society wishes to support.”  I think to say privacy is a “privilege”  is a strange thing to say.  I grew up learning it was my right and would only be taken away in the rarest and most dire situations whether that be at home, at school, or in terms of the … government?

In the third artivle, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy,”Clive Thompson also discusses reactions to what was the unpopular newsfeed and the privacy settings implemented soon after.   Zuckerber “suspected that once people tried it and got over their shock, they’d like it.”  And sure enough, he was right.  It took a little time to get used to. Me being one that rejected it at first.  But now I see that it’s actually a helpful element to the site.   “It catalyzed a massive boom in the site’s growth. A few weeks after the News Feed imbroglio, Zuckerberg opened the site to the general public (previously, only students could join), and it grew quickly; today, it has 100 million users.”  I have never used sites like  twitter, dopplr, or tumblr.  And because I do not use them, they seem pointless to me. I mean I see some merit in the sites and how they function, but at this point, I don’t think I’d ever use them. The site gives you a sense of “ambient awareness.” Small updates are insignificant on their own, “even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives.”  I do feel like I’m more connected with my friends because of facebook.  But it also feels very artificial to me. Growing up I didn’t have a cell phone or internet at my beach house and my friends would just stop by whenever and we always knew where to find eachother, no need for technology.  Now I feel like our lives have been almost complicated by these resources. I think it’s weird that people bring up a friend’s facebook post in person and discuss tweets.  Even though this information is now public.  I still feel like I’m creeping by knowing what’s up on their page.  I’d rather just ask them what they’ve been up to instead of checking their status updates.   I think Thompson raises a good question when he asks: “What sort of relationships are these? What does it mean to have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook? What kind of friends are they, anyway?”  They aren’t real ! They can’t be.  Especially looking at the “Dunbar number.”  These “friends” represent potential problem solvers and future resources.   They represent connections once made that we wish to continue to hold.  “Remote acquaintances will be much more useful, because they’re farther afield, yet still socially intimate enough to want to help you out.”  I’ve totally asked for help on homework on my status and gotten several responses.  But these connections may “spread your emotional energy too thin, leaving less for true intimate relationships” = “parasocial relationships” which “can use up some of the emotional space in our Dunbar number, crowding out real-life people. ”  It seems like we are just observing each other, it’s not real knowledge of one another.  If you had the urge to delete your facebook, would you feel obligated to keep your account to do maintenance of things your “friends” post about you?  To keep a virtual accuracy of the self image you want to portray?  It’s a funny thought. But it kind of makes sense. I mean who wants to look bad?  I thought it was an interesting point Thompson raised about the permanence of identity on the internet and how it may not necessarily allow you to change or  become someone “new.”  We have some transitions in our life where we have the opportunity to start over, and I can’t say the internet hinders this, but if you do not upkeep the image you want to display, the internet has the power to expose your past.   There is said to be a “side-effect of constant self-disclosure” in all of this and I completely agree.

Online Piracy response

All three articles this week discusses online piracy.  Ham and Atkinson in their article “Napster and Online Piracy” discussed the implications of Napster and the ‘need to revisit the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.’  Despite possible of copyright violations, online music sources can actually “improve productivity and reduce costs to the consumer.”  Many believe Napster’s “danger” to artists and record companies comes from the “technological innovation” in itself, but Ham and Atkinson argue it really comes from “companies and individuals using the technology in illegal ways.”  While the technology enables this stealing, its people’s attitudes that need to be adjusted.  Stealing music has become more and more acceptable.  If we wish to stop pirating of music, we must change people’s attitudes and make them understand the weight of this problem because it “threatens the future of online distribution and all the efficiencies that come with this new technology.” The authors believe other industries should join the recording industry in this fight.

As students at the the Claremont colleges we know that we like 200 other colleges/universities have blocked Napster use on campus. Not only does Napster take up a ton of bandwidth but it also is a liability for the schools if their students are using this program.  This is just a small scale way of enforcing this fight.  It is possible that the courts will also succeed in banning Napste, but that is not guaranteed. And anyway, other similar services could easily pop up to take its place that actually qualify under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  What we really need is a law that can force users and companies that commit or encourage copyright violations to accept responsibility for their crimes.  In order for this to happen we must:

-collect personally identifiable and verifiable information from their users.

-set a concrete time frame for the “notice and take down” process.

-allow the courts the flexibility to grant injunctions against service providers that are primarily used for online piracy.

In the second article, “Courtney Love does the math,” this singer ‘takes on record label profits, Napster and sucka VCs.’  She follows the trail of money in the music business and how Napster and other similar companies affect this chain.  I found this article hard to follow… may just be because I’m not  a math person.  She discusses the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)  and how artists have essentially been giving their music away for free “under the old system.”   She believes new technology, like Napster, that exposes artists to a larger audience can “only be a good thing.”  Music sales are up… where’s the evidence that “downloads hurt business?” Downloads are actually creating more demand!  The Internet has given artists the ability  to communicate directly to their audiences.  They no longer have to depend on recording companies and their inefficient model.  She calls it  a “radical democratization” i.e. “every artist has access to every fan and every fan has access to every artist, and the people who direct fans to those artists.”  Basically she loves Napster.  In the final article, “Strong Copyright + DRM +Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?” Bailey discusses idea of “property” and its role online.

The thing about the future is that it is rooted in the past and this affects the growing use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies.  He believes DRM has the the ability  “to lock-down content in an unprecedented fashion.”  He discuess how the Internet functions at “its most  fundamental level.” The Internet was designed to be content, application, and hardware “neutral.” As long as certain standards were met, the network did not “discriminate”  There is now an “erosion of the Net.” He calls for a need for stronger copyright- both in its “scope” and “expansion.”  Bailey believes we are amidst a digital revolution and is curious to see whether the internet lives up to its “promise”  or reverts to “resembling the pre-Internet online services of the


It’s not about compensation, it’s about artistic intent.  I think artists should definitely be credited in their lifetime for their work, I think there needs to be a different approach towards work after the artist dies.  Copyright owners should make more of an effort towards availability… I mean I don’t pirate songs unless they’re not available on iTunes.

"iAd" : Apple's next platform after the "iPad"

(credit: Gizmodo)

Yes this is merely rumored. But it is believed that after the “iPad” launches this weekend, Apple plans to release “iAd” April 7th (it’s own form of mobile advertising.)

Apparently this transition to mobile advertising is not big news.  In January, Apple bought “Quattro” (another mobile advertising co.) for what is said to be 275 million, shortly after Google bought AdMob.  Also. “App Store Tip” published a discouraging message to developers to not create apps that “use location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location.” Well, because that’s exactly what Apple wants to do itself !

Watch out for this new virus !

Right now there’s a new virus going around.  You may have gotten an email from your school’s form of “ResLife.”  But anyway, this is a new variant which arrives in a ZIP/RAR file saying it’s an email from Facebook asking you to reset your account password.  This virus is actually capable of stealing passwords and downloading other malware onto infected systems.

This trojan arrives as an attachment inside a RAR/ZIP file which has been spammed out:

Transitioning from print journalism

(response to “Why I Blog,” “Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press,” and “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.”)

Essentially these three articles discuss the societal transition from print journalism to online sources, such as the blog, and how this shift undermines the power of the press.

In “Why I Blog,” Sullivan discusses the role of the blog and how it differs from typical journalism.  Blogs are the “spontaneous expression of instant thought.”  Unlike journalism, which in its most immediate self is “daily” writing, blogs are “hourly” writing.  Bloggers do not need to wait until “every source has confirmed” or necessarily worry at length about “committing words to the world.” Deadlines are determined what is happening now. Blogging is therefore contains more “free-form,” it is more “accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”  Blogs are a form of “literary liberation.”  But because both broadcast and feedback are “instantaneous,” the connection becomes more “personal,”  and enables a more “brutal” interaction between blogger and reader.  This “open-source market” of interaction is always adjusting and evolving, allowing the “collective mind” to quickly sift out bad arguments and bad ideas.  The only thing is sometimes the bad have more of  a voice  and is able to “dominate conversation.”  “A successful blog therefore has to balance itself between a writer’s own take on the world and others.”  Blogs, like other forms, can not provide a “stable truth or a permanent perspective.” Bloggers are controlled by the course of time.  Sullivan argues that in this way “the message dictates the medium,” but I think you could also say that the “medium” has the ability to “dictate” the “message.”

In “Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press,” Rosen explores how the internet has impacted political journalism.  Rosen believes print journalism was previously defined by the following three categories:

1. The sphere of legitimate debate

2. The sphere of consensus

3. In the sphere of deviance

But with the coming of  “blogging and the Net” these structures are being broken down.  The press used to be able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with “relative ease” because the people on the receiving end were “atomized”—  connected “up” to the media, not “across” to each other. The internet allows us to “locate each other, share information, trade impressions and realize [our]number.” Which causes the “sphere to move away from journalist definition.  This “sentiment” now “collects, solidifies and expresses itself online.” This new form is known as the “echo chamber.” Because people can connect “across” or horizontally online, they are able to deviate from the press’s authority. “[Assuming] consensus,” “[defining] deviance” and “[setting] the terms for legitimate debate is weaker when people can connect horizontally around and about the news.”

And finally in “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,” Shirky defines the unthinkable as the ability for sharing capabilities to “grow,” rather than “shrink” due to the unpopularity of walled gardens, the efficiency of digital advertising, the dislike for micropayments, our resistance to online education, and the fact that “old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online.” Online life has proven unable to be regulated by litigation.  “Hardware and software vendors would not regard copyright holders as allies, nor would they regard customers as enemies.”  All the “imagined outcomes” of the internet (“save the unthinkable one”) came with the belief that the newspaper could retain its “organizational form” and merely needed a “digital facelift.”   But in these assumptions we are not recognizing an unfolding “revolution.”  Shirky argues that it is similar to the introduction and acceptance of the printing press.  “People are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place.”  Print journalism has been intertwined with economics since its beginnings.  Previous difficulties and costs of printing forced all those involved to use “a similar set of organizational models.”  The internet completely upset “the competition-deflecting effects of printing cost” i.e. everyone pays for the “infrastructure,” and then everyone gets to use it. According to Shirky, now is the time for experiments and may ultimately “give us the journalism we need.”

I think it’s great that the transition to the internet has allowed us to discover new writing and sharing capabilities in forms like the blog.   I also like that this also enabled us to break with media vertically and grow horizontally.  But as someone who wants to pursue photo journalism, this fact serves as the major reason this career choice is diminishing.

The Long Tail

The Long tail is the tail of a distribution that represents the rare circumstance of extreme worth.  It is a simple way of illustrating how a normal distribution of the market is lengthened with the influence of online shopping.  The new digital entertainment economy is going to be extremely different from that of our present mass market.  The problem with this mass market, is that for the most part our entertainment media was stuck presiding in the physical world. The physical world restricts entertainment in two huge ways:

-its need to find local audiences

-“physics itself.”

We once lived in a world of scarcity, ruled by these two limitations. Digitalization is not bound by these restrictions.

Most of the population want more than just hits. Everyone’s taste differs and clashes with the mainstream at some point.  Most are stuck in a “hit-driven mindset” i.e. it is thought that “if something isn’t a hit, it won’t make money and so won’t return the cost of its production.” Online there are no manufacturing costs, few distribution fees, and no need to worry about shelf space.  A miss sold is another sale, same as any hit. They are on the same “economic footing,” meaning this idea of popularity and mainstream no longer have a “monopoly on profitability.”

The industry has a poor sense of what people want.  There is now a considerable difference between online and offline business.  There is more flexibility, more choice, more room to explore, as well as a better chance of discovery.  Most thriving Internet businesses are concerned with “aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another.”

The decision about whether or when to re-release an film on DVD is based on “estimates of demand,” “availability of extras” such as “commentary and additional material,” and “marketing opportunities.”  WHILE online, almost anything is worth getting out there keeping in mind the obscure possible buyer.  This transition to online sale is applicable to movies, books, music, etc.

There is limited analysis of what the correct online price should be compared to market price  The success of companies like Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes show that you need “both ends of the curve.” Both the hits and the misses.  Long Tail business can “treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.”

The system of “recommendations” are a remarkably efficient form of marketing, allowing what are considered misses, the less-mainstream, to find consumers.  As Anderson said, “such is the power of the Long Tail. Its time has come.”

I remember growing up and how long it took movies to be released, buying whole music albums from stores devoted solely to music, only knowing about what was “new” by recommendations from friends and family, sitting by the radio hoping to hear my newest favorite song, only reading the books I saw on the “New Best” whatever at Barnes and Noble, etc.  The transition to online sales has changed all that.  It is less intimate, but certainly more efficient and I have such a wider array to choose from (and actually feel informed of!)

The Cove



I really really encourage everyone to see this film about a small cove outside of Taiji ( a small village in Japan ) where fishermen are using sonar to confuse and capture migrating dolphins.  After being corralled into this highly protected cove, the dolphins are then chosen to perform for amusement parks and the rejected ones are merely slaughtered and sold as “whale” meat.  The dolphins aren’t even killed humanely. They are speared at and knifed from small fishing boats.  On top of this, dolphin meat is dangerously high in mercury and the fact that is sold under a different name leaves the consumer unknowing of what they are really consuming.  This mislabeled food then finds its way into the mandatory lunches of most Japanese schoolchildren.

The film has an element of action as we watch the cast secretively penetrate the cove’s watch to place hidden cameras to document this secret slaughter.  The cast encounters many close run in’s with the Japanese government and the fishermen hired to protect this awful place.

I think my favorite part of this film was following Ric O’Barr, former Flipper trainer in the 1960’s.  He actually captured and trained all 5 of the dolphins that featured in the hit TV show Flipper.  Soon after one of these dolphins died in his arms, Ric made a complete turn around from training dolphins in captivity to assertively combating the captivity industry (… he actually goes out and cuts dolphin nets himself on the side of being a known enemy of the International Whaling Committee!)

Brigid and Katie's podcast

Cool project overall. Presenting this information as audio instead of text definitely puts a different spin on the project.  I feel sound better exemplified the message we were trying to get across about the Memex and other elements of Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think.” We thought making our piece like a movie trailer would be more captivating to a viewer and still allow our message to be informative.


Google person finder !

After the most recent earthquake in Chile, Google has released “Google person finder” in an effort to “help people locate friends and loved ones who might have been affected by Saturday’s 8.8.-magnitude earthquake.”  Google Person Finder allows users to search by name or leave information about who they’re looking for (in English or Spanish) for records.  It is currently tracking about 35500 records.  Note. Content is viewable and usable by all and Google is not there to verify submitted information but to act merely as a database.  Google has also launched a crisis response page for those interested in “recent seismic activity in Chile, as well as resources to donate money to charities supporting the earthquake relief effort.” On top of that Google has a Mobile Giving Foundation for both relief towards Chile and Haiti.  You can make $10 donations by texting the word “Chile” to any of the following numbers: 25383 (Habitat for Humanity), 20222 (World Vision), 85944 (International Medical Corp.), and 52000 (Salvation Army).