Reflections on Academic Research and Writing (Part 4): The Practice of Writing

June 11, 2015

Business and Management INK

In this installment of the blog series, we turn to the nuts and bolts of scholarly writing.

[Today we welcome Charlotte Cloutier of HEC Montreal and author of “How I Write: An Inquiry Into the Writing Practices of Academics]

In 2010, I was a newly minted assistant professor, somewhat worried about the tenure proceCharlotte Cloutierss and a little shaken by the fact that my initial attempts at getting published had failed miserably.  Clearly I wasn’t “getting it” and I needed to do something about it. Writing “more” wasn’t going to cut it.  I needed to figure out how to write “better” and perhaps even more importantly, I needed to learn more about the “craft” of publishing research. There was much more to the writing and publishing process than simply writing up a bit of research and submitting it to a journal hoping that they might publish it.

Some months before…

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How Yahoo Research Labs Studies Culture as a Formal Computational Concept | MIT Technology Review

August 2, 2014

Emerging Technology From the arXiv

August 1, 2014

 

The ultimate goal: a truly computational understanding of human society, say Yahoo’s computational anthropologists.

The study of online social networks has revolutionized the way social scientists understand human interaction on a grand scale. It is based on the assumption that the fundamental unit of interaction is the social tie that exists between two individuals. This tie can be a message that one person has sent to another, that one person follows another, that one person “likes” another and so on.

These social ties are the atoms of social network structure. And much of the research on social networks has focused on how these atoms join together to create complex networks of interaction.

Much less thought has been given to the atoms themselves, whether they fall into categories themselves, whether different atoms have different social properties and how combining atoms of different types might be indicative of entirely different relationships.

Today, Luca Maria Aiello at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona, Spain, and a couple of pals, change that. They tease apart the nature of the links that form on social networks and say these atoms fall into three different categories. They also show how to extract this information automatically and then characterize the relationships according to the combination of atoms that exist between individuals. Their ultimate goal: to turn anthropology into a full-blooded subdiscipline of computer science.

Aiello and co used two data sets from a pair of large social networks. The first consists of over 1 million messages sent between 500,000 pairs of users of the aNobii social network, which people use to talk about books they have read. The second is a set of 100,000 anonymized user pairs who commented on each other’s photos on Flickr, sending around 2 million messages in total.

The team analyzes these messages based on the type of information they convey, which they divide into three groups. The first type of information is related to social status; messages displaying appreciation or announcing the creation of the social tie such as a follow or like. For example, a user might say a photograph is “an excellent shot” or say they’ve followed somebody or acknowledged attention they’ve got by thanking them for visiting a site.

The second category of information involves social support of some kind. The main purpose of a message that falls into this category is to greet or welcome someone to a website, to explicitly express affection or to convey wishes, jokes and laughter.

The final category of information is an exchange of knowledge. Messages that fall into this category share information and personal experience, or ask for opinions and suggestions, or display knowledge of a particular field.

Aiello and co then develop an algorithm that automatically categorizes the messages sent between individuals according to the content they contain and their similarity to messages of the same type.

Finally, they evaluate the results of the algorithm by asking human editors to assess a sample of 1000 randomly selected messages from each website and label them according to the three categories. They then compared the human choices with the algorithms and found good agreement.

The results of this analysis allow them to work out how often people use the different modes of communication and also how they transition from one to another during a conversation.

They find that in aNobii, the most frequent interactions involve status giving where the archetypal message is “nice library”, referring to a user’s collection of books.

By contrast, Flickr users communicate in a different way. “In Flickr the proportion is very balanced instead, with no domain being predominant on average,” say Aiello and co.

More interesting is the way that social ties evolve over time. Aiello and co say that status exchange is particularly common in short conversations and at the beginning of longer ones. However, the conversations rapidly evolve into a mix of knowledge exchanges and social support. “It thus appears that status exchange serves to set the foundation for the future relationship, feeding to the interactional background after the tie-formation stage,” say Aiello and co.

That’s a fascinating study that provides a new way of looking at social ties as strings of interactions. In a way, it changes the atomic theory of social ties into a kind of string theory.

Aiello and co clearly think this should lead to plenty of new insights and they are optimistic about the future. “The ultimate goal of such analysis is the unpacking of “culture” as a formal, computational concept,” they say. And they think of the patterns of strings of interaction as a kind of grammar of society. “We hope our work provides yet another step towards a truly computational understanding of human societies.”

That’s an ambitious goal– a truly computational understanding of human society. Both fantastic and a little frightening the same time.

 

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1407.5547 : Reading the Source Code of Social Ties

 

Original Source: How Yahoo Research Labs Studies Culture as a Formal Computational Concept | MIT Technology Review.

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From the basics of programming to financial markets, here are the 12 most popular free online courses for professionals

July 28, 2014

Business Insider | July 14, 2014 1:20 PM ET
More from Business Insider

Want to gain an edge in your working life? Learning new skills online doesn’t cost you anything but time.

Based on data from online education platform Coursera, we compiled a list of the 12 most popular, free online classes for working professionals.

Here they are, ranked by popularity:

1. Wesleyan University’s “Social Psychology

Coursera’s most popular course offers an introduction to classic and contemporary social psychology, covering topics such as decision making, persuasion, group behavior, personal attraction, and factors that promote health and well-being.

Starts July 14

2. University of Maryland’s “Programming Mobile Applications for Android Handheld Systems

This is an introduction to the design and implementation of applications for handheld systems, such as smartphones and tablets, running the Android platform. It is part of a larger sequence of specialization courses called Mobile Cloud Computing with Android.

Starts September 26

3. Duke University’s “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue

This course will teach you how to reason well. You will learn how to understand and assess arguments by other people and how to construct persuasive arguments of your own.

Starts August 25

4. Duke University’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior

In this course, you will learn why we don’t always behave rationally, and how we might overcome our shortcomings. You’ll also learn about cases where our irrationalities work in our favor, and how we can harness these human tendencies to make better decisions.

Start date TBD

5. University of Toronto’s “Learn to Program: The Fundamentals

This course introduces the fundamental building blocks of programming and teaches you how to write fun and useful programs using the Python language.

Start date TBD

6. Stanford University’s “Startup Engineering

This course will help you bridge the gap between academic computer science and production software engineering. It’s a fast-paced introduction to key tools and techniques, featuring guest appearances by senior engineers from successful startups and large-scale academic projects.

Start date TBD

7. Yale University’s “Financial Markets

You’ll gain an understanding of the theory of finance and its relation to the history, strengths, and imperfections of banking, insurance, securities, futures, and other derivatives markets, as well as the future of these institutions over the next century.

Start date TBD

8. The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s “An Introduction to Financial Accounting

This course will improve your fluency in financial accounting. You will learn how to read, understand, and analyze most of the information provided by companies in their financial statements.

Starts September 5

9. University of Washington’s “Introduction to Public Speaking

In this class, you will study the principles of public speaking and critically examine your own and others’ speeches through interactive practice. By the end, you’ll understand the process of writing, practicing, and presenting a clear and engaging speech.

Start date TBD

10. University of Michigan’s “Introduction to Finance

This course primarily focuses on the fundamental principles of valuation and how to apply the concepts of the time value of money and risk to understand the major determinants of value creation.

Starts October 6

11. The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s “An Introduction to Marketing

This course will teach the fundamentals of marketing by getting to the root of customer decision making. It will focus on branding strategies, customer centricity, and new market entry.

Start date TBD

12. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s “Data Analysis

Through this applied statistics course, you will learn about the most effective data analysis methods to solve problems and achieve insight. You will cover some of the most popular and widely used statistical methods like linear regression, principal components analysis, cross-validation, and p-values.

Are You Being ‘Grantist’?

July 28, 2014

The Research Whisperer

wire basket eggs (Photo from Mazaletel - https://www.flickr.com/photos/meg-z) wire basket eggs (Photo from Mazaletel – https://www.flickr.com/photos/meg-z)

I sometimes get the feeling that crowdfunding is considered the crass second-cousin of genteel, Category 1 research council grants.

The same way people can be ageist, racist, sexist, and all manner of other -ists, I think many academics are ‘grantist’.

The recently successful Hips 4 Hipsters campaign by Dr Mel Thomson (@Dr_Mel_Thomson) and her team from Deakin University was Mel’s second crowdfunded research project (after the Mighty Maggots last year).

In the aftermath of this year’s successful Pozible campaign, several tweeters lamented that she should be ‘reduced’ to having to ask for research money in this way. A few declared that it was an indictment of Australia’s skinflinted approach to research and innovation that forced this initiative.

While I do believe that current directions in research funding are disheartening, I found the responses interesting. I’m a staunch believer in the crowdfunding model, and an active…

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