Highlights from #cj2014 opening keynote: Jon Kleinberg

October 24th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m following the Computation + Journalism 2014 symposium via the hashtag and livestream. Below are some highlights I collected from the opening keynote.

#cj2014: Tracing the Flow of On-Line Information through Networks and Text

Keynote by Jon Kleinberg at 2014 Computation + Journalism symposium at Columbia University

  1. Event page:
  2. Highlights from the keynote (in chronological order):
  3. Keynote by Jon Kleinberg of Cornell: metaphors of information travelling online include the library and the crowd #cj2014
  4. #Information travels on-line via #library (pages, links, association) & crowd (memes, contagion) | #data #CJ2014
  5. Jon Kleinberg opens #CJ2014 with a ref to the classic essay As We May Think.  http://j.mp/ZPWaO1 
  6. Jon Kleinberg, speaking right now at #cj2014, did some really cool work tracking chain letters online in 2008  http://www.pnas.org/content/105/12/4633.full 
  7. We can track the flow of information temporally, structurally, and in terms of content, says Jon Kleinberg #cj2014
  8. But are crowd & library metaphors dual: people trailblazing through documents or documents transmitted through networks of people? #cj2014
  9. It’s easier for algorithms to track items (quotes, photos, phrases) than stories. Q: Does that encourage pack journalism? #CJ2014
  10. Tracking stories through networks reveals difficulties eg., natural language. But can track quotes to show news cycles #CJ2014
  11. Kleinberg explains tracking essential elements of a story (like phrases) as they move through networks. #cj2014 http://t.co/V1fiFZWUBS
    Kleinberg explains tracking essential elements of a story (like phrases) as they move through networks. #cj2014 pic.twitter.com/V1fiFZWUBS
  12. Half of all reshares on FB happen in large cascades (>500) | #paradox #viral #CJ2014
  13. Basic question: how to predict what content will be shared widely? Or, are cascades unpredictable? #cj2014 http://t.co/Q7dCleEkXH
    Basic question: how to predict what content will be shared widely? Or, are cascades unpredictable? #cj2014 pic.twitter.com/Q7dCleEkXH
  14. #cj2014 Is virality predictable? You as poster rarely experience it w your content, but you as consumer see it often http://t.co/IEgOmZtWIv
    #cj2014 Is virality predictable? You as poster rarely experience it w your content, but you as consumer see it often pic.twitter.com/IEgOmZtWIv
  15. One solution: reframe question as tracking rather than snapshot instant: what are the chances of this being shared further? #cj2014
  16. On whether something “goes viral”: “An important moment in a cascade is the moment it escapes the neighborhood of the root.” #cj2014
  17. Temporal features most powerful in predicting resharing of photo memes #CJ2014 http://t.co/3ZKFHIzO7Y
    Temporal features most powerful in predicting resharing of photo memes #CJ2014 pic.twitter.com/3ZKFHIzO7Y
  18. My thoughts are on how narratives or stories in news, eg images of ‘typical’ migrants, circulate and are widely diffused #cj2014
  19. Troubling finding here seems to be that actual content has less impact on how likely something is to go viral #cj2014 http://t.co/lver1zx14e
    Troubling finding here seems to be that actual content has less impact on how likely something is to go viral #cj2014 pic.twitter.com/lver1zx14e
  20. Research to understand discussion and comment threads - #cj2014 keynote by Jon Kleinberg http://t.co/3HUQi1uZj1
    Research to understand discussion and comment threads – #cj2014 keynote by Jon Kleinberg pic.twitter.com/3HUQi1uZj1
  21. Kleinberg now moving from global discussion to local conversations via threads or friends. What makes them engaging, long, short? #cj2014
  22. Tracking the virality of memes: Speed is important. Pics that get the first 1k of shares fast are more likely to go viral after. #cj2014
  23. Content more likely to spread if strangers share it = good reason for journalists to make sure their networks are diverse #CJ2014
  24. #visualization shows 2 kinds of threads: long due to many contributors posting once or convo among few ppl #cj2014 http://t.co/Js2wFv0lyy
    #visualization shows 2 kinds of threads: long due to many contributors posting once or convo among few ppl #cj2014 pic.twitter.com/Js2wFv0lyy
  25. Super interesting question!: why do certain quotes/content stand out? Linguistic markers? #visualization #cj2014 http://t.co/1muOY6tZxI
    Super interesting question!: why do certain quotes/content stand out? Linguistic markers? #visualization #cj2014 pic.twitter.com/1muOY6tZxI
  26. For a week in September 2008, Obama commandeered the news media with the line “lipstick on a pig,” says Jon Kleinberg #cj2014
  27. That would be a nice job description for a business card: Meme tracker. #cj2014
  28. Kleinberg compares memorable & unmemorable movie lines as lab setting to see what features contribute to memorable or viral text #CJ2014
  29. How to track virality of content - use movie quotes: "These aren't the droids you're looking for." #cj2014 http://t.co/Z1YqXGlsgM
    How to track virality of content – use movie quotes: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” #cj2014 pic.twitter.com/Z1YqXGlsgM
  30. Why do we like “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” but not “you don’t need to see his identification” #CJ2014
  31. Memorable quotes are sequences of unusual words with common part of speech patterns #cj2014 – application to headline writing?
  32. Memorable quotes are less probable in their word choices but more probably in their sentence (part-of-speech) structure – Kleinberg. #cj2014
  33. Jon Kleinberg: Socially shared information - how to predict success stories? Try a sequence of unusual words.#cj2014 http://t.co/AVzW3vImS6
    Jon Kleinberg: Socially shared information – how to predict success stories? Try a sequence of unusual words.#cj2014 pic.twitter.com/AVzW3vImS6
  34. Is there an algorithmic pattern to why a movie quote is memorable? Take “you had me at hello.” What’s so special about it? #cj2014
  35. “Memorable quotes need to have a certain portability” _Jon Kleinberg #cj2014
  36. Memorable quotes tend to be more ‘general': more present tense, indefinite articles, fewer third-person pronouns >> ‘portability’ #cj2014
  37. #CJ2014 The ‘You had me at hello’ paper reference by Jon Kleinberg (including movie quotes memorability test):  http://www.mpi-sws.org/~cristian/memorability.html 
  38. Slogans in #advertising are like memorable quotes. “It just keeps going & going & going.” | #marketing #NLP #CJ2014
  39. Is there an analogy of genetics for text: ‘fitness’ of text for sharing, mutation of ‘junk’ parts of quotes while core parts remain #cj2014
  40. #cj2014 Just as genes have functional parts and junk parts, so does text - Beautiful analysis of content prolongation http://t.co/oFsLnMmrN7
    #cj2014 Just as genes have functional parts and junk parts, so does text – Beautiful analysis of content prolongation pic.twitter.com/oFsLnMmrN7
  41. “Genetic analogies for memes are becoming increasingly rich” -Jon Kleingberg #cj2014
  42. Sharing on social networks: “Can cascades be predicted?” — paper by Jon Kleinberg et al  http://bit.ly/1nCkspI  #cj2014
  43. Kleinberg wraps up his fascinating talk with new avenues for computational insight into info flows #CJ2014 http://t.co/vTloP7pllJ
    Kleinberg wraps up his fascinating talk with new avenues for computational insight into info flows #CJ2014 pic.twitter.com/vTloP7pllJ
  44. Great question: What are the features of content that make people STOP watching/reading/commenting? #CJ2014
  45. Another great question: Are there computational ways to evaluate WHO gets to be quoted in the first place? #CJ2014

Block Chains for News

July 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Anil Dash’s piece on applying an underlying concept of Bitcoin to track digital art has me thinking about the potential applications of  block chains for news. As he writes:

What the technology behind Bitcoin enables, in short, is the ability to track online trading of a digital object, without relying on any one central authority, by using the block chain as the ledger of transactions.

What if we built a block chain system for news? Recording and verifying facts, data, updates, quotes, people, etc like the Bitcoin protocol tracks transactions in a database that no one owns, but of which everyone always has the same copy. (Update: This is meant more as “inspired by block chains,” but it would be different kind of system because we’re not dealing with transferring or owning the units.)

How useful would that be in the reporting and dissemination of information? With all the noise introduced during breaking news and even long, complex story arcs, it seems like there’s a lot of potential here.

The nature and task of art is different from news, but there’s much we can learn (stay tuned for more posts on that topic). Consider this from Anil’s piece:

Reblogging is essential to getting the word out for many digital artists, but potentially devastating to the value of the very work it is promoting. What’s been missing, then, are the instruments that physical artists have used to invent value around their work for centuries — provenance and verification.

Think of these two key terms he uses.

Provenance. 

Verification.

In the context of news, provenance could be the source of information — or it could be who first reported something. Verification, of course, is already a common term.

The next question then is: What instruments do we have to give our work value?

Not methods. Instruments.

All this — you guessed it — also makes me think of GitHub for News (more here). That idea would make tracking updates, contributions, feedback and even facts more structured by incorporating them in a versioning system like git.

Neither GitHub for News nor Block Chains for News would solve all the problems they aim to tackle. Anil’s piece smartly notes in the art realm:

as with any new idea, it can be difficult to reckon with the implications. Steven Melendez asserted that monegraph could “eradicate fake digital art”, when this is exactly backwards. In fact monegraph makes it possible to have “fake digital art”, because prior to this we had no consistent way of defining an “original”.

So, where should we start?

UPDATE: More discussion and explanation…

PoW = proof of work

Also, just for fun and more Bitcoin background: By reading this article, you’re mining bitcoins

Come say hello at #ONA13 workshops, karaoke and maybe a lightning talk!

October 16th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Greetings! I’m here in Atlanta for the Online News Association’s #ONA13 conference — my sixth consecutive ONA. Check out the stuff below, if it strikes your fancy.

Follow me on Twitter as @greglinch and be sure to say hello there and in-person! I’m always happy to talk about ONA, the board, the ONA student committee and a smattering of other things:

  • journalism
  • data and coding
  • science!
  • abstraction in art, poetry and music
  • milkshakes and French toast

Also, say hello to all the wonderful Washington Post folks!

Lightning talk pitch

Vote here for my lightning talk, which you can read the pitch for here.

Workshops

I’m helping to teach a few workshops alongside some awesome folks like Stephanie Yiu, Connor Jennings and Jeremy Bowers. Come join the fun!

Using WordPress to Structure your Beat
#wp4yrbeat
Thursday, 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.
room 401

Digging through notebooks or scanning old articles isn’t the best way to find archival information. Structure your beat using the key subject matter as your foundation to track people, places, organizations, incidents, schools and more.

Editorial Workflows in WordPress
#edflowwp
Friday, 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
International 6

Learn how to use WordPress to control your copy flow, with plugins like Zone Manager, Google Docs and edit flow to wrangle emails.

Programmer Workflow
#programmerwf
Friday, 4:15 – 5 p.m.
room 401

From git to commit, root to branch, learn the best way to go from ack to zsh.

Karaoke

Join us Friday night at 9:30 at the Metro Diner Cafe for the third annual officially unofficial ONA karaoke bash. It’s just a block down that street from the conference hotel. See you there!

“Why develop in the newsroom?” Opportunities abound!

July 18th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

“Why develop in the newsroom?” asks Dan Sinker. In short, I’d say because you have near limitless opportunities to solve interesting problems. For example:

  • How can we find better ways to tell stories?
  • How do we uncover new information and find meaning in it?
  • How do we properly inform people about their communities?
  • How do we foster and contribute to important conversations?
  • How do we hold public officials and powerful figures to account?
  • How do we increase understanding of complex issues?

In The Washington Post‘s newsroom, where I work, developers are a highly valued bunch. There are far more ideas and a far greater desire to collaborate with developers than we have time or resources for — and we probably have more coders than many newsrooms.

Developing in a newsroom is not about “IT” or support — it’s about building things. Things that our audience and others across the newsroom use. We have folks who do a mix of the following:

  • analyze data
  • create visuzalizations
  • build interactives
  • develop news applications
  • create platforms and services
  • build APIs

These individuals work in different areas — from graphics to digital design to the embedded developer team. Personally, I coordinate data and technology projects for a specific desk — local — and occasionally use code. I previously did a six-month stint on the embed team after starting at the Post as a producer.

“Six-month stint?” What does that mean? It means my newsroom gave me half a year to improve my self-taught code skills and build projects alongside full-time developers. How awesome is that? I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to level-up my coding abilities, build strong relationship on that team and better manage projects because of those two things.

Another example of the value our organization places on fostering and recruiting developers is evident in this excerpt from Miranda Mulligan’s response to the “Why develop in the newsroom?” question:

Earlier this year, the Washington Post and Medill School announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. The Washington Post will assist the Knight Foundation — which helped originally fund the program — in paying for the education of three scholars over a three-year period. After graduating, the scholars will work a paid internship with the Post’s tech team. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please contact Rich Gordon at richgor@northwestern.edu.

Opportunities abound. Whether they’re hard journalistic problems or even hard computer science problems, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle a wide range of projects. Bring other domain knowledge or expertise — science, business, sports, politics, whatever. I’m ridiculously excited just thinking of all the possibilities.

Join a newsroom! Apply for the 2014 Open News Fellowship! Apply for the Medill program!

Also, be sure to read the other excellent responses to Dan’s question:

SPJ #journcamp in DC: code for journalists session

June 22nd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Highlights from “Talking Tech: Learning the Language(s) of Web Developers — and Then Some Code” session I led at SPJ’s #jourcamp today.

View on Storify

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