September 9, 2012

The summer of language

Is it Java jumble? Python pile-on? Ruby ramble? That has been our summer of finding the right language for our project and the tools to match. Tough selection process. It seemed to me we had found a nice road to travel down, but then the pavement gave way to dirt roads and ended in a thicket. Well, that is exaggerated. But not all wrong, either.

Each language has its own world, positives and negatives. But when architecting a something, I can tell that you need to lay a solid foundation on which you can build.

Tech support guy makes it plain and simple, by saying that selecting a programming language is one of the most major decisions a programmer will make during the entire process. The entire process? Whoa, that is big, my friend. But even as a newbie, I like his overview of the reasons to pick one language over another: considering speed, graphical user interface needs, experience and familiarity and other criteria.

Funny though, his post peters out after he talks about C. I guess we know which language he likes best. No, Brendan, we ain’t walking down C Street, I don’t think.

These IBM developers, Jerry Reghunadh and Neha Jain, also have an overview. I like their concept of thinking about elasticity as you pick your language–the ease with which new features can be added to a platform. I guess when you start out, you work on a functionality so hard that it is difficult to see when you might be ready to expand (except in those daydreaming moments).

Interesting, too, their ideas on Java or Python. They also have a web application implemented in a Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture both in JSP and PHP. One day I will read Roy Fielding’s University of California at Irvine PhD thesis on the REST subject, for fun. But I gather that there is no big difference except that PHP lacks multi-threading capability. Ok then.

But right now, we first are trying to assure we have a great something that can, one day in the not so distant future, actually go and REST.

July 9, 2012

Online behavior

It seems a timely resource: The Journal of of Online Behavior all about computer-mediated interaction. Although still online, it seems that the site/journal is no longer being updated. Bummer.

This report about a study of gender differences in online gaming made me wonder how we at SeeSaw are going to handle gender. According to the study, men and women playing the online game Pardus act differently as they explore solar systems, make friends and enemies, harvest wealth or battle.As the site explains: it is set in a futuristic universe, where “traders, pirates, smugglers and other pilots of various professions, races and factions strive to gain wealth and fame in space.”

Female players are more risk-averse, for example, say the scientists from the Medical University of Vienna, but they also earn more money than men in the game. Men are more likely to accept friendship requests from women, according to the study. By the way, Pardus seems to be Austrian.

In his/her comments on the article in Technology Review, Pizdolinium writes that gender-swapping online is higher than the purported 10 percent that the scientists take into consideration. I wonder if we will be able to segment comments by gender. Our data might be off by a few genders, I gather.


Tags: ,
June 21, 2012

Welcome, Brendan

Don’t want to forget my manners here. Should have written this post earlier. WELCOME Brendan Ashby (intentional all caps) who is helping with SeeSaw in a big way. You will see his posts here soon, too.

June 21, 2012

Commenting behavior

Was checking on the big fire at San Francisco’s Pier 29 yesterday. A friend and I had been talking and you could hear all the fire engines and helicopters.

I found one report about the fire on the Sacramento Bee site and looked at their commenting policies, something I want to document as part of the work on SeeSaw.

When you click on “about comments,” you can see that the editors “reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can’t play nice.” That sounds like a lot of work. I will bet SeeSaw can help with that.

The rules they lay out include: “Don’t use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech.” And don’t say anything “in a way you wouldn’t want your own child to hear.” SeeSaw can filter those out. Although I guess on some sites, profanities might be ok, so it should be tunable in that way.

“Don’t use all capital letters. That’s akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience,” say the Sacramento Bee editors. Yelling is quite emotional, which people often are on subjects. I wonder about prohibiting that. But it is true, all caps text passages are not enticing. But they do express plenty of emotion, which might be legitimate to document.




June 18, 2012

Feeling Fine

I really like Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris’s We feel fine, which harvests human emotions from blogs. It finds mention of “I feel fine” and “I am feeling.” Those mentions go into a database and then the database is visualized and interactive. So cool. So inspiring, this “self-organizing particle system,” as they call it in their mission statement. May SeeSaw one day be this amazing.

June 4, 2012

Javascript vs. Ruby

Being a really baby developer and trying to learn Ruby, I come to this with odd and perhaps naive questions and surprise.

This overview and survey of Javascript vs. Ruby is fascinating.

Ruby would be better for teaching children how to program, is good for prototyping, is flexible, expressive, good for short iterations. There is lots of open-source code and it has a coherent design. More people find that Javascript is more efficient, but has annoying syntax, is hard to replace with other languages, but burns out developers who use if for a few years.

But if this overview is right, and I might not understand it entirely, Javascript is way, way faster than Ruby. But it terms of memory use, Ruby is better.

May 13, 2012


I guess SeeSaw’s phase right now can be called futzing. It is not an official algorithmic term, but it kind of describes what we are up to right now.



April 28, 2012

Columbia University J-School Innovation Showcase

Great evening for us today at the reception for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Innovation Showcase.

Thanks, everyone who has come by so far and shared feedback and ideas. So helpful!

The showcase is on tomorrow from noon to five pm. Please swing by.


April 24, 2012

It’s a tool in the making

When people post comments about stories they read, see, or hear, the lists can get unwieldy. SeeSaw weighs the comments’ content and tone and delivers icons to readers that reflect these thoughts and emotions. For example: Why do readers love the subject of the article, or what makes people angry after reading the piece?

SeeSaw is harnessing the power of clever algorithms to sort and parse the comments. And convert the results to images. And one day even sort all across the web. Ok, it is a dream. But I am starting to build this tool, which mines, sorts, visualizes, and put comments into context, helping readers and authors see their community.

Wonder what the most comments on a news story might be, 500? 1,000? If you find a high number, please post and add the links.

More info to come on this site, please stay tuned. Am preparing for the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Innovation Showcase. (Whew, trying saying that after standing next to your poster for hours.) But we are keen to hear what everyone thinks as we build and build this SeeSaw.

Once SeeSaw is pretty stable, we want to let you try it to see what it can deliver to you.