News and overview
Oct 1, 2013: I'll be California Dreaming at the UC San Diego Design at Large series (Oct 10th) and the Stanford HCI seminar (Oct 11th) about using social media and other trace behavior to help people better understand themselves. This should be fun.
Sep 19, 2013: Nice work out of folks around me for the CHI season. Nitesh Goyal and Bin Xu led out on CHI papers that I helped on, and Victoria Sosik submitted a paper about stage 1 of the dissertation to the Journal of Positive Psyhcology. A nontrivial number of other Cornell papers went flying into the CHIniverse as well, which always makes me happy. Good luck, papers!
Sep 10, 2013: Tenure package officially submitted, I hope. Docs to come shortly.fa
Welcome to my professional site. As of fall 2008, I'm on the tenure
track as an assistant professor in Cornell University's information science
department. Prior to that I spent two years as a visiting assistant
professor working with Geri Gay's Interaction Design Lab and
teaching HCI classes. It was and is good.
A PhD from the University of Minnesota's computer science department helped
make this all possible; John Riedl and Loren Terveen are my advisors,
and the thesis is Helping
Hands: Design for Member-Maintained Online Communities. It's a
pretty good read, for a dissertation. If you need to do a background check, here's my
CV; below, I hit a few highlights.
My main interest for a long time has been helping
people make sense of and manage information, both individually and as
groups. More recently this has grown to include leveraging people's
current behaviors online, along with social science theory, to produce
individual and social goods that otherwise would not have been
created. More details on what this means below, and even more
details on my own projects at the
Reimagination Lab website.
The project I'm currently most excited about is code-named Pensieve
until we get sued by J. K. Rowling. This project has an intense, personal inspiration: I rarely remember the past, and mostly I remember bad things. And, although I've kept a
blog for 11 years specifically to remind me of the past, I rarely look
at it. Then I realized I can write programs to remind me to look at
it. Now I get text messages from my past and I like it. Pensieve is
about generalizing this to other people, other media, and other
contexts and adding support for social reminiscing, which my interviews
with potential participants has convinced me is really important.
You can try it yourself:
The Pensieve website can
deliver reminders to help you reminisce via email. It can send content
you (or friends) have created on Picasa, last.fm, flickr, Blogger,
or Twitter, as well as a set of interesting non-personalized prompts.
The Facebook app will
help you remember to look into your past in Facebook, both through
photos and status messages.
Recommender systems are another example of leveraging behavior and
helping people manage information. Using consumption and preference
information that people already provide or are willing to provide
cheaply, they can help people find new information to explore, as with
MovieLens. This raises a number
of issues, starting with making accurate predictions for individuals,
but quickly moving into a number of interesting HCI issues such as
recommending for groups, helping new users enter the system,
evaluating the effectiveness of recommendations, and understanding how
those recommendations bias users, all of which I have worked on in the
We can use recommendations to do more than help individuals manage
their own information overload problems. Karau and Williams'
collective effort model predicts that people will be more
motivated to contribute to a group good if you reduce their cost of
doing so. This leads to the
idea of intelligent task routing--asking people to help a community
by recommending specific tasks they're likely to already know how
to do or likely to enjoy doing. I developed this work as my dissertation,
working with Dan Frankowski, John Riedl, and Loren Terveen, culminating
(so far) in the SuggestBot
tool I wrote for Wikipedia,
reported in an IUI 2007 paper
There is still much to do under this umbrella: understanding how to
use other theories of how people become attached to groups to make
more sophisticated and varied recommendations (of people, of projects,
and so on). I'd still like to find students who want to work on this.
It stalled a little while I was working with the Interaction Design Lab
but I want to make it happen. If you want to help, send me an email.
This project is new enough that it doesn't even quite have a
coherent description, but the root is this: one time, I spent quite
a long time pouring my heart out to a friend about the girl I thought
I was going to marry. After what can only be described as extended
angst, his reply: "I learned a new rollerblade trick. Wanna see?"
Recently, I've realized that I don't actually know very much about
my patterns of communication with most of the people in my life. What
do they look like? What do we talk about? When do they happen? And,
can I combine cool vizualizations of conversational behavior over time
with clever theories about the ways people make sense of converstaions
and relationships to figure it out?
More generally, based on what I saw at CHI 2009, this project is
part of what is a growing trend in HCI around developing interfaces
that help people become self-aware. Whether it's activity detection
and ambient awareness, deriving interesting info from financial records,
tracking and visualizing
personal data in general, or plain old persuasive computing, this seems like a growth area in HCI and one that has massive potential research
and real-world impact.
Other Cornell Collaborations
Geri and her IDL helped me get involved in a number of
other interesting projects during my two years of postdocery there
before I became tenure track:
- MobiTags. One of the really interesting questions technology
creates and then helps us answer is how to establish relationships
between the physical and virtual worlds. A number of folks at the
IDL, including undergrads Jon Baxter, Brian Alson, Soyoung Lee, Phil
Adams, Chethan Sarabu, and senior folks like myself, Saeko Nomura, and
Geri Gay, developed and deployed a very cool handheld museum tour that
integrates tagging, allowing us to study the relationships between
navigation in physical, information, and social spaces. A sweet CHI
paper has been accepted.
- ArtLinks. Museums aren't just about learning about art; they're
about social and spiritual experience as well. Joel Lewenstein,
Jenna Holloway, Andrew Herman, Jon Baxter, Saeko Nomura, Kirsten
Boehner, and Geri Gay did an awful lot of work in building out a
visualization that encouraged people to see their connections to
other people in the museum and their reflections on both the art and
their experiences in the museum. Again, this led to a successful
- GroupMeter. Led by soon-to-graduate PhD student Gilly Leshed,
with a cast of thousands in both professor-space (Jeff Hancock,
Jeremy Birnholtz, Geri Gay, Poppy McLeod, Michael Schober, Sven
Travis) and developer-assistant-student space (Diego Perez, Austin
Lin, Emily Etinger, Soyoung Lee, and folks from prior versions whose
names I don't have handy except for Brian Lim), this project aims to
use linguistic feedback about people's behavior to help them become
better collaborators in virtual teams. This also has made it to
GROUP and will be at CHI 2009.
And, more generally, I have found a number of fellow travelers through
the excellent interdisciplinary culture at Cornell who were working
on projects that my knowledge of Wikipedia, social science theory,
and recommendation systems have allowed me to contribute to, including:
- Thinking about how notions of territoriality play around
around ownership feelings on online artifacts. (Jenn Thom-Santelli et al.)
- Modeling the effects of communication and similarity of people's
interests in predicting behavior in Wikipedia. (David Crandall et al.)
- Understanding how to use social network visualizations and
activity metrics to understand roles in open content communities. (Ted Welser et al.)
- Looking at factors that affect the diffusion and continued use
of innovations such as SuggestBot in a community. (Connie Yuan et al.)
- Building large social science data repositories and effective ways to make them accessible to researchers (Bill Arms et al.)
- Thinking about how to recommend expertise in ways that account
for social closeness. (N. Sadat Shami et al.)
I also did and helped with a whole bunch of work around
recommendation systems with my advisors and labmates back at GroupLens, who I miss. This
included group recommendations, recommending research papers,
metrics for recommendation effectiveness, the influence of
recommender interfaces on ratings, tagging in recommender systems,
and learning to recommend for new users.
Finally, there are a number of miscellaneous projects, including
developing something resembling a social news aggregator in 1998,
building a tagging system with Jeremy Goecks in 2001, helping Google
learn to play Who Wants To Be a Millionaire with Tony Lam (et al.),
looking at re-identification through preferences and discussions
with Dan Frankowski (et al.), and so on. Someday I'll do
something far enough ahead of the curve to get rich or famous. Maybe.
That part's not actually that important to me.
download related publications here or
see the list in my curriculum vita.
I also have a research statement
as of 2011 that tells the story in more detail. For people who
are interested in seeing how these things evolve, here's
Fall 2012: INFO/COMM 3450 + INFO 4940, Human Computer Interaction. [Website].
I care deeply about teaching, and most students and observing professors regard me as a solid teacher; for evidence, and more philosophy, see my teaching statement.
- Spring 2012: INFO 6400, Advanced Human Computer Interaction.[Website]
- Fall 2011: INFO 6307, Learning from Web Data; INFO 6940, IS PhD professionalization.
- Spring 2011: INFO/CS 2300, Intermedate Web Design.
- Fall 2010: INFO/COMM 3450, Human Computer Interaction. [Website]
- Spring 2010: INFO/COMM 4400/6400, Advanced Human Computer Interaction.
- Fall 2009: INFO 4307/6307, Learning from Web Data. This was a fun new course that was 1/3 acquiring and cleaning web data, 1/3 visualization, and 1/3 machine learning, with homeworks and projects driven entirely by student interests. It was a blast.
- Spring 2009: INFO/COMM 3450, Human Computer Interaction.
- Fall 2008: INFO/COMM 4400/6400, Advanced HCI. [Website].
- Spring 2008: INFO/COMM 345, HCI. [Website].
- Fall 2007: INFO/COMM 440/640, Advanced HCI. [Website].
- Spring 2007: INFO/COMM 345, HCI.
- Fall 2006: INFO/COMM 440/640, Advanced HCI.
In general, I believe students learn the most when they're
thinking and doing. To that end, I assign lots of work and try
to structure classes, especially advanced ones, so that most of the
class time involves student activities rather than lectures. I'm
a pretty good speaker, but speaking's not the goal, learning is.
I managed to get through the whole course in fall 2008
with my longest stretch of lecture under 20
minutes, and though it's awkward to have less "control" of the
situation, I think it's mostly a better situation.
I've been teaching for a while; in addition to the courses above at
Cornell, I have taught at the University of Minnesota (2005) and James
Madison University (1998-2000).
- 2005: Introduction to Operating Systems
- 2000: Software Design, Software Engineering, Algorithm Development
- 1999: Software Design, Algorithm Development, Being Productive With Computers
- 1998: Being Productive With Computers
- Ph.D., 2006, Computer Science, University of Minnesota.
- M.S., 1999, Computer Science, James Madison University.
- B.M.E., 1993, Music Education, The Ohio State University.
Other professional activities and awards
I have reviewed for a number of conferences and journals. I have
served on the Minnesota CS department's faculty recruiting committee
and the JMU CS department's curriculum committee. I recently helped
write two successful 3-year NSF grants and a Hatch grant. I've
received Graduate School (2000) and Guidant Fellowships (2005) at
Minnesota. I've had a visiting appointment at Cornell and, now that
I've jumped onto the track (or been tied to it, depending on my mood
that day), I can't even make the "but
I have not yet been a tenure-track faculty member" joke and point
to that silly college essay. But I still like it enough to want to
point to it.
Apart from the last bit, this is somewhat more formal than is normal for me. You might get a better read on Dan the person from my personal page.
I think it might be useful to keep the older updates and links around, so here they are.
Mar 18, 2013: Amit Sharma and Mevlana Gemici did a nice little poster paper for ICWSM that we found out was accepted today, about patterns of preferences in a social network that helps think about why friend-based recommendation algorithms do well.
Feb 8, 2013: Amit also got himself a really nicely reviewed paper into WWW this year around the effects of social explanations.
Jan 9, 2013: We fired off another Goalmometer paper, this one, a work in progress for CHI. Here's hoping, and thanks to Sasha Naranjit for leading out on it.
Dec 14, 2013: It was a good year for me in CHI papers-land. Xuan Zhao, Niloufar Salehi, Sasha Naranjit, Sara Alwaalan, Steve Voida, and I have a CHI 2013 paper around understanding the use of social media data for current performance, long-term exhibition to others, and personal archiving, which is super-sweet. I also have papers with Ge Gao, Hao-Chuan Wang, and Sue Fussell on using highlighting to support machine translation, and with Vera Khovanskaya, Eric Baumer, Steve, and Geri Gay on designing personal informatics systems that raise awareness of the underlying infrastructure.
Oct 28, 2012: Met a bunch of fun folks at the GROUP 2012 doctoral consortium. Hopefully gave them useful things to think about.
Oct 11, 2012: Hao-Chuan Wang and Tina (Chien Wen) Yuan got full papers accepted at CSCW 2013. Hao-Chuan's, about how machine translation, particuarly asymmetric translation, can support multilingual teams. Tina's, about the pressures and problems that immigrants to a new culture and language face when talking informally in their new organization. It's nice getting some cross-cultural work in with Sue Fussell.
Oct 8, 2012: Had a fun chat with folks and talk at Michigan after the CSCW PC meeting; it was good times and I got some good advice. Hopefully they got some good food for thought. :)
Aug 27, 2012: WikiSym 2012 was a fun conference, both to attend and to do the paper chairing for. It's small, but it's feisty -- and a really good set of people and vibe.
Apr 10, 2012: Good news for Amit Sharma, who was selected as a winner of the Yahoo! Key Scientific Challenges competition this year. This is a very cool thing.
Apr 1, 2012: I'm serving as papers chair for WikiSym 2012 and we are looking for some good submissions to come along in the next week; deadline is Apr 13. Hope to be assigning your papers to the PC soon. :)
Feb 15, 2012: Good news for Liz Murnane, a first year PhD here who was selected for the MSR Graduate Women's Scholarship for 2012.
Jan 30, 2012: I was selected as a faculty fellow for the Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences for Spring 2013. It's very cool as a recognition of how information science can contribute there, a little feather in my cap, and a chance to go back to the place which, through the collaborations I formed on the Getting Connected:
Social Science in the Age of Networks project, is a major reason why I got hired here.
Jan 23, 2012: Starting up a great semester with the new HCI seminar -- very excting, good vibes, should be a lot of fun to read some papers that are published and not under review! Lots of interest, too: 25 students.
Dec 16, 2011: Xuan Zhao and
Victoria Schwanda Sosik got a CHI paper accepted that's a nice followup to the CSCW 2012 paper about how people use social media to think about friendships; here, they're looking at how people in romantic relationships interpret and use social media behaviors to manage their relationships and their other personal goals.
Oct 26, 2011: The official accept for the HCI special issue on designing for personal memories came yesterday, very exciting. Congrats to
Victoria Schwanda Sosik, Soyoung Lee, Johnathon Schultz, Tejas Peesapati, and all the folks who worked on papers that helped inform it.
Oct 22, 2011: Amit Sharma did a very nice job presenting his network-centric recommenders idea at the 3rd Workshop on Recommender Systems and the Social Web.
Oct 18, 2011: Victoria Schwanda and Xuan Zhao got themselves a great paper accepted at CSCW about how social media content can help people think about their friendships. Top 10%, very nice. Stay tuned for more...
Oct 9, 2011: SocialCom went well, fun smaller conference. People were fairly interested in OJ Zhou and
Tiffany Ng's pieTime work, and Amit Sharma did a fine job with his presentation of the PopCore recommender in Facebook, which is very cool.
Jun 20, 2011: Total deadline madness today, but worth it: submitted OJ Zhou and
Tiffany Ng's pieTime and Amit Sharma's PopCore papers to SocialCom, which seems interesting;
also sent the revise and resubmit of the Pensieve journal paper to the HCI special
issue on designing for personal memories; and Megan Halpern sent the final version of the Sundial paper to MedieKultur.
Jun 9, 2011: It was a lot of fun being a DC member for the SoCS workshop in Minneapolis.
Trying to think in students' spaces and give them useful ideas is something I really like
and might want to become part of my repertoire.
May 7, 2011: CHI went great. Nice questions about what we're doing and how we're doing it,
both officially and in 1-on-1 conversations; Victoria did a nice job for her first foray into
presentations; met good folks; the workshop went reasonably well for my first foray into
Mar 29, 2011: As part of my third year review I had to write a new research statement. I'm trying a new data as door, window, and mirror metaphor to explain the work -- see what you think. And, if you want to see how these change, here's the job search version from 2008.
Mar 21, 2011: Although the University of Florida CS is not a hotbed of HCI, Ben Lok, who does some interesting stuff around avatars, invited me down for a talk and there were a lot of thoughtful questions and it was fun.
Jan 18, 2011: The deadline for the CHI 2011 workshop: Bridging Practices, Theories, and Technologies to Support Reminiscence has been extended to February 11. If you're in that general space and want to attend, here's the call for participation.
Jan 17, 2011: I'll be giving a talk at Northwestern's Technology and Social Behavior colloquium on Feb. 24, which should be pretty fun and a chance to talk about the Being Heard stuff a little in front of people who can give me some nice critique.
Dec 6, 2010: We (Victoria, Johnathon, Tejas, and Soyoung) got the Pensieve journal paper submitted to the HCI special issue on Designing for Personal Memories. First first-author journal paper.
Nov 18, 2010: Gave a nice talk to Michigan State's TISM folks about the Pensieve and Being Heard work.
Nov 9, 2010: Justin Cheng did a great job on the talk about kultagg, a ludic tagging interface he developed, at GROUP, and overall it was a super-fun conference experience. Lots of grad students, lots of fun.
Oct 10, 2010: Karrie Karahalios and I are Videos Chairs for CSCW 2011 in China. This should be cool, and videos are due November 19. As it's in China, and we expect that more attendees will be from non-English-speaking countries, we're encouraging videos produced in any language as long as there are English subtitles. We're also looking for existing videos that are clearly relevant to the CSCW audience. See the call for papers for more details and example videos from prior years.
Oct 7, 2010: Got invited to give a talk out at Northwestern in Februrary, which is very cool indeed. In several ways.
Sep 24, 2010: Whew, CHI is over. Students had four papers and I provided some supplementary help for all of them, which was an interesting juggling act. I'm done estimating acceptance probabilities at conferences, but I'm pretty happy about what they did.
Sep 14, 2010: Congrats to Hao-Chuan Wang, who passed his A-exam.
July 28, 2010: Good news on a VOSS proposal that Sue Fussell led out on, around looking at how language choice affects intercultural collaboration. My main bit is that the IdeaExpander project might be useful for smoothing gaps in machine translation as well.
July 26, 2010: IBM was really good, got to meet and re-meet a lot of fun people, and the talk was well-received and well-questioned.
July 20, 2010: GROUP: 1/2. Justin Cheng got his note on ludic tagging systems into GROUP (as a freshman!) Very nice. Happiness for him and the lab. Update on 7/28: Hao-Chuan Wang will be making an appearance at the DC there as well.
July 6, 2010: Our short paper about using maps for reminiscing at ASIST 2010 is accepted: Tejas, Victoria, and Johnathan all had a hand in the writing and production, with an assist from Meethu Malu. Very nice, and should be a good time and a good place to bring a bunch of the new-type researcher folks.
June 9, 2010: Good news is bursting out all around, locally. Sue got tenure. Geri Gay and Laura Forlano also got a VOSS grant. Victoria got an NSF Graduate Fellowship (a little while ago, but it doesn't hurt to report local good news now that it's had time to circulate). And Tejas has an offer for a usability internship at Oracle that's a pretty good opportunity. Plus, on a personal note, I got a very nice surprise birthday party. Sweet.
June 7, 2010: Yay, good news on a VOSS proposal that Sue Fussell led out on. Not... quite... official, but very promising, and very timely.
May 27, 2010: Had a nice little dinner with some folks from the Cornell Alumni Club of Baltimore and gave a brief chat about Pensieve, which was well-received. That's good - should do a few more of these as I happen to visit various places.
May 21, 2010: Tejas Peesapati and Hao-Chuan Wang got a short paper accepted at ICIC 2010 about how cultural elements in photographs and the cultural background of a viewer shape the ways people think about pictures. Very nice.
May 14, 2010: Victoria Schwanda and Justin Cheng led the charge on two short papers that are being submitted to GROUP 2010. I've given up on estimating paper chances at conferences, but they both feel like pretty thoughtful, solid short papers. We'll see what the reviewers say.