This week’s readings included some dire looks at life after the PhD: Kovalik (2013) on how easy it is to slip through the cracks of academia, and Johnson (2014) on the hyper-competitive life of the postdoc. Both were quite sobering. Johnson describes the problem in the health sciences where reduced government funding has led to situations where academic research labs are increasingly dependent on cheap labor (postdocs), who do most of the actual science, while the faculty jobs are increasingly difficult to find, because there are too many postdocs being cranked out to do the research. It was a somewhat frustrating article because while it hinted at how smaller labs could help correct this problem, it really didn’t explain how that could work. Would the problem just be harder to identify if there were lots of smaller labs, rather than fewer large ones? I like to think there is more to this idea of smaller labs, that are geared more to research. Perhaps they are more like projects with longer funding cycles than labs?

Johnson, C. (2014). Glut of postdoc researchers stirs quiet crisis in science. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from

Kovalik, D. (2013). Death of an adjunct. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 18. Retrieved from

Seminar Week 8

This weeks seminar was focused on citizen science. We had three readings: Wiggins & Crowston (2011), Quinn & Bederson (2011), Eveleigh, Jennett, Blandford, Brohan, & Cox (2014) and were visited by the author of the first paper Andrea Wiggins. This class was a lot of fun because prior to talking about the readings we spent an hour walking around the UMD campus looking for birds, and collecting observations with Andrea’s eBird mobile app.

Eveleigh, A., Jennett, C., Blandford, A., Brohan, P., & Cox, A. L. (2014). Designing for dabblers and deterring drop-outs in citizen science. In Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 2985–2994). Association for Computing Machinery.

Quinn, A. J., & Bederson, B. B. (2011). Human computation: A survey and taxonomy of a growing field. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1403–1412). Association for Computing Machinery.

Wiggins, A., & Crowston, K. (2011). From conservation to crowdsourcing: A typology of citizen science. In System sciences (HICSS), 2011 44th Hawaii international conference on (pp. 1–10). IEEE.

Seminar Week 7

This week we focused on information visualization with Niklas Elmqvist from the UMD iSchool. Niklas studies information visualization and human computer interaction. He joined UMD in the last year, after arriving from Purdue University.

White Dudes Giving Speeches

Thank you for inviting me here today to be with you all at MARAC. I’ll admit that I’m more than a bit nervous to be up here. I normally apologize for being a software developer right about now. But I’m not going to do that today…although I guess I just did. I’m not paying software developers any compliments by using them as a scapegoat for my public presentation skills. And the truth is that I’ve seen plenty of software developers give moving and inspiring talks.

Seminar Week 6

This week we dove into some readings about information retrieval. The literature on the topic is pretty vast, so luckily we had Doug Oard on hand to walk us through it. The readings on deck were Liu (2009), Chapelle, Joachims, Radlinski, & Yue (2012) and Sanderson & Croft (2012). The first two of these were had some pretty technical, mathematical components that were kind of intimidating and over my head. But the basic gist of both of them was understandable, especially after the context that Oard provided.

Chapelle, O., Joachims, T., Radlinski, F., & Yue, Y. (2012). Large-scale validation and analysis of interleaved search evaluation. ACM Transactions on Information Systems (TOIS), 30(1), 6.

Liu, T.-Y. (2009). Learning to rank for information retrieval. Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval, 3(3), 225–331.

Sanderson, M., & Croft, W. B. (2012). The history of information retrieval research. Proceedings of the IEEE, 100(Special Centennial Issue), 1444–1451.

Seminar Week 5

In this weeks class we took a closer look at design methods and prototyping with readings from Druin (1999), Zimmerman, Forlizzi, & Evenson (2007) and a paper that fellow student Joohee picked out Buchenau & Suri (2000). In addition to a discussion of the readings Brenna McNally from the iSchool visited us to demonstrate the Cooperative Inquiry that was discussed in the Druin paper.

Buchenau, M., & Suri, J. F. (2000). Experience prototyping. In Proceedings of the 3rd conference on designing interactive systems: Processes, practices, methods, and techniques (pp. 424–433). Association for Computing Machinery.

Druin, A. (1999). Cooperative inquiry: Developing new technologies for children with children. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 592–599). Association for Computing Machinery.

Zimmerman, J., Forlizzi, J., & Evenson, S. (2007). Research through design as a method for interaction design research in hci. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 493–502). Association for Computing Machinery.

Stylish Writing - Jill Lepore

For one of my classes this semester we’ve been reading Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword. The goal of the class is to help PhD students learn about the value of research, with a particular focus on accessible research that makes a significant difference in a particular community and (hopefully) the world. Too often valuable research results are packaged up in dry containers, that are generally unaccessible to other members of the field, and all the smart people and interested people outside of the academic community. We’re reading Sword’s book to learn some techniques for helping make this happen.

Computer Assisted Appraisal in Web Archives

In 2008 Google estimated that it had 1 trillion unique URLs in its index (Alpert & Hajaj, 2008). When I looked today (7 years later) the Internet Archive’s home page announced that it has archived 438 billion Web pages, or 43.8% of the Web. Of course the Web has grown many times in the last 7 years, and the Internet Archive itself takes multiple snapshots of the same URL–so the actual coverage is much, much lower.

Seminar Week 4

In this week’s seminar we left the discussion of information and began looking at the theory of design writ large, with a few focused readings, and a lecture from Professor Findlater. One of the key things I took from the lecture was the distinction between User Experience and Usability. The usability of an object speaks to its functionality, and how easy it is for people to use it. User Experience on the other hand is more of an affective measure of how users perceive or think about the device, which may not always be congruent with it’s usability. It’s an interesting distinction, which I wasn’t really conscious of before.

Three Papers, Three Cultures

Here are my reading notes for week 4 of the Engaged Intellectual. Superficially these papers seemed oriented around the three cultures of social science, the humanities and the physical sciences. But there were some interesting cross-currents between them.