Multiple Guess

Security Watch: The myth of online anonymity – CNET reviews:

In his talk, Kazwetz mentioned several studies on gender use of keywords which, when weighted–with specific numerical values for male and different numerical values for female–can determine the gender of the author. Sounds too simple to be true, but research (including Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Texts by Shlomo Argamon, et al, and Sexed Texts by Charles McGrath) has shown that some words are more likely to be written by one gender or the other. In informal writing, men are more likely to write “some,” “this”, and “as” while women are more likely to write “actually,” “everything,” and “because”. In formal writing, men write “around,” “more,” and “what” while women write “if,” “with,” and “where.” By determining the point totals in a given document, Dr. Krawetz can predict the gender of the author.

Dr. Krawetz admits upfront that this method is only 60 to 70 percent accurate, but it is far better than guessing, which is only 50 percent accurate. He further cautions that text including citations from poetry, quotes from others, and even the influence of copy editors on the original can all skew the results. It is best to collect a large number of examples, then average the point totals.

Is this method compared to guessing significantly different? I’d prefer a much higher accuracy rate. At the minimum, 85 percent, though 90 to 95 percent would be much better. Maybe in forensics accuracy isn’t so important?

Look for a Patent Wiki in 2007

Patent review goes Wiki – August 21, 2006:

That’s the basic concept behind a pilot program sponsored by IBM and other companies [including HP and Microsoft], which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appears poised to green-light. The project would apply an advisory version of the wiki approach to the patent-approval process.

The issue is that patent applications have tripled in the past two decades, leaving examiners only 20 hours on average to comb through a complex application, research past inventions, and decide whether a patent should be granted.

As a result, critics contend, quality has declined and lucrative patents have been granted for ideas that weren’t actually new.

One solution is to let astute outsiders weigh in during the patent-review process, as online encyclopedia Wikipedia does, vastly increasing the information available to the patent examiner.

This acknowledges there is a quantity and quality issue with people who are approving patents. The applications are complex (certainly when I read them my eyes glaze over). Do the examiners have access to good research tools? Are the examiners good at digesting the research they find? It sounds like all one needs to do is create a patent full of buzzwords the examiner is not likely to understand.

Personally, I think the USPTO should forbid hand drawn figures. Take the Blackboard patent for an “Internet-Based Education Support System and Methods” granted this year and the basis of a lawsuit against Desire2Learn (who posted the complaint and patent). I know the systems pretty well having supported a few. However, I find these hand drawn figures of a browser screen more difficult to understand than the same figure would be of a screenshot or a CAD drawing. I figure the ubiquitousness of drawing software should make this a fairly reasonable request.

Also, I would like to see more in patents about what existing technology the patent is based upon. The major complaint from people about these patents being granted is the amount of prior art. The USPTO is dependent upon the patent applicant and anyone who reviews these applications to find prior art. In knew of students who had papers rejected because there was obviously not enough references. Why not reject a patent for the same reason? Back when the office was founded, I could understand because it was so difficult to find evidence of other’s work. But the USPTO has given patents to Google! Surely with the wealth of information out there they can tell applicants they need to provide more information about prior art? Even make them provide information about items that are similar?

This project has the potential of an RFC (Request For Comment) to the whole world. To go the wiki route and allow people to change the language of the request seems kind of scary?

TV Really Is Mind-Numbing

TV found to be a painkiller for children – Yahoo! News:

Sometimes the numbing effect of TV can be helpful. Especially if you’re a kid being stuck with a needle at the hospital. Researchers confirmed the distracting power of television — something parents have long known — when they found that children watching cartoons suffered less pain from a hypodermic needle than kids not watching TV.

Especially disturbing to the author of the scientific study was that the cartoons were even more comforting than Mom.

While it’s good to have a powerful distraction for children getting painful medical procedures, it is also troubling “because we have demonstrated the excessive power of television,” said chief author, Carlo Bellieni, a father of three and a neonatologist and pediatrician at the University of Siena in Italy.

Its not just kids. After my surgery last August, I found that watching TV help distract from the pain. Maybe not as effectively as the morphine, but somewhat close. The morphine could run out and TV would keep me distracted for another 1/2 before I’d notice unless there was nother distraction.

We all lose

Survey: Consumers lose to online schemes – Yahoo! News:

[C]onsumers lost $630 million over the past two years to e-mail scams.

That is nothing compared to the $7.8 billion people spent on computer repair. I’m interested in how many consumers are victims of email scams. Also, the median amount lost.

Guess I’ll have to do some research at Consumer Reports and other places. 🙁

Did the average Immaturity Quotient of the room just drop 20 points?

Discovery Channel :: News – Human :: Serious Study: Immaturity Levels Rising:

The adage “like a kid at heart” may be truer than we think, since new research is showing that grown-ups are more immature than ever. Specifically, it seems a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth. As a consequence, many older people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading expert on evolutionary psychiatry.

Cheating in an Information Technology Era

Some quotes from an article in the NYT on cheating. This recently came up on a WebCT Users list (usually at least once every year). Maybe the timing is right because the academic year at many schools just ended? Test administrators are usually one step behind the cheaters. There are lots of technologies that have found a niche in increasing the control of the testing environment to prevent cheating. Usually such technologies lock down the computer to prevent the use of other programs and Internet access.

Then there are the anti-technologists who want to go to pen and paper. Ick….

My brain is not wired well for cheating. Rote memorization is very difficult for me. Songs I have listened to a hundred times are still 10% outside my grasp. Quotes longer than a short sentence are pretty fuzzy. The only way I can remember things is through mneumonics that associate items or concepts with items already in my head. I can’t recall all of it; however recognition works pretty well. I can pick which is the right one. So the killer test for me was the complete two essays and ten short answer questions.

Right before I left my last job, one of my “projects” was to convert a student worker from her cramming mentality to a lifetime learner. I viewed the classes I took in school as ways to enrich my understanding of the world and tests as a necessary evil for teachers placed in a difficult position by administrators. The SAT and ITBS were scarily enough kind of fun? The questions were challenging and gave me an opportunity see that I am not as smart as I could be. For several, I wanted to go home a research how they worked…. too bad my memorization sucks. However, my former student worker sees just the classes she takes as the way to get her degree. Tests are in the way between her and the ultimate goal. So she spends long hours the night before cramming for the exam to stick every piece of information she can into her brain and hopefully be better prepared for the test. Later in the term, I asked her a question relevant to the class she was taking and watch her face get concerned as she could not recall it. I explained that she needs to pursue more long term learning techniques. She will find everything she learns useful later in life; so cramming and forgetting is really a waste of her time.

Colleges Chase as Cheats Shift to Higher Tech – New York Times

In a survey of nearly 62,000 undergraduates on 96 campuses over the past four years, two-thirds of the students admitted to cheating.

“One of the things that we’re going to be paying close attention to as time goes on is the use of iPods,” Professor Carlisle added, pointing out that with a wireless earpiece, these would be hard to detect.

Several professors said they tried to write exams on which it was hard to cheat, posing questions that outside resources would not help answer. And at many institutions, officials said that they rely on campus honor codes.

Online vs. Print

People are all over discounting email as a useful communication medium. The only difference between email and paper memos is the ability to send them so quickly. In another job, I usually sent important emails to my boss who then rewrote them to make them more palatable for the wide public. In the end, knowing the audience and not trying to assume and contacting the author when clarification is needed (not by email).

It’s all about me: Why e-mails are so easily misunderstood | csmonitor.com

Though e-mail is a powerful and convenient medium, researchers have identified three major problems. First and foremost, e-mail lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. Second, the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict.

Fear != Lies

Guys… A guy like me in with security people giving me ugly looks isn’t scared because I am a terrorist or a criminal. I am terrified because I know I was singled out because of my skin color. I know no matter what I say that the people who singled me out can’t tell the difference between someone who is bi-racial and someone from the Middle East. I don’t wear jewlry with Baha’i symbols because I am sure that would just help these people be sure I belong to the wrong group.

Lying Is Exposed By Micro-Expressions We Can’t Control | Science Blog

Building on their research, Frank has identified and isolated specific and sometimes involuntary movements of the 44 human facial muscles linked to fear, distrust, distressand other emotions related to deception.

*Cough, Cough*

Not sure what to think about this. After all, the reasons for why people get sick are as varied as the illnesses. Why would two distinct populations have different rates of illness? Well just off the top of my head:

  • Genetics
  • Pollution
  • Bad habits
  • Poor management

These could all be slight contributors. Or it could be something else entirely. Observations of trends often make people go looking for problems that may not exist.

Study Shows Americans Sicker Than English – Yahoo! News

White, middle-aged Americans — even those who are rich — are far less healthy than their peers in England, according to stunning new research that erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.

Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer — findings that held true no matter what income or education level.

Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S. health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens.

Google, You Suck

One of the fun things about Google is they change the logo at their search page (and the smaller one for the results) whenever there  is something special about that particular day. Christmas and Easter are pretty obvious. However, they get things like the Olympics, election days, and other things one might know. On rare occasion I have no idea what they are signifying.

So… Today is Shakespeare’s birthday. Why nothing? Think of all the poor high school students who this school year have used to Google look up a synopsis of one of his plays. Think of all the poor high school teachers who have this school year used Google to catch the previously mentioned student plagerising. Shakespeare drives traffic to Google, but Goggle ignores him.

Sad.