Amy Guy

Raw Blog

Thursday, July 11, 2013

#SSSW2013: Social semantics and serendipity

We started work on the serendipity project before breakfast today, although I didn't make it down as early as some of my teammates.

To start the day, Fabio Ciravenga talked about some really exciting practical applications of monitoring and analysing social media streams.  It's particularly interesting during emergencies, or large events where problems might occur.  The people on the ground make the perfect sensors if you can work out the differences between people who are saying something useful and who aren't; people who are really there, and people who are speculating or asking about the situation.  A main problem has been that people tweet crap.  They were trying to monitor a house fire, but so many people were tweeting lyrics from Adele's various singles at the time, which all apparently contain references to fire, it was almost impossible.

They also put (or tapped into existing) sensors in peoples' cars to monitor driving patterns with the aim of more fairly charging for car insurance.  I told my Mum about this the other day, and she was pretty alarmed by the idea.  Which made me wonder how they'll get mass adoption, if it's going to go anywhere.

Fabio did have some interesting things to say about using all this data ethically though, and never working for someone who is going to take that away from you.  But in case the 'bad guys' do find out about all this data you have about people, keep a magnet handy.

My notes are here.

This was followed by a hands-on session where we got to mess with a mini version of the twitter topic monitoring system that Fabio's team use at large events, to try to answer questions about the Tour de France only by manipulating the incoming social media streams and following only links which came through that.

Spanish omelette sandwiches were an amazing outdoor leisurely lunch.  We headed to the pool down the road and chilled out there for a couple of hours.  Us tough British folk found the water pleasantly tepid, whilst all those wimpy Europeans and Latin Americans shivered on the grass.  They'd made such a fuss in advance about how cold the pool was going to be.

We regrouped that afternoon to work on Project Cusack, creating a slide deck of pictures from Serendipity.  I don't like slides with too much to read on, so I enforced this.  The imagery from the movie will be lost on most people, but we have at least managed to choose pictures of John Cusack with appropriate expressions for each part of the presentation.  We worked outside in the forest, because Oscar's 3G was faster than the residence wifi.

We also brainstormed for the required short film, which we only just discovered doesn't have to be about our project.

We returned to the residence to find everyone eating ham and cheese, and attempted to get some shots for our film, but other people were unwilling to participate.

That evening we ate tasty vegetable soup, weird (in a bad way) pasta in a creamy onion sauce, and chocolatey ice cream cake.  The tutors spontaneously organised a game where students had to arrange the tutors by age, which was funny.  Someone suggested the tutors ought to play it with the students.  Obviously there were too many students, but they elected to find the youngest student, and that turned out to be me.