Tag Archives: social networking

an analysis of punk rock OR on twitter

I wanted to analyze my tweets, so I did a little programming with the twitteR package on R, which helped me download my last 781 tweets or so (about 10% of my tweets) by calling the twitter API. Here is a wordcloud of the things I tweet about with a few common words like “the” and “that” removed. It looks like I spend a lot of time tweeting about #orms and Wisconsin to @jefflinderoth!

A wordcloud of things I tweet about.

A wordcloud of things I tweet about.


My 12 most favorited and/or retweeted tweets (of the last 781):

social media tips for scientists

PLOS Biology just posted an interesting article entitled “An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists” by Holly M. Bik and Miriam C. Goldstein [Link]. The authors wrote a whole paper encouraging academics to use social media (a terrific idea!). They write:

In academia, there is often a particular stigma attached to online activities. Actively maintaining an online profile and participating in social media discussions can be seen as a waste of time and a distraction from research and teaching duties. We believe this perception is misguided and based on incorrect interpretations of what scientists are actually doing online. When used in a targeted and streamlined manner, social media tools can complement and enhance a researcher’s career.

I agree with their list of benefits from a social media presence that include:

  • Online tools improve research efficiency.  This isn’t a huge benefit for me, but twitter has been helpful when I need software recommendations and it has kept me abreast of interesting research in my area. “Twitter has helped busy academics keep up with new research developments, prepare teaching materials, and offer guidance for graduate students.”
  • Online visibility = more paper citations (Note to self: I need to blog about my papers!)
  • Social networking enhances professional networking.
  • Improved communication with the general public about scientific matters.

I liked the flow chart for matching scientists with social networking tools, especially with the goals of Curation, Community, and Creation.

Flowchart showing a decision tree for scientists who are interested in communicating online.

Flowchart showing a decision tree for scientists who are interested in communicating online.

I also enjoyed this article from the Guardian about science diplomacy [Link].

HT Jeffrey Herrmann.

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researchers should embrace talking about their research in 140 characters or less

I recently blogged about my experience at the AAAS Meeting, where I talked about my research findings to a broad audience that included journalists. In one of the sessions, it was revealed that only 3% of scientists will talk to journalists over the course of their lifetimes. Maybe we as a nation should be more interested in science news. But I also think that scientists and engineers should embrace the broader impacts of our research and be proactive with outreach efforts.

A tweet from one of them (Liz Neeley from CompassOnline) drove home the point that part of the reason that scientists can do a better job. I put my twitter handle and blog URL on my title slide, and pointed this out when I started my talk.

I was surprised that my twitter handle was “news.” But apparently it’s weird for an academic to include a twitter handle on slides.

I got ~12 new followers during my talk. I have no regrets.

what do you want to know about blogging that you’ve always been afraid to ask?

At the INFORMS Annual Meeting, I am participating in a panel discussion about web 2.0 and social media tools for OR. I am the blogging panelist. Seeing as I maintain a podcast, I might sneak in a few podcast topics, too. While I have plenty of ideas about what I could discuss, I thought I would ask you about what you would like to hear.

What blogging and podcast topics would you like me to discuss in the panel?

OR bloggers Mike Trick and Paul Rubin will be on the panel to correct me and also to discuss OR Exchange and twitter, respectively. The last two panelists are Bjarni Kristjansson (social networking) and Tim Hopper (OR videos). I hope you are as excited about this panel as I am.

The panel is on Monday from 1:30 to 3:00pm. I hope to see you there!

My blog posts about blogging:

The discrete optimization blog has reached the end of the tour

As you may recall, I required my PhD students to maintain a discrete optimization blog this semester. Since the semester is over, the blog will “end” as well (although it will live on in the blogosphere).  I miss my students’ new posts already!  I wrote about a the lessons I learned this semester while undertaking this teaching experiment and included some blog stats (you may be surprised on the top blog posts of the semester).  I’ll refer you to the class blog for more.

dropbox: a love story

This is my third post in my series on teaching with technology.

This post reviews Dropbox, a online folder that saves and backs up your work online and syncs the files across your computers. It doesn’t back up and sync everything, just whatever is saved to the My Dropbox folder. The My Dropbox folder is like every other folder on your computer, where subfolders can be created to organize contents.  In this folder, Dropbox literally creates a copy of each file on each file in the folder on each computer (and backs them up online).  You can open and modify files offline, and then Dropbox will back up and sync files when it has a connection. I haven’t had a single problem with syncing.  I often copy my active work and papers to the My Dropbox folder so that I can work on them on my tablet in the evening.  That way, I always have my work with me, even if I forget my flash drive in my office.

Dropbox files are private.  There is a public folder that can be accessed (read only) by everyone.  Users can create shared folders.  The only problem with shared folders is that there is no owner, so all users can add to and delete files.  Some improvements to sharing options are the only way I could imagine improving Dropbox.

Dropbox is really useful, since I regularly use a tablet.  After a semester of saving my teaching files on a flash drive and transferring files to my desktop (where I back up my files), I pursued better alternatives.  Dropbox emerged as the single perfect tool for managing files across multiple computers. As an instructor, I use it to move files that I use for teaching between my PC and tablet. I use my tablet to create and edit most of my teaching content, but I like to back up all of my files on my main PC in my office.

I haven’t found too many other uses for Dropbox with regards to teaching. Dropbox requires downloading software to the computers where it will be used. It’s one thing to require students to create an account, another to ask them to install new programs (unless they are math or computational programs necessary for class).  However, I did create a shared folder for the students I worked with.  Only one student signed up for an Dropbox account, and we have yet to really start using it.

I don’t know how I lived without Dropbox for so long. Obviously, I find it indispensable as an instructor and researcher.  Its uses are unlimited when combined with other tools (Steve Brady recommends using Password Safe with Dropbox–I’ll have to check that out).

I would be happy to refer anyone to Dropbox (Disclaimer: I get extra storage for every user I refer–I could use the space).  Just use my email address.

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RIP delicious

DeliciousI am overdue for another post on teaching with technology.  This post is about the social bookmarking tool delicious (or Del.icio.us as you may know it).  Yahoo! announced that they are shutting down delicious.  I decided to write my review anyway, since this review is mainly about social bookmarking tools, which can certainly exist whether or not delicious does.

I gave delicious a test drive this past year.  I still am not sure what social bookmarking really is and how it can be effectively used, but I loved being able to save all of my bookmarks online and access them on whatever computer I am using.  Bookmarks are tagged rather than put in folders (it’s like gmail’s labels vs. every other email client’s folders).  Tag bundles can be used to arbitrarily group tags together under one umbrella.  All of this is quite handy. Eventually, I found myself using delicious on my browser rather than my bookmarks folder.  It was just easy to organize and access bookmarks than using my browser.  Ultimately, I would say that delicious offers a mixture of three benefits that people can take advantage of to varying degrees:

  1. Bookmarks are available online and are always available.
  2. Bookmarks can be shared with others (and are shared with others whether you like it or not).
  3. Bookmarks are tagged instead of put in folders, which improves accessibility.

The only problem with delicious is that #1 and #2 are at odds with one another.  The tags and bookmarks on delicious are public, which means that everyone can see who else tagged the same bookmarks within delicious, and outsiders can view the list of bookmarks that I’ve tagged.  I’ll admit, that part of the social networking aspect is a bit creepy.  However, it was easy enough to make bookmarks private, which essentially solves that problem.  However, the tags for the bookmarks are still public (the solution here is to use inconspicuous tag names).  I was annoyed that Yahoo! announces my bookmarks to everyone and their mother on Yahoo! sites.  This meant that my relatives occasionally are perplexed by my choice of tags.  I never figured out how to manage the privacy settings on delicious, and this comes from someone who was able to master Facebook’s complicated and ever-changing privacy settings.  Delicious just didn’t have an easy and transparent way to manage privacy settings.

I can’t see too many uses for delicious in the classroom, unless I was teaching a course in which we needed to find many links to content specific material.  If I were doing so, Delicious makes it easy to add others to my network (but in reality, I’ve added two people).  We can create a common tag like the rubric for the course in order to find one other’s bookmarks.  I had been hoping to use Delicious in a course I developed on algorithm analysis, but alas, the class was canceled and I wasn’t able to try this.

In retrospect, I found that benefits #1 and #3 are a big deal to me.  I am surprised by that.  But then again, browser bookmarks haven’t really changed since I started using browsers. They could really use some revamping to be useful, and a tool that offers serious benefits in that department could make a really big splash.  Despite the demise of delicious, I am hopeful that there will be better bookmarking options in the future.

In the end, I am not surprised that Delicious is being shut down.  It’s a handy little tool that I will miss, but it doesn’t offer enough to revolutionize how I do things online, and it’s certainly not a game changer with respect to social networking.  The conflict between accessibility and privacy was always a concern for me, and maybe that was an issue for others.  But I do hope that a new tool with better features replaces it.

Do you use delicious?  How do you save and organize your bookmarks?

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