Yay… more work… good thing I have this #Scrumban board to help me visualize all of it… #sarcasm
If not already, soon my face is going to look like that House/Hugh Laurie poster.
Public Restroom Mirror of Affirmation: An Unfortunate Series of Events (a photo essay)
For all of our countless innovations in technology, especially here in Silicon Valley, we still depend on the charity of others to supply the very blood that flows through our veins and literally delivers life from head to toe, to all the cells in our body. Our bodies are built to be able to donate blood with taking very little away from the donor him/herself and by such a small act as donating blood (and/or blood parts, such as plasma), you can help save others’ lives.
I haven’t been healthy enough in years, but I used to donate blood regularly at the Stanford Blood Center, especially since I’m Type O (universal donor— let’s not even get into what that ironically says about me). They are running a blood drive today until 5 pm in the super-convenient location of White Plaza, so if you are able and allowed (I know— there are still some troubling discriminatory rules on who is allowed to donate), please do.
A litle while ago (May 25th, to be exact), LSJUMB (aka the Stanford Band) played one of it’s many impromptu concerts in front of the fountain between Meyer and Green Libraries– i.e., the Shumway Fountain, usually referred to locally as “The (Red) Hoop”. As we were on the way to lunch, many of us got the bit of Friday afternoon “anarchy” on video (though sadly, the weather wasn’t the usual “sunny with clear blue skies”, so it looks a big hazy):
How can you not love such a great “scatter band” despite (or because of) the occasional controversy they stir up?
The “bridge” entrance to Meyer Library (awkwardly marked in the photo) is not actually attached to or part of the building. From what I’ve heard, the whole structure is actually firmly, but oh so gently pushed up against the building.
Yesterday, I was sitting out there on the landing at the top of the bridge, my butt on the landing that’s still part of the building and then my feet resting on a stair that’s part of the bridge. From there, you can see where the building ends, where the bridge begins, and the flimsy adhesive material that somehow holds the two together securely. I assume securely because there have been times when this entrance has been closed because, among other reaons, the bridge was not considered stable or safe. What changed to make it safe again? I have no idea and from what I can tell, there’s nothing visibly different about the “safe” bridge compared to the “unsafe” one.
And this theory that there actually isn’t anything different and it’s not “more secure” now is further supported by the fact that, when I was sitting there that day, I could feel and see the entire bridge shaking continuously while a (normal-sized) person– a single person– walked down the thing.
And yet, I still sat there and will probably sit there again. And I will use the bridge to get in and out of Meyer every single work day, just like I did yesterday soon after the whole thing shook before my eyes.
(And can you believe this website is still around? I can’t and I’m the one who created it.)
Noticed this in the basement of Dinkelspiel Auditorium (or Dink Meeker Auditorium, as I like to call it). Ha ha, very funny. Those crazy Stanford kids.
Here’s an unfortunate situation: Karin Morin, a Stanford student’s mother, goes to the helicopter parent extreme, writing a National Review article, complaining about her daughter’s gender neutral housing assignment. Sadly, as her daughter Daisy Morin comments herself in this New York Times blog comment and covered in this Daily article, a family argument has turned into national news. Interestingly, although gender-neutral housing is a new housing option introduced to several campus residences, gender neutral room assignments have been a part of co-op life for decades through the consensus decision-making process practiced in these houses– one of which is Columbae, where Daisy lived in a quad with another female and two males (FYI, the quad is a very large, but single room). Daisy was completely aware going into the house (or even submitting the house as a choice during the housing draw process) that a co-ed rooming situation was a possibility and knowing this, was comfortable not only living in the house, but being assigned such a room even though she was not even present at the meeting where the decision was made.
Here’s one of the most troubling paragraphs from the National Review article:
By its own terms, Stanford is failing to live up to its housing contract. As parents, Stanford holds us responsible for payment of our daughter’s bill. We, in turn, expected Stanford to enforce the terms of its own housing contract. It should not be acceptable for any group of students to alter the conditions of that contract. Furthermore, it should not be up to individual students to determine whether to protest a housing arrangement which so obviously violates this contract. There would clearly be social difficulties for any student who protested. Thus, it is Stanford that should rectify the situation.
In reality, Stanford holds the student responsible for payment of her bill, not her parents. And why shouldn’t it be up the individual student to make a complaint? If a student is unhappy with her housing assignment or feels that the housing contract has been violated, it’s up to that student to speak up. Social difficulties are a part of life and especially part of speaking your voice– if you’re not willing to endure the possible social difficulties, then you’re saying the issue is not important enough to you.
In any case, the article is riddled with unfortunate comments– when you read Daisy’s various responses to the article and if you know anything about co-op housing, which I’m sure Daisy did before choosing to live in Columbae– you’ll see that this is a parent blaming Stanford for the differences between her daughter and herself. Karin didn’t even find out about the rooming situation until the end (during winter break) and makes it sound like her daughter was unhappy with the room assignment, saying “she didn’t ask for this room arrangement” and that “she doesn’t want to upset everyone’s consensus arrangements.” She didn’t even get the reason why her daughter wasn’t at the meeting right (she appointed a proxy because she was on a plane, not because she had a friend visiting). In general, Karin expresses a sense of entitlement, that she had the right to know everything about her daughter’s life at Stanford. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works– while FERPA provides students with access and control over their education records, it also specifically limits to what parents have access. Specifically, when the child turns eighteen, the child takes responsibility of her education records and schools are not required to notify parents of general information that does not directly apply to the student or even answer questions about the student. At the end of the day, it is a rights and privacy act, with the student at the center.
Karin, in response to her daughter’s decision to live in the co-ed room during fall and winter quarter, pulled financial support for her daughter’s final quarter at Stanford, making Daisy take $3,000 in loans (in addition to the loans her original financial aid package included). Given that her daughter is, being well over eighteen, an adult, that’s certainly Karin’s prerogative, but at the same time– again, as an adult– Daisy should be free to make her own decisions. In the course of a lifetime, those few thousand dollars is a small price for Daisy to pay for her freedom and an ultimately trivial amount over which her mother is making a gesture simply to prove a point. (Ironically, her parents pulled financial support for the current spring quarter during which Daisy is actually living in a single-gender room. Co-ops often switch around room assignments each quarter as part of the consensus decision-making process.) I completely empathize and sympathize with Daisy as a member of a sometimes overbearing family and while I hope she works out this disagreement with her parents, I also hope she stays confident that she had and has the right to make her own choices.
If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I’ve commented often on file-sharing, copyright, and universities certainly more than a few times and while my blogging has been sparse lately, today’s announcement of “The Stanford Copyright Integrity Initiative” deserved spending some time on a blog post. The initiative was apparently “introduced by Stanford University to demonstrate the university’s leadership in efforts to strengthen the integrity of copyrights and intellectual property.” As early as a little before 10am this morning, my department (Student Computing/Residential Computing) received an email from a worried student– after reading the announcement on the front page of The Daily, the University’s student newspaper, the student visited riaa.stanford.edu (as directed in the article) and after entering his name, found that Stanford “has likely reported” his name to the RIAA, MPAA, or ESA. The student was both confused and worried– you see, after receiving his first copyright complaint a little while back, he hasn’t illegally downloaded a single song, movie or anything else! Has his computer been hacked? Did file-sharing somehow get accidentally enabled on his computer?
This truth is that this clever little stunt was part of the annual fake Daily published by the Stanford Chaparral (or the “Chappie” as it’s affectionately called), Stanford’s student humor magazine. The article is actually quite well-researched and well-written, including references to actual facts, such as the highly publicized “three strikes” policy” in which students not only face increasingly severe disciplinary actions for repeated DMCA violations and complaints, but are also charged increasing amounts of money through associated “reconnection fees.” The article also says that over thirty students have reached their third strike in the past year with settlements with the complaining record companies totaling over $100,000. While the numbers are about right– over thirty students and settlements totaling about $100,000 in the past year– they actually apply to the results of the record companies’ “pre-litigation letter” campaign that started in 2007 and in which they target college students all over the country with the threat of lawsuits. As part of the new “integrity initiative,” the article explains, Stanford is now scanning its network for DMCA violations and actively reports the culprits to the “RIAA and other appropriate authorities.” In the first day alone, the article continues, “78 unnamed students” have already been reported and the University’s IT organization “predicts that approximately 34% of Stanford undergraduates will be contacted by the end of Wednesday.” (That’s approximately 2,274 students.) The article goes on to direct students on how to find out if they’ve been flagged (via riaa.stanford.edu) and in turn, find legal help (the EFF gets a nod).
The article itself was pretty funny– Stanford, like other universities, has been spending increasing amounts of resources dealing with illegal file-sharing and copyright and personally, I think it was a good jab at how ludicrous the effects of the DMCA and intimidation tactics of the entertainment industry have become.* Just last week, I was summarizing the results from the annual undergraduate computing survey and many students commented on their dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of file-sharing and copyright issues, wishing Stanford would take a stronger stance against the RIAA and the MPAA’s efforts.
The website though… I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but aside from probably breaking some basic network usage policies (for setting up riaa.stanford.edu, use of the Stanford seal, etc.), the website took it a little too far. The reality is that since the first lawsuits targeting students (circa 2003), the University really has been stepping up their efforts to stop illegal file-sharing and punish repeat offenders and something like this initiative isn’t completely impossible. The reality is that over thirty Stanford students– peers and perhaps even friends of the Chappie staff members– really have been sent pre-litigation letters and really have had to pay approximately $100,000 in settlement deals. The reality is that the entertainment industry really is targeting college students– people who have little knowledge of their legal options and/or resources to defend themselves. When you enter your name and hit submit at riaa.stanford.edu, it looks like they use your name to randomly** give you either a thumbs up (you haven’t been reported) or thumbs down (you’ve already been reported and look forward to a letter in the next three to four weeks). I would hate to think that a student who’s already paid out thousands of dollars because of a pre-litigation letter was tricked into going to the website and got a thumbs down.
I don’t know how long the site will stay up and working, so if you’re curious, here are some screenshots, etc.:
* If you’re curious about Stanford’s actual policies on file-sharing and copyright, check out my department’s FAQ on File-Sharing & Copyright (also used by the General Counsel’s Office as well as the Information Security Office as the University’s “official” FAQ on the issue).
** It’s pseudorandom– the algorithm they’re using is deterministic. Unfortunately, no matter what Leland Stanford, Jr. does, he will always show up reported to the authorities.
Stanford Facebook Course Final – Stanford World Domination
Originally uploaded by sindy
I’ve been working somewhat with, among others, the instructors (especially BJ Fogg and Dan Ackerman Greenberg) for the Stanford Facebook class CS377W: Creating Engaging Facebook Apps, figuring out how to use Facebook and its application development platform to encourage development of apps to promote student life, aid in teaching and learning, reach out to alumni, and more. (My department, Student Computing, is currently running an app contest to encourage development of just those kinds of apps.) Wednesday night, I attended the class final– a full-blown presentation on the class (including the journey from the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab exploring how to computerize persuasion in 1993 to the development of the class itself), aims of the course, lessons learned, and, most importantly, the apps produced by the class’ 25 student teams.
The class has gotten a lot of hype, especially in the blogosphere, and much of it has been about how students were looking to find the secret to building the next big app and, in turn, making big money from it (check out this WREX-TV, NBC11.com video and try not to be distracted by the dumbed-down and sometimes nonsensical tech imagery for the narration). Much of the class focused on metrics and taking advantage of the viral nature of social networking sites like Facebook– aiming, for each app, a high number of users (especially daily active users) and high engagement (number of page views and time spent with the app). The apps developed, as you can tell from the phrase “10 million in 10 weeks,” were largely successful in achieving these goals with over 10 million installs, over one miliion daily active users, and a handful ranking in Facebook’s top 100 apps (out of over 10,000): Perfect Match, Send Hotness, Hugs, and KissMe (originally based on the Full Moon on the Quad tradition at Stanford). (Sorry if I missed any that reached the top 100.)
However, focusing on getting the largest number of users doesn’t always result in developing the “deepest” or most “socially meaningful” applications– as one commenter put it, even the “Stanford intellectual elite [can be] devoted to producing such monumental drivel.” (Before the Stanford-developed KissMe app, just think of the success of the unbelievably simple Zombies app.) So, instead of focusing on the apps that had the highest number of users, I want to point out two apps that are particularly socially conscious and show how to take advantage of the power of the Facebook network:
You, like me, are probably trying to reduce the app clutter on your Facebook profile, but if you’re going to use apps, I think these two are certainly worth it.
And with that, I leave you with a short video of Dave McClure leading the audience in The Wave to get them psyched up for the presentations: