Saturday, June 9, 2018

Workshop on Identifying and Combating Disinformation (IEEE Big Data 2018)

About eighteen months ago I wrote a blog post called The Social Media Nuclear Option, explaining my concerns about the power of social media to distort public opinion. I have continued pursuing this topic, and am pleased to announce that I'll be co-chairing the Workshop on Identifying and Combating Disinformation in Big Data at the 2018 IEEE Conference on Big Data.

The workshop will focus on the intersection of computer science, archival science, and social science. Its discussion will aim to discover new strategies to counter disinformation.

I am excited and grateful for this opportunity to contribute to solving such a dangerous problem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Writing from Start to Finish

I'm teaching a course called, "Writing from Start to Finish" at Mercy Vineyard Church April 18th and 25th. For anyone in the class, or anyone else interested, here are the slides. I pulled out the references for quick access.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Points Don't Matter, Except When They Do

Update: The game is live at!

Over the last couple of months I've been doing classroom trials of the Goodnight Server Room app. I've tested the app with toddlers, second graders, middle school students, and even a few college students.  What surprised me most was how quickly the second graders caught on to the concepts in the game, but second most was just how much everybody loves getting points.

300 points, but I'm just getting started
The app lets students proceed through the games as quickly as they want - there aren't gates or levels like you might find in traditional video games. I wanted it that way so that my preschooler would not get stuck on the first page.

Usually when I have a room full of students playing the game a few of them race through it in a couple of minutes.

I see hands go up, "I'm done!"

"How many points did you get?" I ask.

"750!" someone shouts.

"900!" comes the challenge from across the room.

With this exchange the timbre of the whole room suddenly shifts. The activity is no longer about just going through the steps to move on to the next thing. Now it's about exploring. I don't tell the students how to get points, I just let them search. It doesn't take long for them to discover that they keep getting more points by solving more binary puzzles.

Students at Sauk Middle School playing Goodnight Server Room

Now they're not just engaged, they're actively seeking out opportunities to learn (though by now they've gotten that part, they're just having fun).

Thursday, March 22, 2018

My changing Facebook calculus

For years I lived in an awkward truce with Facebook. Facebook hosted my family photos, political rants, and updates on side projects. In exchange, I accepted that Facebook would use my profile information to show me targeted advertisements. I even made some of those advertisements myself to help market my books.

This week's revelation that Facebook's lax rules on app developers sharing profile information led to 50 million people's profiles being used for electioneering broke the truce. I don't know if my profile information was shared, but it's clear that millions of people had their information released to a third party without their consent.

Unlike other data breach cases, this wasn't a hack. This was just a clear illustration of Facebook's lack of concern for user privacy. This broke the truce.

I'm not going to delete my account. In an age of identity theft and imposter accounts, Facebook still provides a useful tool for asserting my identity. Quitting entirely would leave a Tyler-sized hole in Facebook that could be used to confuse my friends and relatives. Facebook still provides a useful way for me to foster confidence in my public key on the part of my friends.

What I am going to do is delete the majority of my content. Facebook broke the truce, so I'm taking away the content that helps drive traffic and generate their revenue.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Coloring Pages!

Emily Krueger made a couple of awesome coloring pages for Goodnight Server Room! Click on the links below for high resolution versions. Printing and copying for personal and classroom use is permitted.

High Resolution

High Resolution