Sunday, March 13, 2016

Almost famous or lab rat?

I was recently contacted by Christopher Wienberg, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Southern California's Department of Computer Science, who is "researching the personal experiences people write on the web about their everyday lives" and Chocolate Chip Mint came to his attention. Not because he reads me, I'm sure, but because some software does.

According to his USC profile:
" My research focuses on how people present themselves on the web, and how machines can utilize the knowledge encoded in these presentations. In particular, I am investigating automatic methods for learning characteristics of bloggers who maintain a public journal of their personal lives. By leveraging the significant amount of text that these web authors provide about themselves, we plan to automatically extract information about them, including a demographic profile. In tandem with survey sample re-weighting techniques, we will investigate if a sample of web users can be used to characterize an offline population. "
His research is intriguing. Previous, related, research resulted in a documentary short - about 17 minutes - called "Friends You Haven't Met Yet" which can be viewed on YouTube. (Additional information from USC.)

I asked Mr. Wienberg, "Why me?" He responded:
" I work in the Narrative Group at USC, and we’re interested in storytelling and the knowledge contained in stories. Several years ago, we wrote software to automatically find personal, non-fiction stories written on weblogs. It makes errors from time to time (confuses fiction with non-fiction, for instance) but for the most part it’s pretty good. Our software picked up your blog as one that these sorts of stories are posted to fairly often. "
I find it interesting that Chocolate Chip Mint was selected as a test subject but I must apologize to Mr. Weinberg because I'm not much of a story teller. Frankly, I'm not very interesting at all. When someone I haven't seen in a while asks me, "So, what have you been up to?" I'm at a loss for words. "Same old, same old," is my usual reply. (Translation, btw, is "My mundane and prolifically repetitive routine, interspersed with vagabond rockstar weekends, is the same as it was last week.")

I did not inherit the storytelling gene. I inherited the organizing gene.

Nevertheless, Mr. Weinberg's computer, I hope you enjoy my blog.

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