New project

by Mark

1:38 pm // February 12, 2011

Api for review metrics:

Api for highlighting social connections and also for mining duration information. (mostly ‘like’ and ‘checkin’)

google maps API for getting a list of all locations for each activity (category search):

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Friend analysis

by Mark

11:16 pm // April 29, 2010

I have started working on a web-application for exploring  associations and discovering correlations within large, interconnected datasets. The basic concept behind this type of analysis is also the focus of the bay-area startup Palantir.

There is a lot more to come with this app but here is how to play with it:

  1. Click the ‘Launch’ button below
  2. Click ‘Connect to Facebook’
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    Click ‘New Filter’ to create a new draggable ‘filter’
  4. Enter some data in the ‘Value’ column for any row — such as ‘female’ for Sex,  ’Stanford’ for affiliation or ‘hiking’ for Interests.


Once you’ve entered data for at least one field you can click the ‘Search’ button to see which friends match all of the parameters you’ve entered.

What’s more fun, though, is entering data for one field and clicking the ‘Seek’ button in the other rows with empty fields.

For example, I entered ‘male’ for sex and clicked the SEEK button in the ‘Work History’ row. The results are a list of the companies my guy friends have worked at in the past — a majority were various tech companies in the bay area. (I then did the same operation with ‘female’ for sex and discovered that the most common job history among my female friends happened to be ‘Dining Services’)

There are many features I’ll be adding in the next few weeks in order to improve the flexibility and power of this simple application.

10:46 pm // April 29, 2010

I just returned from a talk given by Nart Villeneuve, a lead researcher with the Munk School of Global Affairs. Nart and his team recently uncovered what is now known as the Shadow Network – a highly sophisticated bot-net responsible for compromising sensitive computer systems in government offices on several continents. The event was hosted by Palantir, a bay-area startup behind some of the software used to analyze the breadth and depth of the cyber-attacks.

Mr.Villeneuve spoke to the dangers of phishing attacks, called ’spearfishing’, and how effective these types of attacks can be. Nart’s talk highlighted the ways enemy agents are combining technological exploits with finely-tuned social engineering practices to build ’shadow’ bot-nets from which sensitive information can be accessed.

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More information on Nart’s research and findings can be found here:

1:53 am // February 13, 2010

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A household energy monitoring device could provide daily reports that compare our energy use today with yesterday. These comparative summaries could pop up on their screen at the end of the day and sound something like this:

“today you used $2.40 less energy then yesterday!”

This way people might get a sense of their energy habits (like tracking your finances). The device could also allow the user to drill down into the cause of the savings — such as which electronics consumed less energy today then yesterday.

As energy use increases and decreases with the seasons this feature would become the home-energy equivalent of a modern car’s MPG indicator.

It would be a great motivator when combined with the the tactics of  social awareness and symbols of approval.


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by Mark

1:36 am // February 13, 2010




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I just accepted a job at a section of Control4 focused on home energy monitoring and control. Two weeks ago I picked up a random book on psychology and read about this social experiment:

“In this study, three-hundred California households agreed to have their weekly energy use recorded. Research assistants then went to participating homes and read their energy meter to get a baseline measure of how much energy the households consumed per week.

Afterward, a  little card was hung on the front door of each household giving feedback to the homeowners about how their energy consumption compared to the neighborhood average. Of course some of the households consumed more energy than the average, wheras others consumed less.”

This part is interesting:

“Over the next serval weeks, those who had been consuming more energy than their neighbors reduced their energy consumption by 5.7 percent. Not much of a surprise there. More interesting, however, was the finding that those who had been consuming LESS energy than their neighbors actually INCREASED their energy consumption by 8.6 percent.”

Pretty interesting example of how we are influenced by the knowledge of what others are doing. The researchers call this concept the “Magnetic Middle”

They tried this experiment again with a different set of homes but changed the experiment slightly. This time they attached a smiley or frowny sticker on the weekly information card depending on whether the home consumed more or less energy than average.

…and the ‘magnetic middle’ was defied. The people who got ‘frowny faces’ on the reports reduced their use by 5 percent (slightly less then the original experiment). The homeowners who were consuming less then average maintained low energy use.

So they went from 8.6 percent increase in energy use to no increase. Not bad for a smiley-face sticker.

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This account of the study is from the book: ‘Yes!’ by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J Martin, and Rober B Cialdini

9:17 pm // February 4, 2010

Quote from this article:

“The only conceivable way to overheat your HDD would be to overpower the little spindle motor that drives it, since it consumes most of the power supplied to a drive and, consequently, generates most of the heat.

You’d have to overload this motor until it was hot enough to melt the platters. The only problem there being that this would burn out its copper core long before it got hot enough to melt anything else (except possibly the soldering connecting it to its circuit board).

But that can’t happen because its voltage is strictly controlled by circuitry that keeps it spinning at a constant rate. This circuitry would burn out if you were to try to apply to much power to it.

And that can’t happen because there is no software interface for controlling that voltage. The power is supplied directly by the PSU and there is no way to change it with software.

In a way, its exactly like the melting brain issue. Its just infeasible for organs to start melting without an external energy source. Likewise, you can’t melt a hard drive without opening up your computer and torching the darn thing.

But I disagree. I don’t think you would have to burn the drive by overheating the motor…all you would need to do is jar the highly sensitive needle and have it make contact with the platter.


by Mark

8:17 pm // February 4, 2010

Someone recently asked me for song recommendations from the Deftones.

Here is a collection of lala links.
*Note: lala is a registration-based website that lets you link full songs to a url (and the music sounds great!) … its basically free music on demand*

Deftone songs in order of greatness:
Feiticeira (just Classic.)
Rx Queen (relationship song)
Korea (the last 2 minutes blow my mind every time — “Come on. Teacher. Carve your Niche.”)
Passenger (faster paced, focuses the mind.)
hole in the earth (decent)

check back for updates on this post.

7:46 pm // January 31, 2010

Another exercise for improving your coding skills is to take on the perspective of someone smart watching you code. Recording your comments make them easier to remember and improve upon. It is also an exercise in learning not to judge yourself or feel defensive about your mistakes.

7:26 pm // January 31, 2010

A way to refresh your knowledge of any programming language is to pick 6 of your most-used design patterns and implement an example application/script that utilizes them.

10:29 am // January 28, 2010

Have you ever come across a series of numbers that just seemed familiar? Check out  The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. Maybe if Nicholas Cage had used this site more of us could have avoided death-by-solar flare…

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