All posts by fil

Social bot research featured on CACM, IEEE Computer covers

CACM-coverResearch on detection of social bots by CNetS faculty members Alessandro Flammini and Filippo Menczer, former IUNI research scientist Emilio Ferrara, and graduate students Clayton Davis, Onur Varol, and Prashant Shiralkar was featured on the covers of the two top computing venues: the June issue of Computer (flagship magazine of the IEEE Computer Society) and the July issue of Communications of the ACM (flagship publication of the ACM). Continue reading Social bot research featured on CACM, IEEE Computer covers

Quirkies Evolution

Iris: QuirkiesLately, my hobby has been to develop Quirkies Evolution, an iOS game to teach kids about evolution. This started last year as the 4th-grade science project of my daughter, Iris. She asked for advice about a project idea; she wanted it to be about coding and evolution, two subjects about which she has been learning recently. So we ended up designing Quirkies together, and she used the app to run some simulations and present results at her school’s science fair about how adaptive traits become more common in a population. Iris is actively involved in all aspects of the game, including some of the Swift programming (especially the geometry and core graphics), although I have done most of the coding as it is quite challenging to develop for iOS. It has been fun for me to learn iOS development, play with evolutionary algorithms (the subject of my undergraduate and PhD research), and get inspiration for some work projects.

quirkies preview
Quirkies preview: click for animated GIF

Quirkies are creatures that evolve through natural selection, reproduction, recombination and mutation of genes. By selecting mates who get to reproduce, players simulate the environment in which the best quirkies survive. You can choose a trait that you would like the population to have. As you play the game, try to select quirkies with that trait. In each generation, the offspring inherit the genes from the parents. The trait that you picked will become common throughout the population. Your fitness score at the top of the main screen will improve, and you win the game with high enough fitness over generations. But quirkies might also be rejected by mates, experience harmful mutations, and risk death. Your quirkies will evolve new traits such as colors, nose, mouth, limbs, hair, and more by regulatory gene adaptations. You can explore it all through the family tree (showing how genes are inherited) and population view.

Quirkies populationAs you play, quirkies will entertain you with funny comments (even with speech), quiz your understanding of evolution, and make suggestions from hundreds of educational videos and podcasts. You earn badges through these activities. You can also earn survival points with mini-games: help your offspring feed, fight challengers, and find their parents. And don’t tell anyone, but if you get to the biolab, you can manipulate your quirkie’s genes.

Kids can name and save their favorite quirkies (they also get scientific species names), and share them with their friends. (Parents, no worries — your kid cannot post on social media without your permission.) Then they can get news updates when one of their quirkies has new siblings or offspring, and explore the families of their saved quirkies: their parents, siblings, mates, and offspring.

Quirkies Evolution iconQuirkies Evolution is released through Indiana University and benefits from the scientific advice of Matt Hahn, one of my favorite evolutionary biologists. Iris and I are also grateful to many other friends who helped with their ideas and feedback, including Anushka, Jessica, Kira, Luca, Markus, Max, and many others.

Quirkies Evolution DownloadHow can you help? Glad you asked! Most importantly, download and install the game on your iPhone or iPad, and rate it (or even better review it) on the App Store. This way you can help others find it among millions of other apps. And of course, if you have kids, let them play with it. Ideal ages are 8-12 but even younger kids and adults can have fun. Iris and I hope you enjoy both the fun and the learning!

Talk by Ricardo Baeza-Yates: Data and Algorithmic Bias in the Web

Ricardo Baeza-YatesSpeaker: Ricardo Baeza-Yates, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain & Universidad de Chile
Title: Data and Algorithmic Bias in the Web
Date: 04/22/2016
Time: 9am
Room: Info East 122
Abstract: The Web is the largest public big data repository that humankind has created. In this overwhelming data ocean we need to be aware of the quality and in particular, of biases that exist in this data, such as redundancy, spam, etc. These biases affect the algorithms that we design to improve the user experience. This problem is further exacerbated by biases that are added by these algorithms, especially in the context of search and recommendation systems. They include ranking bias, presentation bias, position bias, etc. We give several examples and their relation to sparsity, novelty, and privacy, stressing the importance of the user context to avoid these biases.
Bio: Ricardo Baeza-Yates areas of expertise are information retrieval, web search and data mining, data science and algorithms. He was VP of Research at Yahoo Labs, based in Barcelona, Spain, and later in Sunnyvale, California, from January 2006 to February 2016. He is part time Professor at DTIC of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, Spain. Until 2004 he was Professor and founding director of the Center for Web Research at the Dept. of Computing Science of the University of Chile. He obtained a Ph.D. in CS from the University of Waterloo, Canada, in 1989. He is co-author of the best-seller Modern Information Retrieval textbook published by Addison-Wesley in 2011 (2nd ed), that won the ASIST 2012 Book of the Year award. From 2002 to 2004 he was elected to the board of governors of the IEEE Computer Society and in 2012 he was elected for the ACM Council. Since 2010 is a founding member of the Chilean Academy of Engineering. In 2009 he was named ACM Fellow and in 2011 IEEE Fellow, among other awards and distinctions.

Radicchi Earns NSF CAREER Award

Filippo Radicchi
Filippo Radicchi

Congratulations to Filippo Radicchi, who has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a research and education program devoted to studying critical infrastructures from the perspective of network theory. The $500,000 grant will focus on how physical networks, such as transportation, water, food supply, communications, and power generation and transmission, interact to deliver their assets as efficiently as possible. Transactional and relational infrastructures, such as financial and trade networks, also enter into the equation to serve as the backbone for modern society. Read more…

Awards at CCS 2015

Optimized-IU_poster_5_botsThe CNetS poster “The Rise of Social Bots in Online Social Networks” by Emilio Ferrara, Onur Varol, Prashant Shiralkar, Clayton Davis, Filippo Menczer, and Alessandro Flammini won a Best Poster Award at CCS 2015. The poster was presented by Clayton Davis. The results will also appear in the paper “The Rise of Social Bots” to be published in Comm. ACM (in press, preprint).

The paper “Modularity and the Spread of Perturbations in Complex Dynamical Systems” by Artemy Kolchinsky, Alexander J. Gates and Luis M. Rocha, and the poster “Information Theoretic Structures of the French Revolution” by Alexander Barron, Simon DeDeo and Rebecca Spang won additional awards.

Finally, our former postdoctoral scientist Bruno Gonçalves (now tenured faculty member at Aix-Marseille Université) received a Junior Scientist Award from the Complex Systems Society for his contributions to the study of human social behavior from large-scale online attention and behavioral data. This is the second Junior Scientist Award for CNetS (the first was won by Filippo Radicchi).

Congratulations to the CNetS team!


On the cover of Neuron

Neuron coverWork by Olaf Sporns, YY Ahn, Alessandro Flammini and colleagues was featured on the cover of Neuron. In the paper Cooperative and Competitive Spreading Dynamics on the Human Connectome, the authors present a simulation model of spreading dynamics, previously applied in studies of social networks, that offers a new perspective on how the connectivity of the human brain constrains neural communication processes. Local perturbations in a social network can trigger global cascades (orange and turquoise epicenters in background image). In the case of the brain, the spreading of such cascades follows organized patterns that are shaped by anatomical connections revealing how interactions among functional brain networks may give rise to the integration of information.