July 28, 2007

Network analysis, class divisions, paranoia

This is a fascinating piece of sociological research by danah boyd, that, besides being valuable in and of itself, foreshadows immense changes in the way that sociology research will be conducted in the future.

What's the paradigm shift? Social networking sites force people to reify their social relations. Better yet, they put all of that data into one accessible, easy-to-mine place. If that's not a sociologist's idea of a goldmine, I don't know what is. Of course, with this come all sorts of privacy concerns, which is the part that I'm not really interested in.

The other important issue that danah's paper raises is that despite the discomfort, denial and decades of rhetoric to the contrary, it is time to face the fact that out of all the nations claiming democracy, the US has one of the most pervasive and manifested socio-economic class divisions in the modern world.

On a related note, I regularly keep going back to the thought of using network analysis to reveal the real power structure of governments - which business leaders met which government leaders for what reason when? Not that business and political leaders will start to reveal their lives in Facebook profiles (although I heard rumors that a recent strategy change by a local startup involves doing "LinkedIn meets Facebook" - the only image that comes to mind is executives posting photos of themselves drunk at the company picnic).

This issue has become more critical with the rise of special interest groups and lobbies (masked by the benign euphemism of "civil society" by their originators and eagerly picked up by those sucking at the NGOs' tits). After all, network analysis is already being successfuly used by governments to track the activities of their enemies.

There is a fascinating interview with Valdis Krebs of orgnet.com about mining publicly available information on the 9/11 hijackers using network analysis. Why not use these tools for the real benefit of civil society? Of course, some people may argue that the actions of the "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq already qualifies them as a terrorist network.

The more paranoid will point out the connection between Accel Partners, the VC firm that initially invested in Facebook, and the CIA (I wonder if this connection was discovered using network analysis?), but that seems more coincidence than conspiracy.

July 20, 2007

New ParenScript release.

I just finished putting up the tarball of the new ParenScript release, which can be download here. Red Daly has been working on a new package/namespace mechanism for ParenScript, which will entail some major changes to the codebase, and this will be the last release before his work is integrated into the main ParenScript source tree.

July 17, 2007

Software Transactional Memory

I promised in an earlier post to discuss software transactional memory, so today I've decided to present a paper written by Andrew Seniuk and me for Lisa Higham's distributed algorithms course. The contains an overview description of STM, discusses implementation approaches of a few current systems, provides proofs of several properties of the DSTM implementation, and highlights possible pitfalls that can occur in transactional code. During the time Andrew and I were working on the paper, there was a lot of excitement in the blogosphere of the potential of STM, and I think it is important to highlight the problems that will be encountered when use of software transactional memory gets more widespread - both to help people avoid them, and to deflate some of the "silver bullet" hype that I think STM has received. Enough rambling, here's the link to the paper: