Interview Michal Kosinski , Concerto Web Based App using #Rstats

Here is an interview with Michal Kosinski , leader of the team that has created Concerto – a web based application using R. What is Concerto? As per http://www.psychometrics.cam.ac.uk/page/300/concerto-testing-platform.htm

Concerto is a web based, adaptive testing platform for creating and running rich, dynamic tests. It combines the flexibility of HTML presentation with the computing power of the R language, and the safety and performance of the MySQL database. It’s totally free for commercial and academic use, and it’s open source

Ajay-  Describe your career in science from high school to this point. What are the various stats platforms you have trained on- and what do you think about their comparative advantages and disadvantages?  

Michal- I started with maths, but quickly realized that I prefer social sciences – thus after one year, I switched to a psychology major and obtained my MSc in Social Psychology with a specialization in Consumer Behaviour. At that time I was mostly using SPSS – as it was the only statistical package that was taught to students in my department. Also, it was not too bad for small samples and the rather basic analyses I was performing at that time.

 

My more recent research performed during my Mphil course in Psychometrics at Cambridge University followed by my current PhD project in social networks and research work at Microsoft Research, requires significantly more powerful tools. Initially, I tried to squeeze as much as possible from SPSS/PASW by mastering the syntax language. SPSS was all I knew, though I reached its limits pretty quickly and was forced to switch to R. It was a pretty dreary experience at the start, switching from an unwieldy but familiar environment into an unwelcoming command line interface, but I’ve quickly realized how empowering and convenient this tool was.

 

I believe that a course in R should be obligatory for all students that are likely to come close to any data analysis in their careers. It is really empowering – once you got the basics you have the potential to use virtually any method there is, and automate most tasks related to analysing and processing data. It is also free and open-source – so you can use it wherever you work. Finally, it enables you to quickly and seamlessly migrate to other powerful environments such as Matlab, C, or Python.

Ajay- What was the motivation behind building Concerto?

Michal- We deal with a lot of online projects at the Psychometrics Centre – one of them attracted more than 7 million unique participants. We needed a powerful tool that would allow researchers and practitioners to conveniently build and deliver online tests.

Also, our relationships with the website designers and software engineers that worked on developing our tests were rather difficult. We had trouble successfully explaining our needs, each little change was implemented with a delay and at significant cost. Not to mention the difficulties with embedding some more advanced methods (such as adaptive testing) in our tests.

So we created a tool allowing us, psychometricians, to easily develop psychometric tests from scratch an publish them online. And all this without having to hire software developers.

Ajay -Why did you choose R as the background for Concerto? What other languages and platforms did you consider. Apart from Concerto, how else do you utilize R in your center, department and University?

Michal- R was a natural choice as it is open-source, free, and nicely integrates with a server environment. Also, we believe that it is becoming a universal statistical and data processing language in science. We put increasing emphasis on teaching R to our students and we hope that it will replace SPSS/PASW as a default statistical tool for social scientists.

Ajay -What all can Concerto do besides a computer adaptive test?

Michal- We did not plan it initially, but Concerto turned out to be extremely flexible. In a nutshell, it is a web interface to R engine with a built-in MySQL database and easy-to-use developer panel. It can be installed on both Windows and Unix systems and used over the network or locally.

Effectively, it can be used to build any kind of web application that requires a powerful and quickly deployable statistical engine. For instance, I envision an easy to use website (that could look a bit like SPSS) allowing students to analyse their data using a web browser alone (learning the underlying R code simultaneously). Also, the authors of R libraries (or anyone else) could use Concerto to build user-friendly web interfaces to their methods.

Finally, Concerto can be conveniently used to build simple non-adaptive tests and questionnaires. It might seem to be slightly less intuitive at first than popular questionnaire services (such us my favourite Survey Monkey), but has virtually unlimited flexibility when it comes to item format, test flow, feedback options, etc. Also, it’s free.

Ajay- How do you see the cloud computing paradigm growing? Do you think browser based computation is here to stay?

Michal – I believe that cloud infrastructure is the future. Dynamically sharing computational and network resources between online service providers has a great competitive advantage over traditional strategies to deal with network infrastructure. I am sure the security concerns will be resolved soon, finishing the transformation of the network infrastructure as we know it. On the other hand, however, I do not see a reason why client-side (or browser) processing of the information should cease to exist – I rather think that the border between the cloud and personal or local computer will continually dissolve.

About

Michal Kosinski is Director of Operations for The Psychometrics Centre and Leader of the e-Psychometrics Unit. He is also a research advisor to the Online Services and Advertising group at the Microsoft Research Cambridge, and a visiting lecturer at the Department of Mathematics in the University of Namur, Belgium. You can read more about him at http://www.michalkosinski.com/

You can read more about Concerto at http://code.google.com/p/concerto-platform/ and http://www.psychometrics.cam.ac.uk/page/300/concerto-testing-platform.htm

Ads Alliance on Internet

Just saw

the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising.

Multi-Site Data Collection Principles Broaden Self Regulation Beyond Online Behavioral Advertising
WASHINGTON, D.C., NOVEMBER 7, 2011

The new Principles consist of the following specific requirements:

  1. Transparency and consumer control for purposes other than OBA – The Multi-Site Data Principles call for organizations that collect Multi-Site Data for purposes other than OBA to provide transparency and control regarding Internet surfing across unrelated Websites.
  2. Collection / use of data for eligibility determination – The Multi-Site Data Principles prohibit the collection, use or transfer of Internet surfing data across Websites for determination of a consumer’s eligibility for employment, credit standing, healthcare treatment and insurance.
  3. Collection / use of children’s data – The Multi-Site Data Principles state that organizations must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
  4. Meaningful accountability – The Multi-Site Data Principles are subject to enforcement through strong accountability mechanisms.

http://www.aboutads.info/principles

The DAA Self-Regulatory Principles

 

The cross-industry Self-Regulatory Principles for Multi-Site Data augment the Self-Regulatory   Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising  (OBA)  by covering the prospective  collection of Web site   data beyond that collected for OBA purposes.  The existing OBA  Principles and definitions  remain in   full force and effect and are not limited by the new  principles.

The cross-industry Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising was developed by   leading industry associations to apply  consumer-friendly standards to online  behavioral advertising  across the Internet. Online behavioral advertising increasingly supports the convenient access to  content, services, and applications over the Internet that consumers have come to expect at no cost   to them.

The Education Principle calls for organizations to participate in efforts to educate individuals and businesses about online behavioral advertising and the Principles.

The Transparency Principle calls for clearer and easily accessible disclosures to consumers about data collection and use practices associated with online behavioral advertising. It will result in new, enhanced notice on the page where data is collected through links embedded in or around advertisements, or on the Web page itself.

The Consumer Control Principle provides consumers with an expanded ability to choose whether data is collected and used for online behavioral advertising purposes. This choice will be available through a link from the notice provided on the Web page where data is collected.

The Consumer Control Principle requires “service providers”, a term that includes Internet access service providers and providers of desktop applications software such as Web browser “tool bars” to obtain the consent of users before engaging in online behavioral advertising, and take steps to de-identify the data used for such purposes.

The Data Security Principle calls for organizations to provide appropriate security for, and limited retention of data, collected and used for online behavioral advertising purposes.

The Material Changes Principle calls for obtaining consumer consent before a Material Change is made to an entity’s Online Behavioral Advertising data collection and use policies unless that change will result in less collection or use of data.

The Sensitive Data Principle recognizes that data collected from children and used for online behavioral advertising merits heightened protection, and requires parental consent for behavioral advertising to consumers known to be under 13 on child-directed Web sites. This Principle also provides heightened protections to certain health and financial data when attributable to a specific individual.

The Accountability Principle calls for development of programs to further advance these Principles, including programs to monitor and report instances of uncorrected non-compliance with these Principles to appropriate government agencies. The CBBB and DMA have been asked and agreed to work cooperatively to establish accountability mechanisms under the Principles.

 

Ajay- So why the self regulations?

Answer- Shoddy Maths in behaviorally targeted ads is leading to a very high glut in targeted ads, more than can be reasonably expected to click based on consumer spending. On the internet- unlike on television- cost is less of a barrrier to OVER ADVERTISING.

 

Rockmelt: A chromium based browser with a social layer

I kind of liked the latest browser on the block: Rockmelt.

It is based on Chromium open source project, that is primarily lead by Google. In case Facebook wants to buy a browser it can use Rockmelt–provided the mutual powers and angels agree.

I really liked the idea of a social layer- though I am not sure how the analytics embedded within a browser/report should be used.

Basically it re-designs the interface to put your social networks to the margin, thus quite a boon in you have active social media presence on multiple sites or a power reader/surfer. Timely alerts ping you to status/new messages without cluttering your screen and internet experience. Worth atleast a try or first look for the innovator kind of internet customer.

I still prefer the speed of Chrome– because Rockwell interface is still not easy to transition to – it almost adds in 3 dimensions in terms of where your eyeball should be while surfing (to left/right/margin).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and thats despite the funny fine print in Chrome’s user agreement of “continuing innovation”

type about:terms in your chrome bar to see-

4.3 As part of this continuing innovation, you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you. You may stop using the Services at any time. You do not need to specifically inform Google when you stop using the Services.

Google Experimental search

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Google just rolled out three new experiements. You can join only one of these at http://www.google.com/experimental/index.html

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Google is always experimenting with new features aimed at improving the search experience. Take one for a spin and let us know what you think.

Your selected experiment: You have joined the +1 button experiment. Note that you can only join ONE experiment at a time.

+1 button This is your selected experiment.
Use +1 to give something your public stamp of approval, so friends, contacts, and others can find the best stuff when they search. Get recommendations for the things that interest you, right when you want them, in your search results. 

To participate in this experiment:

  1. Make sure you’re signed into your Google Account (required)
  2. Click ‘Join this experiment’
  3. Search for something you love on Google.com
  4. Click the new +1 button, and make your mark on the web

Your +1’s are public. They can appear in Google search results, on ads, and sites across the web. You’ll always be able to see your own +1’s in a new tab on your Google Profile, and if you want, you can share this tab with the world.

Please note, it may take a while before you see the button in search results, and it may occasionally disappear as we make improvements. Your feedback will help us make it better!

Learn more about +1

Keyboard shortcuts
Navigate search results quickly and easily, minimizing use of your mouse. Current keyboard shortcuts include: 

Key Action
J Selects the next result.
K Selects the previous result.
O Opens the selected result.
<Enter> Opens the selected result.
/ Puts the cursor in the search box.
<Esc> Removes the cursor from the search box.
Try out this queryrattlesnake

Accessible View
Navigate search results quickly and easily, with just your keyboard. As you navigate, items are magnified for easier viewing. If you use a screen reader or talking browser, the relevant information is spoken automatically as you navigate. 

Current keyboard shortcuts include:

Key Action
j or DOWN Selects the next item.
k or UP Selects the previous item.
l or RIGHT Moves to the next category (results, sponsored links, refinements).
h or LEFT Moves to the previous category (results, sponsored links, refinements).
<Enter> Opens the selected result.
/ Puts the cursor in the search box.
n Moves to the next result, and fetches more results if necessary.
p Moves to the previous result, reloading earlier results if necessary.
= Magnifies current item
Shrinks current item
A Switches to Accessible Search Results
W Switches to regular Web Search Results

For now, you need to use the Firefox 3 web browser with this experiment. This note will be updated as other browsers are added. Magnification already works with Google Chrome andApple’s Safari.

Try out this queryenhancing web 2.0 accessibility

Google Chrome Web Store

Google Chrome Icon
Image via Wikipedia

If  you are a Google Chrome user and especially

if you are a not a Chrome user- check out the great web store with Games , Free apps (including for Blogging)

Nice1