Saturday, November 07, 2015

Review of "The tools and techniques of the adversarial reviewer"

This is my review of the paper
"How to review a paper \\ The tools and Techniques of the adversarial reviewer"
by Graham Cormode.

This paper appeared in the SIGMOD Record in December of 2008, but appears not to have gone through proper peer review. The paper suffers from at least three major problems

Motive  - is it really an interesting problem that reviewers are adversarial? Surely if reviewers colluded with the authors, we'd end up accepting all kinds of rubbish,  swamping our already bursting filing cabinets and cloud storage resources further, and taking cycles away from us just when we could be updating our blog or commenting on someone's Facebook status.
Is the fact that a reviewer doesn't like a paper a problem? Do we know that objective knowledge and reasoning based on the actual facts are the best way to evaluate scholarly work? Has anyone tried random paper selection to see if it is better or worse?

Means - the paper doesn't provide evidence to support its own argument While there is much anecdote, there are no data. The synthetic extracts from fictional reviewers are not evaluated quantitatively - e.g. to see which are more likely to lead to a paper rejection -- for example, it is not even shown that perhaps accepted papers may have more adversarial reviews than rejected papers, which may attract mere "meh" commentary.

Missed Opportunity - the paper could have a great opportunity to publish the names of the allegedly adversarial reviewers together with examples of their adverse reviews, to support the argumentation, and to allow other researchers to see if the results are reproducable, repeatable, and even useful.
For example, multiple programme committees could be constituted in parallel, and equipped with versions of reviewing software that modify reviews to include more or less adversarial comments. The outcomes of PC meetings could generate multiple conference events, and the quality of the different events compared. If particular outcomes can be determined to be superior, then the review process could subsequently be fully automated. It is only a small step from there to improving the automatic authoring of the papers themselves, and then the academic community will be relieved of a whole slew of irksome labour, and can get on with its real job.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

the thing is...

part un ..with the form factor of a hand, the thing can control any legacy actuator - possessed of several simple electromechanical motors, a set of fiber optics in the finger tips, leading back to a camera in the raspberry pi controller at the wrist, and a light, to look at stuff in the dark (extra-sensory perspective), the thing can run around your house and turn stuff on and off - it might be a bit scary (especially if you have several of them, and you see them going up stairs, or hanging off the old thermotat controller or VHS video or microwave) but through online legacy device manuals, these are the new universal remote control  - instead of getting a remote for each device, even devices which have no digital/IR/WiFi/Bluetooth/Zigbee/Audio interface can now be managed via an app on your phone which talks to your family of things...

this is cheaper, more deployable than expensive new tech, more secure (modulo any recurrences of early "hands of orlac" bugs), and can deal with tricky situations (e.g. get spider out of bath, unblock toilet) that most IoT engineers blanche at the thought of (which).

these things can turn your old dial phone into a cellular like device (indeed allow you to dial remotely using your cell phone) can take readings from utility meters and scan, OCR and email them to you, and then let you turn down the heating or turn up the gas as you can afford, without leaving the comfort of your internet cafe.

no cloud needed. no nudges or winks from a psychology/marketing department, just plain old wrist action and common sense.

its true, there may be a re-guard legal fight with the estate of charles addams, but we expect that to be handled easily

part deux - lust as actuators should be made visible agents, sensors too -- every thing that contains a sensor  should have a face - for example, any sensor should show a picture of the people currentlly looking at the output of the sensor - this is the moral equivalent of the facebook "show me as others see me" interface or the statistics on google's search dashboard...

this would give us the inverted panopticon (aka sousveillance) - this is not hard to do - indeed, a similar idea was applied for logging in to public wifi hotspots  where the router has a camera and display which yo ucan use from your laptop in a cafe, to make sure (or at least, improve your confidence that) you are using the real router, not some hacker sitting near by

this is also psychological. so using information flow control, and tracing, one could easily implement this - given the total number of people who should be able to see sensors' output is small, this should actually be scalable too

it could also e a service offered by HATDeX :-)

Friday, October 02, 2015

driverless cars uninsurable?

so some of the push to get autonomous vehicles out there appears to have support from the automotive insurance business.

this seems odd, in the long run for this kind of obvious reason.

driverless cars reduce the risk of accidents. when all vehicles are driverless, the risk (of accident, or "taking&driving away" theft) is zero. so why would you want or need insurance?

of course, there's the other thing - why would _you_ want a car either? the goal will be to maximise the use of  all vehicles so you'll just call up one via uber-uber-zip-zip

oh, and poor taxi drivers - bad enough to get ubered- but this will make them complete toast.

maybe a few chauffeur limo businesses will remain as "bespoke handicraft" signs of conspicuous consumption?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

technology embedding ethics

Having tried to confront ethics in internet experiments at a conference a couple of weeks ago, I'm trying to think about the way technologies like the internet embed ethics and how this challenges us both in every day life and as researchers into communications, but also for developers creating new technologies.

One obvious place where this shows up repeatedly is in the tension between free speech and hate crimes, as well as between privacy and accountability. but it also shows up in the power imbalance between large organisations and the individual. Taking these in the reverse order, then:

1/ The cloud is run by a small number of very big trans-national companies, for profit - original technical reasons for centralising resources (compared with the world wide web of the 1990s, or even early 2000s) was economic - scale gets price/performance advantages for servers, as management and control are run in one place for a lot of people. prevention of various attacks (e.g. denial of service on small sites) goes away as a problem, since few bad guys have the resource to launch a big attack on today's giant data centres (outside a couple of government agencies:)

However, once all that information is concentrated in one place, it affords opportunities which didn't make sense when it was decentralised. A for profit company has no choice: It has to maximise the shareholder value. This isn't mission creep, its just capitalism.

Of course, putting all your eggs in one basket does have a downside when there is a successful hack (viz the ever increasing list of Cablegates, Sony's, Ashley Maddison's)

2/ Privacy is not assured in a network. when you communicate, at least one other party now knows what you said. In a computer network, your privacy is now in their hands, since everything you "send" to them is a copy. They now have a copy. It can be copied again. While the parties to your original communication may be accounted for (you think/hope), further copies are not accounted for. This is a consequence also of the near-zero cost of copying. In days of illuminated manuscripts, only people with a monastery full of monks could copy stuff again. Nowadays, as downloaders know, anyone can re-upload. As YouTube demonstrated, you can even legitimise file sharing if you have enough power (see 1/:)

However, privacy is not dead. There are social norms which prevent us repeating all secrets to all and sundry. There are also legal situations where confidentiality is required (patient/doctor or client/lawyer, or just gf/bf but only if at least one of them is a celeb:)

What isn't clear because of the way technology has made copying easy, is when you are trespassing on those social norms - the technology could be less neutral - it is fairly easy now to provide tools that look (locally, on your device) at the information you have and make suggestions about reasonable use of it (delete now for ever, do not copy, etc) - in organisations that care about security (defense agencies) classification provides rules about where data can go - we could help every day people by building better support for remembering what you should and should not do.

3/ Many systems provide platforms for public utterances - blogs, have-your-say, comment-is-free, etc etc - but also just being able to get a throw away e-mail account at the drop of a hat.

Many are geared to ease of use, so don't need accountable sign-on, and don't check what is said or who it is said to.

Such systems allow trolling and other offence.

The problem is that the policing of what people can say, to whom, and where is generally regarded as a form of censorship, and in some countries, strongly opposed.
This conflates two things
a) anonymity (which has its place for whistleblowers, or people in countries where free speech is anathema anyhow)
b) free speech.

In general, if you think you have a right to say something, you should be able to stand by what you say, hence being anonymous is not only not a requirement, it is actually a really weird thing to require. Experiments on requiring true names, or at least accountable identities, on some sites have resulted in visible reduction in abuse.

So what I'm trying to say here is that we have built an internet, web, cloud, which to a large degree is not fit for human purpose.

  • It is good for corporations to make money at your expense
  • It is excellent for us to live in a panopticon
  • It is a fine public space for people to shout abuse at others while wearing a mask.
Time to fix this.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

lost and not not forgotten

social scientists studying the right to be forgotten have forgotten why

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

sharing and hiding - e-books and crypto comms

two ideas for the day:
1/ when you're reading an ebook, people around you don't have the pleasure of seeing what you're reading as they do by seeing the cover of a paper book....

so e-books have wireless for download - why not (up to you to turn on/off) use a whispernet style ad hoc meassage to broadcast to people nearby what you currenty are lookin at....?

2/ when you type an email that has a word like "attachment" in it, the mailer notices if there isn't an attachment often, & asks you if you meant to have one
how about the mail app (or browser) could also look at the email and make a guess "this looks private, don't you want to use the recipient's public key"?


Saturday, July 18, 2015

democracy and debate - what's wrong with vanguards etc

just listening to lots of talks by social scientists - when people talk about politics, they've spent a lot of time reading, digesting, thinking, synthesising and so on. so then they report their results back. what's the problem?

well, basically, TL;DR

the process has to be a process for al potential involved parties - this is why syndicalist anarchism is the way forward - direct democracy has to engage, so the naive extension of representative democracy into direct democracy just burdens people with too many irrelevant discussions, so is alienating in a worse way.

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home