Archive for the ‘fabio’ Category
Michael Corey is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago. This guest post explains his experiences working for Facebook, the world’s leading social networking website (as if you didn’t know that!).
Another Dispatch from Industry
Last summer I moved from Chicago to the bay area to work as a quantitative researcher at Facebook. I’d done six years in the PhD program at Chicago and left with drafts of all my dissertation papers but without a cohesive dissertation to turn in (3 paper dissertations aren’t exactly allowed). Six months at Facebook has been eye opening and weird. Below I’ll try to give readers a feel for what it is like to go from an academic track to an industry job.
The FB Culture:
The culture at Facebook is really fun. I work at the main campus in Menlo Park, where a few thousand people work on the various FB platforms and the associated companies (Parse, Onavo, Instagram, etc). My mother-in-law describes it as an Oxford College designed by Willy Wonka, which is pretty fair. The campus houses everything you need to reduce any external friction that would take you off-campus during the day [http://cnettv.cnet.com/barber-candy-shop-bank-among-deluxe-perks-facebook/9742-1_53-50153870.html]. It is pretty easy to drink the Kool-Aid about how great FB is, and I would imagine that it is hard to work here if you don’t. I wasn’t the biggest FB user when I started here, but having been off the site for a long time I learned to recognize how much I missed by not being on it. For so many of my peers it is the only medium to communicate news, baby pictures, or cat memes to weak ties. Risk taking is encouraged and speed is considered a virtue.
university of chicago visit – everything you wanted to know about tweets and votes, but were afraid to ask
I will be a guest of the computational social science workshop at the University of Chicago this coming Friday. I will present a very detailed talk on the more tweets/more votes phenomena called “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Tweets-Votes Correlation, but Were Afraid to Ask.” If you want to chat or hang out, please email me.
Refreshments will be served.
During Festivus, a commenter complained about the gender inequality on this blog. This comes up from time to time. Trust me, I’ve tried to remedy the situation. In the past, I’ve made a conscious effort to invite comparable numbers of guests from all genders. And we’ve had excellent female bloggers. Our permanent crew member Katehrine Chen, Hilary Levy Friedman, Jenn Lena, Leslie Hinkson, Mito Akiyoshi, Brandy Aven, Rhacel Parrenas, Karissa McKelvey, and others. But usually, men are much more likely to accept invitations and post, that’s why the imbalance remains. In Spring 2013, I even put out an open call and I posted *everything* that was sent to me. The result? Two men and one woman.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try even harder. So here’s the deal: send me something to post. You have a commitment from me. If you send me a post that is social science/management or related to the academic profession (orgtheory’s two main topics), I will post it contingent on light editing and meeting our admittedly low intellectual standards. This helps me by bringing fresh ideas to the blog and it will bring new voices to the soc blogosphere. So if there’s a book you want to comment on, or an article you hate, or a theoretical point that needs to get out there, send it in!!
Loyal orgtheorista Monica Prasad sent me the link to a ASA report written by her, David Brunsma, and Ezra Zuckerman. They interviewed 26 of the “best” manuscript reviewers identified by editors at a variety of journals. Common themes from those who write good and fast reviews:
- Reviewing is not a drag. You can learn a lot.
- Immediately focus on “big issues” – major questions, research design, etc.
- Don’t do “death by a thousand cuts.”
- Set out time in the schedule. It’s a normal part of academic life.
You can read the responses from all 26 respondents in the full length report.
The ASA section on Political Sociology has published their Fall 2013 newsletter. They had a symposium on the topic of implications of social media for democracy and other good items. Articles include:
- Zeynep Tufecki on digital empowerment.
- Discussion of recently deceased political sociologist Juan Linz.
- Interview with Chris Bail on his recent research
- My essay – “Digital Democracy is Here – Let’s measure it!”
36 pages of great stuff. Recommended!!
The Uncluttered blog has a nice post about the way Eisenhower organized his work. It’s a 2×2 table, which means sociologists should love it:
He was highly organized and prioritized his tasks and responsibilities while serving as president, a five-star general, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and supreme commander of NATO. Eisenhower devised an effective system that’s simple enough to be executed with a pencil and a piece of paper and effective enough to, well, run the free world. It’s called the Eisenhower Matrix.
Yes, the Matrix of (Eisenhower) Domination.
Therefore, what does it happen if the artworks, that once circulated mostly thanks to art magazines (supported by gallerists) and exhibition catalogues, are now instantly available online to everyone?
A preliminary answer to this difficult question would be that a lot of people will simultaneously recognize a same kind of “physiological” beauty. Then they will try to buy it, if they can, driven by the idea that they are not alone, but part of a relatively large number of people who love that artist’s work. That is why – as not only Claudia Cargnel says – the request of certain artworks is extraordinary high, even if the curriculum vitae of the artist has no exhibitions, prizes or bibliography on it. It could be just a trend, due to the internet surfers’ appetite for money, but it may also mean something else. It could be the evidence that social networks, blogs and auction houses’ web sites are now informing art people definitely more than traditional art magazines and museums (generally supported by collectors).
Indeed. One can get a pretty decent education in contemporary art by just reading a few blogs and magazines obsessively. The art world may be getting ready for the next stage of evolution after the rise of the art fair model.
Fireworks by Laurie Lipton
New Year’s Eve is, I think, the most civilized of our holidays. Consider the following:
- The whole world celebrates it.
- No one is excluded based on nation, race, or religion.
- Expensive gifts aren’t necessary.
- No one argues with family over holiday dinner.
- It’s a celebration of the time we spend with each other.
- We promise to do better.
- Alcohol is imbibed, but St. Patrick’s style debauchery is not the norm. Apple cider is acceptable. This obviously doesn’t apply to South Philly.
Welcome the New Year! In 2014, I plan to discuss the following topics on the blog:
- Fligstein and McAdam’s Theory of Fields – there’s been some subterranean conversation that needs to see the light of day.
- Institutionalism – where are we now?
- More installments of the Grad Skool Rulz .
- Damon Phillip’s book on the structure of jazz music production.
- Some more K-street action.
- A discussion of Karl Popper and whether “positivism” deserves the scorn it gets in sociology.
And 1. There is an Orgtheory Facebook page. It is now much more active than it used to be. 2. Support the writing of this blog with a purchase of the Grad Skool Rulz book. It’s cheap ($3), available on nearly any device you have, and a lot of people have found the book to be helpful.
Shamus and I have a long standing debate over the 2002 Dale/Krueger paper and whether it really does show that elite college premia are due to ability bias (e.g., kids who go to Harvard make more money because they are smarter/better connected/whatever, not because Harvard gives them any particular human capital). Via Econlog, I discovered thet D&K have a working paper, which bolsters this claim with newer analysis. From the abstract:
We find that the return to college selectivity is sizeable for both cohorts in regression models that control for variables commonly observed by researchers, such as student high school GPA and SAT scores. However, when we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially and are generally indistinguishable from zero. There were notable exceptions for certain subgroups. For black and Hispanic students and for students who come from less-educated families (in terms of their parents’ education), the estimates of the return to college selectivity remain large, even in models that adjust for unobserved student characteristics.
In other words, if going to Harvard causes you to get more income, the income associated with going to Harvard should remain unexplained when we control for sensible individual covariates. In the data, when you include data on school you applied to, which indicates how ambitious you are, the Harvard effect goes away, except for low-SES students.
Bottom line: Elite college attendance is a marker of ambition. That’s important to know, but shouldn’t be conflated with a human capital effect, except for populations which don’t have wealth or social connections.
Last Saturday, Andrew Gelman responded to a post about a discussion in my social network analysis course. In that post, my student asked about different strengths of a network effect reported in a paper. Gelman (and Cosima Shalizi) both noted that the paper does not show a statistically significant difference. I quote the concluding paragraphs of Andrew’s commentary:
I’m doing this all not to rag on Rojas, who, after all, did nothing more than repeat an interesting conversation he had with a curious student. This is just a good opportunity to bring up an issue that occurs a lot in social science: lots of theorizing to explain natural fluctuations that occur in a random sample. (For some infamous examples, see here and here.) The point here is not that some anonymous student made a mistake but rather that this is a mistake that gets made by researchers, journalists, and the general public all the time.
I have no problem with speculation and theory. Just remember that if, as is here, the data are equivocal, that it would be just as valuable to give explanations that go in the opposite direction. The data here are completely consistent with the alternative hypothesis that people follow their spouses more than their friends when it comes to obesity.
Fair enough. Let me add a pedagogical perspective. When I teach network science to undergrads, I generally have a few goals. First, I want to show them how to convert social tie data into a matrix that can be analyzed. Second, I want students to learn how network concepts might operationalize social science concepts (e.g., how group cohesion might be described as high density). Third, I want to spark their imagination a little and see how network analysis can be used to describe or analyze a wide range of phenomena and thus encourage students to generate explanations. Given that students have very, very modest math skills and real problems generating hypotheses, getting down into the weeds with the papers is often last.
So when I teach the week on networks and health, my discussion questions are like this: “Why do you think health might be transmitted from one person to another? How would that work?” I also try to get into basic research design: “How do you measure health? Do you know what BMI is?” So the C&F paper has many up sides. The downside is that the paper has an interesting hypotheses and you can easily get distracted from the methodological controversy the paper has generated, or even some very sensible observations on confidence intervals. The bottom line is that when you have to teach everything (theory, methods, research design and topic), you don’t quite get everything. But still, if a student, who self-admitedly knows little math or stats, can get to a point about asking about mechanisms, then that’s a teaching victory.
Happy Festivus. In honor of the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength, I now celebrate all the people who have hated on me this past year (or ever):
- David Graeber, who said my online behavior was “reprehensible” (sorry, no link, the tweet seems to have been deleted, but you can get the background here)
- Critical realists, both ontological and regular varieties
- Post-modernists, you all haters
- The American Association for Public Association Research (though the discussion was very civil, which I can’t say for certain anarchist anthropologists)
- People who use job interviews
- White nationalists
- Overly annoying commenters
If you got a beef with Fabio, Festivus is your day. Use the comments, but rule #6 will be applied liberally.
A recent news report shows that “data scientist” is being searched more than “statistician“. A few notes: what this suggests to me is that traditional academic disciplines can no longer contain the skill set needed to manipulate and analyze big data. Too applied for math. Too CS for stats. Social science programs are too focused on topic and substance. We already have “informatics,” but now it will further split into a group that does big data handling vs. other tasks. I hope they maintain an applied focus and don’t retreat into algorithms for algorithms sake.
After reading the Fowler/Christakis paper on networks and obesity, a student asked why it was that friends had a stronger influence on spouses. In other words, if we believe the F&C paper, they report that your friends (57%) are more likely to transmit obesity than your spouse (37%) (see page 370).
This might be interpreted in two ways. First, it might be seen as a counter argument. This might really indicate that homophily is at work. We probably select spouses for some traits that are not self-similar. While we choose friends mainly on self-similarity of leisure and consumption (e.g, diet and exercise). Second, there might be an explanation based on transmission. We choose friends because we want them to influence us, while spouses are (supposed?) to accept us.
“There’s a literature on everything.” – Tyler Cowen
Yup, it turns out that not only is there is a network analysis literature on mean girls, but it has been published in the ASR. I quote from an article by Bob Faris and Diane Felmlee called “Status Struggles: Network Centrality and Gender Segregation in Same- and Cross-Gender Aggression:”
Literature on aggression often suggests that individual deficiencies, such as social incompetence, psychological difficulties, or troublesome home environments, are responsible for aggressive behavior. In this article, by contrast, we examine aggression from a social network perspective, arguing that social network centrality, our primary measure of peer status, increases the capacity for aggression and that competition to gain or maintain status motivates its use. We test these arguments using a unique longitudinal dataset that enables separate consideration of same- and cross-gender aggression. We find that aggression is generally not a maladjusted reaction typical of the socially marginal; instead, aggression is intrinsic to status and escalates with increases in peer status until the pinnacle of the social hierarchy is attained. Over time, individuals at the very bottom and those at the very top of a hierarchy become the least aggressive youth. We also find that aggression is influenced not so much by individual gender differences as by relationships with the other gender and patterns of gender segregation at school. When cross-gender interactions are plentiful, aggression is diminished. Yet these factors are also jointly implicated in peer status: in schools where cross-gender interactions are rare, cross-gender friendships create status distinctions that magnify the consequences of network centrality.
I just wrapped up my undergrad course in networks for seniors. Near the end, in the week on networks and crime, we discussed Papachristos’ work on homicide in Chicago. If you haven’t read it, he has a very rich data set on gangs and traces the back and forth of gang revenge homicides. Great stuff. So I asked my students: “You are the police and now you have read this research, what did you learn?”
Student 1: You should target the most central gangs. They seem to generate a lot of violence.
Me: Good, what else?
Student 1: Since a lot seems to focus on revenge, maybe police should focus on friends of homicide victims. Maybe counsel them so they won’t get revenge and keep the cycle going.
Student 2: That would never work.
Student 2: The cops gets no credit for counseling. Only for arrests.
Bingo. Great insight. In other words, we have a lot of good data on homicides and we know that a lot of it has to do with gang/revenge cycles. And that implies a solution – go after survivors and do what you can to keep them from acting out. But it is very hard to see how anyone could ever be rewarded in the system where people get promoted for arrests rather than crime prevention. It’s sad that you need have someone murdered first before you can be praised for being a good cop.
More Tweets, More Votes news:
- I thank Alex Hanna for mentioning this work in a new Foreign Policy piece that discusses how social media can be used to monitor elections in nations where polling is rare, a possibility that I mentioned in my Washington Post article on MTMV. Alex and co-author Kevin Harris use social media data to track Iranian public opinion, because quality polling is not common there. A must read for people who want to see how social media can be used to measure and evaluate democratic processes.
- The peer reviewed version of MTMV is now out in PLoS One. The paper presents the tweet share/vote share correlation for the 2010 and 2012 House elections and discusses possible mechanisms.
- The working paper version of MTMV at Social Science Research Network has had over 1,200 downloads in its short life, pushing it into the top 10 most downloaded papers on models of elections and political processes at SSRN. Congratulations to my co-authors Joe DiGrazia, Karissa McKelvey, and Johan Bollen. Outstanding work.
Insider tip: New results be presented at the computational social science workshop at the University of Chicago in January 2014. Details forthcoming.
Everybody get on the bench. Yes, that includes you, Ramirez. I know you have to use the bathroom, but you can hold it for a little while I talk – ok?
Alright, this is about the comment policy. Ever since we started in 2006, our policy has been to let people say whatever they want. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I have always felt that intellectual life should be based on evaluating the merits of argument, not the rank of the person. So I always hate it when one guy hogs up the class discussion, or people pull back just because the speaker is a fancy chair at some big university.* That’s why we generally let most comments stand. High school students and full professors all sit at the same table.
But we occasionally edit comments or delete them. Here are the rules. Follow them and no one gets hurt:
- We delete all spam.
- We will ban commenters who obsessively repeat the same points over and over, regardless of context.
- We delete comments that are personal attacks on individuals.
- We delete comments that use profanity or sexually explicit/offesnive material.
- The Sherkat Exemption: Professor Sherkat of Southern Illinois University is exempt from Rule #4.
- Each orgtheory crew member reserves the right to delete comments as they see fit.
It’s not a hard rule, but I’ve also deleted a few comments that were nothing more than grousing. If you hate this blog, go read another one. Write your own. It’s not a required class.
I don’t censor for political opinions, genuine academic disagreements or anything else that is a real engagement with the topics we cover at orgtheory.
Agree? Good. There’s little cups of Gatorade on the table by the Pepsi machine.
* Yes, IU groupies, I’m referring to the Bobo incident.
One of the more interesting questions in evaluation an individual’s academic performance is the “one hit wonder” issue. An academic, like any other producer of ideas, might have a single great achievement and produce little else in their career. And I don’t mean a big hit followed by a more modest stream of works. I mean, a big it in grad school or shortly thereafter, with very little else after that.
Outside of academia, one hit wonders present no problems to people who hand out rewards. Music fans just buy what they like, coaches cut athletes from the roster. In academia, this is trickier. First, it is often hard to tell if someone is a one hit wonder or not. Second, some types of research are just slow. We don’t want to punish a ethnographer, just because their CV doesn’t look like a demographer’s. Third, the tenure committee or dean may run into trouble if they suspect that the person won’t do much in the future. How can you fire the person who wrote a classic?
Promoting, or rewarding, one hit wonders incurs risk because professors do more than research. They teach undergraduates, mentor PhD students, do administrative work, and help out the profession by participating in conferences, peer review, editing journals, and other professional functions. Thus, we want sustained engagement from everyone who achieves a degree of stature, such as a tenured position at a reputable university. Also, a long period of inactivity may, rightly or wrongly, suggest that the person is not managing their talent well, or that the hit was a fluke.
In the end, I go on a case by case basis. If the hit was truly epochal, I’m happy to give them a job for life. A little deadwood is fine if we can get the cure for cancer in exchange. But that’s exceptionally rare. From an institution’s perspective, though, you reward people with an eye for the future. It ain’t like paying the guy who just fixed your clogged sink. You have to live with this person for decades.
What the heck, let’s do anarchism week. Let’s start with the following conversation I had at the end of my social theory class a few semesters ago. A student approached me and asked why I didn’t teach anarchism in the course. There’s a few good reasons, but not so strong that you couldn’t include it if you really wanted to.
First, the goal of my social theory class is to have people read original texts written by seminal social thinkers. This doubles as a sort of Western civ (since IU doesn’t require it) and people need to understand the core arguments of sociology. So we hit the “classics,” the interactionists, feminists, French theory,* and a little evolutionary psych. The course also needs to prepare a handful of students who will continue in soc, poli sci, or other fields at the graduate level.
Second, I teach things that really drive discussion in contemporary sociology, which means that that many topics, including those dear to my heart, must get cut. Since there are very few anarchist sociologists, or research that uses an anarchist perspective, it means that it simply isn’t a priority.
But that doesn’t mean that anarchism isn’t a real social theory or that it should be actively excluded. In contrast, there’s now a body of anarchist themed social writings, mainly in fields other than sociology. For example, anthropologist David Graeber’s writings should count. James Scott, the political scientist, has written about statelessness at length. There are the classic anarchists, like Prodhoun, and feminist anarchists like Emma Goldman. You have right wing anarchists like economist Murray Rothbard or philosopher Michael Huemer. Then you have empirical studies of statelessness like Pete Leeson’s pirate book.
In other words, you have more than enough material and it’s high quality material. But it’s definitely not central to sociology (yet?), so you don’t feel guilty cutting it. But the social theory course isn’t set in stone. I am already tiring of French theory and other topics, so it may be time to rotate some new material in.
* Remember, I don’t teach postmodernism anymore.
A few days ago, Ju Hong heckled President Obama at a speech. He asked the President to sign an executive order to stop deportations. The President said that he did not have the power to do so and that Congress would have to change the law. This is just plain wrong. While it is certainly true that Congress writes the law, the executive branch has a lot of freedom in choosing which laws to enforce and how to enforce them. For example, the state and local police don’t give tickets to every single person on the highway who drives 61 miles per hour or faster. The police make all kinds of judgments about when the infraction should be punished. And this is a standard feature of being a prosecutor. You actually have discretion.
At the Federal level, it is very clear that the modern presidency has accumulated a great deal of discretion in how to enforce the law. For example:
- Signing statements – apparently, lots of presidents have gotten away with ignoring laws they find inconvenient.
- Pardons – if a law is deemed to be wildly unjust, the President can just pardon people en mass. For example, President Carter pardoned a couple of million people who evaded the draft.
- Executive order – Obama could easily produce a legal argument that deporting someone causes great economic harm and separates them from their family, and thus constitutes harsh punishment for the administrative violation of coming to America without the right paper work. Then, he could instruct the federal department (DHS) to simply suspend deportations, especially of minors, because it is unconstitutional.
In other words, a legal system that allows presidents to kidnap people and send them to Guantanamo forever could easily be mustered to prevent the deportation of the guy with the leaf blower. It ain’t that hard.