David W. McDonald

2016 Seminar Series

Who Wants to Read This?!?

One key design feature of User Generated Content (UGC) systems is that they leverage the diverse contributions of the participants. The interests of the users of the system and their content contributions are likely to be of interest to other users of the system. One of the key design challenges for UGC systems is that they are designed to leverage the contributions of the participants. This is a challenge because the content contributed by the current set of participants might not represent the interests of a potentially growing audience of new users. For many UGC system understanding how existing content reflects the interests and biases of the participants is a difficult problem. In this talk, Dr. McDonald will describe a method for assessing the representativeness of UGC content based on the existence of that content in a target exogenous source. He will illustrate the method with two case studies that investigate how well the English language Wikipedia addresses the content interests of four sample audiences: readers of men’s and women’s periodicals, and readers of political periodicals geared toward either liberal or conservative ideologies. Preliminary findings from each case study are used to demonstrate the method.

2015 Seminar Series

Boy or Bot? Designing for Social Agents in Social Computing Systems

On June 8, 2014, the popular press reported that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) had finally passed the turing test. The growing sophistication of social bots or social agents presents a number of challenges to social computing. A challenge for analysts: How can we know if the behavioral traces, the wikipedia edits, the message board posts, the tweets, or even instagram photos, were produced by a real person with real human motivations, or whether the motivations were provided by the code of a programmer? A challenge for system designers: As social computing systems grow up, we should naturally expect that ever more sophisticated social bots will take their place in the milieu of people and code that interact online. This talk considers the findings from the study of one social botnet that lived on twitter for about 32 weeks. The findings help us understand a simple social botnet, how it compares to regular people, and how it may have influenced discussions. These findings provide an anchor for considering how the design of future social computing systems should account for increasing participation from social agents.

About David W. McDonald

David W. McDonald is a Professor and Chair in the University of Washington's department of Human Centered Design & Engineering. David's research interests span computer supported cooperative work, human-computer interaction and social computing. He currently has ongoing projects to analyze and design facilitation mechanisms for mass interaction in large-scale online communities.