Saturday, April 27, 2013

My Four Boys

These are my four little boys, ages 4, 6, 6, and 8. I was in graduate school when I gave birth to our first, the one with the gold bow tie. My husband and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Nobody we knew at the time had children – or was even married. When the nurse first handed Alex our baby, he looked confused and asked, “Can I sit down first so I don’t drop him?”

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Know You Know I’m Busy

Imagine that you are busy. Now imagine that the phone rings. It seems reasonable to assume that you would be less likely to answer the call at that point than if you were available. Phone calls, like any type of communication, are established via a negotiation between the initiator of the communication and the recipient.  The person placing the call chooses when to place it, and the person receiving the call chooses whether to answer it. One way a busy person can partake in the negotiation is to ignore incoming calls. Surprisingly, however, it turns out that people are actually more likely to answer the phone when busy!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Social networking sites are not just places to maintain relationships. They are also valuable information sources. Previous posts (Online QuestionAsking, Asking v. Searching) have discussed how people find information using social networks by asking questions. This post explores the other way people find information using social media: by searching preexisting social media content.  For example, if someone wanted to read a lot of snarky comments about the use of CamelCase in hashtags, they might go to Twitter and search for "#nowthatchersdead."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Standardized Fame

Just over two years ago I received a request from Pearson and the TexasEducation Agency for permission to use a photograph of mine for an End-of-Course English II Assessment for high school students in Texas. Yesterday, it seems, Texas gave a STAAR test where test takers were asked to read a Technology Review article about me, answer a few questions, and write a short essay. I know this because yesterday evening I suddenly became very popular on Twitter among the Texas teenage crowd.

My first clue was some tweets that I initially took for spam:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Asking v. Searching

Most of the time when we want to know something, we don't turn to a search engine – we ask somebody a question. While we used to have to know the right person to ask, we can now use Facebook or Twitter to broadcast our questions to our entire social network. The kinds of questions that we ask our social networks are very similar to what we search for using search engines, except that we tend to keep our questions "cocktail party-appropriate." Not surprisingly, we are more likely to search about health, religion, sex, and politics than to ask questions on those topics. For example, although adult queries make up a sizable portion of search engine queries, my colleagues and I have yet to see a single question asking about porn in the course of our research.