Monday, December 14, 2009

IBM Hosts Second Life Exhibition Space

For the last several years, IBM has maintained a presence in the virtual world of Second Life, including the well-used IBM 6 public sandbox. The sandbox has been home and training ground to some of Second LIfe's most talented builders. Since May of 2009, the Center for Social Software's IBM Exhibition Space (located near the sandbox, on IBM 2 and IBM 3) has been hosting large-scale virtual artworks. The site is curated by Andrew Sempere, who selects the works and collaborates with the artists to ensure that the Exhibits represent the best that Second LIfe artwork has to offer. IBM's Exhibition Space was recently featured in a post at Art 21, the blog spun off from the Emmy-nominated PBS series on Art in the 21st Century. In this article, author Nettrice Gaskins interviews IBM Artist in Residence Bryn Oh about her piece
The Rabbicorn.

Read more

The Rabbicorn Art Piece by Bryn Oh

Friday, November 20, 2009

Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas interviewed on CNN

Center research scientists Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas were among the data visualization experts interviewed in a recent article. Wattenberg and Viégas point out how new tools help us "see" and understand large amounts of data in ways that were virtually unheard of a decade ago. Today's technology lets us make sense of complicated issues such as the health care bills floated by the government and the discussion swirling around them. check out what's happening in our neighborhood, or find what days the American public was the happiest.

Read more about this here:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Susanne Hupfer goes to India with the Corporate Service Corps

A few days ago, Susanne Hupfer landed in Ahmadabad, a remote area in Northern India. Susanne, Assistant Director of the Center for Social Software, is one of several hundred IBMers who will spend a month working in developing countries as part of the IBM Corporate Services Corps. She and others from the company will team with the department of tribal affairs to help to jump start ecotourism into the GIR Forest National park -- home to endangered African lions.

You can read more about the program in these recent articles from the Boston Business Journal and Portfolio.

You can follow Susanne's journey via her twitter account.

Social Blue: IBM's internal social network

Find out why IBM started it and why it works so well. In this podcast from the Financial Times online, Joan Dimicco, a Research Scientist from the IBM Center talks to the BBC about why employees and managers alike love it, how they use it. and what surprised the team who deployed it two years ago.

Learn more about SocialBlue.

Listen to the podcast.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boston Business Journal honors IBM's Martin Wattenberg

On October 2, the Boston Business Journal (BBJ) named Martin Wattenberg of IBM Research one of the Forty Under Forty. Every year the BBJ honors forty rising stars within Massachusetts' innovative business and nonprofit communities who are under forty years old. Martin was selected for his work with data visualizations from more than 300 nominations. Here are highlights from Martin's profile in the special supplement:

The technical aspects of visual representation captivated him and in 1992, Wattenberg joined IBM Corp. to perform research on how to make data and text easily understood by a wide variety of people.

The visual beauty of some of his creations have landed them in institutions around the world including at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Museum in London and on outdoor screens in Harvard Square.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Center takes the lead on transparent text with Symposium

On September 21 and 22, the Center for Social Software marked its first anniversary with a groundbreaking symposium on transparent text. The symposium, held in Cambridge, focused on ways to make large collections of documents understandable to lay people and experts alike. The symposium connected over 140 pioneers in government, nonprofits, academia, and the media, jumpstarting the discussion on how to disseminate, analyze, and explain textual data. The keynote address was delivered by the Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO for Open Government, who directs the White House Open Government Initiative. A key challenge for transparency and citizen engagement lies in unlocking the value and meaning in textual data. The speakers and attendees alike explored approaches that shed light on unstructured text, ranging from novel statistical techniques to web-based crowdsourcing. The highly successful symposium vibrated with energy, generating potential collaborations, partnerships, and customer engagements.

To see a list of speakers, attendees, and topics, click here.

To read sample attendee blog posts:

Twitter logo

Follow the tweets from the Symposium by searching for #tt09 on Twitter.

Flickr logo

To see pictures from the Symposium, search for text09 on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Center Welcomes Summer Interns

To some people, Summer in Cambridge means Red Sox baseball, trips to Cape Cod, and ice cream. To those of us at IBM Research, it also means a new group of talented young interns come to work with us on social software. This year our interns hail from as far away as China, South Korea, and Germany, and from as close as just a few blocks away. They represent a wide variety of universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin, and University of Canada, and University of California, Irvine, where they are studying computer science, design, and psychology, During the next few months they will tackle issues that help us understand how people can collaborate more effectively.

For example, one of our interns is exploring how people represent themselves online in e-meetings. As companies become geographically distributed, we frequently find ourselves working with people on the other side of the globe. Even when our colleagues and customers are close by, it's easier and cheaper to meet electronically rather face-to-face, And even though meeting digitally has become commonplace, the jury is still out on how best to represent ourselves to others sitting around the "virtual table." Granted, the recent explosion of digital media has given us a vast array of ways to tell people who we are and what we are doing. But what works best? Text? Pictures? Status messages? Video? Some combination of these? What happens when we have limited space -- do we become more creative? What kinds of information get people to click to find out more about someone?

We are excited to have them working with us. Watch for more stories about what are interns are up to this Summer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wordle Wins a Webby!

Congratulations to Jonathan Feinberg on winning the Webby Award! The Webby Awards celebrates the best Websites, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video, and Mobile applications with The Webby Award and The People's Voice Award. This year Wordle -- Feinberg's popular tool for turning text into dazzling visualizations that can be shared with others -- took both honors in the The Best Use of Typography category. Of the thousands of entries received, less than 15% are nominated, and only two in each category take the prize. Members of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences choose the nominees for both awards in each category, as well as the winners of the Webby Awards. But the People's Voice award is the collective voice of people from the worldwide online community who vote for their favorites.

We sat down with Jonathan, to ask him a few questions about Wordle and winning the Webby.

How did you get the idea for Wordle?

Excerpted from Can I have a Wordle with you? -- an IBM Research Computer Science Spotlight interview with Jonathan.

The core of the visual part of Wordle -- the word layout algorithm -- is something I developed as a tangent while working on another project called Dogear, which is a social bookmarking engine.

One of the ubiquitous features of social bookmarking is a tag cloud. A tag cloud is a layout of the most frequently used tags, tags being arbitrary text key-words that people assign to their bookmarks, or by extension, to other resources. It's kind of a gestalt or a gist way of looking at the work you've been doing or of the metadata you've been creating.

The tag clouds I saw at the time were pretty boring and in my opinion kind of ugly. One day a blogger who calls himself Black Belt Jones put on the Web a really simple but very lovely tag cloud that he had made of his own tags from the Delicious social bookmarking engine. He had represented some of the tags in different fonts and he’d laid them out in interesting angles on the page, and he even had the dot of an “i” inside the counter of a G. I thought there's got to be a way to write a computer program to do that.

What has been the response you've gotten so far?

I've received thousands of emails from all kinds of people who enjoy using Wordle. Many of the emails have suggested FAQs, design refinements, and new features.

Do you have a favorite Wordle? What was it used for?

There have been many. The one I remember most fondly is the Boston Globe's comparison of the Obama and McCain blogs. That was the first time I thought that someone had understood how to exploit specific choices in font, layout, and color.

Obama Vs. McCain blog comparison

How do you feel about winning the Webby?

I take the Webby award as a validation of Wordle's design as a web application -- not, necessarily, as a visualization. While I would have done a couple of things differently, knowing what I know now, I think that my decision to privilege "low barrier to entry" as a design constraint has been vindicated.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

IBM participated in the Cambridge Science Festival

On April 25 the Cambridge Science Carnival kicked off a nine-day, city-wide celebration of science. The carnival featured a plethora of displays and activities at MIT's Kresge Auditorium and was attended by several thousand people. IBM had two booths at this event: "Kids Design Computers of the Future!" (run by IBM Research) gave approximately 200 children a chance to let their imaginations run wild as they turned recyclables and craft materials into "computers of the future," and "Design a Web Site for Bart Simpson" (run by IBM Interactive) gave older children insight into the information and creative design process that underlies web site creation.

See more photos from the event at our Flickr stream:
Kids Design

IBM followed this initial event with an Open House at the Center for Social Software in Cambridge on April 30. This exciting cross-division event featured demos from Research, IBM Interactive, CIO, and Lotus and drew an audience of about 250 people from the neighborhood, the area high-tech community, and the press. Attendees were treated to leading-edge demos on: Social Networking for the Enterprise; Social Software Recommenders; Harvesting User Innovations from Social Software Applications; Many Eyes (collaborative data visualization); Olympus (avatars for the web); Sametime 3D (3D virtual environment); CRAFT (collaborative reasoning); TAP (Technology Adoption Program); Lotus Connections; Next-generation Life Science, Insurance, and Banking.

Press articles have appeared at: Information Week and Big Fat Finance Blog.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Center Hosts Walking Tour for CHI

On April 10 attendees from the 2009 CHI (Computer-Human Interaction) Conference got a firsthand look at the latest thinking in social software. Since the CHI conference was held in Boston this year, IBM, Google and Microsoft organized a post-conference tour of their Cambridge Research labs. The annual CHI conference is sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction -- the premier organization of researchers and practitioners who study and develop user interfaces. Over 100 people took advantage of the perfect spring day to join the walking tour.

At the IBM stop, visitors explored a gallery of programs and projects available from the Center for Social Software. Researchers, designers, and developers from the Center demoed 15 of the cutting-edge projects that the Center has to offer, including projects already popular on the web such as Wordle and Many Eyes, a trio of new applications from IBM Interactive that help consumers manage their health care, insurance, and banking with visualizations and what-if scenarios, and internal experimental enterprise software from CIO and Research for aggregating feeds, sharing information and networking. The IBMers behind the work were on hand to chat with the visitors, answer questions, and hear their thoughts about what they saw.

For people local to Cambridge, there will be another opportunity to see these innovations.. As part of the Cambridge Science Fair, the Center is sponsoring an open house from 4:00 to 7:00 PM on Thursday, April 30. Please join us on the second floor balcony at 1 Rogers Street in Cambridge and bring your friends, family, and colleagues. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Joan DiMicco Speaks at Ignite Boston 5

Joan DiMicco recently took the stage at Ignite Boston. During her five-minute spot, she described IBM's internal experiment with social networking and the surprising lessons learned from bringing a social networking tool inside the workplace. She observed that although the tool may be similar to an outside social network site, because it is part of a large enterprise, its use and the relationships among the users are actually very different. For example, employees discuss a mixture of professional and non-work topics and have fewer privacy concerns behind the firewall than expected.

Ignite Boston was part of a series of informal gatherings that O'Reilly sponsors in different cities where people can network, share ideas, and get to know each other. Over twenty speakers gave 5-minute talks on topics ranging from social media, to personal energy consumption, to an algorithm for political redistricting, to tips for running a start-up to the enthusiastic audience of local entrepreneurs, social media enthusiasts, and high-tech professionals.

Watch a video of Joan's Ignite talk here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

developerWorks Podcast Interview with Irene Greif

Why is social software so hot these days? Why are businesses getting comfortable with activities such as sharing pictures of their kids with colleagues that they considered "frivolous" only a short time ago? How can social software can make our jobs easier -- whether we adopt it as our primary desktop application or stick with the one we've been using for years? Are cloud computing and amateur developers already shaping social software? How can Venture Research -- large-scale deployments of social software applications on the Internet such as Many Eyes -- help us understand their business value?

Find out in this podcast interview with Irene Greif, Director of the Center for Social Software and IBM Fellow.

Listen now

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Boston Globe Interviews Martin Wattenberg

In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Center researcher Martin Wattenberg traced his fascination with how transforming data into pictures helps us understand information in new ways--and sometimes results in images of great beauty. The article chronicles his early love affair with the potential of the Internet, his groundbreaking work on the Map of the Market for SmartMoney Magazine, the birth of the IBM Research Visual Communication Lab (VCL) in 2005, and more.

To read the Globe article click here

If Wattenberg's name sounds familiar to you, maybe it's because you, like so many others, have discovered Many Eyes, the IBM-sponsored public site the VCL created where you can visualize your own data sets and discuss them with others. Below is a visualization of the first academic paper on the Many Eyes system. It uses the Wordle software invented by Center member Jonathan Feinberg

You might also have come across some of these visualizations recently on the New York Times Online site. Behind Many Eyes is the conviction that the use of public, engaging visualizations can lead the wisdom of the crowds to unlock the meaning of complex data sets.

Innovation lab Showcases Social Software

This week at the Innovation Lab at Lotusphere, customers, press, analysts and IBMers will get a glimpse of the way people will work together in the future in the IBM Research Innovation Lab. The Innovation Lab, which is sponsored by IBM Research in Cambridge, offers a firsthand look at why IBM is widely viewed as a leader in collaborative and social software. IBM researchers, developers and designers will demo over 20 ground-breaking applications for the Web including several exemplars of research from the Center for Social Software. Lotusphere -- the premiere gathering of Lotus users and the people behind the software they use -- draws thousands of enthusiastic attendees to Orlando every year. Although the lab's projects are not product offerings, it has become known as a place to get a sense of direction for future products, and a place where social software "fit for business" has been highlighted for several years.

Representatives from the Center will be in the lab, discussing Venture Research, the Corporate Residency program and the variety of ways that companies can partner with the Center. Prototypes at various phases of venture research will be shown, and designers will be on hand to show visitors examples of how the Institute can help businesses with strategic planning. The lab is a chance for visitors to meet the researchers, developers, and designers behind this work, try prototypes for themselves, and tell them what they think.

Also, on Tuesday morning, January 20, Irene Greif, Director of the Center for Social Software will give a talk "Glimpsing the Future." Dan Gruen will join her to show a new project in its early design phases, and Chieko Asakawa and Hironobu Takagi will demo the "Social Accessibility project."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Center Featured in ChannelWeb's Top-10 IBM Stories in 2008

The launch of the Center for Social Software made ChannelWeb's list of top-10 IBM stories for 2008. The influential online publication, which keeps its finger on the IT pulse of the technology industry, sees the Center as an "example of IBM thinking deep thoughts about IT."

... [IBM] announced in September that it was creating a think tank called the Center for Social Software in its Cambridge, Mass., laboratory for developing social networking applications. IBM researchers from all over the world, along with partners and customers, will pull multiple cultural perspectives into the project and develop social networking applications geared to specific industries.

Read more here