McAfee Global Report: Web 2.0 in Business


Photo credit: McAfee

My Facebook & Twitter pals might have seen my mentions of a big mystery project I was working on at the end of the summer. Well, the big mystery project has been released, and now I can tell you about it: It was preparing a global report for McAfee Co. I worked with my Purdue and CERIAS colleague, Dr. Lorraine Kisselburgh to analyze data from a global survey McAfee conducted, enrich it with expert interviews, and weave it into a story which became the report – Web 2.0: A Complex Balancing Act.

You can download the report at the link above, and you can read highlights in the news release.

Social media to the rescue: YouTube project to help bullied gay teenagers

An Indiana teenage boy committed suicide earlier this month, after being bullied in school for being gay. Sad, sad, sad, sad.

I will refrain from comments, opinions, and things I think we should do. I’m writing this post to draw attention to this YouTube project – an effort to reach out to kids in rural parts of the country who may not have access to in-person support: the It Gets Better Project. Gay adults can post videos telling teenagers that… it gets better.

Although I can’t claim to be able to relate to the experience (I grew up in Romania, where bullying wasn’t the norm, as far as I know; I’m not gay) – if I can help, let me know. I live in Indiana – if you’re a teenager happening upon this post, and if you need help or just companionship – send me an email. I’d feel privileged to be your friend.

And for those who are wondering about the relevance of this post to the mission of the blog (well, you know what, it’s my blog, I can post whatever I want) – this is an interesting case study about social media being used to help people.

Note: Don’t even bother to post homophobic comments, I’m telling you upfront that I won’t publish them.

So, you want an assistantship?

doctoralgownI’ve written before my advice on how to be a successful graduate student. But to even get to be a graduate student in the first place, you may need a graduate teaching or research assistantship – especially if you’re an international student not eligible for loans in the U.S.

I get it, I understand how important an assistantship is to you (the ticket to graduate education in the U.S.!) and how much you need it. I’ve been an international graduate student myself. Granted, I didn’t have to ask for assistantships – I always got them, maybe because I was lucky, maybe because my file spoke for itself.

But here you are, you got admitted to Purdue (congratulations!) yet you don’t have funding. What do you do??

The first thing NOT to do is to type (or copy from some website) a letter along the lines of the one below and send it to ALL professors in several departments:

“Dear Professor,

I’ve been admitted to Purdue… I’ve read about your research and I’m very interested… I am highly qualified in… (areas usually not related to the professor’s research). My resume is attached… Will you please consider me for a research assistantship?”

You know what happens to these emails? DELETE. Most of us don’t even bother to answer. Hey, you didn’t bother to look up my research interests – or even spell my name in the opening of the email.

Whoever advised you that you get ahead in life by sending template letters to lots of people was WRONG.

If you want to get my attention and have a chance at being considered for funding, here’s how to go about it:

  • Write a clear, specific subject line that refers to something I do or I’ve worked on (I=me, the professor, not you). This will get my attention and will tell me the email is relevant to me personally.
  • Use my name in the opening of the email. Copy and paste it from my website, to make sure you spell it correctly.
  • DO actually read about my research interests, peruse my list of publications, read one or more of them – or at least spend a few minutes reading my blog.
  • Convince me you are ACTUALLY interested in the research I do. Be specific about what you’re interested in and why. Show me you’ve done the work to learn about my research. A strong interest in my research is the #1 qualification I look for in students. I can teach you the rest.
  • Argue how your skills will actually be applicable to the research I’m doing. Give me some ideas about what you would like to work on.

Yes, this type of letter is more work. You won’t be able to write 500 of them. But the 10 you will be able to write are more likely to get you an assistantship than the other 500.

You should know a few more things about how this process works. If you are admitted as a graduate student in my department, chances are I saw your file. I might have even voted on your admission. If I wanted to offer you an assistantship, I would have done so by now. If you are in another department on campus, I have not seen your file. Although I am more motivated to fund students in my own department, I will consider you if you are a very good fit.

If you’ve applied for admission in my department, don’t send me the form letter above the week before classes start – or ever. If you were REALLY interested in my research, you would have mentioned that on your application to graduate school, and you would have been in touch with me a LONG time ago.

And here’s the last part. Not all my faculty colleagues will work this way, but it may work with me: If you’re just applying to graduate school and you’re VERY interested in working with me, contact me as early as possible – even before you send in your file. Be prepared to explain what about my research you’re interested in and why.

Research is the most valuable skill you need (and will learn) as a graduate student. Show you have potential for it by DOING YOUR RESEARCH before approaching professors and asking them to invest in you.

[Photo credit:]

Colbert vs. Google

If you didn’t catch Colbert taking on Google last night, this is a must. Funny, of course, but he is making a lot of valid points:


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Control-Self-Delete

Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

We will ALL be out of jobs

Sorry, this video cannot be embedded, so you have to click over to watch it (but remember to come back!).

It’s yet another story of a person (this time, a teacher) losing her job over some comments she made on Facebook.


If things continue to go this way, soon, we will ALL be out of jobs.

People, it’s time to get used to it and stop over-reacting: With social media being so open (with or without our knowledge or consent), it is unavoidable that statements will be heard by the wrong people and taken out of context. Imagine this teacher complaining about her students to her friends, over dinner – would she be fired for that? Would she be fired for maybe, half-jokingly calling her students “germ bags” in this context? No, she would not. But because things are being taken out of the context and the original audience for whom they were intended, they are costing this woman her job.

So, we have two options:

1) Keep it so safe on social media that we all become bland, boring and dishonest, and ultimately abandon it, because an unauthentic form of communication is just not worth the waste of time.

2) As a society, start getting used to seeing comments that were not intended for us, learn to place them in their proper context, and stop jumping to conclusions and judging people so quickly and so wrongly. Chuckle and move on. (Oh, and: students, wash your hands. parents, be nice to teachers.)

This situation will keep repeating. You’ll hear about it more and more often. It’s time to learn to adjust to the new reality, or we’ll ALL be out of jobs.

Thank you, Quincy, for bringing this video to my attention.

TMI: Compulsion to share?

10-0121- RR Extreme - Slice rev3

photo credit: flickr user intiendes

We’re building a culture of sharing, powered by social media. Most of it is beautiful: Sharing an experience with others helps us enjoy it more, and feel we’re enjoying it together with… (with whom, that’s another question). It’s like that piece of chocolate cake that tastes so much better when shared with a loved one.

But when does the joy of sharing become compulsion to share? Do you ever feel your experience is not complete and fulfilling unless you can share it (at least a twitpic, a facebook post, a quick check-in)? There are arguments about not being able to live fully in the moment, when attention is divided between taking it in and sharing it on social media. But that’s not what this post is about. I’m thinking now about the TMI phenomenon that sometimes results from the compulsion to share.

I see people sharing too much detail, personal detail, embarrassing, even incriminating detail, detail that could get them in trouble with their bosses, or lower their credibility online. I remember seeing tweets or status updates about boobs and bras and waxing, and things I don’t really want to know or imagine about people. Why do they share? Is the behavior driven by a compulsion to share?

I’m really interested in understanding the psychology of this compulsion.

The compulsion to share is, probably, one of the reasons why many companies ban social media in the workplace. If people are compelled to share every little detail about their lives, and often make questionable decisions about the content they share, it is probable that sensitive information can be leaked this way.

Could it be true that people make more conscious, rational decisions about what to share in face-to-face conversations than in social media? Could it be that some of the sharing we do in social media is driven by impulses we find a bit hard to resist?

What is your experience? Do you feel the impulse to share on social media? Do you feel your experience is incomplete, without the sharing? And how do you deal with the impulse? Do you keep it in check? Give in? Have you ever shared information on impulse that you later regretted?

Help me understand.


A student forwarded me this article, via our diversity officer. It is an excellent exercise that not only helps put current events into perspective (would you allow others the freedoms you take for granted?), but also forces the reader to reflect on the meaning of “normal, mainstream Americans” – a very restricted meaning, unfortunately.

From the San Francisco Sentinel:

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose. READ MORE, please.