Under the Microscope

Benchmark_Restaurant_Dining_Room_Photographed_by_Evan_SungThe first blog post I ever wrote was a crash course of how to survive in the restaurant business.  With having most of my work history being in this industry I felt it would be a good starting point for my first piece that was going to be online.  As the semester winds down, I have decided to go back to the restaurant industry to discuss a topic that has an opportunity for examination.  Application of open source systems within the restaurant industry.  The first blog post, hit on various topics of how to run an efficient restaurant while looking at social cognitive theory by Bandura.  After one develops an efficient operating business, it is time to analyze how efficient the business really is operating.

While analyzing operations, one can do a variety of activities.  For the sake of this discussion we will look at a fairly new way to measure the performance of a restaurant.  The customer is the main driver for how these restaurants stay afloat.  Returning customers indicates that the restaurant is doing a good job on a variety of different levels within the business.  Online survey systems are ways that companies can evaluate how well they are doing from the eyes of the consumer.  These surveys are set in place to evaluate the different aspects of the restaurant.

Every time some pursuit or profession gets computerized, data begins to build up in digital form, and every time the computers holding that data are networked, that data can be traded, rated, and collated. The Open Source pattern, part collaborative creativity, part organizational style, and part manufacturing process, can take hold in these environments when-ever users can read and contribute to the recipes on their own. (Shirky, 2005)

In respect for the topic at hand, this recipe is a recipe for success.  This data that is collected is analyzed to determine the both efficiency of the business plus other vital areas within the restaurant.  These statistics are shared within the restaurant itself, or in the case of a chain of the same business through the headquarters.  This open system of communication will then be interpreted by the leaders of the business to improve on these different categories.  These consumers are illustrating what they would like to see during the operation of the restaurant.  They are trying to contribute to this recipe of success.

To continue this conversation within the open system, companies will give incentives to complete the online surveys.  Whether it be a discount or a gift from the business itself, this reward will continue the conversation.  With an active open system communication operating, the leaders of the business can analyze what areas can be addressed for improvement and note on what is being done well within the establishment.

This open system of conversation through technology, does not have to be exclusive for restaurants.  Any form of assessment can be linked as an open system.  The data that is collected from these different systems can be used to create that recipe of success for business owners.

Shirky, C. (2005). Epilogue: Open Source Outside the Domain of Software and Source. In Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (pp 483-488). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Open Source Reviews

As the holiday season approaches people are starting their Christmas shopping and looking for the best deals. As the years go on, the amount of people that are shopping online has rapidly increased. Personally, I have found that I end up doing most of my Christmas shopping online for a few different reasons. Just this past weekend my mom and I were shopping in Erie, we were looking for a few specific items. We were able to find the items, but we walked out of the store empty handed. Which leads me to the reasons why I have chosen to shop mostly online. First, the item we found ended up being twenty dollars more expensive in the store than online. The second item we were looking to purchase was picked over in the store and did not have the correct size. Also, resulting in us turning to online to buy the gift. Continue reading “Open Source Reviews”

Wikipedia, Sock Puppets, and Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf

Wikipedia

Most people in school know Wikipedia as the website that you’re never allowed to use as a valid source of information. Why? Because it can be edited by anyone and their brother. While Wikipedia asks that you source your information, that doesn’t mean you actually have to have valid information to publish to the page. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a page on Wikipedia that was headlined with the caption “There may be some issues with the information on this page” or something to that nature.

Unfortunately, despite the possibilities for this to be an excellent resource, Wikipedia suffers a great deal of flack and issues. Due to the fact that anyone can edit the information, they have had frequent issues with people creating multiple accounts to provide false information or to benefit a product/service they might be trying to sell. They call this issue sock puppetry. A person is expected to only edit pages using one account, however, people create multiple accounts to edit the same pages multiple times.

According to Garner (2013) “…it looks like a number of user accounts – perhaps as many as several hundred – may have been paid to write articles on Wikipedia promoting organizations or products, and have been violating numerous site policies and guidelines, including prohibitions against sockpuppetry and undisclosed conflicts of interest. As a result, Wikipedians aiming to protect the projects against non-neutral editing have blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts.”

According to Gardner (2013) “We urge companies to conduct themselves ethically, to be transparent about what they’re doing on Wikipedia, and to adhere to all site policies and practices.”

The problem is that people don’t adhere to these standards. Let’s look back to 2012. There was a song released on the Internet. It was called “Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf.” It’s a ridiculously funny song about the actor Shia LeBeouf being a cannibal.

After the song was released, someone went onto Wikipedia and actually edited the page on Cannibalism to state that Shia LeBeouf was actually a cannibal. Wikipedia had the information removed quickly, however, the fact that it could even be posted in the first place is kind of ridiculous. I’m not going to say that I didn’t laugh at it, of course, but if you’re going to have a website that is taken seriously as an information source, you probably shouldn’t let people call other people cannibals on your site.

Cannibal

According to Gardner (2013) “With a half a billion readers, Wikipedia is an important informational resource for people all over the world. Our readers know Wikipedia’s not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way. Our goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and anything that threatens that is a serious problem.”

I agree that Wikipedia has their readers’ best interests at heart. I don’t doubt that for a minute. However, giving any person posting access might not be the best idea. Anyone can go on the site, create an account, and immediately begin editing pages and information. There’s no test you have to pass. No training required. Nothing. So things like this happen:

shiaprofile

So, here’s my question for you: Is it a good or bad thing that Wikipedia allows anyone to edit their site? It’s clearly causing some problems for them in the grand scheme of things. Sure, something silly like the Shia LeBeouf incident isn’t the worst thing that could happen, however, if they’re banning an extensive amount of accounts, it might be time to reconsider giving the world so much power.

References

Gardner, S. (2013, October 21). Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner’s response to paid advocacy editing and sockpuppetry « Wikimedia blog. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from https://blog.wikimedia.org/2013/10/21/sue-gardner-response-paid-advocacy-editing/

 

Massive Open Online Courses facing a massive problem

The Internet provides a wealth of information, resources and for the last few years, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Yes, they are what they sound like. MOOCs are fee-to-enroll online distance learning programs where sometimes people by the hundreds of thousands flock to these courses to learn about subjects such as mobile robotics, water management, bioprinting and Chinese language and culture. While some of these MOOCs can be a bit of a mess and unstructured, others are taught by the Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.

Are MOOCs a good thing? They can be, but the experience might be an illusion. I do not mean the MOOC itself is the illusion here, but rather one’s classmates. Now I understand that for some people taking the course that may not matter because they are there to learn, not to necessarily worry about the validity or motivation of their classmates. Those people would argue what does it matter? It is free education and the course completion certificates mean less than the paper they would be printed on, so why should their motivation for taking the class concern me.

While it is true that in theory and most practical senses that MOCCs mean nothing, Ho (2015) notes that users might complete a MOCC to push themselves or to build up internal motivation that they could do it. I believe others might complete it for the satisfaction they get after they completes something, which in gaming circles would refer to a “completionist.” A completionist is “a player who attempts to complete every challenge and earn every achievement or trophy” (Dictionary.com, 2015, para. 1). I will come back to this concept a bit later.

The Illusion in the context of a MOOC roster, that I have been alluding to, usually can mean one or both of two things. The first being that of all the people registered for the MOOC only a faction participate and interact with others in the class and the other being a form of cheating. For this post, I will focus on the cheating aspect in MOOC.

Ho, Northcutt and Chuang found a form of cheating they termed “Copying Answers using Multiple Existences Online” (CAMEO) Like similar forms of online strategies like “sockpuppeting,” where comment or add to their own post to seem like more than one person is contributing or commenting, or “self-collusion,” where users can improve their standing from the collection of points  they gain from defeating or harvesting items from other versions of themselves, CAMEO involves users creating more than one identity, enrolling those identities in a MOOC and using one or more identities function as “harvesters” that guess and check answers to test questions, while another user identity functions as the “master” that reap and input the correct answers gained by the attempts by the other identities of the user.

In the research by Ho, Northcutt and Chuang, they found only 1.3 percent out of 1,237 certificates had been obtained using the CAMEO technique. However, they also found that 25 percent of users obtaining 20 or more certificates were using the CAMEO technique.

While completing certificates in bulk using the CAMEO technique might simply be motivated by a completionist mentality, Ho (2015) explains users might be motivated completing it that way to strengthen their college application.

Imagine instead of college applications, users were strengthening job applications in that way. We live in a society where the “C’s get degrees” mentality, which emphasizes the degree or certification of completion over above average competence, is prevalent and employers expect prospective employees to do more and be competent in a variety of areas.  What matters to employers is about what they believe a prospective employee can do for them, as seen in the degree or certificate they have completed or earned, especially if it is completed through institutions like Stanford University or the University of Pennsylvania, seem like one knows what they talking about and have three professional references that can vouch for some of their qualifications and qualities they have much better chance to get hired.

So, the question becomes in an age where open source projects and organizations like Wikipedia along with Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation are trying to vet and keep up with regulating against sockpuppeting by officially banning more than 250 user accounts in October 2013 (Gardner, 2013), can we do anything to effectively regulate against these multi-account user strategies in open source projects, organizations and MOOCs.

 

Open Source Warfare

The ideas behind how Open Source patterns are being applied to areas outside the realms of software, as Clay Shirky discusses, that “…my initial optimism about simple application of Open Source methods to other endeavors turned out to be wildly overoptimistic” (p. 484, 2005). Personally, I find this as an intriguing statement because at that time, a group the world knows as “Anonymous”, a collective of activist and hackers all over the world had existed for at least 2 years using the Open Source pattern to function as an organization. The only problem here was they were not in the public eye by any means as they had yet to really show the level of Open Source operation they would eventually develop. A similar group, formed in 1999 has garnered similar status in its use of this format and currently is effecting citizens around the world is the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Both use the same pattern of operation to great effect and both of them fall into the category of extremist groups, something I am sure Shirky would never have wanted to see as so successful.

Continue reading “Open Source Warfare”

I don’t always use Open Source media, but when I do, it’s in meme form.

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In his epilogue concerning Open Source software, Clay Shirky (n.d.) discusses this notion of open information via public collaboration and how it could relate to other areas within our society. He focuses his conversation largely on Wikipedia, of which we’re all familiar with. An academic’s nightmare, Wikipedia functions similarly to open source software by allowing anyone – literally, anyone – to post/contribute information on a topic they feel knowledgeable about in a public forum. However, throughout Shirky’s text I thought less about Wikipedia and more about elements of our social media communication, specifically our collective meme obsession and how that functions in a comparable fashion. I want to discuss memes further, particularly how they seem to be a worthy example of open source media for the 2015 internet-goer.

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Shirky (n.d.) defines the idea of Open Source code, or in our case media, as a pattern – a pattern, which, when effective and done well, can be incredibly valuable. “A good piece of writing will typically be read only once, while good code will be reused endlessly” (Shirky, n.d., p. 485). This notion holds true even outside of open source coding, such as with the basic structure of an automotive, the inner workings of a computer, citation formats in academic essays, and so on. It’s what Shirky (n.d.) refers to as “recipe-ization”, which he considers a key element in this discussion. Once we establish an effective model, in coding or say, in baking a cake, anyone can add or contribute content within that model. Your mom probably bakes delicious chocolate cake, meaning she altered the content of an effective cake recipe to get the scrumptious results she was striving for, and you’re probably going to use that same recipe when you go to bake chocolate cake, altering it slightly to meet your needs.

But enough about cake – let’s get back to memes. Memes follow a relatively similar format to Wikipedia, in that there is a basic structure to sharing one’s information via a previously created platform. Take, for instance, “The Most Interesting Man in the World”. Any search engine will provide you with his memes that others have already made, or you can go to a generator and simply insert your text to the user-friendly format. Though the foundation is clearly different from open sources like Wikipedia, I find that it draws on many of the same ideas. It is, in a manner of speaking, a successful pattern that anyone can follow and use over and over again. Rather than have a singular platform, such as a comprehensive website or database, memes exist independently from one another all over the internet, but their images and viral usage stem from that initial “code,” one that was created well enough to be repeated by millions.

Shirky (n.d.) believes that open source methods aren’t applicable to creative work, but couldn’t memes be categorized as creative in nature? Do you agree or disagree?

A Must Buy! Deceptive Marketing in Online Reviews

It is no doubt that many of us are online shoppers.   I often spend maybe five minutes a day looking at the deals on Amazon or others sites that I frequent most.   I may not buy anything but it is much like I am browsing at a store.   You look at the product, the details of the product, and then scroll down to the reviews of the supposed people that bought the product.    It will display the most helpful reviews and then go into the rest of the reviews.   Almost all the reviews you see are positive, four or five stars saying that is a must buy.   Does it influence to buy by reading the reviews?  I know it does for me but what makes you think that they are real?   Have we thought that Amazon or even the online businesses that is selling the product could be placing deceptive advertising in the form of reviews to influence our decision?

False advertising or posting false information on the internet is no new issue.   The internet is much like an open space that has unlimited space to place anything.   Wikipedia which is an open source site that is much like the worlds largest encyclopedia.  Anyone is allowed to create and edit already existing pages.  Open sourcing allows people to collaborate together and share their own knowledge on these pages like Wikipedia.  It can be very valuable and people like Executive Director Sue Gardner of Wikipedia take it very serious when the information on pages is misleading and bias.   Recently, Wikipedia ordered an investigation against this “black hat” practice that unveiled over 200 accounts that were editing and creating pages that were bias toward the subject on the page (Owens, 2013).    These sites which may of been made for a company or for a person, was misleading others according to the wiki community.   They started a sockpuppet (an online identity used for purposes of deception) investigation and spent countless hours seeking these individuals out and making sure that they make sure that these organizations and people were exposed for their deceptive ways.   Wikipedia believed that these people editing for pay or taking money to tamper with information, was violating the core values of the wiki community.  They want the information that is shared on their site is as unbiased and informative as can be. pets-com-sock-puppet

Now Wikipedia took it serious and spent countless hours to make sure that information is true and unbiased.   Another example of an online organization is that of Yelp and the falsification of reviews on its site.  19 companies were brought under investigation in New York city for telling their freelance writers to write positive reviews and rating their businesses highly.   According to the article, increasing the rating by one on Yelp can possibly increase revenues for that business by 9 percent.   This deceptive and misrepresented posting online by individuals accounted for over $350,000 in fines for these business because they were violating state law pertaining to deceptive advertising.

It is no doubt that these reviews have an affect on what consumers are buying or looking into.  They pose a big influence and thus businesses have seen their importance.   This open sourcing method which offers the collaboration of many to come together and share information for the benefit of everyone is great but it can be taken advantage of.  It is important that it is monitored and check that open sourcing stay true and good so individuals are not swayed by deception.   Do you buy products based on reviews of others?   Or do you try to research the product more for more opinions?   Do you think there should be more serious consequences for businesses that are paying people to write deceptive reviews?