Tag Archives: couchsurfing

Paper by Lada Adamic “Surfing a web of trust: reputation and reciprocity on CouchSurfing.com”

Author: :en:User:Sadi Carnot; Made using MS Wo...
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By Debra Lauterbach; Hung Truong; Tanuj Shah; Lada A. Adamic
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Abstract: Reputation mechanisms are essential for online transactions, where the parties have little prior experience with one another. This is especially true when transactions result in offline interactions. There are few situations requiring more trust than letting a stranger sleep in your home, or conversely, staying on someone else’s couch. Couchsurfing.com allows individuals to do just this. The global CouchSurfing network displays a high degree of reciprocal interaction and a large strongly connected component of individuals surfing the globe. This high degree of interaction and reciprocity among participants is enabled by a reputation system that allows individuals to vouch for one another. We find that the strength of a friendship tie is most predictive of whether an individual will vouch for another. However, vouches based on weak ties outnumber those between close friends. We discuss these and other factors that could inform a more robust reputation system.

Notes: Can an online social network build enough trust to allow strangers to sleep on each others’ couches?

“The Web as random acts of kindness”, Zittrain talk at TED

His point: The Internet is made up of millions of disinterested acts of kindness, curiosity and trust. Summarized in this passage: “So it’s kinda like your house catches on fire. The bad news is there is no fire brigade. The good news is random people operate from nowhere, put out the fire and leave without expecting payment or prize.”
Brilliant examples of collaboration, ranging from “how the internet was created” to Wikipedia (and its presence in chinese restaurant menus), from a site to collect Cats that look like Hitler to Couchsurfing.

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Pirate Bay in Trentino for Manifesta7

Pirate bay manifesta
The next days Manifesta7, the European Biennials of Contemporary Art, will start in Bolzano, Fortezza, Rovereto and Trento.
The pirates of piratebay will be here as well, and there will be another pirate event at palazzopippi as well. Wow, lots of pirates!
I’m hosting two artists from Amsterdam via Couchsurfing so today I’ll join them for the Manifesta7 aperitif, see you there!

Report of Conference on Business Information 2008

Business Information Systems conference logoI spent the beginning of the past week in Innsbruck for the 11th International Conference on Business Information Systems.
My presentation went well but I’ll post about it later. Overall the conference was interesting and worth the trip.
Many talks were mentioning Semantic Web. What extremely positively surprised me was that the approach to Semantic Web was very very pragmatic in all the presentations, a sort of Pragmatic Web or, as I prefer, a lowercase semantic web.
The peaks of the conference were a great keynote speech by Fabio Ciravegna titled “Challenges and Methodologies for Acquiring and Sharing Knowledge in Large Distributed Environments”. He presented the approach of his group at the University of Sheffield on knowledge capture, which is very very pragmatic and just makes sense. Among others, he reported how noting that what workers in a big company (Rolls-Royce) were doing was creating word and excel forms and passing them around via email, they decided to provide a simple web interface for creating forms. This simple change allowed a lot of interesting services on top of it, services which use semantics when it adds value and not for the sake of it. I cannot resume his very interesting many points here but you might want to check his slides (from a different presentation) at around page 71 or just his Web page with a list of the many projects in which semantics is used in a pragmatic and reasonable and adding value way.
Another peak was a great tutorial by Emanuele Dalla Valle titled “RSWA 2008 – Realizing a Semantic Web Application”. He explained how to develop step-by-step a Semantic Web application that expects a music style as an input; retrieves data from online music archives and event databases; merges them and let the users explore events related to artists that practice the required style. He challenged the Semantic Web technologies on the Web 2.0 ground of realizing a mash-up that reuses, transforms and combines existing data taken from the open Web (namely MusicBrainz, MusicMoz and EVDB). Again a clever use of semantics when semantics can add some value and a clear explanation.
I suggested him to record this tutorial next time and put the video somewhere on the Web because it is really a great example (the first I’ve seen) in which Semantic Web really add value over more simple way of developing applications (Web2.0). For now you can just check his slides (released under a Creative Commons license). And also check the Semantic Web Activities group at Cefriel which has many interesting projects and ideas.
And there were few other peaks: Couchsurfing is always a great experience which never ceases to amaze me. We were 6 people (Khrista and Sarah, 2 canadian girls, Bruno, a dutch guy which is spending one year traveling around Europe , see useuropeans.com, myself, and Manuel and Yvonne, our 2 lovely hosts) sleeping in a small house with mattresses everywhere.
And I started twittering thanks to the push by Andre’ Passant at the conference, who also helped me to make my foaf file to remain always up to date by automatically including the results of export of facebook, flickr and other web2.0 services. However for now the foafing didn’t really work out though.
And I also started geocaching thanks to jailway: after the conference dinner we found my first cache near the Golden Roof.
Summaryzing: lowercasesemanticwebbing, couchsurfing, geocaching, twittering, foafing, and some more *ing …

I’ll be at New Network Theory Conference since tomorrow

I’m going to be at the New Network Theory Conference in Amsterdam from tomorrow until 1st July. Check the program, it is gorgeous. And if you are going to be there as well, it would be great to speak network a bit. Of course hospitality will be courtesy of Couchsurfing once more, and this is amazingly networky by itself.

Report of conference on e-Identity, social issues in social networking, trust and reputation.

Past week I’ve been in Paris for the The European e-Identity Conference 2007 and ENISA Workshop
“Security Issues in Social Networking”. It has been very interesting.
There was a keynote by Kim Cameron, Microsoft’s chief identity architect. It has not been impressive, of course he is a good speaker and even funny, but he tried to make a pitch for Microsoft CardSpace. While he tried to be friendly and open stating more than once that he built it on gnu/linux, with php and mysql, I’m not impressed at all. I’m not an expert at all in identity but I bet that there are so many patents on Cardspace that Microsoft can control its evolution and use as it wishes.
On a general level I was very very surprised that in 2 days I heard nobody ever mentioning OpenID, probably because it is simple and mainly because it works and solves the issue it is devoted to solve. I guess lots of serious researchers have to consider it just a toy, we have to create things much more complicated otherwise how can we justify stellar budgets and years of … research? And what are we going to do later if we just find a simple solution that can be implemented in 1 week? This is a bit depressing I think.
Instead of simple solutions and discussions about what we could improve in OpenID, there were a lot of vendors basically saying “host all the identities of your firm, government, service in our servers and everything will work”. All of them with the same trivial techniques.
Well actually, I liked a lot the presentations of the workshop “Security Issues in Social Networking”. You can check the presentations. So, besides the many pitches (actually all of them during the second day when luckily I have to leave early to catch the flight, there were interesting talks and super cool people.

Alessandro Acquisti , Carnegie Mellon University, delighted us with great insights about “Imagined communities: awareness, information sharing and privacy: the Facebook case” (presentation). His research is in the economics of privacy and he revealed interesting facts about Facebook, for example, 89% of Facebook users reveale their real name. And 87% of CMU Facebook profiles reveale birthday, 51% reveale the address, 40% reveale their phone number (40%!). 61% of the posted images are suited for direct identification. Remember that this information will never disappear, it will stored forever in many computers (facebook servers, google servers, archive.org servers and … as the following discussion easily revealed, governments servers, secret agencies servers and probably many companies who can just afford to save everything and decide in future what to do with this information). There is an evident privacy risk of re-identification: 87% of US population is uniquely identified by {gender, ZIP, date of birth} (Sweeney, 2001), Facebook users that put this information up on their profile could link them up to outside, de-identified data sources
Facebook profiles often show high quality facial images, Images can be linked to de-identified profiles using face recognition. Some findings on Facebook: Non members rate privacy (concerns, worries, importance) statistically significantly (although only slightly) higher than members. Members deny they use Facebook for dating, however they state they think other members use it for dating. Majority agrees that the information other Facebook members reveal may create a privacy risk for them (mean Likert 4.92). They are significantly less concerned about their own privacy (mean Likert 3.60). Respondents trust the Facebook… more than they trust unconnected Facebook users. The survey about how much users know about Facebook’s privacy policy is interesting as well: “Facebook also collects information about you from other sources, such as newspapers and instant messaging services. This information is gathered regardless of your use of the Web Site.” 67% believe that is not the case. “We use the information about you that we have collected from other sources to supplement your profile unless you specify in your privacy settings that you do not want this to be done.” 70% believe that is not the case.

Another interesting presentation was presentation (pdf) “Security recommendations for social network communities” by Maz Nadjim of Rareface. He offered us six techniques for building and running safer social networking sites: Craft your guidelines, Build automated filters, Embrace your technology, Enlist your users, Make moderation actions visible, Moderation tools need love too. And he pointed us to their partner emoderation.com.

Other interesting presentations were “Social networking security issues for children” by Josephine Fraser of Childnet, “Implications of Social Networking behaviour for tomorrow’s citizens & workforce” by Mathieu Gorge of VigiTrust (I think he is the one who introduced that social networking sites are used by terrorists for recruting new members) and “Netlog – Experiences from a large-scale social networking application” by Lien Louwagie of Netlog (birth date is very often the secret question for getting back your forgotten bank password so it is not very sage to ask it and to show it on a social site). Thanks to this presentation I discovered Netlog, leader in Europe, multilanguage, to which I registered few minutes ago and, wow, there are thousands of people from Trento registered there, quite amazing the fact I missed it.

In the afternoon there was a great presentation by Tarvi Martens , National Certification Centre, Estonia about “Authentication in Estonia” (presentation in, warning, powerpoint). Estonia is surely the most tech-advanced country in Europe, they in fact call it E-stonia. Some facts: Population: 1.35M Internet usage: 56% Internet banking: 88% Mobile penetration: >100%. 1000+ Free Internet Access points. PKI penetration: >80%. Biggest national eID card roll-out in Europe. With your eID card you get an email address such as Forename.Surname@eesti.ee and a certificate for digital signature. You can login in banks with E-id card given by the state. You pay taxes online as well. And you can vote in election. They are rolling out the Mobile-ID, i.e. your ID is your mobile. With an ID card, you also have an OpenID and the state is your OpenID provider. During the coffee break I asked him how is it possible for me to get an Estonian ID card and the answer is that it is enough to work/study there for 3 months, I guess
this is one of my goals now, I would like to have a European government backed identity.
What I didn’t like about the conference was the dress code, can you imagine? There was a dress cose (casual smart or something like that, I don’t even know what this is and don’t bother to follow how other people tell me to dress). I had red trousers and an Electronic Frontier Foundation shirt while almost all the other people wear tie and suit, well I like to be different. And the EFF shirt was very useful, did I mention that there were many seller of biometric stuff for getting DNA information so that your identity can be checked by anyone anytime and anonymity is finally estirpated?
Last but not least I met Nicolas Debock, a guy who basically works as coolhunter (as in the Pattern Recognition novel by William Gibson) for La Poste, the french postal organization. His work is to track down what is trendy and to envision how La Poste can exploit it, embrace it and ultimately profit from it. We had 2 travel back from the hotel at the Charles De Gaulle airport to the center of Paris in which we share a lot of ideas about cool technologies but also alternative monetary systems, he is one of the founder of BarCampBank. This was really amazing. Actually he found the job by looking on the Web for “cool trends” or similar keywords, I think I need to do the same and to propose a similar position to the Italian postal organization, we’ll see.
What I also liked about the workshop is that after the workshop I’ve been invited to join a virtual group which is writing a collective paper about “Security of reputation and web-of-trust authentication systems”. The purpose of the exercise is to give relevant advice on important trends and threats to policy and decision makers in Europe. Of course I’ll try to push the usual mantra “trust is subjective, don’t squash controversial opinions and minorities but consider them opportunities” and such. I actually like the fact I can put in some way my activity at service of the European community, of course I’m not that naive to think that it will be really read by anybody or high level politicians and influence decisions but it is still better than nothing.
The last part of this long post (did I write somewhere that these posts are useful to me as memory of what the event was like, what I learned and how I felt? Then if this is useful to someone else as well, this is better but such a long post is primarily for me so that in one year I come back and I see what I was thinking and I learnt) is about the amazing hospitality I got via CouchSurfing.
Since the conference was at the CDG airport I tried to find something close to it and not in Paris. And in fact I was hosted by Heloïse et Laurent in Meaux. They were uber-kind! We met in the center of Paris and they offered to have a tour of Paris by car (never had it, and the traffic doesn’t seem too bad). And then they offered to bring me from their house to the conference hotel every morning, wow, amazing really! The second day we met in the center of Paris and we went to a concert of Mademoiselle Ka in a huge club in Pigalle and then to wander in a sexy shop (I never had as well!). Well they were amazing and they are also musicians (Heloïse has 906 friend on MySpace and she sings in the Cartel Couture that is basically the french Scissor Sisters, the genre is, uhm, pop punk sexy et eurodance déviante, but they also have a group together in which Laurent plays drums.
Well, just to conclude, the people I met via Couchsurfing surprise every time more. Every time I think this is the most amazing thing and then something overtakes this. Amazing. Really.

The Rules of BarCamp, now in Italian

Last Saturday I participated in the BarCampTurin. Bru and I spoke about CouchSurfing as an example of “Sharing as a modality of economic production”. Well, I wanted to speak about this concept while Bru wanted to speak about hidden profits, we probably didn’t coordinate very well. ;-)
Anyway the slides are on slideshare in case you are interested.

It was my first BarCamp and, reading on the wiki there were more than 200 registered people, I was very afraid to burn my first experience of BarCamp. Overall, I think it went well (thanks Vittorio!) given the fact more than 250 people shown up.
Anyway, I would be very curios to run a poll asking to participants of BarCampTurin:

Did you read the RulesOfBarCamp on the wiki?

(Of course there is no critical mass of readers in this blog so I solicit some more popular blogger to post the poll, if she finds the question interesting).

My impression is that 70% of the participants would say “NO, I didn’t read the RulesOfBarCamp”.
The fact we didn’t even bother to translate the rules on the BarCampTurin wiki page might be an indicator. Of course the critique is first for myself and so in a pure free-wiki-doacracy-philosophy today I took some time to translate TheRulesOfBarCamp (English) in LeRegoleDelBarCamp (Italian). The translations is attached below but you better read them on the BarCamp wiki itself. And of course the translation is not perfect at all, but hey, it is a wiki, isn’t it? Go ahead and improve it.

BarCampTurin was the second BarCamp in Italy (the first was BzaarCamp in Milan) and there are already more BarCamps in preparation, I know of RomeCamp and MarCamp (in Marche region).
It is self-evident that in order to run successful BarCamps we should at least be aware of the rules (and discuss them).
The important rule I think we should try to stick with is


or according to my translation in Italian


even if I probably liked more “NIENTE SPETTATORI, SOLO ATTORI”.

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My first couchsurfing host

During past week I hosted in my house a russian girl I didn’t know before. Why? She asked hospitality through CouchSurfing. I subscribed few months ago to CouchSurfing when I was looking for free hosting in Cyprus. In the meantime I also arranged to find hospitality in Paris. And of course I was very happy to host her (Anna is her name and here is her couchsurfing profile). Feel free to contact me if you pass near Trento, Italy (here is my CouchSurfing profile and it should be easy to find my email address around).
And as an example of how much information you leave behind yourself surfing the web, here you can see a map of places Anna has logged in from.
One evening she asked me to use Internet and I saw she was typing livejournal.com, and yes, she has a blog, though it is in Russian and I cannot understand it.
[CouchSurfing can be interesting also from a research point of view, see much below in the following text]
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