BOINC as social network

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Profile Jord
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Message 14526 - Posted: 26 Dec 2007, 18:27:40 UTC
Last modified: 26 Dec 2007, 18:29:00 UTC

From the BOINC_Dev email list, post by David Anderson.

We've been adding community-related features to BOINC, such as the ability for teams to have admins and their own message boards, and a "friend list" feature. Let me describe the goals and the long-term plan; discussion/comments welcome as always.

- Goal 1: increase the day-to-day involvement of volunteers. This will hopefully increase the retention rate. It will also increase traffic on project web sites, which will help those that do Google ads.

- Goal 2: create new viral channels by which people can discover BOINC projects.

- Goal 3 (longer-term): enable teams to act as managerial structures for scientific purposes. For example, projects may soon offer tasks that use both volunteer computation and volunteer brains (i.e. "distributed thinking") and that can the carried out by teams rather than individuals. Team leaders would have the roles of schedulers and delegators.

Some of the new features are closely modeled after social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
This is on purpose. We should look closely at these sites for ideas that can help BOINC. I personally don't spend time on these sites - if you do, please send me your ideas and suggestions.

Work is underway to develop an OpenSocial interface for BOINC's community features. This will allow these features to be presented as a set of user-configurable "widgets", and will make it easy to add third-party applications to BOINC project sites. It will also make it possible to export BOINC information as widgets that appear in other social network sites.

The community features create new types of notifications: friend requests, new private messages, etc. We're working on a unified framework that lets users choose how to receive these: as emails (individual or digest), as RSS, or as alerts in the BOINC Manager.

There's the perpetual issue of whether to make these features "cross-project". For now, I'm not doing this - cross-project features tend to create security issues, make things complex, and often require high-availability central servers.


-- David
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Profile Saenger
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Message 14527 - Posted: 26 Dec 2007, 20:51:25 UTC

Why does he want to change this scientific project to some nifty web2.0 outfit???

Those, who want some social networks should go to the existing ones, there are more than enough available, and the science should stay clean.

I especially hope that European standards of data security and privacy protection will be implemented, and not the nearly non-existing American ones.
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Message 14528 - Posted: 26 Dec 2007, 21:15:48 UTC - in response to Message 14527.  
Last modified: 26 Dec 2007, 21:21:54 UTC

Why does he want to change this scientific project to some nifty web2.0 outfit???

Those, who want some social networks should go to the existing ones, there are more than enough available, and the science should stay clean.

I especially hope that European standards of data security and privacy protection will be implemented, and not the nearly non-existing American ones.

Right.
A boinc social network ? a so-called new area, a new eldorado, the last insanity ??
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Message 14530 - Posted: 27 Dec 2007, 0:11:24 UTC

I thought we already had a social network via the message boards and external team forums? Then again I don't use my space, etc so maybe I don't understand what a social network really is.

I can't help thinking that this development effort though, would be better directed into other areas.
CIC1=CC=C(C2=N[C@@H](CC(OC(C)(C)C)=O)C3=NN=C(C)N3C4=C2C(C)=C(C)S4)C=C1
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Message 14544 - Posted: 27 Dec 2007, 15:05:56 UTC

And here I was under the assumption BOINC was for science,,,,,,I don't do social networks and I don't think scientists are going to embrace this foolishness. I will push for stand alone apps on all projects I crunch for if this goes ahead.

Goal 1: increase the day-to-day involvement of volunteers. This will hopefully increase the retention rate. It will also increase traffic on project web sites, which will help those that do Google ads.

As if my DONATED time and machines aren't enough I have to see Google ads on project sites. (I HATE GOOGLE ADS)
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Nicolas

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Message 14545 - Posted: 27 Dec 2007, 15:14:48 UTC - in response to Message 14544.  

I will push for stand alone apps on all projects I crunch for if this goes ahead.

Don't.

Here are the choices, in order of what-to-do-if-it-gets-even-worse:

    *Try to avoid all this crap getting added to the project websites.
    *Make projects remove it after upgrading.
    *Fork web code, maintain a version independent of Berkeley, without the social features.
    *Write the web code from scratch without silly features and give it to the projects, to use as an alternative to the official crap (I'm not saying it's crap now; but this option would be reached when it becomes crap). But keep the backend server; replace only web.
    *If even the backend server is getting dirty, fork or start over with that, but keep it protocol-compatible with BOINC clients.
    *If even the client is getting dirty, fork or start over with that, but keep it protocol-compatible with official and unofficial BOINC servers, GUIs, and science apps.
    *Only after all the above are exhausted, use non-BOINC standalone apps, or start a new cross-project system similar but incompatible with BOINC.


There is a very long way until the last option (which is what you suggested) is reached.


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Message 14546 - Posted: 27 Dec 2007, 15:23:32 UTC - in response to Message 14545.  

I will push for stand alone apps on all projects I crunch for if this goes ahead.

Don't.

Here are the choices, in order of what-to-do-if-it-gets-even-worse:

    *Try to avoid all this crap getting added to the project websites.
    *Make projects remove it after upgrading.
    *Fork web code, maintain a version independent of Berkeley, without the social features.
    *Write the web code from scratch without silly features and give it to the projects, to use as an alternative to the official crap (I'm not saying it's crap now; but this option would be reached when it becomes crap). But keep the backend server; replace only web.
    *If even the backend server is getting dirty, fork or start over with that, but keep it protocol-compatible with BOINC clients.
    *If even the client is getting dirty, fork or start over with that, but keep it protocol-compatible with official and unofficial BOINC servers, GUIs, and science apps.
    *Only after all the above are exhausted, use non-BOINC standalone apps, or start a new cross-project system similar but incompatible with BOINC.


There is a very long way until the last option (which is what you suggested) is reached.



I agree.
Unfortunately I'm not someone who can help here in any way. I neither have a server, nor any programming skills.

I'd like to have David (or whoever codes this crap) involved in this discussion, but obviously he doesn't like communicating in the old-fashioned social networking components like this forum here. Who is he discussing this stuff with anyway? Or is it just his lonely trip, and he should be brought back to earth asap?
Gruesse vom Saenger

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Message 14553 - Posted: 27 Dec 2007, 22:33:31 UTC
Last modified: 27 Dec 2007, 22:34:13 UTC

Thanks Carl,

I'm really not that much against social networking a bit here in BOINC, but the last few hasty implementations made me quite a lot suspicious. The BOINC-wiide teams were not discussed with some of the biggest teams, the team admins were implemented without any regard to data protection laws outside the US (and plain decency), the mailing lists were outsourced to Google without any real reason, private messages were just a spammers paradise in it's first implementation.

I got the impression nothing is tested anywhere beforehand but the first offspring of some brainstorming was let loose on all projects in the last time.

Why not test those new features in those projects that are meant to test it, like BOINC-Alpha, Pirates or even Seti-Beta, but don't mess around with running projects and alpha-stuff. Ask about the consequences before implementing them, it will reduce the bug-fixing considerably.

David Anderson has done a lot for DC, and I wish he will continue to do so. I just don't see the need for the haste to implement such stuff.
Gruesse vom Saenger

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Eric Myers
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Message 14554 - Posted: 28 Dec 2007, 2:46:53 UTC

When I long ago borrowed a "social" component of BOINC (the forums) for another project I also got on Facebook and MySpace to see what our students might be familiar with. I see the potential here for making the same mistakes over again that Facebook made several times. When they would add a "neat" new feature which would enhance the social interaction between participants they would also make the mistake of having it turned on by default -- "opt out" instead of "opt in". I think a lot of grief over new features could be avoided if the default was always to require that users opt-in to participate in the new feature. If it really is as "neat" and useful as the developers think it is then after a while most people would opt-in. Meanwhile, those who don't want to use the new feature don't have to, and don't have to worry that they will have to act to keep things the same.

But except for those mis-steps, I'm impressed with Facebook, for the most part, because they have had to deal with the difficult problem of protecting "private" information while making enough information available to allow for social interaction and collaboration. We have to deal with the same problem in my project, and the solution some of the higher-ups seem to favor is just to close everything up, which will likely cut off all useful interaction between participants.

I don't think MySpace has anything worth emulating.


-- Eric Myers

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- William Butler Yeats
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Message 14563 - Posted: 29 Dec 2007, 16:32:28 UTC - in response to Message 14552.  
Last modified: 29 Dec 2007, 17:10:25 UTC

Hi, first off -- Dr. Anderson has done more for BOINC & volunteer computing & this "grid" stuff than anybody else combined, so first I think you should cut him a lot of slack and chill a bit on some of the nasty-sounding posts.

Second, I think you're reading too much into the whole "social network" idea.

I think the idea is to keep BOINC relevant to the direction the Internet goes (is going). Every project already has a tight social network of dedicated volunteers and moderators, so it seems that we are just trying to open things up a bit in a safe way. I haven't seen anything "concrete" as far as evidence of how this will wreck BOINC, participants, etc; just a lot of conjecture and calling things "crap" (what, specifically, is "crap"?)

It's a shame that dreck out there such as MySpace & Facebook get millions of people, but basically on BOINC we are still in the same small community, doing good science, but not getting our name out there or people & schools etc interested in contributing for the long term.

as far as social networks being "crap" -- if it wasn't for the social network on climateprediction.net, the project would have folded long ago because me & Tolu & now Milo wouldn't have the time to recruit and keep moderators & participants happy & interested, and the scientists are few & far between & hide better than ghosts! ;-)

So I think the importance of the "social networking" side of things (which is something I've asked for help & guidance on in my BOINC papers over the years) has shown to be a major factor in project success. and the fact that scientists often don't have the time & personality for this sort of "outreach" makes it very useful if BOINC could have some "built in tools" to facilitate the "social networking!"

At the current rate (i.e. a "net loss" of participants every year); BOINC projects will keep losing users and eventually it won't be worth developing an app to hopefully get 1000 dedicated crunchers (you can spend the money on a nice cluster). I think the lesson is we either change with the times or just keep becoming a "fringe" project(s) that are increasingly irrelevant. As an example, millions of people saw the two CPDN documentaries yet the interest quickly tails off and we're back down to 40-50K people. So there must be a better way out there...


In highlighted order:

I don't think this is in question and his continuing efforts are appreciated by the vast majority.

Most of the "popular" projects do indeed have a "social network" already.

Long term commitment is the key word I believe as it seem as though even people that are participating already do not have the patience to allow programmers and scientists time to fix programming errors or hardware failures. As far as schools commitment goes, I believe teachers and administrators probably don't have the time, equipment or funds to run BOINC other than as an example in the classroom. Also you only have to look at worldwide marriage stats to realize "commitment" is a lost meaning.

This gets to the crux of the problem in a lot of projects, no input from the "principal" scientists. At Climate Prediction it was not that noticeable as long as Carl, Dave Frame & Tolu were there (Tolu still is I think) but the communication from the project almost stopped when Carl left. Only after complaints from the moderators did we find out major changes were coming and that only because of private e-mails were sent and then we couldn't pass the knowledge on to our "social network" because it hadn't been announced officially.
If some of the newer projects, cosmology@home, milkyway@home, TSP communications are indications of future "Scientist" participation, BOINC should start gaining participants.
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Message 14579 - Posted: 30 Dec 2007, 8:25:56 UTC - in response to Message 14563.  

This gets to the crux of the problem in a lot of projects, no input from the "principal" scientists. At Climate Prediction it was not that noticeable as long as Carl, Dave Frame & Tolu were there (Tolu still is I think) but the communication from the project almost stopped when Carl left. Only after complaints from the moderators did we find out major changes were coming and that only because of private e-mails were sent and then we couldn't pass the knowledge on to our "social network" because it hadn't been announced officially.
If some of the newer projects, cosmology@home, milkyway@home, TSP communications are indications of future "Scientist" participation, BOINC should start gaining participants.

Unfortunately I am afraid that "scientist" participation will always be lacking on production projects. My thinking is that once the project gets stable and real science is being produced the scientists will be working with the returned data and not have the time to be on the forums anymore. Another factor is once the project gets large enough the "noise" level raises high enough that even if the scientist is still just as active it does not seem like they are active at all.
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Message 14592 - Posted: 31 Dec 2007, 16:04:11 UTC - in response to Message 14579.  

Unfortunately I am afraid that "scientist" participation will always be lacking on production projects...

I'm afraid you are right, but hope that there is a way to prove you wrong. It's certainly the case that the scientists are very busy and don't have time to chat. But they can let people know what is going on, and the forums are a good way to let scientists interact with the participants. Not as your "friend" in a social network, which is something else, but still by more or less direct contact. I have been impressed with the level of such contact at Einstein@Home, even though I know how very busy those guys are.

So perhaps we need to distinguish two separate though related goals:

1. Facilitate interaction and a sense of community among volunteers who are participating in BOINC projects, both because it gets more people to donate their computers, and because it involves them in such projects, which itself is s Good Thing.

2. Facilitate interaction between the scientists and the volunteers.

Involving non-scientists (the "public") in projects is generally a part of what's called "outreach", which one of the things the US NSF looks upon favorably when considering grant applications. With good reason, IMHO.

One of the challenges to making #2 work is to make it really easy for the scientists to participate at the level they are able and willing to do so (which varies a lot between individuals).

-- Eric Myers

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- William Butler Yeats
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Message 14748 - Posted: 8 Jan 2008, 17:37:27 UTC

I have been impressed with the level of such contact at Einstein@Home, even though I know how very busy those guys are.

As I have been in cosmology@home and TSP.
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