Why I decided to start blogging

I’ve decided to give the blog thing a try for several reasons-first and foremost, I’ve found from reading others that it seems to be a great place to work out ideas and, ideally, receive some feedback.

I like the concept of being able to express new ideas in public that I haven’t yet had time to research.  As a grad student, particularly one from a computational background trying to understand a social science, I’ve found that I should generally be suspicious of any notion of novelty on any idea that I may have come up with.  Another way of putting it – if its a good idea, there’s probably already been 8-10 research papers published on it within the last 10 years.  Thus, I’ve been displaced into a mental state where I feel the need to google scholar even the most trivial of claims. Today, for instance, I felt the need to cite six different papers confirming the existence of stereotyping in human thought.

This is not to imply that this is a bad thing- its reaffirming to know that others are thinking about similar things.  However, sometimes, by the time the searching through references is done to the extent I can write a paper, I’ve lost my excitement in the idea.  Hence, I’ll be putting them on my blog -while I’ll be sure to reference things I know relate, a blog seems like a much better place than a research paper to stake false claims of novelty.

While this is my personal opinion, I find that in many cases, I do find research papers that are willing to assume their findings are novel, with little care to take the extra few days and do a more thorough search.  I find this to be particularly the case with computational researchers (like myself) who use a fancy method on social data and need a cute result.  It is the cute result that ends up with a novelty claim that often references something found in  the social sciences a half century ago.  I did this myself, finding a paper from 1977 (Blau’s macrosociological theory) that had, more or less, covered the argument of my entire results section in approximately three paragraphs.

So, when I find such papers, I’ll be bringing them up here- not to be an ass, but to think about how computational researchers can combine their methods with an understanding of such research to make advances beyond their methods into the social sciences.  Not to say that there aren’t many who have already done this (not myself)

I’ll also, I hope, be blogging about things outside of computers and sociology – life, sports, weddings, pets and teaching kids computer science in particular.  I’m sure ending these things will get significantly less awkward as I continue, as well…


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