Citizen Cyberscience: BOINC & Zooniverse

For our first assignment in Citizen Cyberscience, we were asked to try using two examples of web-based citizen scientist projects.

The first was BOINC, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure Network Computing. This software provides scientists with a platform to harness the power of interested volunteers. Downloading and installing the software was easy enough. But in general, the service is not that polished or user-friendly for volunteers. When browsing through the projects, most groups have made little effort  to determine whether a potential user’s computer is up to the task. For instance, the GPUGrid project has too complicated a process. In asking people to determine GPU compatibility, I think they lose many potential volunteers. Instead I think they should write a small script to check a volunteer’s computer and automatically complete what is now a manual task.

There are many more examples of these types of interaction issues throughout the whole experience. In doing so, they have limited their pool of potential participants to just those with better computer skills.

Zooniverse provides a much more user-friendly experience for volunteers. The site has a nice design, easy navigation and a good feedback loop. I chose the MoonZoo project, where I was asked to help identify craters and compare the amount of boulders in pictures.

Two YouTube videos explained the process effectively and I was able to get to work within minutes. The tasks each take just a few seconds up to a minute to complete and submit. The site then provides another similar task. Providing these bite-sized pieces is a good solution and keeps the experience rather light. As a result I clicked through tasks for a while.

Crater survey

Boulder Wars

For BOINC, the first task is to choose a project on the platform. I went with the World Community Project, which has some support from IBM. I was curious to see how this combination of corporate sponsorship and community effort is hashed out.

With that, I launched the BOINC software. This brings up a window that starts a task which runs for about 8 hours. No action is required of me other than allowing for the project to use my computer’s process power.

It is a pretty uninspiring experience, outside of the knowledge that this small role is helpful. To be quite honest, I doubt I will return to this software much after completing this assignment.

In designing projects for the rest of this term, I will certainly lean towards creating an experience modeled on Zooniverse. I expect that most people at ITP would make the same choice since our program is more focused on design and user experience than producing a processor-heavy big data project.

Finally, we have been asked for this assignment to share which skills we can bring to citizen science projects this term. I have made data visualization a large part of my studies at ITP. I hope to integrate that experience into my classwork. I also bring a deep personal interest in tapping the energies of a specific community, namely the millions of diabetes patients in the U.S. (and potentially the world). I want to ask them to participate in ways that share their knowledge so that we as a community can aggregate our collective wisdom about managing the disease. Together, I believe we can provide better self-management support and help educate fellow patients.


“Ready to Start”

My final project for my Collective Storytelling class at ITP is called “Ready to Start.” We collected stories about people completing their first long distance race, be it marathons or triathlons. I worked with my classmate with Ryan Viglizzo, who is often my running partner for 9-15 mile runs on the weekend. He’s completed an Ironman and several marathons. I have finished two marathons myself. We chose to do audio interviews focused on why people decide to take on this big challenge for the first time.

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ITP – Be Here Now final project

I worked with Courtney Mitchell and Chris Egervary on Windowsill, our final project for the Be Here Now class. The idea was to design a flower pot that also contained a bird feeder and a web-enabled camera. The camera would take pictures either at scheduled times (sunrise, noon and sunset) or when a bird came to the bird feeder (triggering a PIR sensor & the camera shutter). The pictures would then be sent to a digital picture frame. Continue reading

Insulin on Board – Data Rep Final Project

I have completed Insulin on Board, my final project for the Data Representation class at ITP. Insulin on Board is a part of Databetes, my project focused on using data to improving diabetes health outcomes. As a type-1 diabetic of 25 years, I know first-hand that patients need greater support in making all the daily decisions that affect their blood sugar control. A PDF version that shows the whole piece can be seen at

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“Ready to Start” – Tell us your story!

Ready to Start: The stories of everyday athletes training for their first big race.

Mission Statement: Completing a marathon, triathlon or any long-distance race is never easy. Often an athlete’s first race is their hardest. “Ready to Start” tells the unique back stories of personal transformations that happen along the way.

What inspired these people to sign up for their first race? What were their goals? What kept them going during months of training towards this unknown challenge?

These stories tell of stamina and focus, “hitting the wall” and digging deep. “Ready to Start” allows experienced athletes to rejoice in their accomplishments. But most importantly, these stories inspire others to take on the challenge and reap the benefits of race training.

Tell us your story! Ryan Viglizzo & I are completing this project as part of our Collective Storytelling class at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Have a story to tell?

  • Please contact us at or click on to schedule an interview.
  • We can come to your location in New York City or interview you at ITP (721 Broadway, NY, NY 10003).
  • Audio interviews plus taking a photo will take about 1 hour.

Data Rep – Final Project

I want to use my personal diabetes data as the source for my final project. I have information from:

  1. 3 devices – insulin pump and two glucose monitors (data from two devices is available through a .csv file, the final device through a .xml file).
  2. Google doc – lists everything I have eaten this year
  3. Glycemic index – I found this spreadsheet of glycemic values posted on the blog of another diabetic @
  4. Photos – food images
  5. Exercise – I use RunKeeper and Gmap-pedometer to track my distances

I will start by focusing on the insulin and food data. If I have time, I can include the exercise information. But the medication and nutritional data is more important to me for this project.

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Interaction Analysis – Be Here Now

Earlier in the term for my Be Here Now class, I studied the interaction on the main NYU student portal. I chose this because the site is a disaster. It requires you to log in multiple times into the various unconnected systems. All of the information truly useful and necessary for an enrolled student is buried about 6 clicks in to the site. This includes Albert, where all of our class registration information is stored.

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StreetRep – Be Here Now midterm project

Over the last four weeks, I have been working with Sarah Hallacher and D.I. Shin on our midterm project for the class Be Here Now. We were tasked with developing an alternative currency or ecosystem. This type of system can be an international one like Bit Coins, which has a strange and mysterious history. It could also be modeled on an art project like the Brooklyn Torch Project, which has lead a much less exotic or productive life.

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ITP – 1st Data Rep Assignment

For our first Data Representation project, we chose from publicly available data sets on the Guardian’s website. We were to then generate two different visualizations from the imported data. The first visualization could be straight-forward, highlighting some aspect of the readings. The second should highlight some unique characteristic of that particular data.

After trying out a few data sets, I ended up going with a breakdown of U.S. military casualties from Iraq sorted by the home state of the soldiers wounded or killed (original data set here). This is what I produced:

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