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Peter Pirolli in the news



A Scientific Smartphone Tool for Personalized Health
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and PARC use predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to develop tailored, health interventions for personalized wellness
24 July 2015 | National Science Foundation

With support from the National Science Foundation’s Smart and Connected Health program, researchers from CMU and PARC are using artificial intelligence and predictive models to develop mobile health tools to maximize engagement in personalized, healthy lifestyles. The mobile platform the researchers have developed, called Fittle, integrates sensor technology, cognitive tutoring, and evidence-based social design for interventions that promote health.


Memory Foraging: When the Brain Behaves Like a Bee
Researchers test the idea that we hunt for memories in our minds the same way some animals search for food
16 April 2012 | Scientific American
by Ferris Jabr

Peter Pirolli, a research fellow at PARC in California who has studied how foraging theories apply to memory, sees the new findings as strong experimental support for an idea that is increasingly popular. 'The general sense that searching for things in the world might have been exapted [sic] to other purposes, such as searching for information internally, is a meme that got started in the 1990s," he explains. "I see more and more work applying this aspect of behavioral ecology not just to memory but to all kinds of search and task management."


Gladwell on Innovation: Truths & Confusions: Part 1 & Part 2
23 May 2011 | Forbes
by Steve Denning

From Part 1: "Malcolm Gladwell’s article on innovation in The New Yorker entitled Creation Myth is a brilliantly written piece that, in the process of killing some innovation myths, creates some new ones…What Gladwell’s article doesn’t shed any light on is how the Apple of the 2000s (and other firms) have learned how to generate continuous innovation in sector after sector, along with disciplined execution. Nor does it shed any light on how the world of innovation in the 1980s is fundamentally different from the world of innovation in 2011."

From Part 2: "What has emerged over the last decade is a group of firms...that have learned how to get to the root of the problem and combine continuous innovation with disciplined execution. They are managed in a radically different way from traditional management. Their practices create workplaces that are congenial to the 'commandos' while also generating disciplined execution and customer delight. There are five fundamental and interlocking shifts."


Innovation That Lays the Golden Eggs
22 May 2011 | Marketoonist
by Tom Fishburne

"There is an inevitable friction in bringing ideas to life within a company. That friction can polish an idea and make it stronger, sand the edges of the idea and make it weaker, or kill the idea altogether. Anyone who works in innovation is familiar with that tension. Navigating it is part of what makes innovation so difficult.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an illustrative New Yorker article on the mythic 1979 story of Steve Jobs and Xerox PARC...

The modern day Xerox PARC replied to Gladwell’s article with a fascinating post on the merits of open innovation as one way to resolve that friction…

There is no longer merely a 'go' or a 'stop' in innovation, as Gladwell originally characterized. There are other options for the golden eggs."


Malcolm Gladwell Discovers That Innovation And Invention Are Not The Same
from the indeed dept
20 May 2011 | Techdirt
by Mike Masnick

"In his latest piece, Gladwell goes a step further in his exploration of innovation, in writing about the difference between invention and innovation, picking apart the classic story of Steve Jobs seeing the GUI/mouse combo at Xerox PARC and "copying" it for the Macintosh. Gladwell points out that the lessons that some take from the story aren't really correct…

It's interesting to see that the modern day PARC has responded to the story directly, pointing to some key 'lessons learned' that are demonstrated by the article, and with some additional background…

The PARC blog also talks up the importance of 'open innovation,' and sharing ideas outside of a company, recognizing (frequently) that others may be better able to take an idea and run with it by creating something really powerful on top of that."


PARC Responds – Apple and the Truth About Innovation
16 May 2011 | Blogging Innovation

[This post was syndicated to Blogging Innovation.]


The Problem with Fitting New Ideas Into Old Business Models
13 May 2011 | Innovation Leadership Network
by Tim Kastelle

"Malcolm Gladwell retells the story of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the latest issue of the New Yorker… The story of PARC is fascinating, and Gladwell provides a nice twist to it.

…This leads to a key point. PARC is still there, and they are still coming up with brilliant ideas. It has actually been an incredibly successful operation for an extended period of time. By focusing on the ideas that didn’t work so well for them, we recreate a myth of innovation – that every idea that we have must work for us to be successful."


PARC Fires Back at New Yorker, Claiming Old Apple Legend Misses Point of How Innovation Works Today
13 May 2011 | Xconomy
by Wade Roush

"Three staff members at PARC, aka Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, have published a feisty response to Malcolm Gladwell’s May 16 New Yorker article, 'Creation Myth: Xerox PARC, Apple, and the Truth about Innovation.' In short, the post acknowledges that the legend of Xerox PARC—the oft, oft, oft-repeated story (repeated once again by Gladwell) that Xerox 'flubbed the future' by giving away its best idea ever, the personal computer, to a young Steve Jobs—is basically true. But the essay points out that it took some circumstances unique to PARC to generate the idea in the first place, and that the story wouldn’t play out the same way if were happening today.

...PARC is now largely in the business of open innovation, helping its clients capitalize on their own technologies and seasoning them with concepts homegrown at PARC."


Business Intelligence and Technology-Mediated Social Participation
Opportunities in Government
12 April 2011 | BeyeNetwork
by Dr. Ramon Barquin

"I often catch up on my reading backlog on airplanes, and it was on a recent flight that I had the opportunity to attack about five issues of Computer, the IEEE Computer Society’s monthly journal. Computer is very often the carrier of excellent articles that make a contribution to clear and positive thinking on technology in general and information technology in particular. It was thus that I read the November 2010 issue and believe that it is a 'must read' for anyone truly interested in the future of social media and its impact on the world as we know it.

This was a special edition co-edited by Peter Pirolli (Palo Alto Research Center) and Jenny Preece and Ben Shneiderman (University of Maryland) on technology-mediated social participation (TMSP)."


Tuning Multiple-Page Conversion Flows
14 March 2011 | ClickZ
by Tim Ash

"Even the most systematic conversion flow can leave visitors lost or frustrated if it lacks a strong and obvious connection to other content on your site that could maintain or increase the visitor's psychological momentum toward the conversion goal.

Researchers Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card at PARC (formerly known as Xerox PARC) have worked for many years on their information foraging theory. It describes how people hunt for information on the Web much like wild animals in search of their prey. They follow information scent in order to determine if they are getting closer to their goal. They will keep clicking on additional links if they feel that the scent is getting stronger. Otherwise, they might simply give up and start foraging in some other location (your competitor's website, for example).

The information scent is conveyed by clues in a visitor's immediate environment, usually in the form of links on the page. Tuning your multiple-page conversion flow may include enhancing the information scent at various steps in the flow and testing the connections between pages."


Wired For Information: A Brain Built To Google
26 August 2010 | MediaPost
by Gord Hotchkiss

"In my last Search Insider, I took you on a neurological tour that gave us a glimpse into how our brains are built to read. Today, let's dig deeper into how our brains guide us through an online hunt for information...[PARC's} Peter Pirolli believes we 'forage' for information, using the same inherent mechanisms we would use to search for food. So, we hunt for the 'scent' of our quarry, but in this case, rather than the smell of food, it's more likely that we lodge the concept of our objective in our heads. And depending on what that concept is, our brains recruit the relevant neurons to help us pick out the right 'scent' quickly from its surroundings.  If our quarry is something visual, like a person or thing, we probably picture it. But if our brain believes we'll be hunting in a text-heavy environment, we would probably picture the word instead. This is the way the brain primes us for information foraging...

This starts to paint a fascinating and complex picture of what our brain might be doing as we use a search engine."


Challenging the limits of open society
23 April 2010 | The New York Times
by Anand Giridharadas

"To improve accuracy and avoid defamation, Wikipedia has added new layers of rules and editing, and the result has been a steady desertion by amateur editors and an increasing dominance by experts. Volunteers who make 100 or more edits a month now account for a majority of edits, and those who make 1,000 or more account for a quarter, according to Ed H. Chi, a researcher at PARC in California. "


Are you ready for the new, easier Wikipedia?
26 March 2010 | Search-Internet Marketing

"Wikipedia, the online user-created encyclopedia and the number six website on the Internet today, is about to get a makeover. And it’s a big one. According to a blog post from the Wikimedia Foundation User Experience team detailing the changes, the upcoming Wikipedia redesign, due to launch April 5th, aims to make the site easier to navigate, easier to search and, perhaps most importantly, easier to edit...Recent reports point to slowed growth, a downward trend that may be partly to blame on the increasingly complex editing process, according to some experts. Dr. Ed H Chi, a scientist at PARC in California, told the Telegraph that the site had become a 'more exclusive place,' where only a handful of the most experienced editors were responsible for editing and maintaining the site. In other words, Wikipedia became a site that wasn’t representing the 'wisdom of the crowds' anymore, but 'wisdom of an elite group.' That in, turn, may have caused the slowdown."


Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages
23 November 2009 | The Wall Street Journal
by Julia Angwin and Geoffrey A. Fowler

“...unprecedented numbers of the millions of online volunteers who write, edit and police [Wikipedia.org] are quitting. ‘People generally have this idea that the wisdom of crowds is a pixie dust that you sprinkle on a system and magical things happen,’ says CMU assistant professor [and PARC collaborator] Aniket Kittur. ‘Yet the more people you throw at a problem, the more difficulty you are going to have with coordinating those people.’ In 2008, Wikipedia's editors deleted one in four contributions from infrequent contributors, up sharply from one in 10 in 2005, according to data compiled by social-computing researcher Ed Chi of PARC.”


PARC part of $16.75M information network center
19 October 2009

Funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the INARC (Information Network Academic Research Center) was recently formed to study information network challenges in complex, mobile, self-forming, and rapidly-changing networks.

Since "addressing information network challenges in this environment requires a multi-disciplinary approach that breaks new ground and builds on existing research in communication, information, and social and cognitive research", the INARC will bring together a team of world-class researchers in several disciplines.

Participating organizations include the University of Illinois, UC Santa Barbara, IBM, CUNY, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and PARC.


Where Wikipedia Ends
28 September 2009 | Time
by Farhad Manjoo

"...revisions made by infrequent contributors are much likelier to be undone by élite Wikipedians. [Ed] Chi also notes the rise of wiki-lawyering: for your edits to stick, you've got to learn to cite the complex laws of Wikipedia in arguments with other editors. Together, these changes have created a community not very hospitable to newcomers. Chi says, "People begin to wonder, 'Why should I contribute anymore?'" — and suddenly, like rabbits out of food, Wikipedia's population stops growing."


Wikipedia to Add Layer of Editing to Articles
24 August 2009 | New York Times
by Noam Cohen

Ed Chi of PARC, which specializes in research for commercial endeavors, recently completed a study of the millions of changes made to Wikipedia in a month. He concluded that the site’s growth (whether in new articles, new edits or new contributors) hit a plateau…also found...that there was “growing resistance from the Wikipedia community to new content.”


Wikipedia Passes the 3 Million Article Mark
17 August 2009 | ReadWriteWeb Enterprise
by Steven Walling

"The studies by PARC are some of the best scientific analysis of Wikipedia's community ever done, but it has led to some rather sensationalist conclusions by media outlets. PARC's models for Wikipedia's growth and community are ones shared by some within Wikipedia's community, but neither contingent is openly saying that the site is on its last legs."


Wikipedia approaches its limits
The online encyclopedia is about to hit 3m articles in English – but growth is stalling as 'inclusionists' and 'deletionists' fight for control
12 August 2009 | Guardian
by Bobbie Johnson

"The website that has become one of the biggest open repositories of knowledge is due...to hit the mark of 3M articles in English...From the numbers, it looks as though Wikipedia is stagnating. Why? One of those who has spent his time studying what happens on Wikipedia is Ed Chi...at PARC.... His team...wanted to understand what was happening on the website in order to build better collaborative software."


Chart of the Day: Wikipedia's Growth Tumbles
6 August 2009 | Silicon Alley Insider
by Dan Frommer

"It had to happen at some point, but it looks like Wikipedia's growth has hit its peak. ...(More charts and discussion here from PARC.)"


After the boom, is Wikipedia heading for bust?
4 August 2009 | New Scientist
by Jim Giles

"...a new study shows that [Wikipedia's] explosive growth is tailing  off and also suggests the community-created encyclopaedia has become less welcoming to new contributors... Ed Chi and colleagues at PARC ... warn that the changes could compromise the encyclopaedia's quality in the long term. 'It's easy to say that Wikipedia will always be here,' says Chi, a computer scientist. 'This research shows that is not a given.'"


Is Wikipedia in Decline? Scientists Search for Answers in Wikipedia's Numbers
4 August 2009 | Fast Company
by Clay Dillow

"Wikipedia's ascendancy to the top of a large pool of online reference sites has come to an end, new research shows." The PARC "team will present its research at the International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration this October, though Dr. Chi has already begun blogging about the team's analysis."


How Distracting are Social Media Tools?
A study shows that tagging articles stops users from actually reading them.
8 April 2009 | Technology Review: TR Editors' blog
by Erica Naone

Raluca Budiu, a user-experience specialist for Nielsen Norman Group, "investigated a tagging system designed at the PARC called SparTag.us, which lets users click words in an article to create tags, rather than typing them in at the end. The idea was that SparTag.us would help users engage more with an article, but at a lower cost. Budiu found that SparTag.us didn't reduce recall. In fact, it enhanced a user's ability to recognize particular sentences."


How Distracting are Social Media Tools?
A study shows that tagging articles stops users from actually reading them.
8 April 2009 | Technology Review: TR Editors' blog
by Erica Naone

Raluca Budiu, a user-experience specialist for Nielsen Norman Group, "investigated a tagging system designed at the PARC called SparTag.us, which lets users click words in an article to create tags, rather than typing them in at the end. The idea was that SparTag.us would help users engage more with an article, but at a lower cost. Budiu found that SparTag.us didn't reduce recall. In fact, it enhanced a user's ability to recognize particular sentences."


A Smarter Way to Dig Up Experts
8 April 2009 | Technology Review
by Erica Naone

"Peter Pirolli at PARC, who studies Web searching behavior, says that analyzing social networks can also reveal another type of expert: one who is good at carrying information from one specialized group to another. The ability to carry information between specialized groups can be crucial to innovation, and may be something that companies want to look for when hiring, Pirolli says. He suggests that this type of expert could be found by analyzing social networks and looking for people with strong ties to members of two distinct expert clusters."


Human Hardware: Foraging for Information
29 August 2008 | Search Engine Land
by Gord Hotchkiss

"When looking to predict how MBA students and analysts would find information in a digital environment, Peter Pirolli found his answer in an unlikely place: animal's foraging patterns. Pirolli, working at the Palo Alto Research Center, was trying to predict with some mathematical accuracy the behavior of humans when searching for information but was having challenges finding models..."