Friday, January 22, 2021

Mike Luca on social media bans

 Mike Luca writes, in Wired, about social media bans as part of their design.

Social Media Bans Are Really, Actually, Shockingly Common--Booting Trump didn’t set a precedent. From Yelp to Uber to Airbnb, platforms regularly ban users and content, but too often behind the scenes.

"DONALD TRUMP’S ACCOUNTS have been banned on Twitter, Facebook, and a host of other platforms. Every last one of @realdonaldtrump’s 47,000 tweets vanished from the site in an instant, from the birther lies and election conspiracy theories to the 2016 taco bowl tweet. In an explanatory blog post, the company cited the attack on the Capitol and “the risk of further incitement of violence” that might occur by permitting further Trump tweets. His multiplatform removal has drawn cheers from many, as well as the ire of more than a few Trump supporters. The bans have also raised concerns that the companies had gone too far in exercising their power to shape what users see.


"To combat review fraud, Yelp and other platforms flag reviews they deem spammy or objectionable and remove them from the main listings of the page. Yelp puts these into a section labeled “not currently recommended,” where they are not factored into the ratings you see on a business’s page. The goal of approaches like this is to make sure people can trust the content they do see.


"Ultimately, removing content can be valuable for users. People need to feel safe in order to participate in markets. And, it can be hard to trust review websites riddled with fake reviews, housing rental websites rife with racial discrimination, and social media platforms that are megaphones of misinformation. Removing bad content can create healthier platforms in the long run. There is a moral case for banning the president. There is also a business case."

Thursday, January 21, 2021

SAT eliminates subject tests

 The portfolio of standardized tests available to college admissions offices is shrinking (or at least changing)...

The WSJ has the story:

College Board Eliminates SAT Subject Tests--Decision takes effect immediately, while many colleges already made the exams optional   By Melissa Korn and Douglas Belkin

"The College Board is eliminating SAT subject tests, as the pandemic accelerates a push for changes in college admissions.

"The 20 subject tests have been offered for decades in areas including math, English literature, world history and physics, but have fallen out of favor as a requirement for college applications. Between 2016 and 2019, registrations for the test fell by 8%—and dropped sharply last year, as test sites were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


"Robyn Lady, director of student services at Chantilly High School in Virginia, applauded the latest move. ...

“Anything that moves us closer to simplifying the process for students and removing barriers is a move in the right direction,” she said, adding that she’d like to see all standardized tests eliminated from college admissions. “This is all about equity and access.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Vaccine congestion: short planning horizons

 ProPublica has the story:

How Operation Warp Speed Created Vaccination Chaos--States are struggling to plan their vaccination programs with just one week’s notice for how many doses they’ll receive from the federal government. The incoming Biden administration is deciding what to do with this dysfunctional system.       by Caroline Chen, Isaac Arnsdorf and Ryan Gabrielson

"Hospitals and clinics across the country are canceling vaccine appointments because the Trump administration tells states how many doses they’ll receive only one week at a time, making it all but impossible to plan a comprehensive vaccination campaign.

"The decision to go week by week was made by Operation Warp Speed’s chief operating officer, Gen. Gustave Perna, because he didn’t want to count on supplies before they were ready. Overly optimistic production forecasts turned out to be a major disappointment in the rollout of the H1N1 vaccine more than a decade ago, also leading to canceled appointments and widespread frustrations with the government’s messaging.

"This time, however, the most pressing problem isn’t the overpromising of supply. For each of the past three weeks, the federal government got about 4.3 million shots. But the amount that each state is sent has fluctuated as Operation Warp Speed changes the quantities available week by week.

State health officials say the unpredictable shipments have led to chaos on the ground, including the inability to quickly use up all of the doses sent to them. The week-by-week system also makes it hard to plan for the second doses that everyone needs because they come three or four weeks after the initial dose.


"The makers of the two authorized vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are each contracted to supply 100 million doses by the end of March. But with just 31.2 million delivered as of Jan. 15, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the companies will need to ramp up their pace to hit their targets."


HT: Peter Cramton

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

School choice under discussion in Vienna (video, in English and German)

 On Wednesday I spoke about school choice in Vienna.  (Here's the prospectus.)The video is below. (I start speaking around minute 9:30, in English, for 30 minutes, and the subsequent talk and discussion are in German.)


My understanding is that there will now be some opportunity for the scholars in Vienna to study the current (local) school assignment system used in Vienna, in conjunction with the schools administration.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Congestion in decentralized vaccination

 The news is full of stories of people obsessively refreshing web pages, hoping to get an appointment for a Covid vaccine.

The Washington Post has this story:

Tipsters, tech-savvy kids, pharmacy hopping: How Americans are landing coronavirus vaccines.  ‘It feels like I’m trying to get a BeyoncĂ© ticket,’ said a woman trying to get her mother an appointment  By Fenit Nirappil, Karin Brulliard and Sarah Fowler

"Those searching for a shot face a decentralized system of vaccine distribution operated by cash-strapped public health departments and a disparate network of clinics and medical providers, all crushed by unprecedented demand for a shield against the virus decimating American life.

"While many Americans have had no problem getting shots, others like Cohen have spent hours trying to get vaccinated, to no avail. The challenges in vaccinating people mirror the botched rollout of coronavirus testing as a mix of government and private providers navigate unfamiliar terrain while communicating with the public in different ways.

"Some vaccine appointment websites crashed almost as soon as they launched. Older Americans are enlisting their kids and grandchildren to stay on the phone and keep refreshing websites until they land an appointment. Tiny intelligence networks are forming around the country to scour for morsels of information on how to get a leg up on the vaccine search.

"Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, said these struggles are unavoidable as the federal government defers distribution to localities without the resources to create a centralized sign-up for vaccines or to hold mass inoculation drives.


"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to encourage people to use VaccineFinder as a national resource for finding shots, but a public search function has not launched while supplies are still limited."

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A proposed match for English professors, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed

 Here's a proposal for a centralized clearinghouse for new Ph.D.s in English.  It's a thought experiment, unconstrained by considerations of stability.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed 

Medical Residencies Use Automatic Matching. Professorships Should, Too.--A thought experiment in improving a dismal situation.  By Kim Adams

"What would a computerized match look like in faculty hiring? Let’s say that I am applying for a tenure-track assistant professor position in English. I would read job ads from universities and submit the requested application materials, just as I do now. The main difference would be timing. In order for a match to work, all the job ads would need to be posted by a given date, for example, September 1. It would work best if they were all posted in the same place, perhaps the website of the new Faculty Match Program. The application materials would likewise be due at a uniform time, let us say November 1.


"The algorithm would be designed to ensure a maximum distribution of candidates across openings. While the number of first round interview requests a candidate could receive would be unlimited, the number of campus visits would be limited to three. The process would prefer to provide each candidate with one campus visit before providing any candidates with a second. This would benefit both parties. A greater number of candidates would receive campus visits than in the current system. And the department conducting the search could rest assured that the candidates matched to their campus were actually interested in taking the job.

Colleges would then conduct campus visits and complete the hiring process as usual. Because of the imbalance of candidates and positions, the risk of unmatched candidates would be high (but that’s nothing new). The risk of unmatched positions is small, perhaps smaller than in the current system, under which searches not infrequently fail despite the superabundance of job candidates. Stable matches would mean fewer faculty members who go on the market after one or two years in a position, thereby decreasing the quantity of applications that search committees need to wade through in future cycles.
"The failure of the academic-job market is evident to all those involved. The madness of the market is subsuming the process of doctoral education. Without substantial changes, the doctoral degree will lose its value and the market will collapse. Collective action among graduate students and contingent faculty members can draw attention to these issues, but only the unified, cooperative action of deans and presidents can solve them.