Do-Not-Track is dead. Long live Do-Not-Track!

Tracking, the collection of data about user behaviour, is widespread on the web. For this reason, the idea of a “Do-Not-Track” (DNT) setting emerged a little more than a decade ago, in 2009.

This system gives users a simple choice to reject and accept online tracking. Unfortunately, DNT failed, and tracking continues.

I explore the reasons for this failure, but also how DNT has managed to change user privacy for the better, on the blog of the HCC group at the University of Oxford.


Perceptions of YouTube’s political influence

YouTube plays an increasingly important role as a political medium. Yet, the implications are to-date not well understood and difficult to analyse, since access to YouTube’s statistics is limited.

To address this gap, my friend Yury Kolotaev and I surveyed 124 people about their views and experiences around YouTube’s political influence.

Our results reveal diverse, sometimes conflicting views on YouTube’s growing political role, and highlight the need for more research, discussion and possibly regulation.

Read our full account on Medium.


Birthdays in quarantine

Today, it’s my birthday and I’m spending it by myself, self-isolating. And that’s alright. In fact, I love it.

The whole world out there seems to be going crazy these days. But, time will come. Things will work out again.

It’s interesting to take the crisis as an opportunity. It shows us how fragile and endless life is. What does really matter?

Living abroad, I don’t usually spent much time with my friends and friend from home. So, I wanted to make my birthday a special occasion and have a proper get together for my birthday, my first birthday party in 4 years.

I didn’t have a party, but it’s been special notwithstanding.

My family reached out to me on FaceTime, and so did many of my friends.

Whilst spatially apart, I’ve never felt this emotionally to my loved ones.

We’re finally taking time for another again, rather than always chasing something, prestige, success, whatever..

But, in times of crisis, this all doesn’t seem to matter anymore. What matters is the foundation of our existence.

I am full of hope that the crisis will end up changing society for the better.

This hope is likewise fear. Once the wind has settled, many things will quickly return to normality.

Let’s stay foolish.


LDA, Probabilistic Topic Modelling and RMarkdown

This week, I started off learning about RMarkdown. RMarkdown allows you to combine code and text. Pretty cool! You can analyse data in R or Python, and then use the results as variables in your text. This text can easily be compiled to various formats, including pdf, docx, and html. Hence, this article, too, was written in RMarkdown. I could upload it with ease. Find the pdf version here:

Probabilistic topic modelling is a method to categorise a given set of documents, that is a collection of texts. Such a set of documents could be a collection of news articles. Every news article would then be assigned a topic. A topic is a group of documents that use similar words. An example of a topic could be “parliament”, “government”, “spending”, so a politics topic.


Europe: Fading stars over Britain?

When I was 15, I first came to the UK. And fell in love.

I stayed with my dad at his uni friend’s place for a week.

My dad’s friend had studied in Cambridge, worked in London for a bit, and now settled into the suburbs of the city.

He lived with his wife and his two formidable children in a spacious villa. An English dream.

Stories of German tourists and unconditional friendliness

Like the worst German tourists, we had notoriously planned the trip. Every day of my visit, we’d take the Tube into the city. We were guided by a little tourist guide, our London bible. The book told us exactly what we had to do, where we had to go, the route we had to take, no thinking required.

One of my fondest memories is how my dad and me explored Canary Wharf. We were travelling around in the DLR, when a fine English gentleman, seemingly well off, offered me his seat. I asked for a reason, but instead, he just insisted. I was deeply astonished by such unconditional friendliness.

Back at our host’s place, I was working on my English. Their 6-year-old son pointed out to me that English wasn’t quite good, and that he might be able to help.

Private school, a necessity for success?

I guess he enjoyed his school, that he just started. Private school, a necessity to get into the best universities, as his father explained to me.

By the end of my stay, I would think for the first time in English, maybe also with a little help of my little friend.

The most astounding aspect of my very English week was though: the father was German, the mother Mexican. They had found love, worked hard, and settled in the UK.

They had made this brilliant place their home. At the same type, they had adopted some of the worst and best parts of UK society.

The future of the Union

The UK of today feels different. When I walk around the streets of Oxford, I often see the Union Jack.

It makes me wonder.

It makes me wonder what it stands for, and what the future of this once marvellous country will look like.

What once was for me a symbol of love, internationality, and openness, now reveals cracks and divides.

And, I am left wondering whether I still feel welcome.