Build your own computing cluster on ChameleonCloud

Social scientists also run heavy computational jobs. In one of my projects, I need to analyze the psychological state of a few billion Telegram messages. ChameleonCloud provides hosts with up to 64 cores (or “threads”, sometimes “workers”, yes these terms are confusing but CS folks to blame). But even with parallel computing on the best server, the job will run for years, and I need this project for tenure.

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[CANCELED][4/9] Dr. Ronald Burt's visit and lunch talk

The visit is canceled because of COVID-19. We will update you if we have further information.

Please save the date for Dr. Ronald Burt’s visit and lunch talk at UT Austin. He will be available to meet students (9:30-11am) and faculty (2:30-3:30pm). Please RSVP here.

  • Lunch talk topic: Trust and cooperation beyond the network
  • Time: 4/9/2020, 12:00-13:30
  • Lunch talk location: Bass Lecture Hall at the LBJ School
  • Abstract: This work has two goals: explore the research strategy of combining incentivized game behavior with large area probability surveys, and use the research strategy to explore how the network structure around a person predicts trust and cooperation beyond the network. Reasoning from research within networks, we hypothesize that network closure has a negative effect on trust and cooperation beyond the network. We find empirical support for the hypothesis in game play and network data on a large area probability sample of Chinese CEOs. More, success is the tonic that animates the hypothesis. Trust and cooperation from CEOs running less successful businesses is independent of their network. In contrast, successful CEOs with closed networks are particularly likely to defect against people beyond their network, and successful CEOs with open networks are particularly likely to cooperate beyond their network. We demonstrate the robustness of our empirical evidence, and discuss future use of incentivized games to obtain behavioral data from respondents in large area probability surveys.

“Ronald Stuart Burt is an American sociologist and the Hobart W. Williams Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is most notable for his research and writing on social networks and social capital, particularly the concept of structural holes in a social network.” (Wikipedia introduction)

This is a Data Science Speaker Series event and sponsored by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service and Research Design Working Group.

Operating large files on ChameleonCloud

I primarily use Chameleon Cloud (CC) for my research projects. It provides great flexibility because I can run bare-metal servers (e.g., 44 threads/cores, 128G+ RAM) for a seven-day lease which is also renewable if the hosts I’m using are not booked by others. Its supporting team is also amazing.

But everything becomes slow if you are working with a really big dataset. For example, I’m working on a Telegram project and have 1TB+ data. This really gets me a headache. Well, the CC machines are able to handle this but need extra configurations.

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Lineage–the Yangs

In 2019 August, we finished our fieldwork in two rural villages in southeast China. The graph below shows the self-governance organizations weave together through local elites (xiangxian). I wrote a non-academic article introducing our work, which was featured in the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council’s monthly newsletter and IC2’s website. You can read the full article here.



  • 日程:待定
  • 地点:待定


[11/2] UT Civic Data Hackathon


We will solve real-world civic issues by analyzing open government data and building computer programs or models. You can assemble a team with students from or outside of the class. Your team can choose from the following problems:

Eligibility and requirements:

  • Course students are required.
  • All current UT Austin full time graduate (9 credit hours) or undergraduate (12 credit hours) students are eligible, but need to apply. The selection process is competitive.
  • Need to work as a team with 2-4 people.


  • First Prize Group: $500
  • Second Prize Group: $300
  • Third Prize Group: $100

Depending on the University’s operating procedures, final rewards may be distributed as cash or credits for student loan or course.

Timeline (tentative)

  • October 1st – 14th: Outreach, receiving applications.
  • October 15th – 31st: Team preparation and working with domain experts.
  • November 2nd: Hackathon day.
    • 10am-12pm: Team work and feedback from domain experts.
    • 12pm-1:30pm: Break.
    • 1:30pm-4pm: Finalize work and presentation.
    • 4pm-5:30pm: Team presentations.
    • 5:30pm-6pm: Announcing awards.

Evaluation criteria

  • Outstanding deliverables.
  • Efficient team work.
  • Well-organized presentation.
  • Evidence of learning while completing the task.

Assessment team

  • Bixler, Patrick, PhD, Assistant Professor of Practice at the RGK Center and LBJ School of Public Affairs.
  • Ma, Ji, PhD, Assistant Professor at the RGK Center and LBJ School of Public Affairs.
  • Rudow, Josh, PhD, Senior Planner, City of Austin.
  • Taylor, Reyda, PhD, Senior Consultant, Data & Evaluation, Mission Capital.

The final project is supported by UT Austin Graduate School’s Academic Enrichment Fund and RGK Center Special Funds for Data Science Speaker Series at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Co-sponsors also include UT Library Research Data Services and Mission Capital.

[4/26] Data Management in Intelligence Community

Dr. Thomas C. is a Lead Scientist in the CIA’s Directorate of Analysis and holds a Ph.D. in Economics. The talk will focus on how the Intelligence Community (IC) manages data, including some of the unique aspects in the IC. How the IC generates insights: typical timelines, customers, and general descriptions of modeling techniques, as well as how the IC integrates social science research.

Date: Friday, April 26, 2019
Time: 12:15 – 1:30pm (lunch provided)
Location: LBJ School of Public Affairs, 1st floor, Room SRH 3.122

Please RSVP closed. Presentation slides here




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