Author Archive - lwu

About lwu:

Social Software @Stanford: projects from CS294h

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

One of the exciting elements of studying at Stanford is the access–for better or for worse–to Silicon Valley which lies just beyond the borders of the Stanford moat (bubble). Whereas at other schools, there is a sort of tension between entrepreneurship and academics, Stanford students and faculty (at least beyond the few that hail from UC-Berkeley) seem to embrace both whole-heartedly.
And just as the convolution of academics and athletics results in some impressive accomplishments, the combination of academics and entrepreneurship has lead to many a well-known company, from to Google, from HP to newer startups such as

cs294h project teams

I’m blogging this live, as it were, from the CS294h “Social Software” class taught by prof. Jeff Heer (MIT TR35 winner) and Sep Kamvar of
The project list, which can be found here on GitHub, ranged from the hyperlinked storytelling of to the Quora-like, to Marcia Lee et al.’s GitDocs project, to name just a few.
The gist of the class? Students, in the span of a ten-week quarter, start from iteration and paper prototyping to iteration and engineering, deployment on the real, live Web, and A-B user testing, which is quite an impressive feat for such a short time span.
Social software is huge these days, whether at Stanford or beyond, from or Flickr to newer attempts such Quora, Hunch, and
From an academic perspective, the questions come back to psychology and sociology, engineering and design. How are users incentivized to use these student projects deployed live on the Web? How do developers ask scientific-like questions about how their software should be designed? Are there principles behind helping to manage how communities ebb and flow online?
More after the jump.


Bay Area Women’s Mixer 2010 @ Stanford

Sunday, March 14th, 2010



Mirror Mirror; Killer at Large

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

After team practice and dinner today, I stopped by Annenberg Auditorium to watch a screening of “Killer at Large”, a documentary released in 2008 now available on DVD.

The film was shown as part of the Ethics and Food series hosted at Stanford, which has drawn speakers such as Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle to US Sec. Dept. of Ag. Kathleen Merrigan and one former commissioner of the FDA.
While the series has largely had a food culture and environmental ethics bent, this film explored the intersection of food culture (or lack thereof), ethics (same), and the larger, complex sociopolitical sphere of the American food system.
There were a few members of various Slow Food groups from the area (Slow Food at Stanford, Slow Food Bay Area) / the “Farmers and Eaters” student group, as well as people who work on the program. Prof. Christopher Gardner hosted the discussion afterwards, mentioning his undergraduate class (2nd year in a row) which has focused on these intersections of food and the environment.
Walk around campus, though, and you might be hard-pressed to find as many overweight or obese Stanford students as you might find off-campus. It’s been said that class and education buffer people from obesity, and of course you can’t forget the fact that people’s metabolism doesn’t tend to slow down too quickly until you hit your twenties. Or that Stanford’s chef-driven culture with high standards for sustainable deliciousness have in part contributed to keeping Stanford students happy and healthy (?). In practice, this seems to mean you don’t see students putting on too much weight until their junior or senior years, although perhaps this trend will change now that 1 in 3 American kids is now overweight or obese… which has meant that Type-II Diabetes is striking kids whereas it used to be known as Adult-Onset Diabetes, and Hypertension is now being found in kids.
What’s a Stanford student to do?
There’s not much activism just yet on campus about obesity or America’s larger weight problem, perhaps because it’s easier to focus on issues “out there” or that affect people other than yourself, perhaps it’s because students here, buffered by class and education, haven’t seen as much of these problems as have their poorer, less-educated counterparts. Or maybe it’s because we don’t talk about body image that much, much less about our bodies or our physical cultures.
Stanford won the PAC-10 fitness challenge for three years in a row, and you can’t walk / run / bike / drive around campus without seeing a few joggers (though asked, they would probably still like to believe they actually run, ahem) puffing along with poor form and padded sneakers. [As an aside, I wish runners would spend just a little bit of time trying to actually run well, but that’s another topic for another time).]
So what do Stanford students think about their bodies? their waistlines?
As it happens, STAMP, the Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project, is performing “Mirror, Mirror” this Friday and Saturday (February 26 and 27)at 7p and 9p at the Nitery on campus.
“The world premiere of a show exposing body image issues on Stanford’s campus.”
Hit the jump for more information on this FREE ADMISSION show

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


free nachos?

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

late night?
Late Night at the Treehouse (Thursday, February 18)

midnight – 2:00am FREE NACHOS. nuff said =)

the Russo Cafe: sustainable deliciousness Fail

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

As one of the contributors to a previous year’s Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness, I had looked somewhat forward to checking out the Munger Housing complex‘s new cafe, the Russo Cafe, since I have had good experiences with the Munger Market, which I highly recommend you check out ASAP.
On the other hand, I do *not* recommend you eat at the Russo Cafe until they fix things up. As per last year’s guide on where not to eat on campus, I graded the Russo Cafe on a combination of sustainability (yep, I’ve taken Earth Systems 10, just for fun and self-ed) and deliciousness (as a self-identified super-taster and artisan bread baker).
How did Russo Cafe score?
The Russo Cafe gets a C+ in “sustainable deliciousness“, which puts it wayy below Cool Cafe at Cantor, and even below older institutions such as the Treehouse or Bytes Cafe near Gates. Why so low?
A number of complaints:
1) Taste / Preparation
2) Ingredient quality / provenance
3) Over-use of cornware cups
Simply put, the Russo Cafe looks great on the outside and the food looks appetizing… until you start eating it.
Sorry Russo Cafe, this gets a sustainable deliciousness Fail by Stanford standards!
eat wit ur Eyes


Haiti, Stanford donations and micropayment technology

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Building on an earlier post on how Stanford Hospitals will match donations to the last Port-Au-Prince hospital–details at the Stanford Medical center web page, I came across a new NYTimes article about how 2 million USD has been donated by text messages to Haiti disaster relief:

Anyone with a mobile phone and an account with a major wireless carrier can text the phrase “Haiti” to the number 90999 and donate $10 to the Red Cross. That amount is charged to the donor’s cellphone bill.

One of the fascinating aspects of being a student at Stanford is that you get insight into both cutting edge social entrepreneurship but also the technology sphere, being miles away from Apple, Google, and smaller for-good efforts such as the microloan-based

The area of Bas-Ravine, in the northern part o...

Image via Wikipedia

Alas, up until recently such donations were either slow (mobile phone carriers bill slowly) or incurred incremental costs (credit card companies would skim for each transaction even for disaster relief! up until just hours ago).
Before coming to do a Engineering PhD at Stanford, I worked as an SDE at, where my boss helped lead the effort to put Tsunami relief donations on the main/front page of Amazon (the “gateway page”), and for a while, Amazon can accumulated more donations than the entire United States government.
And while is a small player in this donation space, one has to wonder or be on the look out for a socially conscious Stanford MBA/CS student pair to launch micropayments on a global platform such as Twitter in a way that bypasses or at least minimizes the way PayPal / Credit Card companies skim off these smaller transactions. Calling all Stanford entrepreneurs, are you in? =)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Have a Condi Xmas!

Friday, December 25th, 2009

have a Condi xmas!
Have a Condi Xmas! from the (unofficial) Stanford Blog crew, 2009.
Claw 'bo

Avatar and a Stanford Tank Top

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

As you hit the local IMAX to see James Cameron’s Avatar this winter break, be on the look out for Sigourney Weaver ’72 and her avatar, sporting a red hot “Stanford” tank top under the Pandora sun (almost visible on the left).

Stanford represent in 2154!
Elsewhere on the web, Sigourney confirms that,

That’s true. I did live in a tree house dressed like an elf. You have to understand: Stanford in the early seventies was a very freewheeling place. Everyone was doing something different. I had friends in geodesic domes and trailers. Maybe we were the only people living in a tree house. But, you know, you get sick of dorm life after a while. I was living in the dorm with a group of girls who were incredibly conservative. I just had to get out. So I jumped out my window and never went back.

Sigourney was part of the “freewheeling” pre-cursor to the co-op world / sphere we have now at Stanford, with the creation of Columbae House around 1970, followed soon by Synergy House (see also Atticus Lee’s op-ed in the New York Times about her experience in Synergy or the Paly Voice on Columbae) and the other co-ops of EBF (Enchanted Broccoli Forest), Kairos, Terra, Hammarskjold, and Chi Theta Chi.
Tree huggers and techies unite, I see you =) — forty years of Columbae are almost upon us in 2010 and who knows, perhaps we’ll see Sigourney ’72 around this old Farm in 2012. Time to get decked in Stanford red & Avatar blue!

the Munger housing complex

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

A quick tour through one of Stanford’s newest housing complexes, the Munger graduate/law student residence.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Beat Cal!

Friday, November 20th, 2009

A student helms the Birdcage booth
Banners hang from Green library


Community Organizer Training

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

About 40 Stanford students gathered yesterday to attend the first of two days of community organizer training, as part of “Campus Camp Wellstone“.
“Campus Camp Wellstone is not your average political training,” read the intro sheet, “We’re not going to tell you who to vote for, or how you should feel about any particular issues… we’re here [to] teach you the skills you need to become effective organizers on your campuses and in your communities… you’ll know how to create an effective message, communicate that message… develop a strategic plan for action, recruit members and volunteers, build organizational coalitions and develop the next generation of progressive leaders.”
Sponsored by the ASSU Speakers Bureau, the ASSU Community Collaboration fund, and a host of on-campus VSOs (voluntary student org) such as the Emma Goldman Society for Queer Liberation, EPA Youth Court, Haas Center, MECHa, SPEACK, STOP, QSA, the training attracted a wide range of student leaders and organizers, focused on hot topics of the day such as the Environment, Education reform, LGBT rights, and food justice, to name a few.
issues; rules


Camp Wellstone coming to Stanford!

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

This weekend, Camp Wellstone is coming to campus! What is Camp Wellstone?
According to, “Campus Camp Wellstone trains students nationwide on how to run energized, community building, winningcampaigns. We focus on campus and community organizing and young voter engagement.”
Last year at this time, around November 2008, Stanford was in the midst of a upswell of political engagement and activism, and the country was about to elect its new leader. One year later, there’s still work to be done (as we follow the #VoteNoOn1 hash tag tonight), as thought leaders, activists and organizers. Stanford, here’s your chance to organize as organizers!
Email to RSVP and get more info!


ASSU elections 2009

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Are you voting today in the Stanford ASSU elections?

Whether you are a graduate student at Stanford (or undergraduate), click here to vote in the ASSU 2009 elections at

As a graduate student, you will vote for the ASSU Exec, Graduate Student Council (GSC) representatives, and vote up or down Join Special Fees for programs such as Club Sports on campus.

According to the ASSU web page, “The [ASSU} executive president and vice president’s job is to represent the student body in meaningful ways to university administration, through policy creation and enforcement, and through advocacy for student issues. BOTH graduate students and undergraduate students can be part of the executive slate and their committee, since the executives are expected to represent both student populations.”

With budget cuts taking hold across campus, Vaden announcing mandatory health fees every quarter, and a mental health support system that a Stanford task force has found to be in need of strengthening, times are a’changing. In the wake of broad sweeping economic and political changes, from the collapse of Lehman brothers to the inaugration of a mixed race President, Stanford has been looking inward to adapt and outward to continue its commitment to public service both globally and locally, right here on campus.

These challenges in mind, we would like to join The Stanford Daily editorial board and various student coalitions on campus to unofficially endorse David Gobaud & Jay de la Torre for ASSU Executive, the only slate to feature both a graduate student and an undergraduate,
David Gobaud (Computer Science BS, MS ’10)
Jay de la Torre (Urban Studies BA ’10)

“In these difficult times, we are running to unite the student body behind shared priorities: promotion of student wellness, diversity in all its forms, preservation of front-line staff jobs, and sustainability. We are also committed to addressing grad-specific issues including dependent health insurance, affordable housing, and lobbying for efficient immigration.”

Make your voice heard!

Click here to vote in the ASSU 2009 elections. For more information about the elections, visit

The ballots close on Friday night, April 10th.


Thursday, December 25th, 2008

HH Gates
Merry Christmas from the Stanford Blog!


Sprout Cafe on Uni, a Review

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

After running laps on the Stanford track, a friend invited me to dinner at Sprout Cafe, one of the newest restaurants to hit the downtown Palo Alto dining scene.
As somewhat of a foodie myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect — was this going to pablum, bland, or food for once executed with some savoir-faire? Fortunately it was the latter, and am happy to say that I highly recommend that students and Stanford visitors alike visit this burgeoning new cafe.
Sprouts on Uni
Located right next to American Apparel on 168 University Ave, Sprout Cafe is a shiny new restaurant (4 months old!) run by a Vinh Vi, a former civil engineer and graduate of the California Culinary Academy.
As one of the editors of an online Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness at Stanford, I interviewed Sprout Cafe owner Vinh about his experience running this new, local business.
Vinh stressed that he and his peers worked hard to ensure that the food served was prepared with the freshest local and organic produce possible. I could tell that the food was made with love, as I quickly dived into my Seared Ahi Tuna salad with black beans, crunchy red onions, and a casual but tasty balsamic / olive oil dressing on the side (I designed my own salad, but sandwiches are available and soon, entrees will be on the menu). The bread, which came from the reknowned Acme Bay Area bakery, was also a delight, which is rare to find for such an affordable cafe on University.
Vinh told me that he wanted to strive to offer great food at reasonable prices, and even mentioned to me that Stanford students are currently eligible for a 10% discount if you show your student id card. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit hungry just writing this blog post!
If you’d like to get (one mile) off campus, I strongly suggest you give Sprout Cafe a try. They serve organic salads, gourmet sandwiches on Acme (!) bread, fresh squeezed juices and organic teas. Finally, catering is available for student groups who want to make a tasty, local, and sustainable choice in the foods they serve!
(In my experience, Stanford Catering has a way to go in these domains, but lets do hope the winds of freedom and sustainability do blow up their way some time.)
Sprout Cafe, 168 University Ave next to American Apparel (between Ramona and Emerson)
(For phone number, hours, and more details, see the Palo Alto Online review or the high ratings on