Ethan Chiu My personal blog

Live In The Moment

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A few days ago, this nearby apartment burned down. It’s quite shocking to think about how the place you call home and all of your personal items can be destroyed so quickly. Luckily, no one got hurt.

This incident reminded me of the importance to live in the moment. It’s so easy to take each day for granted and neglect the aspects of life that matter the most to us like our family and friends. All of that could be taken away in an instance with a terrible event like the Nappa Valley fires that killed more than 20 people.

Impact Of Hackathons

In my first hackathon, HackGenY in California, I only had just started programming. I had done all the courses in Codecademy before then but I still didn’t feel like a “programmer”. I had the idea that a programmer was a genius who could whip up an app easily. I was by far the least experienced in my team. They were all patient with me and we all had a blast creating an app for helping people find Medium articles by time:

Most importantly, I recall the mentors and fellow participants who offered to help me throughout the hackathon after seeing me struggle which helped me build confidence in myself to pursue programming. More importantly, it made me realize how important it is to contribute back to your own community.

Meeting and talking to people who were super passionate about creating and changing the world inspired me to my current programming endeavors in education and politics.

So, if I hadn’t participated in my first hackathon, I doubt I would have chosen to continue to program.

Now, I’ve created my own Creatathon (a more hands on hackathon with mentors and workshops targeted at middle schoolers) for my community, Wellesley: WellesleyCreatAthons!

Research

Last year, I researched with the Wellesley College Dav-lab. It was exhilarating to tackle a difficult and interesting question: “how do we help teens evaluate news accurately online?” There were many bumps than I ever anticipated. I learned the importance of clear communication, teamwork, and most importantly the ability to overcome failure.

At the end, we developed this pretty awesome Facebook chrome extension which anonymizes news posts shared by the user’s Facebook friends and asks the user to guess who posted the news post. As a result, this extension helped build awareness around the user’s own biases as well as understanding his or her friends’ biases.

Currently, I’m researching on modelling online anonymous communities. I can’t stop thinking about the topic and different ways to analyze the data I have collected!

Spreading Fake News

I was alarmed to have found a number of blatantly false and malicious posts in the Donald Trump subreddit which have quickly garnered over 3000 upvotes.These posts often show up in most r/The_Donald users on their front reddit main page. Most recently, I have seen this post:

I saw another post which furthered the notion that Michelle Obama was a man, but that was quickly taken down by moderators.

Most people who read and upvoted these posts probably believed them to be true. The top 2 or 3 comments often affirmed the views espoused by the post. These comments often provided “rationale” for the misinformation presented in these posts. For example, in the post about Obama faking his Ivy League education, one of the top commenters said, “I would trust Malik because he’s Obama’s (Soetoro’s apparently) brother. I mean that’s a credible source if you ask me.” Another top commenter said, “Quick, grab the broom and sweep this back under the rug before America realizes they elected a foreign, American hating Muslim at the direction of the America hating Democratic party.”

In the Donald Trump subreddit, it’s CSS is programmed so that you can’t downvote posts in the subreddit. This allows for fake information to spread easily with little repercussion. Thus, it allows for bots to easily upvote posts and disallow for real people to bring accountability to these posts.

I think this is a testament to the power of echo chambers on online platforms such as the r/The_Donald subreddit. These echo chambers allows for fake news, making America more misinformed and divided.

What’s even more alarming is the recent news that Russia ran fake black activist accounts to spread division in America. I would not be shocked if we found evidence of Russian bots in the r/The_Donald subreddit and America should be more focused on that security issue.

Overcoming Racism On The Court

My answer to the Quora question:

How do you deal with aggressive racists on the basketball court?

In middle school, I played a lot of AAU basketball. Whenever I played in the inner city tournaments, opposing players often called me a “chink”. Those players resorted to racial insults to get inside my head. Back then, I was really bothered by this and often relied on the support of my teammates to overcome the verbal banter.

When I was playing pickup basketball in Philadelphia last summer with more athletic teens/adults, I didn’t hear any racial insults. Rather, based on my nerdy appearance, they just played “easy” against me. After I scored a couple of threes and stole a few passes, they started playing real defense against me.

Unfortunately, many basketball players assume that Asian players are weak or unskilled. Regardless if you are a target of racist remarks or microagressions, just ignore them and outplay them. That’s what Jeremy Lin has done throughout his basketball career.