Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Crowdsourcing: From Phenomenon to Business Model

Crowdsourcing is changing both the way we work, as well as the way Internet applications are designed and delivered. It’s no longer just the domain of technologists (who can now achieve breakthroughs together never before achievable); crowdsourcing is now ripe for enterprise professionals to understand and leverage the possibilities for their business goals.

From Wikipedia and YouTube, crowdsourcing has moved to a $5B “crowd worker” industry with applications proliferating for productivity, research, marketing, advertising, creative development, corporate workflow management, language translations, and much more — see a list of projects here.

I discuss social networks as a kind of crowdsourcing, with unique benefits and challenges.

Invited panel presentation at PARC Forum, Palo Alto, CA, November 10, 2011

View the panel discussion:

SoCS Computational Models and Techniques: A Case Study

I spoke today at the NSF Workshop on Social-Computational Systems (SoCS) on Mike Pazzani‘s Computational Models and Techniques panel with Tuomas Sandholm, Lise Getoor, and Tina Eliassi. We were asked to address the questions of what computation can teach us about socially intelligent systems, and what problems are encountered when applying existing technologies to such systems.

I focused on two key SoCS challenges : impedance mismatch, and research-at-scale. Let me explain.

What can computation teach us about SoCS? If we begin with technology, we’ll encounter the key challenge of “impedance mismatch” between people and technology. The technology, however good, may not address people’s needs. Instead, let’s reverse the question: What do socially intelligent systems teach us about computational technology?

Consider, as a case study, the problem of education: building a SoCS system to help students learn. Our first pass was a collaborative learning site with a state-of-the-art collaboration platform, a kind of “Google Docs meets WebEx meets Etherpad meets Skype on steroids”. While the site was useful, we learned that students didn’t use most of the features we had built. The issue was impedance mismatch: the technology did not address education problems from a student perspective.

What, then, are these problems? There are two: Access (scale) and engagement. To tackle the impedance mismatch, we need to design technology that provides the right affordances (in the Gibsonian sense) for student behaviors that address those problems.

We created a vision for Open Social Learning that blends, not Google Docs and WebEx, but Facebook and World of Warcraft. With funding from NSF, NIH, GRA, and Gates/Hewlett NextGenLC, and partnerships with MIT, Yale, NYU, and many others, we rethought the site from Education to SoCS to Learning Theories to Design Principles to Affordances to Architecture to User Experience (UX) to Mechanisms. (See slides and references below.) This process resulted in a fundamentally disruptive idea, one driven not by technology but by the SoCS it was to support.

Only then did it make sense to think about Computation: really real-time collaboration technologies for a highly interactive experience; intelligent recommender systems to help learners connect with relevant content and other learners; mining and analytics to assess learner outcomes; and reputation techniques to establish social capital.

The new is an Open Peer-to-Peer Social Learning Community, a place that matches learners studying the same things into live “massively multiplayer study sessions“. The problems of access (scale) and engagement are addressed through two mechanisms: A Luis von Ahn approach where the social community scales itself, and a kind of gamification in which everyone is on the same team.

Great idea—but how do we know it works? The education literature is full of great ideas that don’t work in practice. SoCS data research involves studying large-scale communities; the same applies to SoCS technology design. This is the research-at-scale challenge. Laboratory studies don’t prove much; the research fundamentally requires scale.

After 9 months, OpenStudy has grown into a vibrant community that both provides value to its users and serves as a “living lab” to study and validate the ideas. We’re continuing to research how new technologies can be combined to address the problem of education in a manner that is highly scalable yet interactive and engaging.

To understand what socially intelligent systems teach us about computation, then, requires a new methodology comprised of old ideas about design thinking brought into the new world of Social-Computational Systems at a massive scale.


P Adams (2009). Designing for Social Interactions.

Terry Anderson (2007). Distance Learning: Social Software’s Killer App?

J Daniel (1996), cited in JS Brown (2007). Minds on Fire: Open Education, The Long Tail, and Learning 2.0.

RA DeMillo (2011). Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities in the Twenty-First Century.

R Friedrich, M Peterson, A Koster (2011). The Rise of Generation C.

Gates Foundation study: JM Bridgeland, JJ Dilulio Jr, KB Morrison (2006), The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts.

D Thomas & JS Brown (2011). A New Culture of Learning.

More readings at: Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning?


Towards A National Study Guild

New post on blog@CACM: My presentation to President Obama’s Science & Technology advisory council (PCAST) on Education.

“Imagine a Facebook where the point is to study together, not trade pictures and jokes. Imagine a World of Warcraft where students earn levels and points by helping each other learn. Not a video game that teaches physics; instead, let’s create an educational experience that is social and game-like.”



Open Social Learning aka Massively Multiplayer Online Learning

“Our Open Social Learning solution to these three problems of education is therefore elegantly simple. In this solution OpenCourseWare courses are augmented by a community of learners who help one another, support one another and learn together as they socialize and spend time together online. Not only is this solution validated by educational research, it is also eminently scaleable because you are not dependent on hiring tutors or teachers to spend time assisting self learners.  The community helps one another.  Open Social Learning also fits right in with what our digital millenials want to do: hang out online for hours!  Why not get them talking about math instead of … well, let’s not go there.” — Dr. Preetha Ram

P. Ram, A. Ram, C. Sprague (2011). Socializing OpenCourseWare with OpenStudy. OCWC Global 2011: Celebrating 10 years of OpenCourseWare, Cambridge.

View it here:

Augmenting Human Innovation with Social Cognition

Social Media is everywhere: photos, videos, news, blogs, art, music, games… even business, finance, healthcare, government, design, and other serious applications are going social. These social media gave given rise to Social Cognition. What began with sharing has moved to creation. Consumers have become producers, and commerce has become a conversation.

Due to these conversations, individuals are no longer alone; whether you’re making a life decision, solving a critical business problem, or merely looking for a restaurant, your social graphs are available to augment your decision making process. These graphs have no geographic boundaries; professional networks are worldwide, and information streams from far corners of the globe into the palm of your hand.

Beyond media and commerce, the next big disruption is innovation. Humans everywhere want to innovate, and Social Cognition can augment human innovation in many everyday and expert domains.

I discuss three human capabilities that are amenable to social augmentation: problem solving, learning, and creativity. I illustrate them with challenge problems from my work: 1) healthcare: helping consumers find relevant health information without search; 2) energy: helping experts troubleshoot complex turbine failures; 3) learning: scaling education to a hundred million people; and 4) creativity: enabling average users to create artificial intelligence agents without programming, and 2) learning: scaling education to a hundred million people.

These technologies blend Cognitive Systems (artificial intelligence) and Cognitive Science (human cognition) in products that both exhibit and support cognition in large-scale social communities. This research not only provides scientific insight but also creates disruptive business opportunities.

Invited talk at PARC, Palo Alto, CA, April 7, 2011.
Invited talk at Wright State University, Center of Excellence in Human-Centered Innovation, Dayton, OH, October 24, 2010.

View the slides:

A is for Apple—The New Millennial Edition

A is for Apple, iGadgets at home
B is for Blackberry, your daddy’s smart phone
C is for CheckIn, place your own marks
D is for Disney, makes movies and parks
E is for Email, which old people use
F is for Facebook, it feeds you your news
G is for Google, search what it knows
H is for Hulu, catch up on shows
I is for iPod, your musical hits
J is for Java, coffee and bits
K is for Kindle, books in the cloud
L is for LOL, laughing out loud
M is for Microsoft, all hold it dear
N is for Napster, share with your peers
O is for Open, global and free
P is for Pandora, radio for me
Q is for QWERTY, tap to make words
R is for Remix, mashups absurd
S is for Skype, use it to talk
T is for Tweet, keep it real short
U is for Unix, it lives in /bin
V is for Valley, where startups begin
W is for WiFi, ‘net in the air
X is for Xbox, games with a flair
Y is for YouTube, its videos don’t end
Z is for Zynga, games with your friends
Copyright (c) 2010, Ashwin Ram

I’m looking for a collaborator to illustrate this in the form of a children’s book. And, a collaborator to set it to music. If you’re interested, please let me know.

Related Posts: Here’s a ballad I wrote many years ago:

Make the World your Study Group

CNN Chalk Talk: A new website called OpenStudy allows students to share resources and learn with one another from all over the world.

Click the image to watch the video (3 min.)

Read the transcript: CNN Chalk Talk, October 1, 2010

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, coming up, calling all college students. There’s now a group online that allows you to study in a unique way. You can get help from across the globe. You don’t even need a passport.


HOLMES: Well, we turn to “Chalk Talk” today, now.

We are checking out a new study group that’s geared toward helping college students succeed. It’s an online study group called OpenStudy, and it’s linking students from around the world, helping them pass some tough courses.

Joining me now is Ashwin Ram. He’s the director of Georgia Tech’s Cognitive Computing Lab, one of the founders of OpenStudy.

Sir, thank you for being here.

OpenStudy, this is a worldwide study group. Do I kind of have that right?

ASHWIN RAM, DIRECTOR, GEORGIA TECH’S COGNITIVE COMPUTING LAB: That’s right. Open Study is a for studying. It’s a social learning network that enables students to connect and study together, and get help when they need it.

HOLMES: Now, you said you’ve all been thinking about this for a while, for the past couple of years. What were you trying to work out, make sure there was a market for it, or is there some complicated technology you had to work out as well?

RAM: It was actually both. We wanted to get the value proposition right for students. We spent a lot of time researching the core need that students have, and that resulted in OpenStudy.

HOLMES: What did you determine was that core need? What did you find that students out there needed?

RAM: So, students all over the world are hitting their textbooks late at night cramming for exams. Maybe they’re working on review problems, watching video lectures on iTunes or MIT.

When these students need help, who can they turn to? The core need was to be able to find someone who can help them and give them help right there, right then, no matter what time they needed that help.

HOLMES: All right. And this is, again, supposed to link students with students. Essentially a study group like at the library.

RAM: It’s a worldwide study group. Our mantra is “We want to make the entire world your study group.” So there’s always someone who can help you.

HOLMES: How does this thing work? It looks like a social network page almost here.

RAM: It does. So let’s say that you are a student, and you’re one of 10,000 students studying computer science on MIT’s web site. And you’re working on video lectures or problem sets, and you have a question.


RAM: What do you do? You join a study group. When you do that, you get dropped into the MIT OpenStudy Group.

As you can see, we have over 2,200 people out there. Think of them as your classmates that can help you any time you want.

I noticed that we’ve just had someone join us from Kenya.

HOLMES: Oh, wow.

RAM: We actually have students from 138 countries from around the world. That’s 71 percent of the world’s countries.

HOLMES: Now, does this cost the kids anything to sign up for?

RAM: No, it’s completely free.

HOLMES: I’ll be danged. So you can pretty much — as well, you’re talking about kids up all hours of the night. No matter — somewhere in the world somebody is going to be up, somebody’s going to be logged on, somebody’s going to be studying.

RAM: Someone will always help you. And so if you have — you can go in and help somebody, but if you have a question, or you want to just study together with someone, you click on “Ask a Question,” type some question in that you want help with, and say, “Ask Now.”

The question is posted. Everything updates in real time. And you go back to the site, and then someone will be available to start answering you.

HOLMES: Will start answering you.

All right. Are you ready for growth? Because this might catch on. Are you ready for what might come?

RAM: We are ready for growth.


RAM: We’ve had remarkable growth already. We’ve only been live two weeks. We have over 6,000 people already using the site.

HOLMES: All right. This is going to be the next Facebook, 500 million. Come back when you get 500 million members in there. All right?

RAM: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right.

Ashwin Ram from Georgia Tech.

Thank you so much. Cool concept.

RAM: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

OpenStudying the Classics

I recently met Dr. Diana E. E. Kleiner, a distinguished professor at my alma mater and director of the Open Yale Courses initiative. We were talking about “OpenStudying the Classics”—to my knowledge, the first use of “OpenStudy” as a verb.[1] This made me think—what does it mean to “OpenStudy” something?

Some background first. In collaboration with Dean Preetha Ram of Emory University, our former student Chris Sprague from Georgia Tech’s HCI program, and experienced internet entrepreneur Phil Hill, and with funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Georgia Research Alliance, I’ve been working on a system called OpenStudy[2] which embodies a new way of studying. In the new millennial world of social networking, where social graphs have no geographical boundaries, professional networks are world wide, and entertainment streams from the far corners of the globe into the palm of your hand, it has always seemed odd to me that education is bounded by school walls, class interactions are limited to one teacher and a few dozen students who happened to register at the same time as you, and studying is largely a solitary activity circumscribed by so-called “collaboration policies” that typically require students to learn alone. Even “open learning” initiatives offer little more than a solitary experience watching instructional videos in your home, albeit from world famous experts.

OpenStudy, in contrast, whole-heartedly embraces the idea of “social learning”. The world is your study group, we claim. Connect with others studying the same things you are. Give and get help. The world learns as one.

But what is the “OpenStudy experience”? What will it mean, as Prof. Kleiner wonders, to “OpenStudy the Classics”? I don’t have the final answer (sic) but I do want to share my observations from a pilot with MIT OpenCourseware (OCW). For the past month, learners in three OCW courses have been given an option to “Join a study group”.[3] OCW reports their study groups are growing at a “blistering pace”—by our metrics, by about 10% a day. Learners are demanding more OpenStudy groups; if we don’t respond quickly, they create their own. What’s going on?

It’s too early for hard metrics, but permit me to share some anecdotes. MIT pilot courses include Intro CS, Calculus, and Chinese, and there are certainly interesting interactions around those topics.[4] But users are also exploring other interests. For example, there’s an active conversation about Greek Classics. What’s interesting are the participants:

  • a classics librarian at an exclusive four-year college in New England
  • a young woman considering a PhD in social sciences
  • an international student at a community college student in Georgia
  • a professor from the MIT Physics group
  • someone studying Chinese
  • a mid-career Math/CS geek from Michigan

These people did not know each other prior to their OpenStudy encounter. OpenStudy is described as the for studying together[5]—if so, this certainly seems to be working. A student from Peru came online recently, introduced himself, and apologized for his poor English. A student in the US responded in Spanish, and they struck up a conversation around their mutual study interests. Then a user from Mexico City jumped into the conversation, and off they went studying together with two users from Costa Rica. This is the new world of OpenStudying—social learning without geographical boundaries.

A homeschooled teenager recently joined OpenStudy and said “I’m new. How do you OpenStudy?” 15 minutes later, she had connected with students in an all-girls private school. She initiated a discussion on World Religions which, less than a day later, has nearly 20 participants. Half of them have contributed and half are listening. A Hindu undergraduate from India, an Orthodox Jew from Texas, and a Muslim student from Turkey are talking about what “real” Islam is like. A teenager who can’t drive, doesn’t go to school, and does not have traditional teachers or schoolmates has answered her own question. This is how you OpenStudy. You study with the world.

Every educator knows the challenge of keeping students engaged. Studying together not only improves learning, it is a lot more fun. One of the users recently emailed us saying: “Personally, I’ve come further in my development as a programmer in the month of being on OpenStudy than the previous few years struggling on my own. Being able to see how other people approach problems and considering their questions is absolutely wonderful.” A GSU professor says she is seeing 400% increase in student engagement in her required lower-division biology class due to OS.

So this, Prof. Kleiner, is how we will be able to “OpenStudy the Classics”. Students connecting with students studying the same things they are. I call it “massively multiplayer online learning[6], a wordplay on the MMO experience we’re seeing in the gaming world. Here it has value beyond entertainment; the diversity adds to the richness of the online study group, the globalness broadens access beyond elite institutional walls, the interactivity engages today’s millennials in—of all things—study.

On average, we’re seeing 5.3 participants per “studypad” (a real-time interaction tool that facilitates conversation, discussion, or simply question answering). About 30% of the interactions occur synchronously in real time. This is quite different from a typical question site, where you post a question and wait—an hour? a day? who knows when someone might answer. OpenStudying is like a conversation in a university library or the local Starbucks, instant real-time interaction with peers—except that these peers might be halfway around the globe. The world is, after all, your social network, your professional rolodex, and, now, your study group.

Ashwin Ram
September 15, 2010

If you’ve OpenStudied and would like to share your experience, I’d love to hear about it. Please add a comment below.

[1] I’ve always been interested in the origins of words, especially new ones. Who coined the term “WebLog”, and who first shortened it to “blog? Who first used “Google” as a verb? In this day and age, surely there must be a record somewhere. To this end and with her permission, I’d like to credit Prof. Diana Kleiner with the first use of “OpenStudy” as a verb.

[2] OpenStudy is free and publicly available at, a for-profit spinoff from Georgia Tech and Emory University created via the university’s commercialization program. Our objective is to create not just an interesting research project but a sustainable product that will make a difference to thousands of learners everywhere. To accomplish this, we need to grapple with the realities of business models, lest our project die the way countless other good ideas do when their research funding runs out.

[3] Update: MIT OCW has expanded its program to several more courses:

[4] Click “Join a Study Group” on the course page to see the corresponding study group.

[5] See Marc Parry’s article in The Chronicle’s Wired Campus, Start-Up Aspires to Make the World ‘One Big Study Group’, September 8, 2010:

[6] My talk at the Knowledge Futures: Disrupting the University forum at Emory University, entitled Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning? aka Are social networks disrupting models of education?—learning/

Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning?

Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning?
aka, Are social networks disrupting models of education?

I spoke recently at a panel on Rebooting the University: Disruptions in Models of Learning.[1] In preparing my presentation, I found myself thinking about the topic of the panel. Are there new “models of learning”? The brain hasn’t changed all that much, has it?

The real disruption is not in models but modes of learning. Let me explain. Students today care about their education, perhaps more so than ever. In fact, 4 out of 5 students stress about their grades.[2] Yet class attendance is down. The more technology is used, the less likely students are to attend.[3] After all, why sit in a one-hour lecture when one can download the powerpoint and skim it the night before the exam? 60% of students find lectures “boring” and powerpoint “sleep inducing”.[4]

Students aren’t reading their textbooks either.[5] That’s an easy problem, you say—this is the digital generation, let’s digitize their books. Surely textbooks will be more accessible (and affordable) on their laptops, their Kindles, their iPhones? It turns out 60% of students read less when using e-textbooks instead of physical textbooks.[6] 600-page PDFs do not make the grade with today’s youngsters. Frankly, I can’t read 600-page PDFs either.

The problem starts well before the university. In the recent Silent Epidemic study[7] funded by the Gates Foundation, 47% of high school dropouts said a major reason for dropping out was that “classes were not interesting” and they were “bored”. Remarkably, 88% of dropouts had passing grades. These kids are not failing out of school; they are simply disengaging.

But wait, you say. Students are bored, they don’t go to class, they don’t read their textbooks—how in the world do they learn enough to get passing grades? That’s where modes of learning come in. Students do learn—but from Wikipedia, nearly 80% of them.[8] They learn from MIT’s OpenCourseware—50 million and counting[9], over 200 thousand visitors a month. That is a lot of engagement. And most significantly, they learn from their peers. 55% of teenagers report using IM to discuss homeworks—a larger percentage than dating.[10] Students are studying, but the web is their classroom.

But wait, you say again. Universities offer more than knowledge delivery; they offer community. As George Siemens says of Open Yale, “Great video and talented presenters. My only complaint: I’d like to interact with others who are viewing the resources. Creating a one-way flow of information significantly misses the point of interacting online.”[11] Don’t universities provide this interaction? Isn’t that their value?

Students do need community. But let’s look at where their communities are. 95% of college students are spending up to 10 hours a week in social networks[12]—blogging, updating their profiles, trading pictures, and—yes—talking about schoolwork. “With so many hunched over their laptops and cell phones”, as Preetha Ram says, “who is left on the college quad?”[13]

The college quad. The very phrase conjures up images of the walled gardens of academia, laced with ivy, filled with knowledge, brimming with students eager to absorb that knowledge. But, as my former student Chris Sprague puts it, today’s students are casting a wider net. The web is their classroom, Facebook is their community, the world is their study group. The days of walled gardens are over. That is the true disruption.

Modes of learning have changed. George Siemens talks about connectivism—the new mode learning in the digital age.[14] The university is no longer a walled garden; it is a hub that connects students to the world around them. It is open. Not just in the sense of free video lectures; rather, the community (which, after all, is the real value of the university) is open.

My colleagues and I have been building an online community called OpenStudy.[15] Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Georgia Research Alliance, OpenStudy is a kind of Facebook for learning. A place where students come, not to trade pictures and jokes, but to study. A place that connects them to other students in their university, to students in other universities, so they can study together.

We’ve seen this disruption in other areas. People collaborate online to create everything from music[16] to software[17]. Is creating knowledge any different?[18] As Rich DeMillo says, “social networks are well adapted to producing value in higher education.  The hubs and spokes of social networks reflect the long-tail effects that influencers have on learning.”[19]

I do research on games[20] and collaborative learning[21]. Anyone with a teenager at home knows how engaging massively multiplayer online games can be.[22] Stephen Downes and George Siemens are experimenting with massively multiplayer online courses.[23] OpenStudy can be thought of as a kind of massively multiplayer online learning—a world wide “guild” (if I may borrow a gaming term) of students interacting, helping, collaborating, studying together. A place for “user generated learning”, if you will.

Students get this. The world is their social graph, their gaming guild, and now, their study group. Student response to OpenStudy has been very positive. University response has also been positive, but many want to know if they can create a private network for their students. A closed network. AKA a walled garden. Universities still don’t get it.

The topic of the panel is Rebooting the University. My point is simple. The university is no longer a closed system, located in a tiny land-grant town a hundred miles from civilization. The days of isolation are over.[24] The university must be a hub for students to explore the world, expand their horizons, reach out to others. Students are doing this anyway, and if universities won’t adapt[25], students will do it without them.

[1] B Konsynski (2010), Knowledge Futures.

[2] SJ Cech (2008), Poll of U.S. teens finds heavier homework load, more stress over grades, Education Week.

[3] Personally, I have abandoned technology in favor of the good old whiteboard. It is more work than flipping through powerpoints, but (speaking purely anecdotally) attendance is up, students are more engaged, grades have improved. And students seem to like it—I get more Thank A Teacher awards now J.

[4] S Mann (2009), Why do 60% of students find their lectures boring?, The Guardian.

[5] Clump, Bauer & Bradley, 2004; Burchfield & Sapington, 2000; Murden & Gillepsie, 1997; McCabe, 2003.

[6] JT Rickman, J Von Holzen,  PG Klute, & T Tobin (2009), A campus-wide e-textbook initiative, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 32(2).

[7] JM Bridgeland, JJ Dilulio Jr, KB Morrison (2006), The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts.

[8] MH Miller (2010). Students use Wikipedia early and often, The Chronicle: Wired Campus.

[9] MIT OpenCourseWare marks 50 million visitors, The Boston Globe: Business News, 2008.

[10] 2007 AP-AOL Instant Messaging Trends Survey, reported in:

[11] G Siemens (2007). Open Yale.

[12] National School Board Association (2008). Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social—and Educational—Networking.

[13] P Ram (2009). An Empty College Quad?

[14] G Siemens (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. eLearnSpace.


[16],, and others

[17],, and many others

[18] D Wiley. Open source, openness, and higher education. Innovate Journal of Online Education.

[19] RA DeMillo (2011). Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities in the Twenty-First Century, MIT Press, in press.



[22] Actually, the average age of gamers is 35 [ESA 2009:] so this holds for adults too. This is good; universities will need to engage adults too as they begin to address lifelong learning seriously.

[23] Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs):

[24] It is no surprise to me that student-voted “best college towns” are no longer Ann Arbor and College Park, but places like Georgetown and our very own Emory [Princeton Review]. The campus town isn’t Emory Village, it is Atlanta, it is Washington DC, it is Greenwich Village. Students today are indeed casting a wider net, in more ways than one.

[25] Rich DeMillo (ibid.) describes one such vision: open courseware, hacked degrees, no brick walls, and above all an increased emphasis on access and a de-emphasis on selectivity and exclusion.

ICCBR-10 Workshop on CBR Startups

CBR Startups

ICCBR 2010 Workshop / July 20, 2010 / Alessandria, Italy

Please fill out a short participation survey:

Over the past twenty-five years, Case-Based Reasoning has matured into a full-fledged discipline within AI, with an international community, strong research momentum, and many commercial successes. However, despite its many advantages as a technology, CBR is not well known in the entrepreneurial world. In part, this is due to few startups being created by CBR researchers, who are the best people to initiate commercialization of their ideas.

This workshop will focus on the merits and challenges of creating a technology startup out of cutting-edge research in academia or research labs. We will discuss technological issues, such as the application areas best suited for CBR approaches and scalability of CBR technologies. We will also discuss practical issues, such as the tension between academic goals (e.g., publishing papers) and commercialization goals (e.g., building applications), and the different types of expertise required to create a vision (researchers), market a product (marketers), and build a company (entrepreneurs).

In true CBR fashion, we will use cases to tackle these issues.  We will hear from CBR researchers who have created CBR startups, and use their experiences to discuss different ways to commercialize CBR technologies. Some have chosen a hands-on approach, taking on a management role (CEO) or a technology role (CTO). Others have partnered with experienced business people, who have taken their ideas forward. We will also provide a forum to help participants with their startup ideas.


CBR Startups will be a half-day workshop with short talks by people who have spun out companies from their universities, a panel discussion with open audience questions on the merits and challenges of doing a startup, alternative ways of commercializing CBR technologies, and advice to people interested in doing this.

We will conclude with a hands-on session with 3 minute pitches by participants. Think of it as throwing down the gauntlet—a friendly competition where you pitch your CBR startup idea. Prizes will be awarded for most innovative use of CBR technology, best business idea, and idea most likely to succeed. Our intention is to provide advice and mentoring by community members who have been-there-done-that, using these ideas as case studies for all of us to learn from.

Tentative agenda:

  • Introduction and context (Ashwin Ram)
  • Short talks by CBR researchers who have done startups
  • Panel discussion with open audience questions
  • 3 minute CBR gauntlet Pitch competition

We want this to be useful to you, so please help us refine the agenda by filling out this brief survey:


Invited Speakers & Mentors

[More to come. If you’d like to speak or mentor, please fill out the survey.]

Help us publicize this workshop!

Please forward this URL to others who might be interested:

For more information about ICCBR 2010, see: