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COMS 6125: Web enHanced Information Management

Spring 2012: Prof. Gail Kaiser

Tuesdays, 11-12:50pm
535 Mudd

The CVN lecture tapes can be viewed here.  This link only works on-campus.

Here is a great resource explaining the relationship between facebook and privacy.


Lecturer: Professor Gail Kaiser
Office: 607 CEPSR
Office hours: Tuesdays right after class, or by appointment
Phone: Please do not call, except for pre-arranged teleconferences – instead send email
Email: kaiser+6125@cs.columbia.edu (make sure to include the ‘+6125’)

TA: Mr. Jonathan Bell
Office: 608 CEPSR
Office hours: Wednesday 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Phone: 212-939-7184
Email: jbell+6125@cs.columbia.edu (make sure to include the ‘+6125’)

TA: Ms. Erica Sponsler
Office: 6LE1 CEPSR
Office hours: 1:00pm-3:00pm Tuesday
Phone: 212-939-7100
Email: es3094@columbia.edu

Content: Evolving Web protocols, formats, computation and interaction models. Novel application domains enabled by the Web. Web-inspired concepts applied to non-Web venues.

This course does not address lower-level Internet protocols. Students interested in transport-level Internet services should instead take E6181 Advanced Internet Services.

Workload: Individual research paper, individual or group project, presentation. Students should plan to attend every class.

Prerequisites: Any one or more of COMS W4111, COMS W4112, COMS W4156, COMS W4180, COMS W4187, COMS W4444. This course is primarily intended for Computer Science graduate students, but undergraduates and non-majors are very welcome.

Special option for “non-technical” students with little or no programming experience: Graduate and upper-level undergraduate students from outside SEAS are encouraged to attend the COMS E6125 class (without any prerequisites), but should register instead for 3 points of COMS W3998-014 (for undergraduates) or COMS W4901-014 (for graduate students). The workload for non-technical students includes a research paper investigating some topic of interest, e.g., a Web-related social policy issue, and conduct of a non-programming project exploring some Web-enabled technology or paradigm, such as a “user study”. There is no difference in the presentation and attendance requirements. Contact the instructor for further information and to obtain any registration signatures that may be needed for this option.

Course Benefits

This course is intended as an advanced seminar that enables student participants to pursue their own interests in web technology and applications. There will be only a handful of “overview” lectures, and most of the course’s technical content will be produced and presented by students enrolled in the class.

Applicable Degree Programs

  • Although this is a graduate-level Computer Science course, advanced undergraduates and non-majors are very welcome.
  • One of the electives for the MS Software Systems track. Also an acceptable elective for the BS and BA Systems tracks with advisor’s permission.
  • Non-SEAS majors may optionally take the “non-technical” option. See the brief blurb above and then contact the instructor by email for further information.


Required Text(s): None.

Reference Text(s): Whatever students can find, typically via a Web search engine.

Exam(s): None.

Grading: Paper 40%, project 40%, presentation 10%, attendance/participation 10%.


Individually authored research paper. Most papers involve an in-depth survey and analysis of a technical topic or comparison of multiple technical approaches. All reference materials must be fully and accurately cited! Potential paper topics are suggested and students are encouraged to invent their own.


Individual or self-organized team programming project. Most projects involve developing a new system or technical evaluation of some existing system(s). Demos and documentation are required. Potential project topics are suggested and students are encouraged to invent their own. It is acceptable to do the project in the same general area as the paper topic, if desired, but not required.


Individual 5-10 minute presentation in class. The topic can be the same as either the paper or the project, or something entirely different. Students will be assigned to presentation slots in the schedule. Not showing up or not being “ready” to present on the scheduled date will result in a fail on the presentation portion of the grade.

Important note: Papers, projects and presentations must be developed specifically for this course, and must not be previously or concurrently submitted for credit in another course here or elsewhere nor for an independent study project. Students may not submit materials covered by the intellectual property claims of their employer without the employer’s express written permission (contact the instructor if this may pertain to you).

Assignment Submission: The paper, project source code and documentation, and presentation slides must be uploaded to CourseWorks.

Important note: All documents and code must be submitted in Adobe pdf, MS word (or equivalent), HTML or plain ascii text format; figures must be viewable embedded in the document or via a conventional Web browser without any special downloads or plugins. It is your responsibility to ensure all submissions are “safe” prior to submission; any submissions that make the instructor’s or a TA’s malware checker unhappy will not be read or graded.

Academic Honesty Policy

See the department’s academic honesty policy.

For the purposes of this course, students are permitted, indeed encouraged, to “reuse” existing open source or public domain code as well as any publicly available APIs, utilities, tools, frameworks, etc., but all such “reuse” must be clearly documented in the submitted assignments (e.g., by providing the download url). Students are not permitted to “reuse” any code or systems that are not available to the general public (e.g., proprietary to the student’s employer) or that would violate the licensing terms of the software.

Documentation (other than in-code comments accompanying the above), i.e., the various written prose assignments, may not be “reused” under any circumstances. All reference materials, whether electronic or physical, must be listed in the submission. Students must write in their own words, without any copying or paraphrasing from reference materials, with the sole exception of very short quotations (e.g., one or two sentences, a definition, a table or an image) that are clearly indicated as quotations (e.g., placed in quote marks) and explicitly cited (e.g., [David Pogue, Behind the Scenes of “iPhone: The Musical”, Pogue’s Posts: The Latest in Technology From David Pogue, The New York Times, online edition, July 12, 2007, <http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/>.]).

Original sources are required, e.g., do not cite Wikipedia.