Home Publications CV Talks FAQ Bio
Getting Software / Tools / Surveys Our Group has Created
Q: Can I get the source code to CANTINA?
A: CANTINA is an algorithm our team created to detect phishing web pages (see the original WWW 2007 paper here). The code and the data are rather out of date at this point, it would be better for you to just re-implement things on your own. You can also get a set of phishing web pages by crawling data from PhishTank or from blacklists maintained by Google and Microsoft. You might be interested in our updated work, CANTINA+, which has a more extensive evaluation.

Q: Can I get the source code for how you got a history of Alexa commands?
A: Here is a link to our Chrome extension code for downloading Alexa history of commands. Note that Alexa may have changed their web site, so I don't know if it will still work. Please cite our paper "Hey Alexa, What's Up?" A Mixed-Methods Studies of In-Home Conversational Agent Usage.

Q: Can I get the a copy of your MobiPurpose data set?
A: Our MobiPurpose data set is here. It contains over 2 million unique intercepted traffic requests from 15k+ smartphone apps, gathered from our array of smartphones.

FAQ on Getting to my Office and Mailing Address
Q: How do I get to your office? And where should I park?
A: Here is a page with general info about parking for visiting the School of Computer Science.

I would recommend parking in the Robert Mehrabian Collaborative Innovation Center (RMCIC), since it's close to my office. The entrance is on South Neville St. Here's a link showing the RMCIC parking entrance on Google Maps Streetview, it's up the ramp on the far left.

Once you park, take the elevator up to the Lobby. Keep the parking ticket with you, the pay machine is near the elevators. As you exit the building, Newell Simon Hall will be to your front and to the right. Here's a picture of what Newell Simon looks like. My office is Newell Simon Hall 3523 and my office phone# is 412 268 1251.

Q: What's your mailing address?
A: Jason I. Hong
Human Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891

FAQ on Summer Internships
Q: Can I apply for a summer internship with your research group?
A: Many faculty members at Carnegie Mellon receive a large number email from undergraduates outside the United States requesting to come to Carnegie Mellon University and do a short-term summer internship.

While I don't want to discourage you from learning more about computer science and human-computer interaction, I can't really take undergraduates from outside the United States. Also, unless you are in a special summer research program (e.g. sponsored by NSF or CRA, or CMU's joint summer program with Tsinghua and Peking University), the odds are very low that I can take you on for the summer.

Note that the HCII has been hosting a summer Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) in recent years, so please apply to this instead of contacting me directly. Also, note that unless you are already physically in the USA, it will be extremely difficult to admit you to this summer research program.

tl;dr summary: Please don't send me emails about summer internships unless you are already at CMU or part of an existing sponsored program. You can also apply to our summer REU program.

FAQ for Prospective PhD and Master's Applicants
Many faculty members at Carnegie Mellon receive a large number email from prospective graduate students or postdocs. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we are unable to answer your inquiries individually. If you have sent me an email, you will be directed to this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

tl;dr summary: Please don't send me emails about getting admitted into our PhD or Master's program because it rarely helps, and because most of them are done poorly. If you do want to send inquiring emails, please read below on how to improve your chances.

Q: What are my chances of being admitted?
A: Admission at Carnegie Mellon is highly competitive. Historically, for the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (my department), admission has consistently been below 10%. We are eager to accept the best, most intellectually exciting students. If this is you, we highly encourage you to apply. Here is the HCII's web page about our PhD program.

Q: Will sending you email about my interests help my chances of being admitted?
A: Mostly no. I get a lot of form emails which have clearly been copy-and-pasted and sent to all the faculty in computer science. I'd say about 98% of emails from PhD applicants are like this. These go straight to trash. You can signal a stronger level of interest and commitment by spending time to read some of the research papers by the faculty you are contacting, and then asking smart questions based on that.

tl;dr summary: If you're going to send me email inquiring about CMU, at least read some of my papers first and demonstrate that you have the ability to ask smart and interesting questions. Otherwise, you're just wasting everyone's time.

Q: Will sending email to other professors help my chance of admissions?
A: No, see above. Most faculty receive a large amount of email regarding admissions. An email contact will not persuade a faculty member to pursue an application.

Q: What does Carnegie Mellon look for in deciding admissions?
A: We look at a range of factors, including grades, test scores, and letters of recommendations. One particularly important point is evidence of ability to do research. If you have done research, your chances of being admitted are far better. I highly recommend stressing this in your application.

Some things that indicate ability to do research include having research publications, having a solid Masters' thesis, or having done significant work on a research project as an undergraduate.

Another important point is evidence that you can write well. This demonstrates that you can think clearly and present potentially difficult ideas well.

See my web page on graduate school advice for more tips.

Q: What are common mistakes in PhD applications?
A: No, this isn't really a frequently asked question, but I felt it is worth putting here. Here are really common mistakes:
  • Don't really know what research is
  • Don't have past experience in research (not a complete showstopper, but seriously reduces your chances of being admitted)
  • Don't have a good idea of what kind of research you want to do
  • Can't articulate what you want to do in graduate school
  • Don't understand the difference between our Master's program (which is a terminal degree meant for professionals that want to end up in industry) and our PhD program (which is a research oriented program)

Q: Are there other common mistakes in PhD applications?
A: Before submitting, make sure you don't have the word subCMUted in your application. That won't help your case. (Yes, this really happened once)

Q: Can I be your PhD student?
A: At Carnegie Mellon, departments and schools accept students, not individual professors. Once the students are here, they are matched with advisors. Applications are handled by an admissions committee that evaluates all applications. Normally, I only recruit students once they have already been admitted by Carnegie Mellon.

Also, be sure to read this article in Communications of the ACM to get a better sense of what I think makes a good PhD student.

Q: Can I be your postdoc?
A: Maybe, it depends on funding, your ability, and alignment of research interests. If you have your own funding, odds are somewhat higher.

Q: To work with you, does my name have to start with 'J'?
A: Yes. You'll see that among the faculty, postdocs, and PhD students I work with, their names are John, Joy, Janne, Jun-Ki, Jason, and Justin.

(This is a joke if it's not obvious... I also work with folks whose names have a 'J' in the middle of their name too, like Eiji).

FAQ on Recommendation letters and references
Q: I'm applying for X, can I get a letter of recommendation?
A: I'm happy to provide recommendation letters and/or serve as a reference for students who have taken a class from me or worked with me on research projects. To write a thorough letter, I need the following:

  • A Resume or CV
  • GRE scores (raw and percentile) for graduate school admission letters (assuming you are applying to a grad school that requires them)
  • A copy of your statement of purpose (again, for grad school only)
  • Who to send the letter to
  • Any forms I need to fill out (or links to web pages)
  • When the letter needs to be submitted (at least a week, two or more weeks preferred)
  • If it has been one or two years since we last interacted, a summary of key or memorable interactions that we have had, e.g.:
    • "I was the student in office hours who had the idea about a cool interaction technique..."
    • "You looked at my final project and said that I was the only one who ..."
    • "I usually sat on the right side of class and asked lots of questions."
Also, try not to worry about letters being a little late. Deadlines and review committees are set up expecting that some will be a few days late.

Patents and Lawsuits
Q: Do you do any work as an expert for lawsuits and/or patent disputes?
A: No, not really interested, unless it's something that's clearly for the public good. But feel free to email me, I might be able to point you to experts in the field.

Q: Are you ethnically Chinese or Korean?
A: Chinese. Yes, Hong is not a very common last name in China, but is pretty common in Taiwan, where my family is from. I can speak Mandarin Chinese ok, though with an American accent.

Q: What's your Chinese name?
hong - vast, immense; flood, deluge
yi - suitable, right, fitting, proper
an - peaceful, tranquil, quiet

  • In Klingon (Do a text search on "hong". Pretty cool, eh?)

  • Q: Where did you grow up?
    A: [Governor's School for Science and Math] My family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, when I was two, and that's where I stayed for the next fifteen years. No, I don't have a Southern accent, but I do appreciate fried okra, fried chicken, fried onion rings (hmm, there seems to be a coronary-threatening theme here), grits, and sweet ice tea.

    I spent two rewarding years of high school at South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Math (no, that name never did fit in any of those forms). In July 2015, I wrote up a short essay in my high school's alumni magazine about my work on the Internet of Things, Privacy, and advice for students about their future. I'm also currently serving on the Board of Trustees for the GSSM Foundation, the non-profit arm of the school.

    While I enjoyed growing up in South Carolina, it's also worth pointing out my blog post on why I don't live in South Carolina.

    Q: Where did you do your undergrad?
    A: [Georgia Tech Logo] I did my undergraduate work Georgia Tech in Computer Science and in Discrete Mathematics. There, I learned to appreciate America's #1 toroidal breakfast food, also known as Krispy Kreme donuts.

    [Cyberguide] I also worked on the Cyberguide research project with Gregory Abowd, a context-aware mobile tourguide, which was also an early example of ubiquitous computing.

    Q: Where did you do your graduate studies?
    A: I completed my PhD at University of California at Berkeley in the EECS department. While there, I worked on the SATIN sketching interface toolkit, the DENIM rapid prototyping tool for web sites, the WebQuilt remote web logging and visualization tool, and context-aware computing for firefighting.

    I did my dissertation work on system architectures and user interfaces for privacy-sensitive ubiquitous computing.

    The Design of Sites: Patterns, Principles, and Processes for Crafting a Customer-Centered Web Experience I have also co-authored a book on web design patterns, entitled The Design of Sites: Patterns, Principles, and Processes for Crafting a Customer-centered Web Experience.

    Q: What are your favorite books?
    A: One of my hobbies is reading, and reading a lot. In grad school, I probably read about a book every week. Nowadays, it's about one book every plane flight (which, sadly, still means a lot of books each year).

    The most intriguing books I like right now are ones about innovation. How do we invent new things? What ideas get adopted (or don't), and why? How did the big ideas in computer science come to be? How do startups get started, and why do some succeed?

    Here's a list of recent favorites:

    The Dream Machine
    What a beautiful history of how we moved from teletypes to interactive and networked computing, in large part due to J.C.R. Licklider's vision.

    The Idea Factory
    A detailed history of Bell Labs. Skip the first third of the book, the book gets fun when it gets to the invention of the transistor. This book also offers amazing insight into the long view that AT&T was able to have in developing fundamental technologies, like the transatlantic phone cable, lasers, satellites, cellular phones, fiber-optics, and more.

    Fumbling the Future and Dealers of Lightning
    I read these two books around the same time, so I can't remember which is which. Both are a lot of fun, and offer good insights as to what research was done at PARC, how they came about their ideas, and why they failed to be adopted by Xerox.

    In the Plex
    A really fun history of how Google got started. What really amazed me about this book was the combination of vision, luck, and skill in making Google the juggernaut it is today.

    Blue Ocean Strategy
    This is a business book about creating Blue Oceans (vast new areas for business) rather than fighting in Red Oceans. I really like the notion of the Strategy Canvas, it's helped me in how I think about what research I do.

    Diffusion of Innovations
    Why do certain innovations get adopted (or not)? This book is perhaps the most cited piece of work in social sciences, and it's amazing how insightful it is.

    Where Good Ideas Come From
    A holistic view of how breakthrough ideas happen. Lots of fun and beautiful examples from history of science and engineering.

    How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler
    A really fun book about how to re-invent things if you ever time travel and are stranded in the past.

    Q: Did you used to play quiz bowl?
    A: Yes, I was part of the Georgia Tech and Berkeley teams. We won ACF Nationals in 1996 and got 2nd place in NAQT nationals in 1998. My favorite subject areas were mythology, ancient history, philosophy, US history, and science and math. I never did do well on sports or geography questions though (I get lost easily, which probably explains a lot).

    Odds and Ends
    Q: Do you have an ORCID?
    A: Here's a link to my id: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9856-9654.

    Q: How should I address you?
    A: Computer scientists are a pretty informal bunch. If you are a stickler for formalities, you can call me Professor Hong or Dr. Hong, though Jason is perfectly fine. You can also call me Jedi Master Hong if you want to be goofy.