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The Present
I am currently an associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, which is part of the School for Computer Science. Most of my time is split between doing lots of research, doing occasional work at my company Wombat Security Technologies, and taking care of my young daughter.

The Past
[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.

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.


[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.


After far too many years, I finished by 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.

Favorite Books

My main hobby 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 my current 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.

"Hong" in Other Languages
  • My 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?)
Quiz Bowl and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Quiz Bowl is a team game much like Jeopardy!, but is much more in-depth and covers a wider range of disciplines. I used to play at Georgia Tech, where I was part of the team that won a National Tournament in 1996. My old teammates are still keeping me in trouble, however. I also used to play Quiz Bowl at Berkeley. Too many of my neurons are devoted to bizarre facts about outdated scientific concepts (like phlogistons and phrenology), strange plants and animals (like rafflesia and three-toed sloths), and things that are just plain weird (like how capybaras, the world's largest rodents, are considered fish by the Roman Catholic church).

One of my friends on the quiz-bowl team was on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? I was one of his lifelines, and here's a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire video clip (680k windows media wmv) of when he called me. Regis Philbin is now my official arch-nemesis.

A prize we handed out at one tournament was a doll of David Levinson, Jeff Goldblum's character in the movie Independence Day, because one of our former teammates and now a professor of civil engineering at University of Minnesota is also named David Levinson. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have a picture of himself on his web page, so you can't see the striking "separated at birth" resemblance.

Humor