At TPRC 2021, Dave Clark and Sare Wedeman presented “Measurement, Meaning and Purpose: Exploring the NDT Dataset” which raises relevant and timely questions about M-Lab’s NDT dataset and its potential applications. Please join us Wednesday, December 15, 2021 from 11am-12:00 pm Eastern for a presentation from the authors and a discussion with the M-Lab community.
The speed of a data transfer over the Internet connection is a measure of great interest. It can directly influence quality of experience, it can serve as a measure of equitable access, and it can reveal whether or not the speed matches that which was advertised. One of earliest and longest-standing tools to contain a speed test is the Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT), currently supported by Measurement Lab (M-Lab). NDT, in its various forms, has been used across the globe since 2003. There are billions of measurements archived by M-Lab, with a rich collection of metadata for each measurement. This data allows an in-depth analysis of each measurement, and potentially supports analysis across aggregates of measurements.
The original purpose of NDT was diagnostic: why is my connection operating as it is? However, the archive of this data invites its use in aggregate form to draw conclusions about the overall behavior of the Internet. Such use, however, is confounded by the fact that the individual measurements are triggered by users for a range of reasons: simple curiosity, debugging, anger, bragging rights, or automated checking of operational status (in some cases as often as once a minute). NDT measures network speed, but it equally - if indirectly - measures human behavior.
The goals of this paper are to explore the archived NDT data in order to provide insights about how it can be interpreted; and to distinguish between appropriate uses of the data from uses that may lead to unwarranted conclusions.
Dave Clark, Senior Research Scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
David Clark is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Since the mid-70s, he has played a leading role in the development of the Internet; from 1981-1989 he acted as Chief Protocol Architect, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. His recent research has focused on the re-definition of the architectural underpinnings of the Internet and the relation of technology and architecture to economic, societal and policy considerations. Specific research areas include Internet security and Internet measurement.
Sara Wedeman, Senior Research Consultant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sara Wedeman is a Senior Collaborating Researcher at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. With a background in psychology, measurement, and technology, she held senior management positions in Banking and Consulting, before founding, in 2003, one of the first firms to focus explicitly on the practical application of Behavioral Economics. Sara has been working with computers since 1984 and is expert at conducting action research in technology and the behavioral/social sciences, using advanced data analytics to uncover actionable results. She has over 25 years’ experience in Consulting, having brought empirically-based guidance to technology and financial services companies, academic institutions, and others - including the NTIA’s Broadband Measurement program.
The conversation will be moderated by Lai Yi Ohlsen, Director of Measurement Lab, a fiscally sponsored project of Code for Science & Society.
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