Pills, Ransomware, Names, More: Saturday Morning Buzz, April 18, 2015


Now available: an online database of World War II soldiers from Russia and the honors/recognitions they received. “During the nearly four years in which the Soviet Union participated in World War II, soldiers of the Red Army were awarded over 38 million various orders and medals. Unfortunately, in many cases the award never reached the person who earned the honor. Now the families of veterans – and in some cases the veterans themselves – can check online see if there are any awards that belong to them….There are more than 8,200 names listed in the database….”

The NYC Media Lab has announced a new tool for instant data visualizations: Lenses. “Unlike existing easy-to-use data visualization platforms, Lenses is open-source and extensible, meaning that additional features can be added by its users, and the potential of the tool grows as more people use it. Each data visualization created in Lenses preserves the steps taken to create it, enabling new users to learn how to make sophisticated graphs by seeing how more advanced users have produced visualizations. Lenses encourages transparency and visual literacy, helping people investigate civic data.” The tool is not scheduled to be available until 2016, but testers are being sought now.

I’m not sure I would describe this new resource for genetic data as a “WordPress for genetic data,” but it’s interesting. It seems more like a workbench: “Arvados is a content management system for large bulky genomic data sets. Just as blogging platforms like WordPress let journalists and writers upload their data — text, videos, images — and work with them, so Arvados lets researchers and clinicians import genetic data files. Within the system, they can run a variety of analyses or share the data itself.”

Reddit’s getting an e-mail newsletter. “The new email newsletter will go out to users every Sunday and will be curated by staffers to help surface stories that might otherwise get lost in one of the thousands of communities, which are called subreddits. The social news site announced the launch on Tuesday.”

Need a little help with your homework? This new smartphone app lets you just take a picture. “To use the app, students simply snap a picture of their homework or question with their iPhone’s camera and hit send, optionally typing in additional information that will help their tutor answer the question. They also assign the question to a topic, which aids in matching their request with the right tutor. In around 15 minutes, on average, a tutor will respond with the answer and explanation.” Note this is not a free service.


Kaspersky has released a decryption tool that unlocks some ransomware.

Useful if you have a name nobody can pronounce, like me: Facebook wants to help people pronounce your name correctly.

Interesting! A smartphone app that both identifies pills and tells you what they are.


Medium has launched blocking.

Bing has revamped its image search. “Now when you are searching images and have clicked a picture, you can scroll or swipe up to get useful and interesting information to help you learn more, redirect your search, or get help connecting the dots to get your task done — whether that’s buying something that caught your eye, learning more about a historical figure, or finding out where in nature you can see that stunning landscape.”


Twitter says it suspended 10,000 ISIS-linked accounts in one day.

Interesting: the FTC has created an office dedicated to algorithmic transparency.

Oh ugh, there are some serious concerns about the USPTO patent examiners. “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has almost no way to know if patent examiners are doing their jobs well, the agency’s watchdog concludes in a report that raises concerns about the quality of thousands of patents issued each year. The sharply critical report issued Monday by the inspector general for the Commerce Department, the patent office’s parent agency, found overall deficiencies with quality assurance that put at risk the federal government’s role in protecting new ideas through the issuance of patents and trademarks.”


Using Twitter to tackle cardiovascular disease.

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IBM, Duke U., RSS, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, April 16, 2015


IBM is putting its security threat database into the cloud. “The project, which started about a year ago, will see Big Blue’s 700 terabyte archive of security data go online in an archive dubbed the ‘IBM X-Force Exchange’. This includes malware threat intelligence from 270 million end users, threat information on 25 billion websites, and images and details of more than a million IP addresses linked to hacking. In addition, the firm is including a library of APIs and software tools to allow third parties to either use the data to harden up their own defenses, or add to it.”

Duke University Press is making an initial ste of 145 backlist titles available on HathiTrust. “These titles are available under a CC-BY-NC-ND license, and are available for reading and download worldwide. The list of newly opened titles is eclectic, covering subjects such as literature, history, critical theory, political science, sociology, and others. Noteworthy titles include Derek Bok’s 1990 volume Universities and the Future of America and a facsimile edition of early drafts of Lie Down in Darkness, by William Styron.”


Fold3 is giving free access to its Civil War collection through the end of the month .

More lovely from @Labnol: How to create RSS feeds for Twitter.


IFTTT is now offering Do for iPad and Apple Watch.

Google Maps Data Layers now have more functionality. “With the revised API, you can now use interactive Data Layers to collect user reviews on the best places to visit in an area, and display heatmaps showing the popularity of various locations.”

Google has launched handwriting input for its Android devices.


Wellcome is entering the final phase of its early European books digitization project. “We’re nearing the end of our early European printed books digitisation project with ProQuest. After four years of digitisation, nearly 3.8 million images have been captured from 8,850 volumes published outside the UK before 1701. In the final phase of the project, we’ll be digitising a substantial proportion of our incunabula, books printed before 1501. This will take place from April 2015 for nine months.”

An article in Wired looks at a couple more tools to find good stuff on Twitter.

Apparently Bing now has a search market share of 20%. Does it strike anyone else as a little odd that right when Google is trying to defend itself against antitrust complaints from the EU, Bing suddenly has a 20% search share? Good afternoon, Internet…

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Landsat, Colorado, WordPress, More: Fat Friday Morning Buzz, April 17, 2015

I devoted some time to ResearchBuzz last night because it’s either that or go round the twist. Prepare for a deluge.


Phil Bradley has a quick writeup about a search engine called Instya. It’s a metasearch engine.

Citizens of Colorado have a new tool to see how their tax dollars are spent. “The online tool, called the Taxpayer Receipt tool, generates a breakdown of where individuals’ tax dollars go based on their age, annual income and how much they drive. It’s part of an interactive website called Balancing Act, launched last week in Colorado to give citizens an interactive way to find out where their tax money goes.”

The University of Chicago Visual Resources Center has launched the Robert Sengstacke Photography Archive. “Having grown up in the newspaper business (he is the grand-nephew of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender), [Robert] Sengstacke was able to learn from established African American photographers at a young age and had unique access to important events and people. With the help of Art History Professor Rebecca Zorach, the VRC has scanned over 3,000 negatives featuring the artistic community and street life of Chicago’s South Side in the late 1960’s.”

BitTorrent has launched a beta of a distributed Web browser.

Now available: a database of catastrophic, fatal, and near-fatal athletic injuries (and not just at college level).


Ancestry.com is offering free access to its Immigration Collection through Sunday.

I try to keep ResearchBuzz apolitical, because in my case the leading “a” stands for “appalled.” That being the case I really liked this article from ZDNet on how to filter out political posts from your Facebook stream.


US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new tool to make it easier for green card applicants to find exam-performing doctors. “The improved Find a Doctor locator lets you enter your address or ZIP code to search for a doctor based on distance. You can also look up directions and find local transportation. And we have added a helpful checklist of what to bring with you to your doctor visit. … Only doctors authorized by USCIS, known as civil surgeons, may perform the exams that are usually required as part of the process for obtaining permanent resident status.”

A WordPress 4.2 release candidate is now available.

Do you like satellite imagery? Sure, we all do. Check out this tool to check out very recent Landsat images.


Erm, okay: Google has launched a new certification program for Cardboard. “The new Works with Google Cardboard program seeks to make Cardboard viewers more compatible with third-party Cardboard apps on the Google Play Store for more widespread sharing and enjoyment of VR, according to Google’s developer blog.”

YouTube did a retrospective on its ads. I still like the Old Spice one best.

A German privacy regulator has ordered Google to limit the use of customer data. “Google lost another battle on the European regulatory front today when a German privacy commissioner ordered the Silicon Valley search giant to implement strict new controls on how it uses customers’ data…. In the original decision last fall, the Hamburg commissioner said Google must seek the explicit permission of users before merging all of their data into a single profile.”

Google has removed the ability to filter by already-visited pages. Google’s advanced search is getting lamer and lamer.


Research appears to indicate that Google Docs use doesn’t impact students’ writing scores. “The researchers’ paper, ‘Middle School Students’ Writing and Feedback in a Cloud-Based Classroom Environment,’ is currently in press with the academic journal Technology, Knowledge, and Learning. Zheng and her co-authors will be presenting the work this week at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, being held in Chicago. (Follow Education Week’s reporting from the conference using the AERA2015 tag at the bottom of this story.)” Good morning, Internet…

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UFOs, Apple, Economists, More – Saturday Evening Buzz, April 11, 2015


Every UFO sighting since 1933 has been put on a map. “The intergalactic graphic was created by MBA candidate Christian Pearson using web-based software and data from the National UFO reporting center. It’s a part of QuantBait, a visualization initiative through which Pearson wants to tell stories about economic, political, and social issues.”

Facebook Messenger is now available as a desktop app.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin will have gotten a grant to make a digital archive of the records from the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane in Petersburg, Virginia. The project will start this month and end in 2018. “The asylum was established in 1868 and was the first of its kind in the United States. It has maintained over 800,000 public records that detail the origins of the hospital and the racially segregated services provided for almost 100 years.”


Finding the most influential people on Twitter — in this case economists.

Larry Ferlazzo has made all the student handouts in his new student motivation book available for free. But wait, there’s more! “And Routledge has been kind of enough to do the same for the zillion student hand-outs in my previous two student motivation books, too, though for those books they’re called ‘Supplemental Downloads.'” Thanks, Larry!


I missed a recent records add by FamilySearch. “Notable collection updates include 771,097 images from the New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843–1998 collection; 417,808 indexed records and 417,808 images from the US, BillionGraves Index collection; and 411,325 indexed records from the Mexico, San Luis Potosí, Civil Registration, 1859–2000 collection.”

Apple has iOS 8.3. “The update, which has been in beta for several months, brings over 300 new emojis (including diversity options) as well as a new keyboard for inputting the symbols. The new keyboard features a scrolling UI, rather than the old page metaphor, to better accommodate the wider range of emojis available in the update.”


ScrapeSentry has an article about a Google Chrome extension which had malware in it. The extension is called Webpage Screenshot, and guess who had it installed on her Chromebook. Dammit.

Continuing to show the deep love and respect for third party developers that is one of its hallmarks, Twitter has announced that it is cutting access to Twitter’s “firehose data”. “Instead, it will use its own in-house big data analytics team, which it developed around its acquisition of Gnip in 2014, to seek to build direct relationships with the data companies, brands and others that use Twitter data to measure consumer sentiment, market trends and other moving targets that can be better understood by tracking online conversations — a transition it says it hopes to have completed by mid-August.” This makes perfect sense because Twitter has an excellent track record for developing its own applications, which is why there are absolutely no third party Twitter apps. (I think I just broke the sarcasm meter.)


Research: Google Image search results can shift gender biases. “In a paper to be presented in April at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2015 conference in South Korea, researchers from the UW and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County found that manipulated image search results could determine, on average, 7 percent of a study participant’s subsequent opinion about how many men and women work in a particular field, compared with earlier estimates.”

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!