Singapore, Common Core, Google Soars, More: Thursday Morning Buzz, February 26th, 2015

I am trying an experiment with how I divide out the blog posts. Also later today – if the power holds out – I’ll have an post asking you for your opinion on a few more logos. I hope the new layout is useful.


The state of Tennessee has created a new site that maps the history of African-American soldiers during the Civil War. “This fully functional (and free) geographic information system application shows 150 wartime sites—refugee camps, early freedmen schools and churches, and recruitment sites for the more than 20,000 black Union soldiers who enlisted from Tennessee. In addition to narrative information, the sites are linked to scans of original primary sources that document historic events. These sources include maps, newspapers, and manuscript items from the collections of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum.”

Singapore has a new online database of flora and fauna. “Called Animals and Plants of Singapore, it is managed by Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and went live on the museum’s website this month. Users can click on an animal and find links to information on the plants or animals it feeds on – though work on the site is ongoing and not all species have links in place yet. The database provides a name and a photograph of each species.” There is an English version available.

A study of the #commoncore hashtag on Twitter turned into a Web site that allows users to explore the research: “The #commoncore project lets viewers see how actors form informal networks on Twitter, and how those networks create and amplify narratives. By dissecting these networks, the researchers tell the story of how ordinary citizens and social media advocacy groups can amass greater influence than so-called authority figures who would have dominated this conversation even a decade ago. When they analyzed the language in the tweets, the researchers found that in many ways the Common Core debate has become a proxy war for broader disagreements about education policy and the very direction of the country. Some of the key people in this fight, they learn, don’t necessarily make the most provocative statements, but retweet information—some of it factual, some not—to a large and diverse collection of followers.”

More Google: it has launched Google Flights. “Regardless of which day you sit down to plan your trip, you can use the calendar in Google Flights to scroll through months and see the lowest fare highlighted for each day. If you’re planning even further out, use the lowest fares graph beneath the calendar to see how prices may fluctuate based on the season, holidays or other events. You can also set preferences (such as direct flights only) and our calendar will adjust to show you just those flights and fares that fit the bill. Finally, if you can save more by using a nearby airport or flying on a different day, we’ll show you a tip at the top of your results.”

In development: an online archive of black activist radio stations from the 60s and 70s. “[Seth] Kotch has collected over 150 audio reels from radio stations across the United States. He received a $28,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund the process of digitizing the reels to create an online archive.”


GMail now supports Myanmar (Burmese).

Firefox 36 has been released. I’m linking to the release notes.

Look like businesses listed on Google are going to get a chat box.

Twitter has released its first WordPress plugin.


Google Webmaster Tool is apparently sending warnings about outdated WordPress plugins. Good, the more of that the better.


Dan Gillmor — whom I’ve been reading for ages and greatly resepect — explains why he’s moving away from Google, Apple, and Microsoft. I’m not asking you to agree with everything he’s written here, but I think it’s important both to think about and talk about. “Control is moving back to the center, where powerful companies and governments are creating choke points. They are using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often, we give them our permission—trading liberty for convenience—but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission.”

Interesting: Google has built an AI that can learn and master video games. “While this is an amazing announcement for so many reasons, the most impressive part might be that the AI not only matched wits with human players in most cases, but actually went above and beyond the best scores of expert meat-based players in 29 of the 49 games it learned, and bested existing computer based players in a whopping 43.”

Wow: Google now displays “rich answers” for almost 20% of queries. “Rich answers” are the bits of information that Google provides at the top of search results which provide information without having to leave the Google search engine. Good morning, Internet…

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!

Twitter, Web Archiving, NYC Art, More: Tuesday Afternoon Buzz, February 24th, 2015

Google is taking additional steps to protect users from malicious extensions. ” In the case that malicious software has managed to hijack your settings, we’ve added a “reset browser settings” button, so you can get things back to normal. But since the bad guys continue to come up with new ways to cause our users headaches, we are always taking additional measures. We previously announced that we’re making it more difficult for malware to secretly install unwanted Chrome extensions. Starting today, we’ll start enforcing this policy…. From now on, to protect Windows users from this kind of attack, extensions can be installed only if they’re hosted on the Chrome Web Store. With this change, extensions that were previously installed may be automatically disabled and cannot be re-enabled or re-installed until they’re hosted in the Chrome Web Store.”

Twitter has come out in favor of the FCC’s Net Neutrality plan. “Twitter‘s endorsement of the plan, which would prevent ISPs from speeding up some websites at the expense of others, is significant given the company’s role as a major media company, and its historical advocacy of free speech. In its blog post, Twitter pointed out a familiar refrain of net neutrality advocates: that emerging companies depend on access to the internet platforms that will carry their products and ideas.”

There now exists what I would describe as a federal Web archiving task group. “A function of government is to provide information to its citizens through publishing and to preserve some selected portion of these publications. Clearly some (if not most) .gov web sites are “government publications” and the U.S. federal government puts out information on .mil, .com, and other domains as well. What government agencies are archiving federal government sites for future research on a regular basis? And why? To what extent? In part inspired by discussions at last year’s Leviathan conference, and in part fulfilling earlier conversations, managers and staff of three federal agencies that each do selective harvesting of federal web sites decided to start meeting and talking on a regular basis – the Government Publishing Office, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. Managers and staff involved in web archiving from these three agencies have now met five times and have plans to continue meeting on a monthly basis during the remainder of 2015.”

Apparently social media around the Oscars was better for Facebook than Twitter. “Nielsen figures showed there were a total of 5.9 million Oscar-related tweets. That’s down about 65% from last year’s 17.1 million, though the latter figure was global while the 5.9 million referred to the U.S. In 2013, there were 8.9 million tweets about the show. That figure is also global…. Facebook, meanwhile, reported that 21 million people had 58 million interactions related to the Oscars Sunday night. That’s way up from 11.1 million users having 25.4 million interactions last year.”

An archive of contemporary art in New York City is underway: “The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation has awarded $75,000 to Artstor in support of the James Dee Archives project. The Archives are composed of approximately 250,000 slides, transparencies, negatives, and photographs documenting contemporary art in New York City over the last four decades, and Artstor is digitizing and maintaining the archive for use in research and education. The gift will support the processing of the collection, developing crowdsourcing software for collaborative cataloging, and the outreach to galleries and individuals who would be helpful in interpreting the images.”

This should be interesting: Apple will release its first iOS public beta. Considering some of the bugs that have come up after iOS releases, this is a good idea. “It’s unclear if iOS 8’s public betas will receive the same updates as the ones for developers, but 9to5Mac does report that iOS 9 will be available for public preview after it’s unveiled at WWDC in June. Public betas for iOS will reportedly be limited to 100,000 users, who, like developers, will be able to report bugs to Apple via a dedicated app.”

Did you know that searching for health information online can lead to privacy issues? “Marketers care very much about what diseases and conditions people are searching for online. Tim Libert, a doctoral student at the Annenberg School For Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the paper says that over 90% of the 80,000 health-related pages he looked at on the Internet exposed user information to third parties. These pages included health information from commercial, nonprofit, educational, and government websites.”

It’s not you being fumble-fingered: Gmail is suggesting incorrect autocomplete e-mail addresses. Good morning, Internet…

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!

USDA, Arizona, LSU, More: Tuesday Morning Buzz, February 24th, 2015

Remember a couple of days ago I mentioned people who regularly delete their old tweets? There’s a Web app for that.

Lifehacker has a nice roundup of lesser-known services for legally-streaming movies and TV.

Speaking of video, YouTube has launched the YouTube Kids app. “For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on all kinds of topics. Now, parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids. You can browse channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Or search for videos of particular interest to your family, like how to build a model volcano, math tutorials, the amazing (and endless) world of trains—and everything in between.”

The National Genealogical Society has launched a new digital publication, NGS Monthly. “The National Genealogical Society (NGS) today launched NGS Monthly, a new digital publication that, each month, will feature a selection of original articles on genealogical methodology, research techniques, sources, and the latest news from NGS. Published mid-month starting after the February launch, NGS Monthly was created to replace the Society’s older newsletter, What’s Happening, with a new content and design strategy.”

The USDA has a new recipe database designed for school nutritionists and child care center professionals. “The What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl includes more than 1,000 mouth-watering recipes that are scaled for large quantity foodservice. Most recipes for school nutrition yield 50 or 100 portions per recipe, while most recipes for child care centers yield 25 or 50 portions per recipe. So that these popular dishes can be shared with parents and prepared at home, many of these recipes are available in the household search with fewer portions per recipe.”

Parents in the state of Arizona have a new Web site to give them a boost when kids need help with their math or English homework.

They’re so hot: 12 tools to create animated GIFs.

Wow, Bing did really good predicting the Oscars. “Bing successfully predicted best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and the results for supporting actor and actress out of the top awards for the 2015 Oscars. Overall, Microsoft successfully predicted 84 percent of the 24 results, with only four incorrect predictions.”

Does Facebook’s privacy policy violate European law? “Facebook’s privacy policy violates European law, according to a study commissioned by the Belgian privacy commission, and released today, The Guardian reports. Conducted by the Centre of Interdisciplinary Law and ICT at the University of Leuven, the report says the social network’s updated policies, which came into effect last month, only expanded previous policy and practices, and violate European consumer protection law.”

Lenovo has gotten its first Superfish lawsuit. I suspect this is the very start of the lawsuitalanche.

Speaking of Superfish, it’s worse than we thought. “Facebook security researcher Matt Richard says The Social NetworkTM has found at least ten more outfits using the library that gave the Superfish bloat/ad/malware its nasty certificate-evading powers.”

Louisiana State University wants to digitize the archive of its newspaper, The Reveille, but it needs donors to fund the project..

Wait a minute: Google Glass 2 prototypes are already out there? “According to 9to5Google’s sources, several of Google’s Glass at Work partners have received ‘very early versions’ of the next iteration of Google Glass. Sources also say that the group of engineers working on Glass has been significantly reorganized after the closure of the Explorer program, to the point where the current group is being called the ‘new’ Glass team.” Good morning, Internet…

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Netherlands, Fonts, Smart Phones, More: Brief Monday Buzz, February 23rd, 2015

Did you miss the Academy Awards? Here’s a quick-n-easy list of winners.

Lenovo has created an automated Superfish removal tool for the horrible adware it installed on some of its laptops.

Fast Company has a writeup on a Web app for designing your own fonts. “Created by Swiss designers Marco Müller and Alexis Reigel, Metaflop isn’t just an easy online tool for creating simple typefaces, it’s also a great tutorial on a lot of the terminology of type design. If you’ve ever read about typeface terms like ascenders, cap heights, overshoot, descenders, and contrasts, there’s no better way to figure out what these terms mean than by using a slider to change their variables and see how it changes a typeface in real time.”

You can now search the full text of PDFs in the Wellcome Library catalog. “You don’t have to do anything special: search as normal and you’ll get more relevant results. But, you can use ‘Search Found In: Full-Text’ from the options in the left hand menu. This narrows your results to searching within the full-text of an item.”

Mashable has a roundup of sites to turn your quotes into interesting visuals. Nice set of resources here but didn’t mention one of my favorites: PixTeller.

Turns out malware might be able to track your phone’s movement by watching power consumption. “The technique is straightforward in theory. The idea is that a smartphone’s power usage depends largely on the distance from the nearest base station. As a user moves, this distance changes, increasing or decreasing the power needed to communicate with a base station. So the power usage profile is strongly correlated with the movement of the phone, or in other words, with the route taken by its owner. Given several different potential routes, the power usage profile should reveal which the user has taken.” On the other hand, there has to be independent knowledge of routes that the user might take or might have taken.

TechCrunch takes a look at Twitter’s future. “The company’s recent earnings beat estimates, proving that the revenue department under Adam Bain continues to provide lift to Twitter’s business. Stock is up several percent. Active user growth, though not exactly world-on-fire material, is measurable at 20% in the past year. The market seems to be responding to the rhyme that Costolo and company are spitting. But what about the product?”

The Netherlands Institute of Military History has joined the Flickr Commons. “The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.” Good morning, Internet…

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!