Google, Facebook, Yelp, More: Tuesday Afternoon Buzz, May 12th, 2015


Make Google Maps Legotastic with Brick Street View. “There are two ways to explore it. You can move around a bird’s-eye-view map to see blocks of bumpy baseplates, shiny trees, and national landmarks like the Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower. Or you can drag and drop your denim-clad guide to obtain street-level views, which introduce various Lego artifacts like police cars, dead-eyed figurines, and fried egg-looking flowers.”


Oh, I love the idea behind Peruse: a natural language search for your cloud documents. “Peruse’s natural language file search works for business documents of any file type, albeit the NLP tech only currently works for the English language. The service is also initially limited to documents stored in either Box or Dropbox cloud storage repositories — but it intends to expand to integrate with more such services.”

Maybe not so useful: Play with old versions of Windows in your browser. I’m afraid I’ll have flashbacks of trying to get Trumpet Winsock to work.


Google Drive’s OCR capabilities have been expanded. “Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology aims to turn pictures of text into computer text that can be indexed, searched, and edited. For some time, Google Drive has provided OCR capabilities. Recently, we expanded this state-of-the-art technology to support all of the world’s major languages – that’s over 200 languages in more than 25 writing systems.”

More new stuff from FamilySearch. “Notable collection updates include 2,983,594 indexed records from the Croatia, Church Books, 1516–1994 collection; 57,446 indexed records and 1,785,969 images from the Jamaica, Civil Registration, 1880–1999 collection; and 1,087,758 indexed records from the Costa Rica Civil Registration, 1860–1975 collection.”

Google has launched a Chrome extension to gather feedback about its browser. “The new Chrome User Experience Surveys extension will occasionally pop up brief surveys about the user’s experience when something unusual happens in the browser. That could be a notification or a malware warning, for example, and Google says it will take the user feedback to improve Chrome.”


Pllbbt. Google is going to stop showing emojis in its search results.

Facebook beating you over the head with birthday notifications? That was a bug.

This is what happens when you ‘bot everything: Google Answers linking to a dead RadioShack page.

Is Yelp seeking a buyer? “While Internet users have increasingly searched for restaurants and points of interest in their cities and neighborhoods, Yelp and others have had difficulty turning the small businesses that populate the local economy into paying advertisers, said Sameet Sinha, an analyst at investment bank B. Riley & Co. in San Francisco.” I find this funny because the company for which I work has been advertising on Yelp for over a year. We want to advertise in a couple of other markets but we’re repeatedly told “There’s not enough inventory available.” I can’t even buy what they have; it’s a package or nothing. Good afternoon, Internet…

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Nebraska, PACER, Twitter, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, April 23rd, 2015


GeekWire has a story on a new service for journalists called Sqoop. Sounds tasty. “Bill Hankes and David Kellum are the co-founders of Sqoop, a new online tool that alerts journalists when public documents become available online, based on the companies and topics they choose to follow. After starting with patent filings and SEC documents, Sqoop is expanding its beta this week to include alerts on federal court records.” It’s in what looks like closed beta.

The state of Nebraska now has an online database of farmers markets. (This is a government press release and it’s in PDF, ugh, why do they do that?) “… the database is easily navigated and will allow consumers to quickly locate farmers’ markets in their area, as well as individual farmers. The database includes details such as vendor names, location, contact information, hours of operation and produce options. Consumers can also find vendors who participate in one of NDA’s fresh produce coupon programs for low income individuals.”


Twitter has new anti-abuse tools. One of the things has done is made clearer when it will act against users. Also, “In addition, Twitter will begin freezing some abusers’ accounts for set amounts of time, allowing those affected to see the remaining duration via its app. Abusers may also be required to verify their phone number and delete all their previous offending tweets in order to get their account unlocked.”

WordPress has released WordPress 4.1.2, which is a security release so please update. “WordPress versions 4.1.1 and earlier are affected by a critical cross-site scripting vulnerability, which could enable anonymous users to compromise a site.”

Google and Yahoo ad products are going to all-encryption.


May 1 has been named the national day of PACER protest. “The PACER protest arises out of increasing frustration with the availability of information from the federal courts. Both the U.S. Constitution and federal law require that courts operate publicly, making trials and records of court cases open to the public. While limitations occasionally may be imposed to close court sessions and seal records related to particularly sensitive matters—such as those involving children, abuse victims, domestic situations, and mental health issues—most of the documents filed in court proceedings, as well as other court information, have been considered public records.”

I always wondered how government accounts got verified on Facebook and Twitter. has a walkthrough.

the National Library of Ireland has begun archiving Web sites related to the upcoming marriage equality referendum. “And now, the process of identifying and selecting websites to be included in the NLI’s Marriage Equality Referendum 2015 collection has gotten underway with the help of a team of researchers. According to the NLI, the collection will include sites documenting both sides of the debate; official sites like that of the Referendum Commission, commentary sites and political party websites.”

Wanna read an extensive, detailed, and depressing story about social media fraud? Here ya go.


Research: Snapchat elicits more jealousy than Facebook. “This article offers a preliminary comparison of Snapchat and Facebook use and psychological effects on romantic jealousy. General motives for using Snapchat and Facebook are examined, as well as the nature of the content that Snapchat users most frequently share. Further, because of the differences in privacy and persistence of information, potential psychological effects in the domain of romantic jealousy are also examined, which has been widely studied on Facebook in the last few years.”

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Please Don’t Like Us On Facebook (Because There’s No Damned Point)

I’m sure you have heard by now that once again Facebook is tweaking its timeline algorithm. Generally speaking, Facebook friends will get more exposure, Facebook Pages will get less. And it’s to the point that I feel I need to ask you to not “like” ResearchBuzz News on Facebook.

I started writing about search engines in 1996 and I started ResearchBuzz in 1998. When I first started I was creating the site with Microsoft FrontPage (remember that?) then I moved to Movable Type, then self-hosted WordPress and finally, about five years ago, In an effort to get the content to people who might want it on the platform they prefer, I have RSS, an e-mail newsletter, and I distribute content on Twitter, G+, and Facebook.

ResearchBuzz does not make money. In fact I pay not to put ads on the site. I could put up my own ads but I haven’t for many years, for two reasons: first, because I don’t think that the money I would make would be worth the possible annoyance and danger to you (yes, danger: advertising networks are increasingly being used for malware) and because I really loathe a lot of the advertising out there, especially those ads concerning the “amazing technique that makes an 85-year-old woman look like a fetus” or some such (as if there’s anything to be ashamed of in being or looking 85. But that’s another rant.) I hope I never get in the position where I feel like I have to do ads on RB.

So it’s a money-losing labor of love. I don’t care. I love the topic, I love you, and there’s too many wonderful archives and tools and databases being created out there that don’t get enough attention, and I want you to know about them, dammit.

But Facebook does not to my knowledge distinguish between the fan page of ResearchBuzz News, which is free and publishes all its content under the license CC-BY-NC, and the fan page of McDonald’s, which is a giant corporation. They’re both Pages, so they’re both subject to Facebook’s organic reach throttling.

Facebook’s “organic reach” is how many people a Page post reaches when the Page doesn’t pay to promote that particular post. It isn’t 100%, but you might be surprised how low it is. For example, ResearchBuzz News at this moment has 3,566 “likes”. However, the average organic page reach of the last ten posts is, at this writing, 51 Facebook fans. In other words the last ten posts to the page reached an average of 1.43% of the people who “liked” the page.


When I initially encouraged people to “like” ResearchBuzz News, it was with the idea that if you did you would actually receive updates from the fan page in your timeline. That’s looking less and less likely, and I can’t afford to “boost” posts. Nor do I have time to slavishly follow every Facebook suggestion for the “right” content to increase page reach, and change my direction every time it changes its mind. No.

Facebook of course is an independent company and can do what it likes subject to the bounds of Federal law and any dictates issued by Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie. But from my perspective, they are a complete washout for distributing information to ResearchBuzz readers, so I’m asking you respectfully to not “like” ResearchBuzz News on Facebook, or at least if you do “like” it, understand that you have roughly the same chance of actually seeing a ResearchBuzz News item in your timeline as you do in sustaining a direct hit from an asteroid. (I may be exaggerating. Slightly.) I will keep sending items to the page, but on the assumption that very, very few people are seeing them.

Here are the many other ways you can get ResearchBuzz:

1) At .

2) Via the full-text RSS feed.

3) By e-mail. There’s a signup form on the right side of the page at . It’s free.

4) Via Twitter. I’m at

5) A few items go on Google+.

I have thought occasionally about doing a weekly podcast covering the best of the new resources so I’d have something audio based and you could make fun of my accent. And if there’s any other way I can distribute these bits so you can do some good with them, I always welcome suggestions.

Here’s my dream job: going through my daily information traps and being able to connect every link I find with someone who needs it. Of course, I will never have my dream job. But the more useful I can be in getting resources and news to people who can use it, the happier I will be. Unfortunately Facebook is not a viable outlet for that. Not anymore.

Bricks, Bugs, Britain, More: Friday Morning Buzz, March 20th, 2015


This is a new one on me. The Cleveland Indians have launched a commemorative brick database. “Fans can visit their website and search for their brick by entering the name or inscription that appears on the stone. The site will then list your brick and show a series of three numbers that represent a quadrant, row and column.”

Now available: an online library of federal IT policies. “The database includes 83 specific documents, with bulleted agency requirements enumerated for each. The documents range from OMB and presidential policy memos to laws like Clinger-Cohen and the DATA Act.”


Facebook has launched friend-to-friend payments via messages.

Wow! The 40 millionth WorldCat Digital Collection Gateway record has been added to WorldCat.

WordPress 4.2 beta 2 is now available.

The state of New York is adding an API to “ is an effort by the Attorney General’s office to promote the public’s right to know and monitor governmental decision-making; it is the only statewide resource that aggregates a range of sources for state government information – including data on campaign finance, lobbying, charities, state contracts, member items, corporate registrations, elected officials, and legislation – which is otherwise scattered or difficult to retrieve. The NY Open Government API will allow developers easier access to this data, which they can use in the creation of applications.”


Fair warning: if you decide you want to test Facebook’s new suicide prevention/intervention tool, it may not go that well.

Whoopsie. A security bug may mean Facebook is leaking private photos. (Was, rather, looks like Facebook has addressed the problem.) “Vaultimages resides within the Facebook Graph API and handles synchronisation of photos from devices to the social media site Muthiyah found the Facebook app makes GET requests to /vaultimages using a top level access token to read photos which is verified using an access token. Facebook however did not check what application issued the request.”

Premera Blue Cross has been hacked. 11 million customers have been impacted, and the information exposed includes medical records. “On Tuesday, Premera Blue Cross confirmed that it had been the victim of a cyberattack which may have exposed the private information belonging to its 11 million customers, including their bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates, emails, addresses, phone numbers, and even their claims and clinical information.”

Eek. Do you use the Google Analytics plugin for WordPress by Yoast? It’s got a security problem. “Revealed on Thursday by Finnish security researcher Jouko Pynnonen on Full Disclosure, the plugin’s security issue allows an unauthenticated attacker to store arbitrary HTML, including JavaScript, in the WordPress administrator’s Dashboard on the target system — and which is triggered when an admin views the plugin’s settings panel.”

The British government’s “Google Tax” is going into effect next month. “The tax was flagged during the Autumn Statement in December 2014, and levies a 25% charge on companies who divert their profits overseas through complex business structures to avoid paying UK tax.” It’ll be really interesting to see how tech companies react to this…


Interesting article in Fast Company about Twitter’s influence… on other social media networks. “BuzzFeed found that Twitter has a big cascade effect on other social media platforms. Put simply, it appears that huge stories often start as tweets, then get shared by influencers to Facebook and other networks, where the original piece of content subsequently gets far more distribution.”

Xinye Lin, Mingyuan Xia, and Xue Liu wrote an interesting paper I just stumbled across: Does “Like” Really Mean Like? A Study of the Facebook Fake Like Phenomenon and an Efficient Countermeasure. From the abstract: “Social networks help to bond people who share similar interests all over the world. As a complement, the Facebook “Like” button is an efficient tool that bonds people with the online information. People click on the ‘Like’ button to express their fondness of a particular piece of information and in turn tend to visit webpages with high ‘Like’ count. The important fact of the Like count is that it reflects the number of actual users who ‘liked’ this information. However, according to our study, one can easily exploit the defects of the ‘Like’ button to counterfeit a high ‘Like’ count. We provide a proof-of-concept implementation of these exploits, and manage to generate 100 fake Likes in 5 minutes with a single account.” 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!

West Virginia, NYPL, NYU, More: Thursday Buzz, December 25th, 2014

The Interview is now available on Google Play and YouTube movies. Wasn’t planning to see it before the controversy, still not interested. Sorry Sony.

More silliness: comparing all the different Santa Trackers.

The NYU Game Center is offering a free online archive of all its recorded Game Center lectures. “Speakers span the gamut (from Tim Schafer to Heather Kelley and Jonathan Blow) and all of the archived talks are of potential interest to game developers.”

Lifehacker rounds up its most popular Chrome posts of 2014.

The Calvert Journal is reporting that Russia plans to launch a digital library in 2015. I can’t find the quote used in the story anywhere else, but it might be because it’s not anywhere else in English. The Calvert Journal looks legit and is indexed by Google News; I just want to make it clear that I can’t corroborate this one.

Do you want to make your own “Year in Review” on Facebook? Here’s how. Mine was lame.

The state of West Virginia has launched a new education database. “The website collects education data and provides a thorough look at where the state and each county and school stands in terms of enrollment, assessment results and graduation and attendance rates. Each subject also can be analyzed by different subgroups such as race, socioeconomic status and free or reduced price meal participation.”

I love the Internet: an online archive of corridors from science fiction movies; now turned into a game.

A startup is focusing on using Google Glass to help kids with autism. “[Ned] Sahin believes Google Glass is ideal for helping kids with autism because it has an accelerometer chip that enables head gestures, which Brain Power uses to track when kids look or don’t look at their parents, as well as stereotypy, or the repetitive movements that many people with autism make.”

Facebook is going to get playlists like YouTube?

From Gothamist: questions patrons asked the NYPL before there was Google. “Can you tell me the thickness of a US Postage stamp with the glue on it? Answer: We cannot get this answer quickly. Perhaps try the Postal Service. Response: This is the Postal Service.”

If you don’t want Facebook to auto-enhance your photos, you can turn that off. 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!