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…

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Categories: morningbuzz

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