Houses, Emoji, Library Pictures, More: Wednesday Buzz, October 28th, 2015


Interesting: there’s a Web site that lets you check to see if anybody’s died at your address. I was going to test it but unfortunately one lookup is $11.99, so nope. “ works by searching data from death certificates, news reports, and 130 million police records to determine first whether someone died in your house, and then more specifically whether there have been any underground meth labs on the property, arson, or murders.”

Proof of concept: search for videos with emojis. “Called Emoji2Video, the search engine was made by researchers at the University of Amsterdam and Qualcomm Research as a way to show how emojis can be used to give a dense, easy-to-understand representation of what’s happening in images and videos—something that you can comprehend no matter what language you speak, or whether or not you can read.”

This is nice and meta: The Library of Congress has acquired a collection of pictures of public libraries and will digitize it and put it online. “From 1994 to 2015, Dawson photographed 526 of the 16,536 public libraries in 48 states and the District of Columbia, often traveling more than 11,000 miles at a time on summer “road trips” with his son Walker Dawson. The images provide documentation of the wide range of architecture of public libraries in America, from those on small-town streets, in shopping malls, on Indian reservations, in national parks and in large cities. The photographs show the role of public libraries, not only as a source for information and knowledge but also as a public commons.”

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting has officially launched an online “reading room”. “Initially launched in April 2015 with 2.5 million inventory records, the AAPB website has added nearly 7,000 audiovisual streaming files of historical content from public media stations across the country. The Library of Congress, WGBH Boston and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have embarked on an unprecedented initiative to preserve historical public television and radio programs of the past 70 years. This extraordinary material includes national and local news and public affairs programs, local history productions that document the heritage of our varied regions and communities, and programs dealing with education, environmental issues, music, art, literature, dance, poetry, religion and even filmmaking on a local level. The project ensures that this valuable source of American social, cultural and political history and creativity will be saved and made accessible for current and future generations.”

First there was Google Flu, now there’s Clorox Flu. Or something. “The Clorox Cold & Flu Pulse analyzes millions of conversations in real time and reports how cold and flu is trending online, including what topics are being discussed, top cities where it’s trending, and tips related to the current virality of the cold and flu. Clorox is using the Bottlenose Stream Intelligence™ system to find the words, hashtags and topics about cold and flu that define a trend and measure conversation volume.”


Google is using AI for its Web search. “For the past few months, a ‘very large fraction’ of the millions of queries a second that people type into the company’s search engine have been interpreted by an artificial intelligence system, nicknamed RankBrain, said Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist with the company, outlining for the first time the emerging role of AI in search.” What is it with Google and names? “RankBrain” sounds like a brain that smells really bad. “RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”

Historypin has gotten an update. “Our non-profit team at Historypin has been supporting community history efforts around the world for over 5 years. In that time, over 2,500 cultural heritage organizations and 65,000 individuals have joined our community to share stories, memories, snapshots, audio recordings, and in short: their history.”

Twitter has launched the Twitter Brand Hub. “Even though it’s a tool for Twitter advertisers, the Brand Hub seems less focused on specific ads or campaigns and more on the broader conversation around different brands and products — though of course that data could help businesses see where they need to boost their visibility with ads.”


Mari Smith has an excellent overview of “Facebook freebooting”. “Freebooting (also known as video piracy) is the act of downloading someone else’s copyrighted video (usually from YouTube) and uploading it to Facebook as your own. You need to protect your content and make sure you don’t unknowingly propagate the work of pirates.”


Interesting article: the state of Open Access in South Africa. “Academics at South Africa’s universities increased their research output by 250% between 2000 and 2013. Taxpayers funded a great deal of that research. For instance, R24 billion was spent on research and development in the 2012-13 financial year – more than half of it from the public purse. That’s a wealth of research and knowledge. The problem is that it may not be accessible to the broader public, even though it was they who footed the bill.”

Who’s that guy on Instagram? Why, it’s Prince!. “Prince has decided to join the social media site, aptly dubbing his account “Princestagram.” The iconic singer, who has a tenuous relationship with social media and the Internet in general, joined Instagram three days ago. Naturally, he’s already uploaded 88 photos.”


Google is working on a system to determine whether someone in a car is a passenger or a driver. “The system detects if you’re a driver by your location in the vehicle and motion detection. If your smartwatch detects that you’re turning a steering wheel or shifting gears, it can disable certain distracting notifications. Keeping your eyes on the road instead of your watch. Android Auto is another way that Google is attempting to make gadgets safer on the road. When your phone is connected to Android Auto you can’t pick it up and try to use it while driving.” Good morning, Internet…

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