Bots, Vermont Elections, Google Calendar, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, April 13, 2016


Here a bot, there a bot, everywhere a bot bot. Old BotDonald had a bot, e i e i BOT. Anyway, a new online database attempts to catalog the bots popping up all over the place. “Botlist, as it’s called, is a third-party database that’s a catalog a lot of the bots currently available across platforms, including email, web, SMS, Slack, mobile, apps, and more.”

The state of Vermont has launched a new database of elections results. “The data includes over 5,000 elections, nearly 3,000 candidates, and dates back to 1974. It includes primary elections, presidential primaries, and general elections.”


Google has released a new “goals” tool for Google Calendar. “…starting today, we’re introducing Goals in Google Calendar. Just add a personal goal—like “run 3 times a week”—and Calendar will help you find the time and stick to it.” On the one hand, Google helps you find free time! On the other hand, your calendar gets even more terrifying!

Microsoft wants to make OS troubleshooting easier — with QR codes? “Microsoft is trying to make Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) errors more helpful through the inclusion of QR codes. As spotted by, the latest Insider Preview build of Windows 10 includes QR codes directly on the BSoD screen, which makes it easier for users to get help regarding the crash they’ve just encountered.” I like QR codes, but I know a lot of people mock them.

Facebook has launched Bot Engine. “Messenger is all about bots now. As expected, Facebook unveiled the Send and Receive API at its F8 conference. It lets you create bots for Messenger to search for things and interact with businesses. But what if you want to use machine learning and create more complex scenarios? Meet the Bot Engine, Facebook’s more powerful bot framework.”

More Facebook: it’s offering a new tool to combat freebooting. “Today Facebook officially launched Rights Manager, its version of YouTube’s Content ID. It’s an admin tool for Pages that lets them upload video clips they don’t want others using. Facebook then monitors for copies of these videos to be posted to Facebook, and can then either automatically report them as violations to be deleted or notify the original publisher.” So you have to have a Facebook page, you have to go through all the rigmarole involved in uploading clips, you have to trust that your videos are not being sufficiently altered by the freebooters to pass through — ugh.


Here’s a protip: if you’re going to be in a riot, don’t tag yourself in riot pictures on Facebook. “A Belfast man arrested for rioting after tagging himself on social media has been given a two-year sentence. Robert Darragh, 21, from Hopewell Crescent in the Shankill area was identified by police after he twice tagged himself as being present during a riot.”

Uber has released its first transparency report and good gravy Marie. “The ride-sharing company said that between July and December 2015, it had provided information on more than 12 million riders and drivers to various U.S. regulators and on 469 users to state and federal law agencies.”


The Let’s Encrypt Web certificate program has left beta. “The certificate authority (CA) announced on Tuesday that the Let’s Encrypt program has left the beta stage of testing after four months, having issued over 1.5 million HTTPS certificates to approximately three million websites worldwide.”


A recently-published paper discusses the process for an open, collaborative database for information on clinical trials. “OpenTrials is a collaborative and open database for all available structured data and documents on all clinical trials, threaded together by individual trial. With a versatile and expandable data schema, it is initially designed to host and match the following documents and data for each trial: registry entries; links, abstracts, or texts of academic journal papers; portions of regulatory documents describing individual trials; structured data on methods and results extracted by systematic reviewers or other researchers; clinical study reports; and additional documents such as blank consent forms, blank case report forms, and protocols. The intention is to create an open, freely re-usable index of all such information and to increase discoverability, facilitate research, identify inconsistent data, enable audits on the availability and completeness of this information, support advocacy for better data and drive up standards around open data in evidence-based medicine.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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