California Utilities, Reddit Alternative, Facebook Live, More: Tuesday Buzz, May 24, 2016


A new online database provides an archive of e-mail communications between California governor Jerry Brown’s administration and utilities. “In total, the database contains more than 130,000 emails and other documents exchanged between state regulators and utility executives, largely related to the San Bruno explosion, the San Onofre closure and the approval last year of the Carlsbad Energy Center power plant. Much of the material previously was posted on the commission’s website in 2014 and 2015 or released to consumer groups under the public records law. But officials did not make the database searchable.”

An alternative to Reddit is on the way. “The concept of Imzy, which is currently in beta, is relatively straightforward: There are different community pages that are organized around individual topics or people, kind of like a fan page. Initial Imzy partners include Lena Dunham’s LennyLetter, ‘Community’ creator Dan Harmon and Harmon’s podcasting network Feral Audio. You have to be a member in order to post in Imzy’s sections, and there’s a developer platform with tie-ins to services like Twitch or YouTube. McComas says that moderators can chat with Imzy support staff around the clock, and there’s a special data ‘dashboard’ mods get access to.”


Facebook has launched a map for users to find livestreams. “Facebook has been rolling out the ability for users to livestream directly from the network’s app for a few months now, and this week the biggest social network in the world unveiled an interactive map for users to find and view live broadcasts. Active livestreams are displayed as blue dots which users can zoom in on to get a closer look. Hovering over a dot will bring up the livestream, and a sidebar of the most popular streams is ever-present on the left.”

Facebook has bought a VR audio company and made its tools free. “Facebook has bought out spatial audio company Two Big Ears Ltd., and the social media giant has announced that it will be making its newly purchased VR audio tools available for free through the new Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation. ‘By joining with a company that shares our values and our vision, we will be able to scale our technology even quicker as we continue powering immersive audio experiences,’ the Two Big Ears team said in an announcement on the Facebook 360 Workstation website.”

Nuzzel has launched a “network of newsletters”. “The new newsletter hub, founder and CEO Jonathan Abrams told me, offers a rapid newsletter-building tool through which authors can select recommended content from your or your friends’ Nuzzel news feeds, plus they can add stories from other sources and some commentary. But the tool is not really intended for the creation of free-form content, Abrams said, where newsletters are entirely composed by their authors. There are no templates, but lots of content, he said, the opposite of Constant Contact’s or MailChimp’s tool.”


I really hope you have not gotten caught in the horrible Windows 10 upgrade trap, but in case you did, here’s how to roll back. “After pushing out the free upgrade as a Recommended update to Windows 7 and 8 users earlier this year—which means that you downloaded the initial installation bits if you use the default Windows Update, like most people should—Microsoft changed its nagging pop-up prompt in an insidious way over the past week. For the past six months, the “Get Windows 10” pop-up asked permission to start an update, but lacked a ‘No thanks’ option, so the only way to avoid it was to close the window by pressing the X in the upper-right hand corner. Now, the pop-up says ‘We will upgrade you at this time,’ and pressing the X counts as consent. You need to click a small, easily missed link in the pop-up to cancel the upgrade, instead.”

MakeUseOf has a roundup of logless VPNs. “VPNs are all the rage these days. Despite Netflix changing their terms of use to disavow customers using a VPN to access region locked content, more and more people are turning to VPN services to allow genuinely anonymous Internet browsing. In an age where every online movement is tracked and logged, it seems a highly logical choice.”


Facebook says that an internal investigation reveals no indication of bias. Because they’re totally going to do an internal investigation and report, “Yeah, we’re guilty all right!” “‘Our data analysis indicated that conservative and liberal topics are approved as trending topics at virtually identical rates,’ Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, said in a prepared statement. ‘We were also unable to substantiate any of the specific allegations of politically-motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.'”

Indiegogo is putting some muscle into its hardware crowdfunding. “One of the biggest challenges of a hardware crowdfunding campaign is delivering in a timely fashion. Indiegogo knows that better than most, and is teaming up with Arrow Electronics to help entrepreneurs deliver products through engineering assistance and go-to-market support.”

Facebook now has its own machine translation (which means that it’s ditched Bing.) “Machine learning is accomplishing Facebook’s mission of connecting the world across language barriers. Facebook is now serving 2 billion text translations per day. Facebook can translate across 40 languages in 1,800 directions, like French to English. And 800 million users, almost half of all Facebook users, see translations each month. That’s all based on Facebook’s own machine learning translation system. In 2011 it started working with Microsoft Bing to power translations, but has since bene working to transition to its own system. In December 2015, Facebook finally completed the shift, and now exclusively uses its own translation tech.”


Facebook is being accused of scanning private messages in a lawsuit. ” Facebook may have violated federal privacy laws by scanning private messages, according to a lawsuit certified for class action yesterday in Northern California District Court. The allegations center around Facebook’s practice of scanning and logging URLs sent through the site’s private messaging system. Those scans serve a number of purposes, including anti-malware protection and industry-standard searches for child pornography, but may also be used for marketing purposes.”


Not surprising: mothers who use social media are more anxious. “The researchers polled 528 mothers of pre-school aged children, and found that their levels of self-reported anxiety rose with each additional hour they spent online, with women ages 25-44 twice as likely to report feelings of anxiety as men were in previous studies.” Good morning, Internet…

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