BitTorrent, Near-Earth Objects, Mississippi, More: Friday Buzz, June 24, 2016


BitTorrent is working hard to make the torrent format more legit. (Of course it’s just a format; the problem is it is known mostly for illegal/pirated material.) “On Thursday the company took one more step forward, rolling out a smartphone app that gives users access only to legal content, not the pirated copies of ‘Game of Thrones’ and other videos that illegal downloaders gravitate to. It also offered ad-supported streaming as an option to go along with free and fee-based downloads.”

Is Russia going to set up a database of near-Earth objects? “Russia’s own data on near-Earth objects – including military satellites not covered by the open catalog of the North-American warning system NORAD – could soon be made publicly available as a comprehensive database, Russian media report. Russia is planning to set up a free database on thousands of near-Earth objects, including those not publicly listed in open catalogs of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.”


Every now and again I read a story that just hits me in the eyeballs. Like this one about The state of Mississippi integrating Amazon Echo into its Web site. (I think this is a press release but I’m not 100% sure.) ” The state of Mississippi’s award-winning website,, has been enhanced, with emphasis on providing quick access to online services and streamlined content. In this recent enhancement is the integration of myMS with Amazon Echo’s ‘Ask Alexa”’skill that has made it easier than ever for citizens to interact with the state.”

Nifty: Instagram is getting a translation tool. “The image-sharing app will soon automatically translate the comments, captions and user bios on its network.”

A new Facebook bot is designed to give teenagers a little boost through their day. (Though apparently anyone can sign up.) “Bringing a touch of mindfulness to the day-to-day communications flow, Shine has created a set of tools to help teenagers feel empowered to deal with the day-to-day highs and lows of navigating the path to adulthood. The SMS and Facebook bot is designed to feel like a friend cheering you on as you move through your day.”

More Facebook: Facebook will be training its employees on political bias. “The decision to include a segment on political biases was sparked by allegations, which Facebook says are unfounded, that editors for the social network’s trending topics feature systematically downplayed news stories and sources popular with conservatives.” First bias: that there are only conservatives and liberals…


CNET: 10 Features of Google Docs You Should Be Using. ooooh, I did not know about setting my own substitutions. NICE. Unclicking those horrible smart quotes RIGHT NOW.

ScrapingHub offers some tips for scraping those “infinite-scrolling” pages. “While this scenario might seem like a classic case for a JavaScript engine such as Splash or Selenium, it’s actually a simple fix. Instead of simulating user interaction with such engines, all you have to do is inspect your browser’s AJAX requests when you scroll the target page and then re-create those requests in your Scrapy spider. Let’s use Spidy Quotes as an example and build a spider to get all the items listed on it.”


I love it! NARA did an Answer Time on Tumblr. “The biggest challenge was keeping up with the steady deluge of questions. By the end of the session, over 1,100 questions had been submitted. Ultimately the hosts were able to respond to 32 questions over the course of the 2 hour event. The most popular topic? Queries about ‘aliens in the Archives’ comprised over 11% of user submissions.”

It’s not often I read about proposed legislation and go “Yay,” but — Yay! “The Establishing Digital Interactive Transparency Act, introduced June 15 by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., would require congressional bills posted online to include a ‘track changes-style system’ showing all the tweaks made to legislation as it makes its way through Congress.”


Stanford University is conducting a study to see if Google Glass can help autistic children read emotions. “Like many autistic children, Julian Brown has trouble reading emotions in people’s faces, one of the biggest challenges for people with the neurological disorder. Now the 10-year-old San Jose boy is getting help from ‘autism glass’ — an experimental device that records and analyzes faces in real time and alerts him to the emotions they’re expressing.” I hope the research eventually includes other wearables besides Google Glass.

Over at The Digital Shift, Roy Tennant takes aim at bad library infographics. “Humor me, and do a Google Images search on ‘library infographics’ and see what you get. Mostly they are simply numbers that are ‘illustrated’ by some icon or image. They really aren’t infographics of the variety that Tufte champions. They are, unfortunately, mostly pale shadows of what is possible.” Good morning, Internet…

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