Social Sciences, Relational Databases, Yahoo, More: Saturday Buzz, July 9, 2016


A new open archive for social science research has been launched. “SocArXiv announces a partnership with the Center for Open Science to develop a free, open access, open source archive for social science research. The initiative responds to growing recognition of the need for faster, open sharing of research on a truly open access platform for the social sciences. Papers on SocArXiv will be permanently available and free to the public.”

And in our “shut up and take my money” department, we’ve got an MIT project that’s got me drooling. Democratizing databases: With a new tool, any competent spreadsheet user can construct custom database interfaces. “New software from researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory could make databases much easier for laypeople to work with. The program’s home screen looks like a spreadsheet, but it lets users build their own database queries and reports by combining functions familiar to any spreadsheet user. Simple drop-down menus let the user pull data into the tool from multiple sources. The user can then sort and filter the data, recombine it using algebraic functions, and hide unneeded columns and rows, and the tool will automatically generate the corresponding database queries.”


Yahoo is bringing bots to Facebook Messenger. “You already use Facebook Messenger to stay connected to your world. Now, thanks to four new Yahoo bots that are algorithmically-driven, coming to Messenger today, you can stay on top of what matters to you. Follow stock market trends or share weather forecasts without ever leaving Messenger.”

More Messenger: Facebook Messenger has is testing end-to-end encryption. “Messenger will begin to offer an end-to-end encryption feature to a limited test group of users today. It’s a security option that’s been a long time coming for Facebook, which has considered making end-to-end encryption available for several months. The so-called ‘secret conversations’ debuted today will be only visible to the sender and the reader, which means Facebook can’t enable some of the chatbot and payment features that are normally a part of the Messenger experience. However, end-to-end encryption boxes out law enforcement and even Facebook itself from reading users’ chats, ensuring that their conversations remain private.”

Now available on Google Street View: Westminster Abbey. “Starting at the front doors you can walk the length of the Abbey’s vast nave while visiting sights like the Coronation Chair, the High Altar and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.”

My new vocabulary word is MCN, which means Multi Channel Network, and apparently Mountain Dew just created its own. “The rise of multichannel networks (MCN) such as Maker, AwesomenessTV, Machinima, and more—consolidating thousands of YouTube channels and creators under one roof to maximize ad revenue—over the past few years has been well documented. They became a one-stop shop for brands to reach the growing legion of digital entertainment stars, and the millions of young consumer eyeballs watching their every video. But now Mountain Dew has decided to take a chance, cut out the content middleman, and deal directly with YouTube content creators by setting up its very own brand MCN.”


Genealogists, you will love this article from MakeUseOf: Get Mad Detective Research Skills with PDF Tricks & a Smartphone. The very first thing the article talks about? Microfiche records!


The New York Times: Why dieters flock to Instagram. “Last year, Bonnie Spring, a professor in preventive medicine at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, published one of the few existing studies on why people turn to digital communities for weight loss. The report, called ‘”Friending” Your Way Thin,’ analyzed data from, an online weight-loss community. The study used nearly a year of anonymous data from 27,382 Calorie King users, including their age, height and weight, gender and activities like weigh-ins, friend requests and online communication.”


Eat at Wendy’s? I hope you didn’t pay with a debit card. The fast food chain says a hack incident impacted over 1000 of its restaurants (this is up from “a possible hack” in January and “less than 300 restaurants affected” in May.) “Customers can see which locations were affected through the Wendy’s website . The company said it is offering free one-year credit monitoring to people who paid with a card at any of those restaurants.” When it comes to things like this, it seems to be a rule of thumb that the hack incident is always going to be much worse than originally stated.

A United States appeals court has ruled that password sharing is a federal crime. “The decision is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties groups, who say that such a broad interpretation of the CFAA means that millions of Americans are unwittingly violating federal law by sharing accounts on things like Netflix, HBO, Spotify, and Facebook. Stephen Reinhardt, the dissenting judge in the case, noted that the decision ‘threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens.'”

I’ve linked to several stories here about countries in Europe investigating tech companies over taxes. Now the US is getting in on it. “The Internal Revenue Service said Facebook may have understated the value of intellectual property it transferred to Ireland by ‘billions of dollars,’ unfairly cutting its tax bill in the process, according to court papers. The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco seeking to enforce IRS summonses served on Facebook and to force the world’s largest social network to produce various documents as part of the probe.”

Snapchat is being sued for hosting sexually-explicit content. “Celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos filed the suit, stating that the social media company does not do enough to protect minors from accessing sexual content inside the app. He particularly raises concerns about contents on Discover like ‘People share their secret rules for sex’ and ’10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm,’ which the lawsuit considers as “adult-rated content that parents would likely prohibit” had they known the app hosts such content.” Good morning, Internet…

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