Cold War Diplomacy, WWI Chatbot, Crowdsourced Documentation, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, July 21, 2016


In development: an online archive of Cold War writings. “An extraordinary collection of diplomatic diaries smuggled from Moscow to Paris as Communism swept across the East almost 70 years ago will be digitized and made freely available online for the first time. The writings of Fu Bingchang (1895-1965), China’s ambassador to the USSR from 1943-49, offer a remarkable primary historical source, revealing in exceptional detail the personal tensions, rivalries and allegiances among and between world superpowers which shaped the outcome of World War II and sowed the seeds of the Cold War.”

A new Facebook Messenger bot lets you chat with a soldier from World War I, and I’m astonished at how this makes me feel. Like this is disrespectful. But his granddaughter’s okay with it, so why am I concerned? “The team behind the award-winning AnzacLive have taken one of their real-life characters, Australian soldier and raconteur Archie Barwick, and programmed his extensive diary entries into a bot that answers questions and sends out updates from the battlefield … The project is a first for News Corp Australia — at a time when media organisations are just starting to recognise the potential of chatbots.”

Stack Overflow has launched a site for crowdsourced documentation. “The company says the focus of Stack Overflow Documentation will be ongoing beyond definitions and on providing real-world examples. That becomes obvious when you look at how pages are organized. First come the examples and only then info about parameters and syntax, with additional comments at the bottom of the page.”


Twitter has signed yet another content partnership. “Called the ‘Twitter Food Council,’ the group includes a variety of popular celebrity chefs including Giada De Laurentiis and Alex Guarnaschelli. They will tweet, Vine and Periscope original food content every day, as well as participate in special events online and in the real world, testing new products or bringing followers into events.” Do you think Twitter is trying to flood its platform with content so nobody will actually interact and they won’t have to police any egregious behavior?

Wow, Facebook Messenger has over one billion monthly active users? “The stand-alone messaging application continues its robust growth pace, having reached 900 million MAUs in April, 800 million in January, 700 million in June 2015 and 500 million in November 2014.”


If you have any interest at all in government transparency, please read this article about FOIA nightmares. “…almost every reporter on our staff can recite aneurysm-inducing tales of protracted jousting with the public records offices of government agencies. Local, state and federal agencies alike routinely blow through deadlines laid out in law or bend them to ludicrous degrees, stretching out even the simplest requests for years. And they bank on the media’s depleted resources and ability to legally challenge most denials.”

Google has decreased its federal lobbying spending a little bit (maybe because of all the money flowing into Europe?) but it’s still dropping some dollars. “Google trimmed its spending on federal lobbying in the second quarter of 2016 by 8.2 percent from the year before to $4.24 million, according to disclosure forms just filed with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, but still significantly outspent other tech and communications giants. Google spent $4.62 million, million on federal lobbying in the second quarter of 2015 and $3.8 million in the first quarter of 2015.”


The EU is looking at Google for potential antitrust charges, and apparently so is South Korea. “South Korea’s antitrust watchdog on Thursday said it conducted an investigation into Google Inc. over allegedly forcing smartphone makers to use its operating system in their handsets.”

Here’s a new vocabulary word for you: Jackware. “I define jackware as malicious software that seeks to take control of a device, the primary purpose of which is not data processing or digital communications. A car would be such a device. A lot of cars today do perform a lot of data processing and communicating, but their primary purpose is to get you from A to B. So think of jackware as a specialized form of ransomware. With regular ransomware, such as Locky and CryptoLocker, the malicious code encrypts documents on your computer and demands a ransom to unlock them. The goal of jackware is to lock up a car or other device until you pay up.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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