US Energy Use, Penang Malaysia, WWI Objectors, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, August 4, 2016


Holy cow! There is now a map showing near real-time energy use in the US. “The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the first-ever tool to measure nationwide electricity use in near-real time. The site, U.S. Electric System Operating Data, is still in beta and accepting suggestions on how to improve the service. A ticker at the top of the page provides the previous day’s total, hourly and peak demand. Three tabs divide the site into grid overview, status map and detailed data.”

In development: Penangpedia! “Much has been written about Penang over the years but all this information is spread all over the place in newspapers, magazines and books. Soon though, this vast database of information will be digitised as part of an ambitious project to create a massive online archive of all things Penang.” Penang is a state in Malaysia. You can learn more about it here.

Staffordshire (England) has released a large collection of conscientious objector documents from World War I. “Over 20 thousand individual cases for the ‘Local and Appeal Tribunals’ reveal the lives of the men called up to service and the stresses and strain it had on their work and family lives, often leading to many being cast aside by their communities and in some cases, family and friends. Reasons provided by applicants were varied with many citing their own personal moral feelings as grounds not to go to war. Other common reasons for appeal included medical, religious, economic and family grounds.”


Skype has launched a new set of chat bots. “Following yesterday’s launch of a new version of the Skype Windows 10 application, Microsoft today announced an expanded collection of its ‘Skype bots,’ the automated chat assistants that it introduced earlier this year in a limited preview. The new bots include those that can help you make travel arrangements, locate event tickets, pull in information from other applications and services and even keep you entertained.” TechCrunch reviewed the bots in this article and the review is pretty tepid.

More Skype: Skype is now available via IFTTT. As you might imagine, it’s a bot!

The Paper app from Dropbox is now available in iPhone and Android flavors. “Dropbox is not only going up against Google Docs, but an increasingly slew of competitors in the collaboration space. Now, it’s hoping to figure out how to further branch its collaborative document-editing tool into the world with a few updates and a new mobile application that’s available today for Android and iOS. There are a bunch of updates to the Paper beta coming today for the Web as well…”


The latest company to launch a bug bounty is Kaspersky Lab. “The bounty [began yesterday] on the HackerOne platform, and the first phase will run for six months. The company said that during the first phase, $50,000 would be available for rewards to researchers finding vulnerabilities in the vendor’s flagship consumer and business products, Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Endpoint Security respectively. In scope will be local privilege escalation, unauthorized access of user data, and remote code execution flaws in each product.”


The folks at the Census Bureau are working on a tool to scrape tax data from the Web. “…researchers at the Census Bureau are studying and applying methods for unstructured data, text analytics and machine learning. These methods belong to the realm of ‘Big Data.’ Big Data refers to large and frequently generated datasets representing a variety of structures. As opposed to designed survey data, Big Data are ‘found’ or ‘organic’ data. Typically, these data are created for a click log, a social media blog or an online PDF report, but are innovatively repurposed and used for something else such as inferring behavior. Since the data were not specifically designed to infer, they often have unique challenges.”

Research: livestreaming and privacy. “In a new study, Up, Periscope: Mobile Streaming Video Technologies, Privacy in Public, and the Right to Record , Jeremy Littau, assistant professor of journalism at Lehigh University, and Daxton Stewart, associate dean and associate professor in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University, examine the legal rights of people to record and live stream and any potential right to be free from being recorded and streamed in public places.”

From Law Street Media: Blocking Social Media in Ethiopia: New Perspectives on Human Rights Violations. “Earlier this month, the government of Ethiopia blocked multiple social media sites–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Viber–for days on end during the course of annual university entrance exams. The government initiated the shutdown in order to prevent students from sharing answers or otherwise cheating on the exams but went on to claim that it had blocked the sites because they were “a distraction” for students. … The ban on social media ultimately only lasted for a handful of days, as long as the examinations were held, but even though the duration of the ban was relatively short, its scope is troubling.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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