Internet for Visually Impaired, Chatbot Legal Advice, Library of Laughter, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, August 19, 2016


TechCrunch has a writeup on a new service to help the blind and visually impaired use the Internet. ” Braigo Labs is today launching a beta of its service to help blind and visually impaired people make sense of text on images. … Braigo Platform is a free web application aimed at anyone who needs accessibility solutions for the visually impaired. The platform supports more than 50 languages, and can be used to extract text from images from a variety of sources, whether from the web or from a phone.”

Do you remember the young man in Britain who created a bot to fight parking tickets? Now he wants to help homeless people. “An update to his DoNotPay bot works by asking users a simple set of questions about their circumstances, before advising them on the best course of action—often helping them draft an effective form letter to apply to their local councils for emergency housing. Councils have to take every letter seriously, and using Freedom of Information requests, he’s researched the best ways to prompt them into acting on his bot’s clients’ behalf.”

A yoga teacher in Canada is crowdsourcing a digital library of people laughing. “Laughter yoga is based on the theory that your body can’t tell if you are laughing because you are happy or find something funny, and even a forced laugh will bring on the health benefits. [Anne-Marie] Rolfe has put her laughter library online, and has set up a system to allow people to add their own laugh from anywhere in the world.”

In development: a database of science fiction dealing with medical themes. “A lot of science fiction incorporates medicine—be it realistic, fantastic, futuristically life-enhancing, or horrific. A new project at Scotland’s University of Glasgow, dubbed ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities,’ aims to study creative visions of medical care, and one crowdsourced aspect of it needs your help.”

In development: a database to identify Japanese buried at a war cemetery in Australia. “The Japanese Embassy in Canberra on Wednesday announced the launch of a database project to catalog all Japanese buried at a war cemetery in Cowra, eastern Australia. The database will be available online, the embassy said.” Captured soldiers often used false names so identifying the people so far has been difficult.


Twitter is offering some new tools to make the Twitter experience possibly less horrible. “Last year we began testing a quality filter setting and we’re now rolling out a feature for everyone. When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience.” Now, I use Buffer to post my tweets because I don’t figure you want to see a ton of them at one time. Wonder if these are going to get filtered? will shut down next week. “On Thursday, less than 48 hours after Univision’s $135 million bid won an auction for Gawker Media, the bond finally broke. will shut down next week, and Mr. Denton, whose sites pioneered a wry, conversational and brash form of web journalism that would influence publications across the internet, will leave the company.”



The Intercept: <a href=" House Official Cozied Up to Google Before Antitrust Lawsuit Was Shelved. “New emails uncovered by the Campaign for Accountability, a public interest watchdog organization, show that a White House advisor met with top Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton and top Google antitrust counsel Matthew Bye twice in the weeks before the FTC announcement. And minutes prior to the final decision – in which FTC commissioners took the unusual step of overriding their staff’s recommendation to sue, and voted to settle the case instead – the White House official even sought Google’s talking points in the matter.”


Naked Security: Why you STILL can’t trust password strength meters. “In March 2015 I tested five popular password strength meters in a simple experiment that was designed to show if they could actually spot weak passwords. They all failed. It’s been almost eighteen months since my original test and during that time password cracking has moved on, authentication standards have moved on and password best practice has moved on. I wondered if password strength meters had too.”


Research: Twitter shows promise in rapid assessment of collective traumas’ local impact. “An alternative to using Twitter geotags and hashtags to identify community members who have experienced collective trauma, such as a school shooting, shows promise in helping researchers rapidly assess local effects. The approach, developed by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, was deployed to study the impact of deadly gun violence at UC Santa Barbara, Northern Arizona University and Oregon’s Umpqua Community College.”


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