Epidemic Tracking, Quartz, Facebook Messenger, More: Thursday Buzz, November 30, 2016


A new online tool is designed to track disease outbreaks and epidemics. “Microreact is a cloud-based system that combines the power of open data and the web, to provide real-time global data sharing and visualisation, allowing anyone to explore and examine outbreak information with unprecedented speed and detail. This is becoming increasingly important in the race to monitor and control fast-developing outbreaks like Ebola or Zika, or the growing threat of anti-microbial resistance. Microreact allows data and metadata sets to be uploaded via a web browser, which can then be visualised, shared and published in a research paper via a permanent web link.”


Quartz is launching a bot studio. Because it’s all about the bots. No treble. “Quartz is betting big on bots. The Atlantic Media-owned outlet is getting a $240,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to launch Quartz Bot Studio, a group focused on developing three bot-related projects in the coming year, for everything from messaging platforms like Slack to voice interfaces like the Amazon Echo (disclosure: Knight is a supporter of Nieman Lab). Quartz will contribute its own resources to the Studio as well, and intends for the projects to continue after its first year.”

Facebook Messenger now has instant games. “Bored while you wait for someone to text back? Now you can challenge friends for high scores on Facebook Messenger’s new Instant Games, like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends Frenzy. Available right from your message threads, they load in seconds since they’re built on the HTML5 mobile web standard, rather than having to be downloaded like clunky native apps.”

Google Glasses, Snapchat Spectacles, and … PogoCam? “Camera glasses aren’t a new idea, but Spectacles — the camera-equipped sunglasses from the company that made Snapchat — are the kind of product that can open the floodgates. One of the first ideas through those gates is being announced today from a small company called PogoTec. But instead of making glasses with a camera inside, PogoTec has gone a different, modular route.”


Could come in very handy, from NewCo Shift: Wrap Text Around a Photo in Google Docs (Without Ripping Your Hair Out). “Google Docs is a text-driven environment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your favorite document with an eye catching image. However, if you just stick a picture into the text, it interrupts the visual flow. That stops the reader, who might not bother to pick up the narrative again. (Plus, it looks pretty lame.)”

Boom! Social: How to Look Like a Pro Using Facebook Live: Lights, Camera, Action “Once you understand the basics of using Facebook Live, you can start fine-tuning your video production. This can take your broadcasts from ordinary to AMAZING! This post will outline some simple and cost-effective ways you can go beyond the basics to create eye-catching, compelling Facebook Live broadcasts your viewers will love!”


Kickstarter Corner and spotted today: a combination desk lamp and automated document scanner. Oh me oh my.

Sophos: Facebook users want to continue posting from beyond the grave. “In fairness, after questioning 2,000 people on the matter, some of the updating was relatively straightforward, with 55% simply wanting replies to expressions of sympathy after their deaths. However, almost as many wanted a friend of family member to post once or twice a year on their behalf with 10 percent suggesting this be done as often as once a week to ‘keep their memory alive’.”

Gizmodo: Reddit is tearing itself apart. “Gizmodo spoke with five high-ranking volunteer moderators of some of Reddit’s biggest communities, as well as a Reddit spokesperson. We discovered the site’s unusual working relationship with its most problematic community—r/The_Donald—a community which, by exploiting poor enforcement of Reddit’s already limp user protections, has effectively been holding the rest of the site hostage.”

Unfortunate but not a surprise: Gambia’s government has shut down the internet on the eve of elections. “Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, has switched off its internet, a tactic that is becoming increasingly common in the continent around election season.”

Wow! From Mashable: Instagram expected to have more advertisers than Twitter by next year. “The study predicts that nearly three quarters of American companies with 100 employees or more will turn to Instagram for marketing purposes in 2017 — up from a little more than half this year. Meanwhile, Twitter’s popularity among marketers is expected to continue to stagnate at around 66 percent. According to the firm’s data, the number of brands using Twitter has grown less than two percent since 2014.”


From The University of Texas at Dallas: Study Examines Effect of Privacy Controls on Facebook Behavior. “Despite the widespread popularity of online social network platforms, privacy remains a troublesome issue. A new study from the Naveen Jindal School of Management assesses the impact of Facebook’s granular privacy controls and its effects on user disclosure behavior.”

Nieman Journalism Lab: Reuters built its own algorithmic prediction tool to help it spot (and verify) breaking news on Twitter. “When it comes to automating the process of spotting breaking news, solving one problem can create several more. Reuters discovered this firsthand over the past two years as it built Reuters News Tracer, a custom tool designed to monitor Twitter for major breaking news events as they emerge. While reporters curate their own lists of sources to get rapid alerts on stories they’re already looking for, the Reuters tool is designed to solve a different problem: detecting breaking news events while early reports are still coming in.” Good morning, Internet…

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