RootsTech, Internet Censorship, Tobacco Products, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, February 9, 2017

Genealogists! RootsTech has started, and even if you can’t attend there’s plenty to livestream from your computer. “Not able to attend in person? Several sessions at RootsTech 2017, including the general keynote sessions, will be streamed live on the home page of After the conference, recordings of these sessions will be posted on the website for a limited time.”


The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) has launched a mobile app. “The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), which monitors networks for censorship and surveillance, is launching Ooniprobe, a mobile app to test network connectivity and let you know when a website is censored in your area. The app tests over 1,200 websites, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. You can decide how long to run the test, but the default is 90 seconds and would test between 10 and 20 websites depending on bandwidth. Links to blocked websites are listed in red, while available sites are green.”

The FDA has created a new database for “grandfathered” tobacco products. “The FDA refers to a tobacco product that was commercially marketed — other than exclusively in test markets — in the United State as of Feb. 15, 2007, as a grandfathered tobacco product. The date was set in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.”

Vanderbilt: Preserving the history of Syriac Christianity in the Middle East. “An international collaboration that includes a Vanderbilt University divinity scholar has published three new online reference works to help preserve Syriac, a Middle East language and culture on the edge of extinction. The Syriac language is a dialect of Aramaic used extensively by Christians in the Middle East.” As far as I can tell, access to these reference works is free. The Web sites are extremely-well cited and many of the pages I saw were in both English and French.


Bing Maps has added real-time traffic information for some places. “The Bing Maps team has announced today in a blog post that real-time traffic info is now available in 55 countries worldwide, as can be seen in the map above. This data powers the platform’s real-time and predictive route calculations and the interactive color overlays on the map to indicate the flow of traffic. The different colors of those overlays are defined by comparing what the flow of traffic is like based on the speed limits on the respective road.”

A new Facebook bot helps users find local protests. “Facebook users can message WeBot and click ‘Get Started.’ It will ask you for your location, and you can either choose ‘Share Your Location’ or type in your city manually. WeBot then culls anti-Trump Facebook events in your area and matches you with nearby protests, letting you view and join the events, and share them on your own timeline.”


CNET: Couples say ‘I do’ to custom Snapchat wedding filters. “That Snapchat filters for weddings are even a thing speaks to the pervasive nature of the social network. The company boasted in its IPO filing last week that an average of 158 million people use its app every day. The idea of wedding filters has become so popular that couples hire graphic designers just to create them for their special day. On Etsy, custom Snapchat geofilters have their own marketplace and can sell for up to $100 (roughly converted to £80 or AU$130), though the average price is between $10 to $20.”

Ars Technica: There’s a big spike in Google searches related to World War II. “World War II is having a moment, at least in the minds of people doing Google searches. Google Trends, a tool that measures the popularity of search terms over time, shows that there have been dramatic spikes in searches for topics related to the war, including: Reichstag fire, Pearl Harbor, fascism, Kristallnacht, and Nazi Germany.”


TheNextWeb: U.S Government may soon demand visitors reveal their social media passwords. “The next time you fly to New York or Disneyland, you may be asked to turn over the passwords to your social media accounts, depending on where you come from. The move comes as part of a tightening of security checks currently being contemplated by Homeland Security secretary John Kelly.”

Washington Post: How a U.S. team uses Facebook, guerrilla marketing to peel off potential ISIS recruits. “Sometime today, a teenager in Tunis will check his smartphone for the latest violent video from the Islamic State. But the images that pop up first will be of a different genre: young Muslims questioning the morality of terrorists who slaughter innocents and enslave girls for sex.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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