Blues Matters, Presidential Postcards, The Talmud, More: Friday Buzz, February 10, 2017


The British magazine Blues Matters now has a digital archive. “Subscribers to Blues Matters, whether in digital or print, institution or individual, can now browse the complete archive of back issues dating back to the very first issue, originally published in 1999. 93 issues covering blues news and reviews are now fully searchable via the Exact Editions website or the respective iOS and Android apps.”

A postcard project created by a professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro has gone online. “Since 2004, Sheryl Oring has typed out postcards at 71 performances at college campuses, on city streets and in public spaces across the nation. Oring (or sometimes an assistant) would invite people to sit down and write out a postcard to the current or future president — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — or a political candidate. As people talked, Oring used a vintage manual typewriter to put their words — their hopes, their fears, their praise, their scorn — onto a blank postcard.” The project has almost 3300 postcards.

A full translation of the Talmud is being put online for free. “Sefaria, a website founded in 2013 that aims to put the seemingly infinite Jewish canon online for free, has published an acclaimed translation of the Talmud in English. The translation, which includes explanatory notes in relatively plain language, was started by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in 1965 and is considered by many to be the best in its class. The Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud has been in print for decades, in both modern Hebrew and English translation, and parts of it already exist on the internet. But this is the first time it’s being put online in its entirety for free. The online edition also opens up the copyright license, meaning that anyone is allowed to repurpose it for teaching, literature or anything else.”


Engadget: Facebook adds ways to find and offer help through Safety Check. “Facebook’s Safety Check feature has proven useful as a quick and easy way for people to tell their family and friends they’re safe during a crisis. But safety is one thing — what if you still need food and shelter? Or perhaps medical supplies? That’s why Facebook has introduced a new feature called Community Help. Now when you check in to say you’re safe, you’ll see some follow-up queries to either find help if you need it, or to give help if you have the means to do so.”

If you use LinkedIn as a blogging platform, you’ll be getting a little more control over it. “As part of our ongoing efforts to provide a professional environment that encourages you to share your perspectives and thoughts on professional issues, we will be rolling out the ability for you to directly manage the comments on your long-form articles. This added feature gives you the option to enable or disable comments.” The article also shows you how to report comments.


Do you want to break out of your news bubble? Try this Chrome extension. “It’s no secret that our social media feeds are pretty biased toward our own political leanings. And while we’ve seen a handful of Chrome extensions and other tools that address this issue on Facebook, we haven’t yet seen as many tools made for Twitter. Until now. Researchers at MIT have created a new Chrome extension that changes your Twitter feed to that of someone with different political views.”


Washington Post: This is how you photograph a million dead plants without losing your mind. “The sounds fill the windowless room deep in the bowels of the National Museum of Natural History where she works. Eight hours a day, five days a week, every week for the past 16 months, [Rochelle] Safo has helped operate a huge conveyor belt designed to digitize the museum’s vast botany collection. Deftly, she and her two fellow digitizers place papers bearing pressed plants on the belt, pass them under a camera, snap a photo, check the image on the computer, then replace the sheets in their folder. Click, beep, whir.” It’s good to remember how much work goes into the digital archives we see online.

Quartz: Guerrilla archivists developed an app to save science data from the Trump administration. “The data rescue movement is growing up fast: What started as a project coordinated through group spreadsheets in Google Docs now has a workflow formalized through a custom-built app designed specifically for this purpose by [Brendan] O’Brien and Daniel Allan, a computational scientist at a national lab (Allan preferred not to indicate a specific lab, and emphasized his participation was in his free time and not on behalf of his employer). Eventually, anyone with ten minutes to spare will be able to open the app, check what government URLs have yet to be archived, see whether those can be simply fed into the Internet Archive (or needs more technical attention to scrape and download any data), and ‘attack a quick data set’ from their couch, O’Brien says. The archiving could be remote, and perpetual.”

The New York Times: Using Stealth, and Drones, to Document a Fading Hong Kong. “Three masked explorers appeared atop an apartment tower in Hong Kong’s North Point district and sent a black drone flying, over a clothesline, until it was buzzing more than 10 stories above the cars, trams and pedestrians on the street below. If history was any guide, the explorers said, the building the drone was filming — a 1952 theater with unusual roof supports — would eventually be demolished because it is not on Hong Kong’s list of declared monuments.”

Looks like Twitter had a pretty crappy quarter. “Twitter’s top line continues to decelerating, as the company reported fourth-quarter 2016 sales that missed Wall Street expectations and said revenue will continue to ‘lag’ relative to audience growth. For the quarter, Twitter reported revenue of $717 million — up only 0.9% from the year prior — and adjusted net income of $119 million, or 16 cents per diluted share. Analysts had forecast Q4 revenue of $740 million and adjusted EPS of 12 cents.”


The Country: Google Earth image starts dispute over property’s dam. “A small lake which members of the Whatatiri Maori Reserves Trust (WMRT) spotted on a Google satellite image led to the Northland Regional Council (NRC) fining farmer Murray Douglas $500 in November last year for building an unauthorised dam on his land in Mangakahia Rd at Poroti.”


Stanford: Stanford research shows that anyone can become an Internet troll. “The common assumption is that people who troll are different from the rest of us, allowing us to dismiss them and their behavior. But research from Stanford University and Cornell University, published as part of the upcoming 2017 Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2017), suggests otherwise. The research offers evidence that, under the right circumstances, anyone can become a troll.” Good morning, Internet…

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