Facebook, Filter Bubbles, Bots, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, February 24, 2017

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

The Register: Facebook scales back AI flagship after chatbots hit 70% f-AI-lure rate . “Facebook has scaled back its ambitions and refocused its application of ‘artificial intelligence’ after its AI bots hit a 70 per cent failure rate. Facebook unveiled a bot API for its Messenger IM service at its developer conference last April. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had high hopes.”

Mashable: Facebook has 200 new flag frames and is still way behind Snapchat. “Facebook just added almost 200 national flags to its Profile Frames feature, giving users an extra chance share their national pride with all their friends—or just make everyone quickly scrolling through their feeds double-check if their phone screen has a smudge when the flags fly past.”

USEFUL STUFF

Quartz: A complete guide to seeing the news beyond your cozy filter bubble. “Whatever your political beliefs, it can be hard work to evade the algorithms and seek out stories and perspectives that challenge your own. But it’s crucial for the vitality of democratic institutions that rely on an engaged, heterogeneous public.”

O’Reilly’s got a decent overview of bots. “Bots are a new, AI-driven way to interact with users in a variety of environments. As AI improves and users turn away from single-purpose apps and toward messaging interfaces, they could revolutionize customer service, productivity, and communication.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Medium: Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends. “Snapchat is the darling of technology: for years, we’ve fawned over the company for being innovative, using daring interfaces and out of the ordinary tactics to get people to pay it. Despite the fact that the app was always what some would consider “hostile” to new users, full of design anti-patterns, it managed to gain a fledgling user base of 180 million monthly active users. It’s an impressive feat, and one that the company is about to IPO for $20 billion over, but I think the company’s reign is coming to an end.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

Ars Technica: Serious Cloudflare bug exposed a potpourri of secret customer data. “Cloudflare, a service that helps optimize the security and performance of more than 5.5 million websites, warned customers today that a recently fixed software bug exposed a range of sensitive information that could have included passwords and cookies and tokens used to authenticate users.” Two-factor two-factor two-factor two-factor etc.

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Digital Context Next: Podcast audiences are climbing, but the medium faces growing pains. “Podcasts are earning a strong foothold in digital media. The popularity of podcasts such as ‘Serial’ and ‘This American Life’ aided the medium in reaching new audiences. In fact, Edison Research reports an estimated 57 million Americans over the age of 12 listened to a podcast in January and February of 2016.”

Gizmodo: Bots on Wikipedia Wage Edit Wars Between Themselves That Last For Years. “As a new study published in PLOS ONE reveals, Wikipedia’s bots don’t always get along, frequently undoing each other’s edits. These online algorithms, each equipped with their own instructions and goals, engage in sterile ‘fights’ over content that can persist for years. The new research shows how relatively ‘dumb’ bots can produce complex interactions and behaviors, and how developers need to stay on top of their digital creations. This has implications not just for the quality of Wikipedia pages, but for the development of AI in general—particularly any autonomous agents set loose on the web.”

From Washington University in St. Louis: Using Twitter may increase food-poisoning reporting. “Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. citizens gets food poisoning every year, but very few report it. Twitter communications between the public and the proper government authorities could improve foodborne illness reporting as well as the steps that follow, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.”

Friday fun if you really want to weird yourself out. From TechCrunch: Turn anything into a nightmare cat with this machine learning tool. “Machine learning has the potential to solve many of our regular human problems, like for instance having too few nightmarish, oddly cat-filled crude images to gaze upon. Luckily, Christopher Hesse created the edges2cats web-based tool to address exactly that issue.” There’s also one for shoes and handbags. You can REALLY weird yourself out with this. Good afternoon, Internet…

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