DNA Viruses, FOIA, Google Photos, More: Saturday Buzz, March 4, 2017


Now available: a database of DNA viruses and retroviruses. “There are more microbes in, on, and around the planet than there are stars in the Milky Way. Microbes affect food production; air quality; natural breakdown of plants, trees and biomass; soil quality for agriculture; and much more. To work with these microbes, scientists need to learn more about how microbes and viruses interact. Viruses influence microbes’ abilities to work. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute built the largest publicly available database for viruses. This single effort increases the number of known viral genes by a factor of 16. Further, in a series of four articles published in Nucleic Acids Research, DOE Joint Genome Institute researchers report on the latest updates to several other publicly accessible databases and computational tools. These databases and tools will benefit the global community of microbial researchers.”


The FBI’s new FOIA portal has gone online. “For the FBI, a popular target for FOIA requests, the new online portal replaces the standard email system. According to the bureau, the new online portal transitions the agency from a manual system to an automated system that will help it handle its large volume of requests, though detractors argue that the new web portal creates additional barriers to those seeking information from the FBI and makes tracking the paper trail more difficult.” Getting FOIA requests filled by the Obama administration was notoriously bad – I can’t imagine this administration will be better.

Mashable: Google Photos gets even better with a neat new feature . “Google Photos, the company’s much-loved photo storage app, is introducing yet another way to improve your snapshots without any hassle. The company announced a new ‘auto white balance’ feature on Thursday. Now, when users select a filter, the Google Photos app will correct the white balance in an image in addition to the exposure and saturation. Users can tweak things further by going into ‘Color’ and adjusting the warmth and tint. ”

TheNextWeb: Facebook adds City Guides to become your new travel companion . “Facebook might be getting into the tourism market. The social media giant has introduced a new feature that aims to give users suggestions for events and places to visit in numerous cities across the globe.”

WRAL: Yelp to help customers find gender-neutral bathrooms. “Yelp, the crowd-sourced company specializing in online reviews, is wading into the national debate over transgender people’s bathroom access with a new feature that will enable consumers to search for businesses offering gender-neutral restrooms.”


Gizmodo: How to Snoop-Proof Any Phone or Tablet. “It’s likely that you’ve got details of your whole life stored on your phone—the people you know, the banks you’ve used, the videos you’ve wasted hours watching—and you don’t necessarily want that info getting out into the wider world. If you’re keen to lock down your handset against unwelcome visitors, you need to take a few steps.”

Search Engine Land: How to monitor Google Knowledge Graph changes and performance. “Individuals and companies alike are striving to acquire, maintain and monitor a Knowledge Graph listing. At the moment, however, there is no easy way to report on Knowledge Graph performance and changes. In 2016, Google’s John Mueller did mention that links in Knowledge Graph panels would be counted in the Search Analytics report in Google Search Console. However, this still does not give us insight into the algorithmic aspect of Knowledge Graph rankings and changes.” This article mentions VisualPing and I’ll second that – I find it very useful.


BuzzFeed: This Website Just Showed It’s Still Super Easy Is To Get Traffic For Fake News. “In a little more than a week went from a website that didn’t exist to one that claims to have received 1 million visitors thanks to completely false news stories such as Obama running a pedophile ring out of the White House, and Whoopi Goldberg saying the wife of the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid was ‘looking for attention.'”

TechCrunch: The Associated Press’ plan to put hyperlocal data in the hands of reporters. “Since 2013, The Associated Press has been making an intentional effort to put data in the hands of local reporters. In the last few years, this meant assisting with Freedom of Information Act requests and putting a team of four engineers to work building visualizations and extracting insights from massive spreadsheets. Today the AP is entering into a joint pilot program with to equip reporters with granular, local, data for more telling stories.”

CNBC: You’re fired! How to decide when a tweet goes too far. “A tweet targeting a sympathetic figure is surely more upsetting than a tweet targeting a jerk. But if the tone and content of the message is cruel, unkind or otherwise not the kind of thing that someone who gets the company’s values would say, then it would seem that even an offensive tweet targeting an unsympathetic person should result in a firing.”


From MediaPost: Ordinary Social Media Users Are Buying ‘Likes’ Too. “It’s well known that brands, bands, bloggers and other unabashed self-promoters all buy ‘likes’ and followers on social media to pad their numbers and create the appearance of popularity and success, which are after all the same thing. [Ugh – TJC] But it may surprise you to learn that a proportion of ordinary social media users, about one in seven, is doing the exact same thing.”


Hey! From SiteProNews: New Start-Up Uses Augmented Reality to Create Immersive 3D Globe. “Play Shifu Technologies, a Wyoming-based startup, has created a Smart globe using augmented reality to teach children about different cultures, cuisines, monuments, inventions and animals from all over the world. To use Orboot, the child or parent simply scans the globe with an iOS or Android device to learn about countries worldwide.” Good morning, Internet…

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