Hurricane Harvey, FOIA, Google News, More: Saturday Buzz, September 16, 2017


Rice University: Mapping Tool Helps Neighborhoods Better Understand Harvey, Houston. “In the wake of Harvey, there’s been a need for good data: whether its emissions information from industries along the port, maps of the flooding to see which areas were hardest hit or information about students who have been shuffled around after their schools suffered damage from the storm. As part of an ongoing effort with its roots well before storm, the Kinder Institute is unveiling its Houston Community Data Connections dashboard. After gathering and geocoding a number of datasets, the Kinder Institute’s data team, led by Jie Wu and Mingming Zhang, created a visualization tool that allows users to visualize several layered datasets at once.”


NARA: Cheers for a National FOIA Portal. “Almost five and a half years ago we at OGIS recommended to Congress that the development of a governmentwide FOIA web portal could improve public access to government information. Now, thanks to ongoing collaboration between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB and the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 18F, the digital services agency within the General Services Administration, we are closer than ever to having a National FOIA Portal.”

The Verge: Google News now displays localized community updates from bloggers. “Google announced today that it’s going to start including hyperlocal events in Google News. Pulling from sources like bloggers and high school newspapers, the new feature, called Community Updates, will keep you in the loop on ‘news and events happening right in your own backyard,’ according to Google.”

The Next Web: Facebook’s new Crisis Response hub combines all its best emergency tools. “Facebook today announced a new Crisis Response hub page to keep all its emergency features in one place. Facebook has periodically added tools to help with emergencies ever since it introduced Safety Check back in 2014, but it could be a bit of a pain to actually find them when you want to help or let others know you’re safe. Crisis Response solves that by providing a central location for these features.”


Storybench: How to convert a Google Doc to RMarkdown and publish on Github pages. “Professors across the country are scrambling to tidy up their syllabi. But how to best share them with students? I’ll be publishing my ‘Digital Storytelling and Social Media’ syllabus on Github using a simple website publishing format called RMarkdown. The good news is, if you can type your syllabus into Google Docs, you can build a site like this…”


Recode: Here’s how much social media stars get paid to post ads. “Last November, actress Olivia Munn posted a video to her Instagram in preparation for the holidays: She wore green and red pajamas, she cooked a holiday turkey and she lounged on the couch with her two sweater-clad dogs. She also watched her favorite Christmas movie — thanks to her cable setup from Xfinity. ‘Happy Holidays! From Olivia Munn + Xfinity,’ the video’s tagline read. Munn may actually love Xfinity, but in this case she was hawking the product for Comcast* to her 1.8 million followers. ”

Techdirt: The Google Fiber Honeymoon Period Appears To Be Over. “When Google Fiber first arrived back in 2010, it was heralded as a gamechanger for the broadband industry. Google Fiber would, we believed, revolutionize the industry by taking Silicon Valley money and using it to disrupt the viciously uncompetitive and anti-competitive telecom sector. Initially things worked out well; with the mere mention of a looming Google Fiber target market resulting in a much-needed conversation about why the United States consistently languishes in mediocrity when it comes to our broadband networks (pro tip: it’s because AT&T, Verizon and Comcast all but own state and federal lawmakers). Seven years later, however, and the Google Fiber bloom appears to be off the rose.”

Los Angeles Times: Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reportedly in talks to invest $1 billion in Lyft. “Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is in talks to invest $1 billion in Lyft, according to reports from Bloomberg and Axios, which cite sources with knowledge of the matter.”

Inc: This is Why Facebook Engagement is Falling for Brands and Publishers. “Businesses have relied on Facebook as a vehicle for customer engagement for years. The social media outlet entered the world like a majestic unicorn, helping brands and publishers rocket into stardom thanks to how easy it is to reach out to others using the site. But, recent numbers show that this beautiful, shining creature isn’t as magical as it once when it comes to engagement. In fact, the average number of engagements fell from 340 to 264 in just the first six months of 2017.”


The Register: UK attorney general plans crackdown on ‘trial by social media’. “The UK’s Attorney General is pondering whether to tighten up contempt of court laws and target Facebook and Twitter users who comment about live criminal trials. In a call for evidence made this morning, Jeremy Wright, QC, MP, asked for examples of court cases ‘in which social media has had an impact’ to be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office.”

BetaNews: Hurricanes lead to drop in malware infections. “An interesting side effect of the recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma is that malware infections in the Florida and Texas areas have seen a dramatic fall. Data released by Enigma Software Group, makers of the SpyHunter anti-malware software, shows that infections in the Houston area showed a 52.5 percent drop from the average on August 29th.”


Penn State Daily Collegian: Here’s how Penn State professor Mark Ballora transforms data sets to instrumental music. “Many people use data sets to form a line on a graph. But Mark Ballora, a professor of music technology, maps data to auditory characteristics — such as pitches and loudness — and creates music in the process. This technique, which is called ‘sonification,’ is Ballora’s specialty. He’s used it on a variety of natural phenomena such as the aurora borealis and tropical storms.” Good morning, Internet…

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