New Zealand Soldiers, Springer Nature, Google Local Services, More: Wednesday Evening Buzz, November 1, 2017


Victoria University of Wellington: Victoria releases database of imperial soldiers who fought in Land Wars. “Research from Victoria University of Wellington has identified the names and details of 12,000 imperial soldiers who fought in the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s. Carried out by Professor Charlotte Macdonald and Dr Rebecca Lenihan, the research draws on records created by the British War Office and held in The National Archives in London. The database provides searchable public access to the names, regiments, and dates of service of soldiers who fought in New Zealand. It is the first instalment of what will grow into a larger publically accessible resource.”

TWEAKS AND UPDATES Springer Nature blocks access to articles in China. “Academic publisher Springer Nature says it has blocked access to articles within China to comply with demands from the Chinese government. The company said Wednesday about 1 percent of its content available online in global markets has been blocked in compliance with ‘local distribution laws.'”

Google Blog: Reach more customers with Local Services by Google. “When people need a plumber or a locksmith, they search online for a business nearby. With Local Services by Google, businesses like yours can show up at the top of Search, so that you can reach local clients right when they’re interested, and book more jobs. Today we’re announcing that Local Services, previously in a pilot as Home Services, is running in 17 cities across the U.S., and will be available in 30 major metro areas by the end of 2017.”


Amit Agarwal keeps cranking out excellent tools. the latest from Digital Inspiration: How to Create Personalized Documents from a Google Spreadsheet in Minutes. “Introducing Document Studio, a powerful Google add-on that lets you effortlessly generate documents and reports using merge data stored inside Google Sheets. It can also create documents with live data from Google Forms submissions. The generated documents can be automatically sent inside personalized email messages using built-in Mail Merge.” This isn’t free, but the personal version is $29 a year.


New York Times: How to Fix Facebook? We Asked 9 Experts. “… criticism of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is easy to come by; solutions aren’t as clear. We asked nine technologists, academics, politicians and journalists to propose the steps they would take to improve Facebook — as a product, a company or both. Their responses, edited slightly for length and clarity, are below.” Normally a big Kevin Kelly fan but really disappointed in his answer here.

eWeek: Google Finds “Limited” Misuse of Its Platforms During 2016 Elections. “Google on Monday said an internal investigation had found evidence of its online platforms being misused by actors linked to Russian propaganda firm Internet Research Agency during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But the company described the misuse as being limited in nature and something that it is working on stopping altogether in future.”


The Next Web: Researcher finds bug in Google bug tracker, gains partial access and scores $15,000 in bounties. “With so many products and services out there, it’s only natural that clever people will eventually discover bugs in Google’s offerings. What’s less common, however, is members of the general populace finding bugs in the company’s internal systems – and in Alex Birsan’s case, it was in Google’s own bug tracker.”


Washington Post: It’s time to end the secrecy and opacity of social media. “The time has come to end the opacity and secrecy surrounding social media. If social media platforms are truly committed to being the productive, responsible and ethical force in society they have the potential to be, there are crucial steps they must take. Before anything else, we need far more transparency of the outputs produced by these algorithms so we can create an effective accountability mechanism. Data that social media companies currently share with researchers and other interested parties is inadequate, inconsistent and entirely at each company’s discretion. The recent steps by Twitter and Facebook to improve transparency certainly move in the right direction, but they do not go far enough. We are in urgent need of a broader strategy to address these challenges.”

Quartz: MIT researchers trained AI to write horror stories based on 140,000 Reddit posts. “Sometimes the scariest place to be is your own mind. Or Reddit at night. Shelley is an AI program that generates the beginnings of horror stories, and it’s trained by original horror fiction posted to Reddit. Designed by researchers from MIT Media Lab, Shelley launched on Twitter on Oct. 21.” Good evening, Internet…

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