Hermit Crabs, Public Records, California State University Northridge, More: Friday Buzz, March 16, 2018


Phys .org: Interactive, downloadable and 3-D printable scans of newly discovered hermit crabs now available. “Today, a study published in the open access, open data journal GigaScience provides three-dimensional visual data from hermit crabs using the latest 3D microCT (Micro computed tomography) scanning technology. By making this microCT data publicly available, taxonomists potentially have more time and cost-efficient options for examining and comparing specimens for taxonomic research. With a shortage of trained taxonomists, this also provides new opportunities for education and training. To ease access to these data, the authors go beyond just describing the data collection and findings by providing downloadable, interactive files of everything in this study. For interested citizen scientists out there, they even include interactive web-based viewers and 3D printable file formats.”

Reveal: New database expands public access to information about public records. “Want to find out how to see how much your state is spending on contracts with private companies? Figure out how much public money elected officials are spending on travel? A new database launched by MuckRock, collaborating with Reveal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, will make it easier to explore open government laws and request information from state and local governments.”

California State University, Northridge: CSUN’s Sundial Completely Digitized . “From diverse protests to large events on campus, the student-led Sundial has captured the heart and attitude of students, faculty and staff on campus for more than ​​60 years. In order to preserve CSUN’s history, The Sundial has been completely digitized and archived in the Delmar T. Oviatt Library. This grueling process of taking editions published and photographing ​every page, then uploading them to a database, took the Oviatt staff years to complete, with the help of the Online Computer Library Center. ​”


The Register: YouTube plan to use Wikipedia against crackpots hits snag. “In Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told the audience at the South by Southwest Interactive conference that the social video site plans to defuse conspiracy theory content by pairing it with corrective information culled from Wikipedia – a site editable by more or less anyone. However, she neglected to inform Wikipedia, which on Wednesday reacted with bemusement.”

CNET: Google adds wheelchair accessibility info to transit maps. “The search giant announced Thursday that it’s added wheelchair accessible navigation to its Google Maps app so you can find a route that accommodates wheelchairs. All you have to do to find such a route is type a destination into Google Maps.”

Fast Co Design: Google Maps’ Cool New Tool Turns Your Real City Into A Game. “Google wants to make bringing our real world into video games easier. And it wants to make putting video games into our real world easier, too. So it’s integrating the Google Maps API–currently used by all sorts of apps with maps on your phone–with the popular Unity video game engine. That means the service’s 100 million 3D buildings, roads, and landmarks from 200 countries around the globe have been translated into so-called ‘GameObjects’ in Unity.”


Boing Boing: DoNotPay bot launches a cheap airline ticket that automates the nearly impossible business of getting refunds when prices fall . “The DoNotPay bot… is a versatile consumer advocacy chatbot created by UK-born Stanford computer science undergrad Joshua Browder, with its origins in a bot to beat malformed and improper traffic tickets, helping its users step through the process of finding ways to invalidate the tickets and saving its users millions in the process. Now, Browder has launched a service that tracks your plane-ticket purchases after you buy and, if there are sudden price-drops (as is often the case), automatically engages in the deliberately baroque and nearly impossible-to-invoke US consumer protection rules that enable you to get a refund for the difference.”


Motherboard: How to Make a Video Go Viral on Facebook. “A woman wearing black body paint with white, circuitlike stripes lays in the middle of a ring of hundreds of old keyboards, a green laptop glow illuminating her white hair. The image is instantly captivating: This is a scene from our cyberpunk future, or at least a scene from The Matrix. It’s one of those photos where the setup of the whole scene, more than the photo itself, is the art. But the photo is staged in more ways than one: The image and its accompanying behind-the-scenes video have been engineered from the start to go viral on Facebook.”

Huffington Post: How A Twitter Fight Over Bernie Sanders Revealed A Network Of Fake Accounts. “Twitter allows users to automate their accounts, including setting up automatic retweeting and liking of other accounts. This increases activity on the platform, something Twitter obviously wants to do, and allows busy users to promote messages or businesses that they support. Presumably Twitter did not anticipate that users would simply hand their accounts over to another person or campaign to artificially spread the latter’s tweets. The ability to swamp a debate with automated messages is a problem for political discourse around the world. Twitter is a vital platform for political debate. Automating Twitter accounts to retweet or otherwise promote specific messages thus becomes a tactic to silence political debate and squelch free speech.”

The Intercept: Facebook Quietly Hid Webpages Bragging Of Ability To Influence Elections . “WHEN MARK ZUCKERBERG was asked if Facebook had influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the founder and CEO dismissed the notion that the site even had such power as ‘crazy.’ It was a disingenuous remark. Facebook’s website had an entire section devoted to touting the ‘success stories’ of political campaigns that used the social network to influence electoral outcomes. That page, however, is now gone, even as the 2018 congressional primaries get underway.”


WRAL: To find suspects, police quietly turn to Google. “In at least four investigations last year – cases of murder, sexual battery and even possible arson at the massive downtown fire in March 2017 – Raleigh police used search warrants to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime, according to a WRAL News review of court records. These warrants often prevent the technology giant for months from disclosing information about the searches not just to potential suspects, but to any users swept up in the search.”


Pew (pew pew pew pew pew!): About a quarter of U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online . “As smartphones and other mobile devices have become more widespread, 26% of American adults now report that they go online ‘almost constantly,’ up from 21% in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January 2018.” Good morning, Internet…

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