Twitter, Image Editing, Chinese-Canadians, More: Thursday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, December 20, 2018


Slate: Twitter Has Finally Made It Easy to Set Your Timeline to Reverse-Chronological. “Almost three years ago, Twitter introduced one of the most controversial changes in its history. It began using a ranking algorithm to decide what tweets people would see at the top of their timeline. Until then, it had (with some exceptions) simply shown users all the tweets from everyone they follow in reverse-chronological order. There was an option to turn off the algorithmic ranking, but it was hidden within the Twitter settings, and its function wasn’t obvious.”


KnowTechie: This super helpful website will remove the background of your image in 2 seconds. “You know the one thing that can really elevate your meme game? Like, really make it so your stuff sticks out? Background removal around your subject, so you can stick them into another crazy environment. You used to need expensive software like Photoshop to do this, and it was time-consuming! Plus it didn’t always work well, especially if the background had similar colors, or if the subject had flying hair.” Okay, the big limitations here are that a) your picture has to have a human in it and b) ideally it’s only one human. I tried the tool and it was so good I literally gasped out loud. It wasn’t perfect, but it did a ton of work in just a few seconds.


Georgia Straight (this is a Canadian publication, why it is called Georgia Straight I do not know): B.C. government seeks public input about potential Chinese Canadian museum. “The province and the City of Vancouver are seeking to have Vancouver’s Chinatown designated as a United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, and are also planning to develop a Chinese Canadian museum.” An online museum would be part of the initiative.

The Atlantic: Rising Instagram Stars Are Posting Fake Sponsored Content. “Tapping through Palak Joshi’s Instagram Stories recently, you might have come across a photo that looked like standard sponsored content: a shiny white box emblazoned with the red logo for the Chinese phone manufacturer OnePlus and the number six, shot from above on a concrete background. It featured the branded hashtag tied to the phone’s launch, and tagged OnePlus’s Instagram handle. And it looked similar to posts from the company itself announcing the launch of its new Android phone. Joshi’s post, however, wasn’t an ad. ‘It looked sponsored, but it’s not,’ she said. Her followers are none the wiser. ‘They just assume everything is sponsored when it really isn’t,’ she said. And she wants it that way.” Some stories make me feel really old and really stupid.


Arizona State University: New research aims to curb the surge of consumer privacy violations. “With the arrival of the holiday season, you’ve likely been bombarded with customized coupons and gift recommendations designed to steer you to products and services you’re most inclined to buy. Retailers and free service providers like Facebook and Google reap revenue with these highly curated and targeted advertisements — but at the cost of your data. The recent increase in consumer privacy violations motivated Arizona State University Associate Professor Lalitha Sankar to develop game theoretic models that retailers and service providers can use to help them generate accurate recommendations while guaranteeing consumer privacy.”

ZDNet: DOD doesn’t keep track of duplicate or obsolete software. “The US Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Air Force are not keeping track of their software inventories, according to a report released today by the US Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG).”

Bloomberg Quint: Google Targeted by Consumer Groups Over Children’s Apps. “Alphabet Inc.’s Google distributes mobile apps for children that are inappropriate for young people and may violate children’s privacy laws, according to a complaint from 22 consumer and privacy groups. Kids’ apps in the Play store on the company’s Android devices can expose children to ads showing alcohol or that promote gambling, while game play might depict dangerous acts, according to the complaint, which was filed with the Federal Trade Commission.”

CNET: Facebook sued by DC attorney general over alleged privacy violations. “Facebook is being sued by the DC attorney general over allegations it failed to safeguard the personal data of its users. The company’s ‘lax oversight and misleading privacy settings’ allowed UK political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to gain access to the personal information of Facebook users without their permission, according to the attorney general’s office.”


Ars Technica: How computers got shockingly good at recognizing images. “Right now, I can open up Google Photos, type ‘beach,’ and see my photos from various beaches I’ve visited over the last decade. I never went through my photos and labeled them; instead, Google identifies beaches based on the contents of the photos themselves. This seemingly mundane feature is based on a technology called deep convolutional neural networks, which allows software to understand images in a sophisticated way that wasn’t possible with prior techniques.”

The Getty Iris, with a side of “Oh, WOW” -: Two Intricate Calligraphy Pages from the Sixteenth-Century Manuscript “Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta” Have Been Decoded for the First Time. “One letter of a Latin text on a page of sixteenth-century parchment captivated my attention for three hours. I consulted dictionaries to determine potential Latin words that might shed light on the myriad possibilities for this letterform. I used magnifying glasses to zoom in on the letter to find any hidden clues; shapes that might lead me in a better direction. It took fully three hours for me to realize that this letter was an uppercase Z.” Visit the article if only to look at the images. The lettering is unreal. Good afternoon, Internet…

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