Omar Ibn Said, Great Molasses Flood, YouTube, More: Wednesday ResearchBuzz, January 16, 2019


Library of Congress: Only Known Surviving Muslim American Slave Autobiography Goes Online at the Library of Congress. “The Library of Congress has acquired and made available online the Omar Ibn Said Collection, which includes the only known surviving slave narrative written in Arabic in the United States. In 1831, Omar Ibn Said, a wealthy and highly educated man who was captured in West Africa and brought to the United States as a slave, wrote a 15-page autobiography describing his experiences.”

Patch: Molasses Flood Victims’ Death Certificates Now Online. “A century ago 21 people, including two school children and one 65-year-old house wife were killed in the Great Molasses Flood in the North End. Now, their death certificates are online as part of a new online archives system the Secretary of the Commonwealth announced Tuesday.”


CNET: YouTube updates guidelines to address dangerous pranks, challenges. “The Google-owned video-sharing site said Tuesday it had updated its community guidelines to clarify that content containing pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury violate YouTube policy prohibiting content that encourages violence or dangerous activities. The updated policy comes amid a spate of Bird Box challenges, in which participants go around wearing blindfolds.”

Mozilla Blog: Evolving Firefox’s Culture of Experimentation: A Thank You from the Test Pilot Program. “Test Pilot performed better than we could have ever imagined. As a result of this program we’re now in a stronger position where we are using the knowledge that we gained from small groups, evangelizing the benefits of rapid iteration, taking bold (but safe) risks, and putting the user front and center. We’re applying these valuable lessons not only to continued product innovation, but also to how we test and ideate across the Firefox organization. So today, we are announcing that we will be moving to a new structure that will demonstrate our ability to innovate in exciting ways and as a result we are closing the Test Pilot program as we’ve known it.” What in the world is a bold but safe risk?


Lifehacker: Find Specialty Subreddits With This Tool. “The cool thing about Reddit is that you can subscribe to just the subreddits you like, and ignore everything you don’t. The smaller, more specialized subreddits are the best, but they’re harder to find. The new tool sayit helps you find them.”


Smithsonian Magazine: Why We Need to Keep Searching for Lost Silent Films. “Because early motion pictures were released on nitrate film, which is dangerously flammable and susceptible to decay—only to become even more flammable as it deteriorates—the majority of these films are no longer with us today. While the exact number of lost films is unknown, a study commissioned by the Library of Congress ballparks the surviving number at a scant 14 percent. These lost films have a resonance beyond film history.”

Wired: A Growing Frontier for Terrorist Groups: Unsuspecting Chat Apps. “ISIS has effectively exploited the power of technology to fuel its rise around the globe, from streaming and file-sharing platforms to messenger applications and social media services. Many tech companies have responded in turn, strengthening their oversight and security measures. But while major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram are becoming increasingly inhospitable to ISIS, the group’s reach is growing on lesser-known messenger apps designed for businesses and gamers.”

Ars Technica: New hospital price lists are massive spreadsheets full of gibberish. “At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, an ‘HC BYP FEM-ANT TIBL PST TIBL PRONEAL ART/OTH DSTL’ will run you $35,014.00. If you go to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, an ‘HC ECMO/ECLS INIT VENO-VENOUS’” costs $51,384.00. And at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City, a ‘TRLUML PERIP ATHRC ILIAC ART’ goes for $22,689.83. These mysterious prices—and tens of thousands of others—are all on the hospitals’ respective new price lists, available in beastly spreadsheets downloadable from the hospitals’ websites. As of January 1, hospitals around the country are now federally required to list all standard charges for common treatments and care. The goal is to make hospital billing more transparent, allowing patients to comparison shop and anticipate medical expenses.”


TechCrunch: Another huge database exposed millions of call logs and SMS text messages . “An unprotected server storing millions of call logs and text messages was left open for months before they were found by a security researcher. If you thought you’d heard this story before, you’re not wrong. Back in November, another telecoms company, Voxox, exposed a database containing millions of text messages — including password resets and two-factor codes. This time around, it’s a different company: Voipo, a Lake Forest, Calif. communications provider, exposed tens of gigabytes worth of customer data.”

The Jerusalem Post: Opening The National Library’s Digital Doors. “A caricature of a balloon-headed prime minister Menachem Begin looks out from the cover of a pamphlet published ahead of the 1981 national election. ‘Begin… and the rest of the Likud’s jokes,’ it reads. The little green booklet is one of the millions of items and artifacts held by the National Library of Israel in its extensive archives. But until now, it was one of many items that the library did not earmark for digitization, because it is known as ‘orphan work,’ whose copyright holders cannot be located. Now, following an amendment to the Copyright Law passed in the Knesset on January 1, the library and other cultural institutions in Israel will have much greater freedom to digitize and share their vast holdings without the fear of lawsuits.”


Miami Herald: Researchers compile body scans for new database. “Researchers are converting thousands of full-body scans done by the state Office of the Medical Investigator as part of an effort to build a searchable database that can help anthropologists, criminal investigators and others.”

The Daily Aztec: 3D Greek digital photographic library allows researches to piece together remnants of the past. “In a tech-savvy world, SDSU’s Classics department is adopting more innovative means in which students can take a look at ancient artifacts – without having to travel thousands of miles across the globe. ‘Some of the most important pieces are sherds … there’s one piece in New York, four pieces in Florence, two pieces in Paris in the Louvre,’ Dr. Danielle Bennett, a professor in the Humanities department said. ‘3D design is going to bring them all together in the digital library.'” Good morning, Internet…

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