Indigenous Languages, Google Books, Political Activism, More: Thursday Evening ResearchBuzz, December 26, 2019


New-to-me, from CBC: Why this ‘language geek’ provides hundreds of Indigenous language tools for free. “Chris Harvey had a ‘pivotal moment’ when he was in Grade 7. He found a book in the library on how to speak Moose Cree. That’s where he discovered syllabics, what he calls the language of his northern neighbours, and hasn’t looked back since. Harvey, 47, is the man behind… a site that provides keyboards and fonts in more than 100 Indigenous languages, including all of the ones in northern Canada, as well as languages in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.”


XDA Developers: Leafster is a powerful search tool for the Google Books database. “Leafster is an unofficial app made by XDA Recognized Contributor StrangerWeather which uses the Google Books API in order to scour through the service’s vast collection of knowledge and, whenever possible, display snippets, partial previews, and even download the file entirely. Leafster also looks aesthetically pleasing to use since it tries to follow Google’s Material Theme guidelines whenever possible, adding a few twists of their own as well.”


Phys .org: Israeli museum explains the emojis of ancient Egypt. “How does an academic explain the importance of ancient hieroglyphics to modern audiences glued to their phones? Through the cunning use of emojis. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem this week opened the ‘Emoglyphs’ exhibition, comparing the pictograms of antiquity to those of today.”

McGill International Review: Political Activism and Social Media: Friends or Foes?. “Political awareness and political activism must go beyond the realm of social media. Although holding judgmental views about politicians with controversial beliefs bodes well for ensuring the legitimacy of political awareness in contemporary American politics, censuring these politicians solely through the use of social media may have undesirable effects. In light of the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Obama unsurprisingly fears that the Democrats will ‘have such a small party and will not be able to win’ if assessments of candidates are based on such purity tests.” This article does a great job of laying out all the problems with and arguments for social media activism and its accompanying mechanisms like cancel culture. But it doesn’t come to concrete conclusions, and who can blame it? Informative but unavoidably frustrating.


TechCrunch: No, Spotify, you shouldn’t have sent mysterious USB drives to journalists. “Last week, Spotify sent a number of USB drives to reporters with a note: ‘Play me.’ It’s not uncommon for reporters to receive USB drives in the post. Companies distribute USB drives all the time, including at tech conferences, often containing promotional materials or large files, such as videos that would otherwise be difficult to get into as many hands as possible. But anyone with basic security training under their hat — which here at TechCrunch we have — will know to never plug in a USB drive without taking some precautions first.”

CNET: Exposed databases are as bad as data breaches, and they’re not going anywhere. “This year wasn’t a good one for keeping sensitive information private: The names, addresses and demographic data of 80 million US households got revealed. So did the expected salaries of more than a million job seekers. And so, too, thousands of Facebook passwords, along with even more users’ likes and comments. Here’s the galling part: None of this data was exposed by hackers with exceptional technical prowess. It was just left sitting on the internet, by mistake.”

Engadget: Wikipedia wins its battle against censorship in Turkey. “Two years ago, Turkey banned Wikipedia after the site refused to remove content tying the country to terrorist groups. That decision was reversed today in the nation’s highest court, which called the ruling a violation of freedom of expression, and ordered the site to be unblocked. The timeframe isn’t clear, but it’s likely that Turkish citizens will soon be able to access the community-powered encyclopedia.”


Trib Live: CMU researchers develop tool to pinpoint source of gunshots using smartphone videos. “A tool developed at Carnegie Mellon University to determine the location of gunshots correctly pinpointed where the shots came from in the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, CMU researchers said.”

Ars Technica: The five best new podcasts to help nerds escape the news cycle. “I’ve spent enough time immersed in the 2019 news cycle to start feeling a little like the world is ending. Maybe that’s why I’m always plugged into podcasts—and not necessarily for mindless escapism. Instead of news broadcasts and current events, I prefer to fill my ears with nerdy knowledge and stories of scientific research. By year’s end, I was surprised to find myself with five terrific series, all new this year, to recommend to anybody else in a similar situation.” Good evening, Internet…

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