Local Government Leadership, J.R.R. Tolkien, Color Calibration, More: Tuesday ResearchBuzz, March 22, 2022


Route Fifty: New Data Show a Major Gender Gap in Local Government Leadership. “Fewer than one in three top appointed local officials are women, according to the analysis. Curious how your state stacks up? Tools released with the research allow users to look at trends and comparisons across the country.”

Smithsonian Magazine: Rarely Seen Paintings by J.R.R. Tolkien Portray a Lush ‘Lord of the Rings’ Landscape. “The Lord of the Rings author was also a skilled artist who sketched, painted and mapped the worlds that he was imagining as he wrote about them. Many of the original illustrations in the Hobbit were created by Tolkien himself. Audiences can now view a selection of Tolkien’s rarely seen Lord of the Rings artworks for free via the Tolkien Estate’s newly updated website, reports Sarah Cascone for Artnet. The portal, which debuted last month, also allows viewers to explore documents, images and audio clips related to Tolkien’s personal life and his lesser-known pursuits as a mapmaker, calligrapher and artist.”


Mozilla Blog: Firefox Extension Helps Bring Movie Magic To Theaters Near You. “Color calibration — the process of adjusting colors in order to display images consistently in color and brightness across monitors — is a critical component of visual effects. As visual effects studios and their vendors transitioned to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic, this process that was easy to manage in-office suddenly became difficult to achieve. Over the past year, Firefox worked with Industrial Light & Magic to build a game-changing solution and developed the Extended Color Management Add-On.”

The Register: MATLAB expands to reach self-driving, wireless biz. “MathWorks, maker of the long-standing MATLAB suite, is focusing its latest software updates on reaching beyond its traditional scientific base – and eyeing up autonomous vehicle developers, makers of devices with wireless communications, and others.”


From Wonder Tools, with a thanks to Paul P. for pointing it out: New ways to record 🗣 conversations. “Recording conversations is easy. Doing it well is harder. Welcome to this week’s Wonder Tools post, focusing on helping you record interviews more effectively.”


Globe and Mail: TikTok and Instagram have made personal finance cool: The trick is finding the good stuff. “Bloggers and YouTubers have been creating down-to-earth and friendly financial content since well before the pandemic. But financial advice on platforms like TikTok and Instagram exploded when COVID-19 restrictions and a 21-month stock market rally drew scores of home-bound millennial and Gen Z novices to financial markets and to seek out online money-management information. Of course, plenty of financial advice on social media is factually wrong or outright fraudulent. But some successful financial influencers, or finfluencers, see themselves as educators who can speak to individuals and life challenges often neglected by traditional sources.”

Mashable: TikTok meets meditation: The singing bowl is a hit. “[Elizabeth] Jasmine, whose videos have garnered 32,000 followers and half a million likes, is part of a fast-growing ‘singing bowl’ or ‘sound bowl’ community on the app. The hashtag #singingbowl has 106 million views on TikTok, while #singingbowlmeditation has 5.3 million. Videos are often saturated in colors such as violet or midnight blue, which creators hope will evoke the calming sensation their sound is known for.”


Techdirt: (Corporate) Information Wants To Be Free. “…the average American citizen cannot approach private companies and demand access to communications, contracts, or regulatory compliance activities. Instead, they have to approach it obliquely, asking government agencies for permission to view (some) of this (secondhand) information. This is rarely successful. Corporations love tax dollars but they have almost zero interest in being honest with taxpayers. Private companies have inserted themselves into court proceedings to prevent people accused of crimes from examining the (private company-supplied) evidence used against them. And when FOIA requesters come knocking on federal or local government doors, corporations swear on all that is profitably unholy that any information leak might destroy their competitive advantage.”

The Daily Swig: Downdetector: How the popular site outage tracker is helping to improve web security. “…losing access to the internet or an online service is frustrating, and not all organizations are transparent about outages. By looking at Downdetector or other crowdsourced data, users can at least start to determine if the problem is their local connection, at the service provider, or somewhere in between. Over the years, though, Downdetector has also been adopted by online businesses themselves, feeding the data into their network operations centres.”

Reuters: Google Settles Over Firing of Workers Protesting Immigration Cloud Deal . “Alphabet Inc’s Google has settled with six current and former employees who had alleged the company unfairly stifled worker organizing, an abrupt ending to a trial that had been paused for several months, legal filings show.”


VentureBeat: Language models that can search the web hold promise — but also raise concerns. “In a paper published early this month, researchers at DeepMind, the AI lab backed by Google parent company Alphabet, describe a language model that answers questions by using Google Search to find a top list of relevant, recent webpages. After condensing down the first 20 webpages into six-sentence paragraphs, the model selects the 50 paragraphs most likely to contain high-quality information; generates four ‘candidate’ answers for each of the 50 paragraphs (for a total of 200 answers); and determines the ‘best’ answer using an algorithm.”

University at Buffalo: What’s the prevailing opinion on social media? Look at the flocks, says UB researcher. “…collective views on a topic or issue expressed on social media, distinct from the conclusions determined through survey-based public opinion polling, have never been easy to determine. But the ‘murmuration’ framework developed and tested by Yini Zhang, PhD, an assistant professor of communication in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, and her collaborators addresses challenges like identifying online demographics and factoring for opinion manipulation that are characteristic on these digital battlegrounds of public discourse.” Good morning, Internet…

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