Facebook, Filter Bubbles, Bots, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, February 24, 2017

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

The Register: Facebook scales back AI flagship after chatbots hit 70% f-AI-lure rate . “Facebook has scaled back its ambitions and refocused its application of ‘artificial intelligence’ after its AI bots hit a 70 per cent failure rate. Facebook unveiled a bot API for its Messenger IM service at its developer conference last April. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had high hopes.”

Mashable: Facebook has 200 new flag frames and is still way behind Snapchat. “Facebook just added almost 200 national flags to its Profile Frames feature, giving users an extra chance share their national pride with all their friends—or just make everyone quickly scrolling through their feeds double-check if their phone screen has a smudge when the flags fly past.”

USEFUL STUFF

Quartz: A complete guide to seeing the news beyond your cozy filter bubble. “Whatever your political beliefs, it can be hard work to evade the algorithms and seek out stories and perspectives that challenge your own. But it’s crucial for the vitality of democratic institutions that rely on an engaged, heterogeneous public.”

O’Reilly’s got a decent overview of bots. “Bots are a new, AI-driven way to interact with users in a variety of environments. As AI improves and users turn away from single-purpose apps and toward messaging interfaces, they could revolutionize customer service, productivity, and communication.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Medium: Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends. “Snapchat is the darling of technology: for years, we’ve fawned over the company for being innovative, using daring interfaces and out of the ordinary tactics to get people to pay it. Despite the fact that the app was always what some would consider “hostile” to new users, full of design anti-patterns, it managed to gain a fledgling user base of 180 million monthly active users. It’s an impressive feat, and one that the company is about to IPO for $20 billion over, but I think the company’s reign is coming to an end.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

Ars Technica: Serious Cloudflare bug exposed a potpourri of secret customer data. “Cloudflare, a service that helps optimize the security and performance of more than 5.5 million websites, warned customers today that a recently fixed software bug exposed a range of sensitive information that could have included passwords and cookies and tokens used to authenticate users.” Two-factor two-factor two-factor two-factor etc.

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Digital Context Next: Podcast audiences are climbing, but the medium faces growing pains. “Podcasts are earning a strong foothold in digital media. The popularity of podcasts such as ‘Serial’ and ‘This American Life’ aided the medium in reaching new audiences. In fact, Edison Research reports an estimated 57 million Americans over the age of 12 listened to a podcast in January and February of 2016.”

Gizmodo: Bots on Wikipedia Wage Edit Wars Between Themselves That Last For Years. “As a new study published in PLOS ONE reveals, Wikipedia’s bots don’t always get along, frequently undoing each other’s edits. These online algorithms, each equipped with their own instructions and goals, engage in sterile ‘fights’ over content that can persist for years. The new research shows how relatively ‘dumb’ bots can produce complex interactions and behaviors, and how developers need to stay on top of their digital creations. This has implications not just for the quality of Wikipedia pages, but for the development of AI in general—particularly any autonomous agents set loose on the web.”

From Washington University in St. Louis: Using Twitter may increase food-poisoning reporting. “Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. citizens gets food poisoning every year, but very few report it. Twitter communications between the public and the proper government authorities could improve foodborne illness reporting as well as the steps that follow, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.”

Friday fun if you really want to weird yourself out. From TechCrunch: Turn anything into a nightmare cat with this machine learning tool. “Machine learning has the potential to solve many of our regular human problems, like for instance having too few nightmarish, oddly cat-filled crude images to gaze upon. Luckily, Christopher Hesse created the edges2cats web-based tool to address exactly that issue.” There’s also one for shoes and handbags. You can REALLY weird yourself out with this. Good afternoon, Internet…

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Ticket Stubs, World War I Letters, Delaware Parks, More: Friday Buzz, February 24, 2017

NEW RESOURCES

Now available: an online archive (via Instagram) of movie ticket stubs. “[Ben] Smith has collected some real gems so far such as a ticket to The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night at the Century’s Huntington in New York and a 1977 ticket for the Orchard Theatre in Singapore. His personal favourite, however, is a Hunger Games Odeon ticket.”

A library in New Zealand has created a Web site with 300 letters from World War I. “The work, which took the eight volunteers more than two years, follows the stories of Charlie McIntyre, Ernie McIntyre, Len Shepard and John Hall, with a combined total of more than 1700 pages of letters transcribed.” The Web site will launch March 1.

A new Web site provides information about public parks in Delaware. “Play Outside is a single online information source that allows users to find public parks as well as exact locations of outdoor recreation facilities within parks and wildlife areas throughout the state. It includes all areas in the public trust managed by towns, cities, counties and state agencies in Delaware. The website is designed to serve those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities, places to be immersed in nature or to conduct active lifestyles. Users can locate parks close to home or in less-developed places such as wildlife areas.”

Washington Post: Google fights online trolls with new tool. “On Thursday, the company publicly released an artificial intelligence tool, called Perspective, that scans online content and rates how ‘toxic’ it is based on ratings by thousands of people. For example, you can feed an online comment board into Perspective and see the percentage of users that said it was toxic.” Because I’m into recursion, I fed this writeup into Perspective to see how toxic it was considered. It got 10%.

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

Digital NC has added a bunch of materials from the Masons and there’s a bit of World War I in there.. From the blog post: “New materials from out partner The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina are now online. This batch includes several Minute Books and an Account book from St. John’s Lodge no. 1, Minute books and an account book from Zion Lodge no. 81, speeches from well known North Carolina Free Masons such as William Lander and J.M. Lovejoy, letters of correspondence, and more. One item that may be of particular genealogical interest is a collection of lists of masons who died in World War I. ”

Engadget: Instagram’s carousel-style photo sets are now available to all . “Sometimes one photo just doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why Instagram has just introduced a new feature where you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in a single post (It’s been teased for awhile, but now it’s finally here). Think of it as a slideshow of different images that your friends can swipe through, be they step-by-step DIY instructions or simply a collection of moments taken at your buddy’s birthday party.”

USEFUL STUFF

From Portent: Don’t Panic: Google Site Search Replacements. “Google’s Site Search product has been around a long time. Pay $100, and you can embed a little Google search engine on your site. They’re keeping Google Custom Search. Sounds great, but there’s a problem…” Ads, specifically. This article lists some options for replacing Google Site Search, but there aren’t many; Google killed a lot of ’em. Does this remind you of anything? LIKE GOOGLE READER?

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Federal News Radio: How Twitter became an outlet of resistance, information for federal employees. “When a former employee of Badlands National Park took over the park’s official Twitter account to tweet climate change facts in direct defiance of the Trump administration, they couldn’t have known that they were starting a movement. Almost one month later, more than 80 accounts claiming to represent various federal organizations and employees, many of them national parks, exist in opposition to the Trump administration and its policies.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

ZDNet: Android ransomware attacks have grown by 50 percent in a year. “Ransomware targeting Android users has increased by over 50 percent in just a year, as cybercriminals increasingly take aim at what they view as an easy ecosystem to penetrate. This, the highest number of attempts to infect Android smartphones and tablets with malicious file-encrypting software so far, comes as users increasingly turn to mobiles as their primary devices, storing more and more valuable data on them.”

Hurriyet Daily News: Over 1,700 arrested over ‘terror propaganda’ via social media across Turkey. “Some 1,734 people have been arrested for ‘making terror propaganda’ on social media since the failed July 2016 coup attempt, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported. ‘Cyber-police’ working on identifying suspects making terror propaganda online have so far detained at least 3,894 people out of 22,088 identified by police since the coup attempt. ”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

TechCrunch: Google’s latest research aims to make mixed reality videos a little less alien. “Game publishers like Owlchemy Labs and Radial Games have done some of the most extensive work on mixed reality setups and have shared their findings with the greater VR game dev community. Many of the issues of reckoning a human avatar in a digital world have been accounted for in these efforts but today, Google revealed in a blog post that its been working on a strange little project to go the last mile in making these MR videos even more realistic by bringing the user’s face back into these videos.”

From Bloomberg, and the article is way better than the headline: Social Media Are Driving Americans Insane. “Social media use has skyrocketed from 7 percent of American adults in 2005 to 65 percent in 2015. For those in the 18-29 age range, the increase is larger, from 12 percent to a remarkable 90 percent. But while an increase in social media usage is hardly surprising, the number of people who just can’t tear themselves away is stark: Nowadays, 43 percent of Americans say they are checking their e-mails, texts, or social media accounts constantly. And their stress levels are paying for it: On a 10-point scale, constant checkers reported an average stress level of 5.3. For the rest of Americans, the average level is a 4.4.” Good morning, Internet…

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Giphy, Google Site Search, Twitter, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, February 23, 2017

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

I must admit, when I think of sites celebrating Black History Month, Giphy does not jump to the front of my mind. Maybe it should. “Timed with Black History Month, GIPHY has made a dedicated effort to provide users with GIFs showing the black American experience. From iconic civil rights activists to #BlackGirlMagic, the GIF search engine is honoring black culture by creating and curating GIFs that help fill a gaping hole in representation online — this February and beyond.”

Google is killing off Google Site Search. “Existing customers can keep using GSS for the life of their current license, but Google will stop selling new licenses and renewals as of April 1, according the email viewed by Fortune. Once a customer’s allocation of search queries is exhausted, the account will ‘automatically convert’ to the company’s Custom Search Engine, or CSE for short.” So automatically convert to Google having more advertising opportunities?

TheNextWeb: Customer service on Twitter is about to get more human. “If you’ve got a problem that can only be resolved by speaking to a human being, you need Twitter. From airlines to supermarkets, companies have whole-heartedly embraced the platform as a way to acknowledge and resolve the issues of their customers. But there’s a problem. It’s a bit weird – inhuman, even – to hold a conversation with Tesco or United Airlines. They’re not people. They’re companies.”

USEFUL STUFF

MakeUseOf: 5 Best LastPass Alternatives to Manage Your Passwords “Most people consider LastPass to be the king of password managers — it’s packed with features and boasts more users than any of its competitors. But it’s far from being the only option. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to some alternatives. For each suggestion, I’ll give you one core benefit that distinguishes it from its ubiquitous rival.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

NPR: What Students Can Learn By Writing For Wikipedia. “Today, educators are among those more concerned than ever with standards of truth and evidence and with the lightning-fast spread of misinformation online. And the Wiki Education Foundation, a freestanding nonprofit, is sharing Wikipedia’s methods with a growing number of college students, and striking a blow for digital literacy along the way.”

YouTube Blog: YouTube goes to the movies. “The Oscars are just days away—which means movie fans are locking in their predictions, nominees are putting the finishing touches on their red-carpet looks, and we’re ready to name the most popular movie trailer on YouTube.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

Neowin: Microsoft releases critical security update for Flash on Windows after Patch Tuesday delay. “Microsoft has released an unexpected security update for Adobe Flash Player across multiple Windows versions, addressing an issue marked with a ‘critical’ security rating.”

From the Jakarta Globe (Indonesia): National Police Form New Unit to Tackle ‘Fake News’ on Social Media. “The unit, known as the Multimedia Bureau, will be tasked with conducting ‘cyber-patrols’ on the internet. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the new unit will monitor and tackle fake news on social media platforms, distribute information regarding public order and educate social media users.”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Science Daily:
Likelihood of dieting success lies within your tweets
. “There is a direct link between a person’s attitude on social media and the likelihood that their dieting efforts will succeed. In fact, researchers have now determined that dieting success ­– or failure — can be predicted with an accuracy rate of 77 percent based on the sentiment of the words and phrases one uses on Twitter.”

Harvard Business Review: Why Some Crowdsourcing Efforts Work and Others Don’t. “Organizations strive to tap into the potential of crowdsourcing by asking people around the world to come up with ideas. But what makes crowdsourcing work? We conducted a large-scale research project to understand why some organizations succeed to attract crowds and others fail.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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Dublin Photography, Australia Education, Tilt Brush, More: Thursday Buzz, February 23, 2017

NEW RESOURCES

The Dublin City Council of Dublin, Ireland, has released an online archive of photographs. “From today, you can search documents online by archive, date, location for free. The pictures show events like the Eucharistic Congress and the North Strand Bombing (some of which were taken as proof for insurance).” There are 43,000 pictures in the archive.

NewsMail: Government launches website to help families with homework. Government of Australia, that is. “Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the Federal Government’s new website, Learning Potential Resources, was filled with hundreds of ideas, activities, games and videos to help parents of primary school children get involved in their child’s learning.” As an American I was able to access several different items on this site so homeschoolers, you might find this useful. It covers Years 1 through 6 – looking at the learning standards I would guess that Year 1 is roughly equivalent to first grade in America. Teachers or anyone else more knowledgeable about the education system, please chime in the comments.

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

Google’s Tilt Brush is now available for the Oculus Rift. “Tilt Brush defies description even more than most VR experiences, but basically you paint in 3D. But when I say ‘paint,’ I don’t just mean oily brush strokes on canvas — you can also paint with light, or fire, or even music.”

Google is making some tweaks to Google Sheets. Thank goodness. “We’re working hard to ensure that Google Sheets meets your business needs. As part of that effort, today we’re introducing several enterprise-friendly features that you’ve been asking for in Sheets on the web, Android, and iOS.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Is Facebook getting into live sports, too?. “Facebook is in talks to stream one Major League Baseball game a week during the upcoming season, according to a report Tuesday by Reuters.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

Chrome users, stay on the alert. From Neowin: Chrome pop-up pretends to be a font pack update to install malware. “Spotted by Mahmoud Al-Qudsi of security firm NeoSmart Technologies, the hack was seen on a compromised WordPress website. It utilizes Javascript to change the text rendering on the page, which will then resemble mis-encoded text with symbols and other random characters when displayed to the user.”

Naked Security: Facebook rapped for dragging its feet on pictures stolen for ‘like-farming’. “It’s a bogus content format has been a problem on Facebook for years without anyone, including at times Facebook, paying much attention. Its purpose it is to attract gullible followers and appreciation which is exploited to promote all sorts of web frauds.”

Livestream in Cardiff courts, go to jail. “A man who filmed and live-streamed a court case in Cardiff has been jailed for 28 days. David Davies, 39, from Llantwit Fardre, Rhondda Cynon Taff, was broadcasting the footage on to Facebook as a person gave evidence at Cardiff Crown Court on Monday.”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Health IT Central: Forty-three per cent of UK healthcare professionals use Google to search for treatments. PROFESSIONALS. Not patients. “Forty-three per cent of healthcare professionals in the UK use Google search to look for treatments of their patients, Google’s Business Lead for healthcare clients said at an event in London today. Speaking at Google’s HQ in the capital, Shivalika Singh added that, while this is ‘only’ a search, it is also playing an ‘important’ role when it comes to the decision-making process, emphasising that the search acts as a ‘new stethoscope’ or a new ‘medical consultant’.” A medical consultant with non-transparent algorithms!

Phys.org: Historic cultural records inform scientific perspectives on woodland uses. “Scientists at the University of York and University College Cork have investigated how cultural records dating back 300 years could help improve understanding of the ways in which science interprets the many uses of woodland areas. The researchers hope that the work will give a cultural narrative to environmental data collected over time, but also give new insight into the ways in which woodland management systems can be adapted to increase a sense of ownership amongst communities that live near woodland areas.”

Bloomberg Quint: Consumers Don’t Want Amazon or Google to Help Them Shop. “Stores are spending lots of time and money trying out new, fancy technologies such as touchscreen mirrors in changing rooms and robo-assistants out in the racks to get consumers to buy more. Shoppers couldn’t care less.”

And in our “you should really just relax” department: Two seconds is all it takes to frustrate selfie uploaders. “A new study undertaken by Ericsson and Vodafone Germany has found that a mere two-second delay in uploading a selfie over Facebook is enough to cause stress among smartphone users. Neuroscience was used in the study to understand how network performance affects subscriber emotions, stress levels and operator brand.” Good morning, Internet…

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Tamil Agriculture, Women’s Marches, Solar Eclipse, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, February 22, 2017

NEW RESOURCES

Outlook India: Digital archive of documents of Tamil agrarian history set up. “The documents recorded on paper, palm leaves and copper plates are a treasure as they provide a rare and unique opportunity to have a peep into various aspects of social history of village life in remote parts of the Tamil region at a time when a new power structure and social identities were being forged both with and against local traditional and feudal systems and British colonial legislations, it said.” This is for the region of Tamil Nadu, in India.

Georgia State University: Georgia State University Documents the Women’s Marches. “A concerted effort is underway to document the marches in every state, and Georgia State University’s Special Collections is committed to collecting materials from the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women, the Women’s March on Washington, and any other march that Georgians attended. Already, more than 20 people have volunteered to conduct oral history interviews with marchers, and individuals have begun donating their photographs, audio and video files, ephemera and records.”

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

Berkeley is gearing up to crowdsource images of the August 2017 solar eclipse. “The Eclipse Megamovie Project is seeking more than a thousand amateur astronomers and avid photographers to record the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse and upload their photos to be stitched together into a movie documenting the path of totality from landfall in Oregon until the moon’s shadow slips over the Atlantic Ocean off South Carolina.”

USEFUL STUFF

The University College London Press (UCL Press) has published a new book, available via open access, which sounds fascinating. It’s called Key Concepts in Public Archaeology. “This textbook provides a broad overview of the key concepts in public archaeology, research field that examines the relationship between archaeology and the public, in both theoretical and practical terms. While based on the long-standing programme of undergraduate and graduate teaching in public archaeology at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology, the book also takes into account the growth of scholarship from around the world and seeks to clarify what exactly ‘public archaeology’ is by promoting an inclusive, socially and politically engaged vision of the discipline.”

Handy reference from L&T: How to Embed Posts From 8 of the Most Popular Social Networks. “Whether you use them to increase engagement, extend your reach, or simply for their visual appeal, embedding social posts within your content can certainly be beneficial to your brand. But figuring out how to embed posts from each network may prove less than intuitive. Let us walk you through the process of embedding posts from the 8 most popular social networks.”

Social Media Examiner: How to Verify a Facebook Page for a Local Business. “Verifying a local business page adds a layer of legitimacy to your presence and can help customers feel more confident when they engage with you on Facebook. In this article, you’ll discover how to get your local Facebook page verified.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Media Policy Project: The hidden human labour behind search engine algorithms. “Everybody knows that search engines use algorithms, but few know how these work and who builds them. Paško Bilić, Research Associate at the Institute for Development and International Relations in Zagreb, Croatia, writes here about the layers of human labour behind Google’s algorithms and their implications for search neutrality. His post is based on a paper published in Big Data & Society titled ‘Search algorithms, hidden labour and information control.'”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

NBC News: Proposed Homeland Security Rule Asks Some Chinese Visitors for Social Media Accounts. “The Department of Homeland Security has suggested adding an optional question for some visa recipients from China that asks for social media handles before entering the United States. The proposed rule change, published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, would affect Chinese citizens who hold 10-year business (B-1) and visitor (B-2) visas.”

Krebs on Security: How to Bury a Major Breach Notification. “Amid the hustle and bustle of the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco last week, researchers at RSA released a startling report that received very little press coverage relative to its overall importance. The report detailed a malware campaign that piggybacked on a popular piece of software used by system administrators at some of the nation’s largest companies. Incredibly, the report did not name the affected software, and the vendor in question has apparently chosen to bury its breach disclosure. This post is an attempt to remedy that.”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Medium: Can Your Doctor See the Cancer Research Reported in the News? Can you? “The issue of biomedical research in the news media highlights a weakness in the policy’s potential to mandate access to information in a timely manner for the benefit of the public. Currently, the 12-month embargo disenfranchises journalists working to make sense of new research while on deadline, physicians needing to stay up to date, and patients wanting to make timely informed decisions about their health alongside medical practitioners.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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