VQL, Pinterest, AdSense, More: Short Wednesday Buzz, August 23, 2016

A comment a reader left yesterday is still bothering me, so I want to clarify here. He thought that my denoting Saskatchewan as part of Canada was patronizing. I didn’t mean to be patronizing. What I meant to be was clear. ResearchBuzz has readers all over the world, and I’m not making any assumptions about anyone’s knowledge of geography. Therefore I’m going to note that Saskatchewan is in Canada, just as I noted that Annapolis was a city in Maryland.

Every day that I do ResearchBuzz I learn that there’s so much I don’t know. There is truly more on heaven and Earth than is dreamt of in my philosophy. I hope getting hit on the head with that fact daily for the 18+ years I have done ResearchBuzz has knocked the patronizing right out of me. And if it hasn’t yet, I hope it will.

NEW RESOURCES

Data analysis without tears: is this a new trend, something I’m just paying attention to because I’m currently up to my elbows in MYSQL, or ? I don’t know. I do know that VQL sounds pretty cool. “VQL connects to a SQL database or Relational Database Systems, such as PostgreSQL, Amazon Redshift and Heroku. It can also upload data from a CSV or spreadsheet. In all cases, the solution imports the information, predicts column categories and automatically divides the data into a comprehensive table in a matter of minutes. Users can then make instant inquiries sans code, searching for certain text, numbers and dates throughout the dataset. If they aren’t feeling the spreadsheet layout, they can also create histograms – similar to Excel, but with a lot more information.”

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

Pinterest has acquired Instapaper. “Instapaper, a pioneering app for saving articles to read later, has been acquired — again. The app, which was created by developer Marco Arment and sold to Betaworks in 2013, has found a new home at Pinterest.”

Google AdSense used to have a limit of three ad units per Web page. Now that appears to be gone. Ugh. “Over the past 12 hours, I received a few emails and notifications from AdSense publishers that Google seems to have dropped the ad limit per page policy. In the past, the policy was written up on this page as saying that there were ‘up to three AdSense for content units.’ Now that has been removed.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

South Korea is holding off on a decision to whether or not to provide Google with mapping data. “South Korea said on Wednesday it will extend a review of a request by Google Inc in June for permission to take government mapping data out of the country for use in servers worldwide, with a decision due by Nov. 23.”

Google is apparently going to start cracking down on mobile sites with annoying interstitial ads. How about desktop sites with annoying interstitial ads?

Rumors are swirling that the Google VR headset release is pretty close. “The company is relying on apps, shorts and games to promote Daydream, a hybrid store and software service that Google hopes will be the dominant way people engage in virtual reality, much like Android is for smartphones. An update to Android software that will support Daydream began rolling out Monday. The idea is to encourage the growth of the technology and ensure Google maintains a central role in helping people find things to watch.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

A consumer watchdog group is going after the Kardashians. “The consumer watchdog group Truth in Advertising says the clan is illegally advertising stuff on social media. It’s documented over 100 Instagram posts that it says should have been marked sponsored or paid for.”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Two new books: Social media in industrial China and social media in rural China. “From the ways in which social media is a form of education for factory workers, to the increase of privacy, Social Media in Industrial China and Social Media in Rural China together offer detailed and thoroughly researched insights into how social media is being used in China, and the impact it’s having on peoples’ lives.” The books are being released on September 13th; while the paper copies have a price there are open access versions available for free. Good morning, Internet…

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Maryland Newspaper, Pennsylvania Transparency, Saskatchewan Lobbyists, More: Tuesday Buzz, August 22, 2016

NEW RESOURCES

The Capital Newspaper (Annapolis, Maryland) has launched a digital archive. It’s going to be a fee service but it’s free through the end of August. Issues date back to 1887.

The state of Pennsylvania has kicked off its open data initiative. “Pennsylvania launched a new online repository of state government data Monday as part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s push for greater transparency. OpenDataPA, which was created via executive order, currently houses 12 data sets about aging bridges scheduled to be replaced and completed workforce training. Additional spreadsheets will be added over time.”

The providence of Saskatchewan in Canada has launched an online lobbyist registry. “Anyone is able to visit the online registry and search to see what issues or subjects have been lobbied. Lobbyists will have 30 days to register on the site.”

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

USEFUL STUFF

A quick list but a useful one: 7 resources for open education materials

Just in case, from LifeHacker: the beginner’s guide to setting up LastPass.

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Interesting, from New York Times Magazine: Turning Instagram Into a Radically Unfiltered Travel Guide. “The rise of the social web promised a new era of personalization for globe-trotting. But like many things born online, as popularity of the new tools increased, efficiency and usefulness began to decrease. Brands and businesses quickly set to figuring out how to manipulate and game the services, and they soon succeeded. Yelp, for example, lost credibility after it was revealed that the company solicited people to write fake reviews. Foursquare’s recommendations were initially a wealth of insider tips, but advertisers often bought their way into the recommendations, giving chains priority over local businesses. TripAdvisor has a slightly different problem: Its ambit is so broad that its recommendations have come to represent a safe median, a poll of polls. It’s great for making sure a restaurant you want to eat in won’t give you dysentery, but less so for identifying adventures or local secrets.”

WIRED: Want More Accurate Polls? Maybe Ask Twitter. “Traditional polling methods aren’t working the way they used to. Upstart analytics firms like Civis and conventional pollsters like PPP, Ipsos, and Pew Research Institute have all been hunting for new, more data-centric ways to uncover the will of the whole public, rather than just the tiny slice willing to answer a random call on their landline. The trending solution is to incorporate data mined from the Internet, especially from social media. It’s a crucial, overdue shift. Even though the Internet is a cesspool of trolls, it’s also where millions of Americans go to express opinions that pollsters might not even think to ask about.”

The Federal Reserve got on Facebook, and the Internet turned it up to 11. (Don’t read the comments. Don’t. Read. The. Comments.) American Banker has a more measured article.

Looks like Facebook had a pretty good Olympics. “Facebook saw more than 1.5 billion interactions — likes, posts, comments and shares — related to the Olympics throughout the games. From Aug. 5 to 21, 277 million people participated in the conversation around the world, meaning Facebook users, on average, interacted with Olympics-related stories 5 times.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

Here’s a good use for Google Maps: getting out of a speeding ticket “[Danial] Mercer was accused of going 49 kilometres per hour in a 30 km/h zone. The school zone signs aren’t visible in the photo he got with his ticket.”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

Interesting question: Should government clean up its Twitter feeds? With regards to Twitter’s new filter feature: “From the perspective of Lindsay Crudele, director of DotGov and dean of training at Media Cause, the new feature goes a long way to combat negative interactions with harsh critics, but isn’t a tool government officials or organizations should just jump into. It comes with potential ramifications.”

OTHER STUFF I THINK IS COOL

I’m into my second Hell Week of the month and this is about the most I can handle: a Twitter bot that tweets different color gradients every half hour. “… it’s incumbent on Twitter users to curate a space for themselves on the platform that is a little less **picture of a dumpster on fire** and a little more chill. Since human beings have had approximately zero chill since Eve ate that apple in that garden that one time, everyone’s best bet for having a nice time on Twitter is likely removing all the flesh-and-blood users from their feed and replacing them with bots.” Good morning, Internet…

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Yucca Mountain Documents, Open Data Policies, Komodo Island, More: Monday Buzz, August 22, 2016

NEW RESOURCES

Now available: a digital library of documents related to the Yucca Mountain Depository. “The [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] is flipping the switch today on its new LSN Library — making nearly 3.7 million documents related to the adjudicatory hearing on the proposed Yucca Mountain repository available to the public. The library makes the discovery documents by various parties to the hearing public for the first time in five years, and with enhanced search capabilities.”

Now available: a database of open data policies from municipalities across the United States. “A pair of open government groups are teaming up to post dozens of open data policies from cities around the country in a searchable, machine-readable format, giving local leaders a new resource for understanding how other localities are making their information more accessible. The Sunlight Foundation and OpenGov Foundation announced their new collaboration on ‘Open Data Policies Decoded’ last week, unveiling a beta version of the new database with policies from 48 cities posted and ready for analysis.”

Put up on Google Street View over a week ago and I missed it: imagery from the Komodo Islands, Indonesia. “Beyond taking a virtual walk with dragons, you can also explore the rich marine life surrounding Komodo Island, with the launch of 11 new underwater sites from Indonesia, thanks to XL Catlin Seaview Survey and The Ocean Agency.”

This actually happened at the beginning of the month, but I couldn’t get to the NREL press release. Now it works. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has launched an energy profile for each US city. “The City Energy Profile tool, which is available on the State and Local Energy Data website, uses innovative, robust data science methodologies to derive city-specific data for 23,400 cities across the United States. In addition to providing cities with estimates of their electricity and natural gas use and costs by sector, the tool generates energy market profiles that provide data on the fuel types, including alternative fuels, and the fuel economy of vehicles registered in each city.” Use the “tabs” on the side of the information pages to get details for each section of energy use.

From the Library of Congress’ “New on the Web” feed: The New York Journal, 1896-1899. Yes, a very short archive, but I just spent 30 minutes wandering around in it. You’ve been warned.

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

The Annapolis Maritime Museum has gotten a grant to make its archives more accessible. “The Annapolis Maritime Museum has received a strategic impact grant from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County to build a virtual database of archives. This grant is making a big impact for the museum’s online collections, and the museum’s database has already encouraged local historians to submit their private collections for public use.” I tried the link in the article and it led to a simple site. I tried to leave a comment and I couldn’t do that either. I hope you have better luck with this story than I did.

FEMA has updated its mobile app to include crowdsourced images. “After you snap a pic, you’re prompted to choose from a selection of categories including ‘flood,’ ‘thunderstorms,’ and ‘wildfire.’ Then, after you’ve assigned a date and location, the app uploads your material to FEMA’s cloud storage. ‘When you take a photo of a disaster that’s happening in your area, first responders have access to that database,’ [Sheridan] Marfil said. ‘It gives first responders a clear picture of what it looks like out there.'”

Indian Railways is teaming up with Google. “Railways will collaborate with Google for digitizing and showcasing its heritage on digital platforms. Google has agreed to partner with Railways to digitise its heritage assets and help create a digital repository for universal online access free of cost, said a senior Railway Ministry official. Indian Railway has a huge list of heritage assets including bridges, steam locos, buildings, artefacts and museums which can be showcased for global audience.”

USEFUL STUFF

From Six Revisions: 13 Free Data Visualization Tools.

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

This is just flat-out scary. From Urban Milwaukee: Journal Sentinel Archive Disappears. “…on Tuesday, August 16, the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel listings vanished from the Google News Archive home page. This change came without any advance warning and still has no official explanation.” The only explanation the article writer could get was that Newsbank now owned the copyright to these newspapers. But if the archives really did have “more than a century’s worth of local newspapers,” why has no one called out Newsbank on trying to assert copyright over pre-1923 materials?

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

The latest retailer to be hit by malware is Eddie Bauer. “All the retailer’s stores in the U.S. and Canada, numbering about 350, were affected, a company spokesman disclosed Thursday. He added that the retailer is not disclosing the number of customers affected. The card information harvested included cardholder name, payment card number, security code and expiration date.” The breach apparently happened between January and July 2016 ….

RESEARCH AND OPINION

New York Magazine: Save the Trash! Why the Gawker Archive Is Important. “The early content of Gawker, in particular, is of real significance in the history of journalism. Elizabeth Spiers, in the site’s first days, and Choire Sicha, soon thereafter, all but invented the bloggy, voice-y approach to online writing that now dominates the web. Many of us try to do that sort of work in a more generous or kinder way; many of us do not have the appetite for blood that Gawker did. But whether you like it or not, or mimic it or not, what they did changed the way things are done. For that alone, it is (and will be) worth study, and is thus worth preserving.”

From MIT Technology Review: How an Algorithm Learned to Identify Depressed Individuals by Studying Their Instagram Photos “…Andrew Reece at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chris Danforth at the University of Vermont in Burlington, … have found significant correlations between the colors in photos posted to Instagram and an individual’s mental health. The link is so strong that the pair suggest that it could be used for early detection of mental illness.” Good morning, Internet…

Do you like ResearchBuzz? Does it help you out? Please consider supporting it on Patreon. Not interested in commitment? Perhaps you’d buy me an iced tea. I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!

Indian Missions, Eastern Bloc Architecture, India Higher Education, More: Sunday Buzz, August 21, 2016

NEW RESOURCES

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has launched a new app (on Facebook) for finding Indian missions around the world. “The app, developed in cooperation with social media giant Facebook, will help people connect with Indian missions abroad and the Ministry of External Affairs through a range of social media platforms without having to access individual websites.” In the US at least, the word “mission” often has a religious connotation. I don’t see that here; searching through the same info at mea.gov.in all the ones I found were embassy-type organizations.

In development: an online archive to preserve the architecture of the former Eastern Bloc. “Described as Socialist Modernist, the buildings captured were all constructed after the second world war within the former Eastern Bloc – the group of Central and Eastern European states that were under Soviet influence – and neighbouring Yugoslavia.” The images in this article are absolutely stunning.

More India: the University Grants Commission (UGC) is setting up a single digital library for the country’s higher education students. “The letter said that from single window of NDL, educational material, more than 40 types of learning resources, and 13 lakh items in more than 70 languages can be accessed. In order to making the most out of these resources, the UGC has asked the officials to advise students to register themselves on the NDL portal…” A lakh is 100,000.

Facebook has a new app that you can only use if you’re under 21 and have an iPhone. “Facebook has yet another piece of software to lure teenagers into thinking its products are more hip than Snapchat. The new iOS app, called Lifestage, is a kind of video diary where you answer biographical questions about yourself. Instead of filling in answers with text, you record a small video snippet that others can view on your profile. Every time someone updates their page, it shows up in a feed prompting others to check it out.

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

Microsoft has released PowerShell as open source. “Announcing the release, Microsoft’s Jeffrey Snover described the impetus for the move: customers liked the use of PowerShell for management, remote control, and configuration but didn’t like that it was Windows-only. To address this concern, Microsoft first had to bring .NET, and then PowerShell itself, to Linux and other platforms.”

More open source! Facebook has released fastText on GitHub. “Every day, billions of pieces of content are shared on Facebook. To keep up with the data, Facebook has been using a variety of tools to classify text. Traditional methods of classification, like deep neural networks are accurate, but have serious training requirements. In an effort to classify both accurately and easily, Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) lab developed fastText. Today, fastText is going open source so developers can implement its libraries anywhere.”

Google is killing off its Chrome apps. “Google today announced on the Chromium blog that it would be ending support for Chrome apps on Windows, macOS, and Linux. According to Google, the company launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge the gap between what could be done on the web and what could be done with a native application. Since then, APIs have been developed that allow web apps to do more, such as use push notifications.”

USEFUL STUFF

MakeUseOf: 5 No-Installation Apps to Copy-Paste or Transfer Files Quickly. I gotta try that 9c.nu ….

From Loige: Extracting data from Wikipedia using curl, grep, cut and other shell commands. “In this article I am going to show you how I was able to extract and process some information from Wikipedia only using a combination of common bash utilities like curl and grep.” What I really like about this article is that its author, Luciano Mammino, extends it in response to comments and external articles, and the comments themselves are well-worth reading. So well done Mr. Mammino.

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

Ruh-roh. Looks like Windows 10 is breaking Web cams. (Hmm, maybe this is one of those “good news and bad news” things.) “If you have recently updated to the latest version of Windows 10 and you’re wondering why your USB webcam is acting a bit wonky, don’t worry, it isn’t your webcam’s problem. Instead it seems to be more of an issue with the latest update to Windows 10, and you can also rest assured that you’re not alone in this.”

Facebook is apparently building a Steam-type platform for casual games. Like Big Fish? “According to a post from Facebook announcing the partnership, Unity will integrate support for the Facebook platform and will streamline the process for exporting and publishing games to the social networking site so developers can more quickly get their games to potential players.”

RESEARCH AND OPINION

University of Washington research: ‘I miss you so much’: How Twitter is broadening the conversation on death and mourning. “In a paper that will be presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), UW doctoral students Nina Cesare and Jennifer Branstad analyzed the feeds of deceased Twitter users and found that people use the site to acknowledge death in a blend of public and private behavior that differs from how it is addressed on other social media sites.” Good morning, Internet…

Do you like ResearchBuzz? Does it help you out? Please consider supporting it on Patreon. Not interested in commitment? Perhaps you’d buy me an iced tea. I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!

New Jersey Newspapers, Mississippi Legal Advice, WordPress, More: Saturday Buzz, August 20, 2016

NEW RESOURCES

In development: a digital archive of newspapers from New Jersey. “The New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project is a collaboration of Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives and the New Jersey State Library that will make the history of New Jersey known to its citizens and the world. The plan, according to project director and Rutgers University digital archivist Caryn Radick, is to scan existing microfilm from the New Jersey State Archives and to make searchable digital files available through the Library of Congress website Chronicling America. Over a two-year period, the project will digitize and catalog at least 100,000 newspaper pages, originally published between 1836 and 1922 and not currently available in digital format.”

Low-income citizens in Mississippi are getting a new resource for legal advice. “The online service … will provide information about common legal problems, such as divorce, child custody, housing, landlord-tenant disputes, land issues, trust and estate matters, will and probate matters, wage and employment issues, bankruptcy, and consumer disputes, [Tiffany] Graves said.”

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

WordPress 4.6 is now available. “This version speeds up the management of both themes and plugins by allowing both to be added, updated or deleted from a single page — no need to click back and forth between the main Themes page and a separate ‘Add Theme’ page, for example.”

Neat: add images to questions and answers in Google Forms. “Google Forms makes it easy to create, distribute, and analyze surveys. Starting today, you can craft even more effective forms by inserting images into survey questions or adding images as multiple choice or checkbox options in Forms on the web.”

USEFUL STUFF

In case ya need it: how to find Government of Canada press releases. “Government of Canada press releases, also referred to as news releases, are issued for the media to announce the latest news of government departments. At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we hold a number of press releases, some in hard copy format in our archival holdings, and some in our published collection. The LAC collection is a great starting point to search for older releases that are not currently online.”

Interesting: Try Exploring Wikipedia Visually Like a Spaceship in Space. “Wikiverse turns the Wikipedia experience into an outer space exploration. Zoom out and you’ll see constellations of related, and at times overlapping, topics or domains: Nature, Literature, and History make up one constellation, Culture, Religion, and History another.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

VentureBeat: Why chatbots are so disruptive. “Chatbots have been around for decades. There are 18,000 of them on Facebook Messenger alone, with over 1,000 chatting away on Kik in the past six months. Slack has deployed countless bots to help humans get work done in groups since 2013. We’ve seen a critical mass for the first time, but — as with any disruptive tech — there are stages. Here they are…”

Twitter is going after extremists. “Over the last year, Twitter has been suspending accounts for promoting terrorism. The social network had already made it public that 125,000 accounts were suspended between mid-2015 and early 2016. Today we learned that Twitter has added an additional 235,000 suspensions, bringing their two-year total to 360,000 accounts.”

Facebook’s efforts to make its workforce more diverse don’t appear to be working that well. “Two years ago, Facebook proposed a system to make its workforce less universally white or Asian and male. The plan was to incentivize its in-house recruiters to hire diverse candidates, literally giving them more points for Hispanic, black and/or female candidates that would build a score directly applying to their performance reviews and bonuses. Unfortunately, the gains for more female employees are marginal and the racial makeup of the company hasn’t changed, and the method can be deemed a failure.”

SECURITY/LEGAL ISSUES

It looks like the NSA really was hacked. “A group of hackers known as the Shadow Brokers is currently selling off cyber-spying tools, which it claims belong to the U.S. government, in an online auction. Now, analysis of software that the group made freely available to prove its legitimacy suggests that it’s authentic, and likely to belong to the National Security Agency.”

A bunch of tech companies are teaming up with the FCC to stop robocalls. We can only hope. “Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has asked wireless and wireline phone companies to offer call-blocking services to customers at no cost. The robocall strike force plans to report to the FCC by Oct. 19 on ‘concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions,’ AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement.”

Shocked not shocked: beating facial recognition logins with Facebook photos. “Earlier this month at the Usenix security conference, security and computer vision specialists from the University of North Carolina presented a system that uses digital 3-D facial models based on publicly available photos and displayed with mobile virtual reality technology to defeat facial recognition systems. A VR-style face, rendered in three dimensions, gives the motion and depth cues that a security system is generally checking for. The researchers used a VR system shown on a smartphone’s screen for its accessibility and portability.” Good morning, Internet…

Do you like ResearchBuzz? Does it help you out? Please consider supporting it on Patreon. Not interested in commitment? Perhaps you’d buy me an iced tea. I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!