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Tumblr Has a GIF For You

June 30, 2015

Facebook recently enabled users to post GIF images on the social media platform.  Reddit was in an uproar over the new GIF and celebrated by posting random moving images from celebrities making weird faces to the quintessential cute kitten.  GIFs are an Internet phenomenon and are used by people to express their moods, opinions, or share their fandom.  Another popular social medium platform, Tumblr, the microblogging site used to share photos, videos, quotes, and more, has added a GIF search, says PCMag in “Tumblr Adds New GIF Search Capabilities.”

The main point of Tumblr is the ability share content either a user creates or someone else creates.  A user’s Tumblr page is a personal reflection of themselves and GIFs are one of the ultimate content pieces to share.  Tumblr’s new search option for GIFs is very simple: a user picks the + button, clicks the GIF button, and then search for the GIF that suits your mood.  A big thing on Tumblr is citing who created a piece and the new search option has that covered:

“Pick the GIF you want and it slinks right in, properly credited and everything,” the company said. “Whoever originally posted the GIF will be notified accordingly. On their dashboard, on their phone, all the regular places notifications go.”

GIFs are random bits of fun that litter the Internet and quickly achieve meme status.  They are also easy to make, which appeals to people with vey little graphic background.  They can make something creative and fun without much effort and now the can be easily found and shared on Tumblr.

Whitney Grace, June 30, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Instagram Promises Improved Search

June 15, 2015

Frustrated with the abysmal search functionality at Instagram? Rejoice, for Wired tells us that, soon, “Better Search Will Transform How You Use Instagram.” Instagram’s cofounder Mike Krieger admitted that it is currently difficult for users to discover many photos that would interest them, but also asserted the company knows it must do better. Why, then, wasn’t search a priority earlier in the company’s history, and why are they talking about this now? Writer Julia Greenberg informs us:

“All that could soon change, given that Instagram has Facebook on its team. The social media titan, which acquired Instagram in 2012, is targeting Google itself as it develops a robust search system to make both its own platform and the whole web searchable through its own app. But while Facebook users post links, status updates, news, opinions, and photos, Instagram is almost completely visual. That means Instagram needs to teach its search engine to see. Krieger said his team has worked on a project to better understand how to automate sight. ‘Computer vision and machine learning have really started to take off, but for most people the whole idea of what is a computer seeing when it’s looking at an image is relatively obscure,’ Krieger said.”

Ah, prodded by their Facebook overlords; makes sense. Instagram isn’t ready to hand the site over to algorithms entirely, though. Their human editorial team still works to help users find the best images. Apparently, they feel humans are more qualified to choose photos with the most emotional impact (go figure). Krieger sees Instagram developing into a “storytelling” destination, the place users to go connect with world events through images: “the real-time view into the world,” as Krieger puts it. We agree that implementing an effective search system should help toward that goal.

Cynthia Murrell, June 15, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

A Loon Survivor: Facebook Lands Its Satellites

June 9, 2015

I know the quest to create a walled garden stimulates would-be AOLs thinking. I read “Facebook Has Scrapped Its Secret Plan to Build a $500 Million Satellite to Provide Cheap Internet in the Developing World.” It does appear to the addled goose that a person with some math sense calculated that operating Facebook satellites would be expensive. Facebook seems to be focusing its efforts on what the article called “ridiculously large drones.”

For me, maybe Google and its Loon balloons are a better deal. There is the problem of control, of course. Balloons drift, a fact which is evident at Kentucky Derby time when errant balloons come down in places not designed to accommodate large bags charged with hot air from open flames. I would be happier if some of this effort went into better information access, relevance, an useful information delivered to users looking for data.

Yahoo and AOL never had an opportunity to do the boom boom thing. What happens if a Facebook drone collides with a Loon balloon? Could a Jeff Bezos rocket take out both a drone and a Loon balloon? Who needs international dust ups. Corporations have to defend their turf, right?

Stephen E Arnold, June 9, 2015

Social Media Listening on Facebook

June 9, 2015

The article on Virtual-Strategy Magazine titled NUVI and Datasift Join Forces to Offer Clients Access to Anonymized and Aggregated Facebook Topic Data explains the latest news from NUVI. NUVI is a growing platform for social media “listening”, allowing companies to combine and visualize the data from a variety of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and more. NUVI is also the exclusive partner of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary Business Wire. NUVI is now partnering with Datasift, which gives it access to collected and anonymous Facebook topic data, which includes such information as the brands being discussed and the events being held on Facebook. The article states,

“Access to this information gives marketers a deeper understanding of the topics people are engaging in on the world’s largest social platform and the ability to turn this information into actionable insights. With NUVI’s visually intuitive custom dashboards, customers will be able to see aggregate and anonymized insights such as age ranges and gender… “Our partnership with DataSift is reflective of our desire to continue to provide access to the valuable information that our customers want and need,” said CEO of NUVI.”

Tim Barker, Chief Product Officer of Datasift, also chimes in with his excitement about the partnership, while mentioning that the business value of the deal will not affect the privacy of Facebook users. At least the range of information businesses will glean from a post will not contain a specific user’s private data, just the post they probably have no clue is of value beyond the number of likes it gets.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 9, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Facebook Program May Disintermediate Google

June 5, 2015

Soon, Facebook users may not have to navigate to Google for relevant links then copy-and-paste them into posts and comments. TechCrunch reports, “Skip Googling with Facebook’s New ‘Add a Link’  Mobile Status Search Engine.” If this program currently being tested on a sample group makes it to all users, you can impress your “friends” a few seconds faster, and with fewer clicks. Actually reading what you find before you share the link is up to you. The article describes:

“Alongside buttons to add photos or locations, some iOS users are seeing a new ‘Add A Link’ option. Just punch in a query, and Facebook will show a list of matching links you might want to share, allow you to preview what’s on those sites, and let you tap one to add it to your status with a caption or share statement. Results seem to be sorted by what users are most likely to share, highlighting recently published sites that have been posted by lots of people. …

“If rolled out to all users, it would let them avoid Googling or digging through Facebook’s News Feed to find a link to share. The ‘Add A Link’ button could get users sharing more news and other publisher-made content. Not only does that fill the News Feed with posts that Facebook can put ads next to. It also gives it structured data about what kind of news and publishers you care about, as well as the interests of your friends depending on if they click or Like your story.”

Writers Josh Constine and Kyle Russell observe that, as of last year, Facebook drives nearly 25 percent of “social” clicks, and publishers are becoming dependent on those clicks. Facebook stands to benefit if their Add A Link button enhances that dependency. Then there is the boost to ad revenue the site is likely to realize by keeping users inside their Facebook sessions, instead of wandering into the rest of the Web. A move that will both please users and the bottom line– well played, Facebook.

Cynthia Murrell, June 5, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook Offers Ad Revenue for Streamlined News Experience

May 28, 2015

Facebook is offering an interesting carrot to certain publishers, like the New York Times and National Geographic, in the interest of streamlining the Facebook use-experience; CNet reports, “Facebook Aims to Host Full Stories, Will Let Publishers Keep Ad Revenue, Says Report.” Of course, the project has to have a hip yet obvious name: “Instant Articles” is reportedly the feature’s title. Writer Nate Ralph cites an article in the Wall Street Journal as he tells us:

“The move is aimed at improving the user experience on the world’s largest social network. Today, clicking on a news story on Facebook directs you to the news publication’s website, adding additional time as that site loads and — more importantly for Facebook — taking users away from the social network. With Instant Articles, all the content would load more or less immediately, keeping users engaged on Facebook’s site. The upside for publishers would be increased money from ads, the Journal said. With one of the versions of Instant Articles that’s being considered, publishers would keep all the revenue from associated ads that they sold. If Facebook sold the ads, however, the social network would keep 30 percent of the revenue.”

Apparently, some news publishers have been “wary” of becoming tightly integrated into Facebook, perhaps fearing a lack of control over their content and image. The write-up goes on to note that Facebook has been testing a feature that lets users prioritize updates from different sources. How many other ways to capture and hold our attention does the social media giant have up its sleeve?

Cynthia Murrell, May 28, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph



Emojis Spur Ancient Language Practices

May 12, 2015

Emojis, different from their cousin emoticons, are a standard in Internet jargon and are still resisted by most who grew up in a world sans instant connection.  Mike Isaac, who writes the New York Times Bits blog, tried his best to resist the urge to use a colon and parentheses to express his mood.  Isaac’s post “The Rise Of Emoji On Instagram Is Causing Language Repercussions” discusses the rise of the emoji language.

Emojis are quickly replacing English abbreviations, such as LOL and TTYL.  People are finding it easier to select a smiley face picture over having to type text.  Isaac points to how social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat users are relying more on these pictograms for communication.   Instagram’s Thomas Dimson mentioned we are watching the rise of a new language.

People string emojis together to form complete sentences and sentiments.  Snapchat and Instagram rely on pictures as their main content, which in turn serves as communication.

“Instagram itself is a means of expression that does not require the use of words. The app’s meteoric rise has largely been attributed to the power of images, the ease that comes, for instance, in looking at a photo of a sunset rather than reading a description of one.  Other companies, like Snapchat, have also risen to fame and popularity through the expressive power of images.”

Facebook and Twitter are pushing more images and videos on their own platforms.  It is a rudimentary form of communication, but it harkens back to the days of cave paintings.  People are drawn to images, because they are easy to interpret from their basic meaning and they do not have a language barrier.  A picture of a dog is still the same in Spanish or English. The only problem from using emojis is actually understanding the meaning behind them.  A smiley face is easy to interpret, but a dolphin, baseball glove, and maple leaf might need some words for clarification.

Isaac finishes that one of the reasons he resisted emojis so much was that it made him feel childish, so he reserved them for his close friends and family.  The term “childish” is subjective, just like the meaning of emojis, so as they become more widely adopted it will become more accepted.

Whitney Grace, May 12, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Reading in the Attention Deficit World

May 12, 2015

The article on Popist titled Telling the Truth with Charts outlines the most effective and simple method of presenting the information on the waning of book-reading among Americans. While the article focuses on the effectiveness of the chart, the information in the chart is disturbing as well, stating that the amount of Americans who read zero books in 2014 is up to 23% from 8% in 1987. The article links to another article on The Atlantic titled The Decline of the American Book Lover. That article presents an argument for some hope,

“The percentage of young folks reading for pleasure stopped declining. Last year, the NEA found that 52 percent of 18-24 year-olds had read a book outside of work or school, the same as in the pre-Facebook days of 2002. If book culture were in terminal decline, this is the demographic where you’d expect it to be fading fastest. Perhaps the worst of the fall is over. “

The article demonstrates the connection between education level and reading for pleasure, which may be validation for many teachers and professors. However, there also seems to be a growing tendency among students to read, even homework, without absorbing anything, or in other words, to skim texts instead of paying close attention. This may be the effect of too much TV or

Facebook, or even the No Child Left Behind generation entering college. Students are far more interested in their grades than in their education, and just tallying up the numbers of books they or anyone else read is not going to paint an accurate portrait. Similarly, what books are the readers reading? If they are all Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, do we still celebrate the accomplishment?

Chelsea Kerwin, May 12, 2014

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Neural Networks Finally Have Their Day

May 11, 2015

The Toronto Star offers a thoughtful piece about deep learning titled, “How a Toronto Professor’s Research Revolutionized Artificial Intelligence.” Professor Geoffrey Hinton was instrumental in pursuing the development of neural network-based AI since long before the concept was popular. Lately, though, this “deep learning” approach has taken off, launching many a product, corporate division, and startup. Reporter Kate Allen reveals who we can credit for leading neural networks through the shadows of doubt:

“Ask anyone in machine learning what kept neural network research alive and they will probably mention one or all of these three names: Geoffrey Hinton, fellow Canadian Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun, of Facebook and New York University.

“But if you ask these three people what kept neural network research alive, they are likely to cite CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. The organization creates research programs shaped around ambitious topics. Its funding, drawn from both public and private sources, frees scientists to spend more time tackling those questions, and draws experts from different disciplines together to collaborate.”

Hooray for CIFAR! The detailed article describes what gives deep learning the edge, explains why “machine learning” is a better term than “AI”, and gives several examples of ways deep learning is being used today, including Hinton’s current work at Google and the University of Toronto. Allen also traces the history of the neural network from its conceptualization in 1958 by Frank Rosenblatt, through an era of skepticism, to its recent warm embrace by the AI field. I recommend interested parties check out the full article. We’re reminded:

“In 2006, Hinton and a PhD student, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, published two papers that demonstrated how very large neural networks, once too slow to be effective, could work much more quickly than before. The new nets had more layers of computation: they were ‘deep,’ hence the method’s rebranding as deep learning. And when researchers began throwing huge data sets at them, and combining them with new and powerful graphics processing units originally built for video games, the systems began beating traditional machine learning systems that had been tweaked for decades. Neural nets were back.”

What detailed discussion of machine learning would be complete without a nod to concerns that we develop AI at our peril? Allen takes some time to sketch out both sides of that debate, and summarizes:

“Some in the field believe that artificial intelligence will augment, not replace: algorithms will free us from rote tasks like memorizing reams of legal precedents and allow us to pursue the higher-order thinking our massive brains are capable of. Others think the only tasks machines can’t do better are creative ones.”

I suppose the answers to those debates will present themselves eventually. Personally, I’m more excited than scared by the possibilities. How about you, dear reader?

Cynthia Murrell, May 11, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Digital Economy Growth Engines Lose RPMs

April 24, 2015

Short honk: I read several articles about the financial reports of Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. I enjoyed the explanations about the revenues and profits. Here are the write ups open on my desktop monitor at this moment:

Is there a message to be decrypted from these data? Yep.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2015

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