Factualities for November 14, 2018

November 14, 2018

Believe ‘em or not. I am not the least suspicious of round numbers.

  • 50 percent. Percent of WhatsApp users who do not know that Facebook owns the messaging application. Source: The Next Web
  • $100 million amount PwC (a consulting firm) will spend on training employees who are self starters. Source: Techcrunch
  • Less than one second. Time required to destroy a low end drone with a 50 kilowatt laser. (Your PowerPoint laser will be less than five milliwatts.) Source: Gizmodo
  • One. Rank of the US in economic competitiveness. Source: Next Big Future
  • Three years. How long an Apple iPhone will last. Source: Cult of Mac
  • Six percent. Growth in global Internet access growth, which was down from 19 percent in 2017. Source: Technology Review

Stephen E Arnold, November 14, 2018

Factualities for November 7, 2018

November 7, 2018

Believe ‘em or not.

  • 900 percent. Amount Facebook inflated its ad watching data. Source: Slashdot
  • $390 billion. Size of the global cyber weapon market in 2014. Estimated growth rate: 4.4 percent. Source; Transparency Market Research
  • 66 percent. Calculated segment of the US population which has
    heard about software robots. Source: Pew
  • $1 billion. The amount Massachusetts Institute of Technology will spend for its Schwarzman College of Computing which will focus on artificial intelligence. Source: Digital Trends
  • 2019. When Jeff Bezos will send tourists into space. Source: Recode
  • $45 billion. Amount invested in Softbank’s Vision Fund. Source: Quartz

Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2018

Censorship: Deleted and Blocked Content Popular

November 7, 2018

The Internet is a tool and companies harness the Internet to offer services, such as social media, search, news, and commerce. These companies act as portals for users to post their information and content. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects companies from being held liable for their users’ actions. This means that companies cannot be sued or prosecuted for what their users share. This could all change.

Inc. takes a look at how this could change in the article, “Facebook, Google, And Twitter Must Censor The Web, Demand Investors.” Why would this change? It would change because bad actors use social media and other services for illegal activities. The law that could change the DMCA is the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Web sites would be held liable for content posted on them. Any content posted on say Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. that results in illegal activities could get the Internet providers arrested.

“FOSTA creates a legal precedent to hold Internet providers responsible for user-created content that drives other behaviors. Hate speech might lead to murder and terrorism, for instance. Therefore, it’s easy to imagine that the US government will pass laws similar to FOSTA holding Internet providers legally liable for that content. Other examples of user-content that might face FOSTA-style laws include sexual harassment, racism, fake news, and election interference.”

Investors are not happy about this inevitability and at future shareholder meetings they will demand these companies clean up their acts. Since nobody wants to see CEOs and other employees arrested, investors are pushing for censorship of user-generated content.

This would mean the end of free speech on the Internet, because everyone finds everything and anything offensive. It also violates the First Amendment. The backlash is going to huge and we cannot wait to see how 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit react.

Whitney Grace, November 7, 2018

Memes and an App Apocalypse?

November 5, 2018

It used to be all about the apps and their versatility, but now apps are clunky especially when you want to make a meme. Memes are one of the Internet’s currencies, a good meme can hook a ton of views, hits, subscribers, and potentially go viral. Going viral ranks a meme’s longevity and can even go down in Internet infamy. Making memes are not as simple as one would think, take a look at The Atlantic’s article, “What’s The Best App For Making Memes?”

The answer: none. App meme makers available in the Apple App Store used to be a useful tool, but these apps have not been maintained and do not make the quality memes now in demand. The only time these apps are used are when they are being made fun of. The current meme creation app offerings are very poor, some meme creators rely on their computers instead of their mobile devices.

There is a high demand and someone can make money if a meme app was designed correctly:

“Recognizing this need, some apps have emerged in recent months to corner the market. But building the killer meme app is incredibly challenging. Many memers say that for one app to have everything they’d need, it would have to incorporate advanced photo- and video-editing tools and a highly precise eraser. And it would have to be flexible enough to adapt to new formats in real time.”

Memes are not one size fits all, however, and anything that works for one individual is fine. Memes are jokes and casual entertainment for quick Internet consumption. The goal is that memes generate laughter for an instant, then you one onto the next one. Whatever process that works for making them is fine.

Whitney Grace, November 5, 2018

Verizon: Doing What Telcos Do

November 5, 2018

Sometimes it is still hard to believe that Yahoo and AOL are now owned by the same company. What is even harder to believe is that Verizon owns all of them. Verizon, AOL, and Yahoo are in for an upset, because the San Francisco Gate reports, “Head Of Verizon’s AOL, Yahoo To Depart.”

Tim Armstrong is replacing its media and advertising with Oath President and COO Guru Gowrappan will assume the position on October 1. Armstrong will remain with Verizon until the end of the year and will act as a strategic advisor.

We learned that Gowrappen has an interesting background:

“Gowrappan joined Verizon in April and before that was global managing director of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba. Armstrong was tasked with growing Verizon’s ad business in a challenge to Facebook and Google, but that business remains one of Verizon’s less profitable divisions. Armstrong came to Verizon when it bought AOL in 2015 and began overseeing Yahoo when Verizon bought it in 2017.”

Armstrong apparently has failed to “patch” up AOL and Yahoo as a rival to Google and Facebook. Perhaps it is a thankless task, but Beyond Search does not think this former Baby Bell would think AOL and Yahoo thoughts without the former Googler’s inputs, PowerPoints, and positive cheers.

Now Verizon has a couple of email services and some ageing online services. Yahoo seemed like a contender when it had Yahoo Groups, chatrooms, and even auctions, but these fizzled as social media and Amazon moved with purpose. AOL remained in the dial up era when compared to zippy new services like Instagram.

Verizon will have to work some Bell magic to give these services a chance in today’s online marketplace.

Whitney Grace, November 5, 2018

English: The Language Which Leaves Some Gaps

November 2, 2018

The English language is complex. Modern English is brewed with words from around the globe, invented to fill a need, or new slang becomes popular. While English speakers believe that their tongue is the epitome of language, it does not cover all the feelings, sensations, needs, and objects other languages have. In short, English cannot say everything. Scoll takes a look at “The Idea Of ‘Untranslatable’ Words Says More About English Speakers Than Other Cultures.”

After punching a few holes in language myths and non-existent English words, the article presents the idea that “language reveals something about our psyche.” Having words for concepts does make them easier to name, just because there is not a precise phrase for something does not mean it cannot be conceived. Lack of a word or a misunderstanding of it can result in racism or worse: the total erasure of a concept from a culture. The article uses George Orwell’s 1984 and the story’s erasure of certain words such as freedom from its lexicon. Are English-only speakers missing out on something?

“But even an apparently benign conclusion about how some Australian languages encode space with compass directions (“north”) rather than ego-relative position (“my left-hand side”) suggests English speakers often miss out on knowledge about language and cognition because they are busy measuring things against an arbitrary English-centric benchmark. Different language conventions are usually not exotic or unusual; it’s just that English speakers come from a position of very great privilege because their language is the default. People who speak other languages are seen as different, as outsiders.”

True and false. Yes, those who speak only English see others as outsiders, but if you visit a foreign country where they speak a foreign tongue the same can be said for English speakers. The way to resolve this is to read more books and get out of the US for culture shock.

Whitney Grace, November 2, 2018

Factualities for October 31, 2018

October 31, 2018

Believe ‘em or not. More satisfying, symmetric numbers from assorted data mavens:

  • 50 percent. The volume of government censor requests for censoring YouTube content.
    Source: Inquisitr
  • 800. Number of spam accounts Facebook purged. Source: SFGate
  • Zero. The number of times Google mentioned its Android operating system during its Made by Google 2018 keynote. Source: 9to5Google
  • 40,000. Number of facial recognition cameras monitoring 11 million uighurs in China. Source: Business Insider
  • 30 million. Number of DuckDuckGo searches delivered on one day in October 2018. By comparison, Google delivered only 3.5 billion daily searches. Source: Slashgear
  • 111 million active profiles on Google Plus in 2015. (This number will soon be zero because consumer Google Plus has been killed off by lax security and possibly interesting management methods.) For a point of reference, Facebook has two billion active profiles or 18 times the traction of Google Plus. Source: CNet

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2018

Wikipedia Gets A Female Update

October 29, 2018

Wikipedia is one of the best parts of the Internet. It is an official unofficial resource and includes information that print encyclopedias do not include. What is even better about Wikipedia is that it covers pop and entertainment culture and it used to be very hard to find authoritative information about it. Very difficult. Another fantastic Wikipedia accomplishment is that it documents important historical unknowns aka people who made a contribution to history, but there is little information about them. BoingBoing shares how, “A Machine Learning System Trained On Scholarly Journals Could Correct Wikipedia’s Under-Representation Problem” and is adding female scientific unknowns to the online encyclopedia.

Quicksilver is a machine learning AI that used 30000 Wikipedia articles to create a model article to identify what makes a scientist worthy enough to be included in the online knowledge tome. Quicksilver then mined Semantic Scholar to identify 200,000 scholars and is composing Wikipedia entries for them if they are missing. In an even cooler move:

“In addition to correcting omissions in Wikipedia, Quicksilver (which is named for the Neil Stephenson novel) is particularly useful in improving the representation of women in the project. On 18% of Wikipedia’s biographic entries are about women and the vast majority of Wikipedians are men. In addition to creating new Wikipedia entries, Quicksilver can suggest new material for existing entries.”

Even if Wikipedia is low on female scientists and scholars, it is still a better resource to learn about them than so-called authoritative resources. Perhaps a fresh look at Wikipedia is needed?

Whitney Grace, October 29, 2018

Online Ad Fraud! Who Knew?

October 24, 2018

I read “Apps Installed On Millions Of Android Phones Tracked User Behavior To Execute A Multimillion-Dollar Ad Fraud Scheme.” Goodness, first my faith in Facebook’s data about video ad performance was eroded a tiny bit. Now there are allegations about Android app ad fraud. The write up uses the word “cabal.”

The online advertising business, in my opinion, has been a bastion of integrity. Sure, there were baseless assertions about robot clickers which depleted a competitor’s online ad checkbook. There were squishy numbers about the number of human eyeballs versus crawler clicks. And there were ads for interesting products and services which online ad vendors suggested were real, true blue commercial messages.

Yes, integrity. Online advertising. Bound at the hip.

But there is this write up in Buzzfeed which states:

But an investigation by BuzzFeed News reveals that these seemingly separate apps and companies are today part of a massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. More than a dozen of the affected apps are targeted at kids or teens, and a person involved in the scheme estimates it has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from brands whose ads were shown to bots instead of actual humans.

I know that it takes smart filters to verify apps in crime free locations like Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria. And the British Virgin Islands? Unthinkable.

But the article presents some data which suggest that a modest amount of money is in play; to wit:

App metrics firm AppsFlyer estimated that between $700 million and $800 million was stolen from mobile apps alone in the first quarter of this year, a 30% increase over the previous year. Pixalate’s latest analysis of in-app fraud found that 23% of all ad impressions in mobile apps are in some way fraudulent. Overall, Juniper Research estimates $19 billion will be stolen this year by digital ad fraudsters, but others believe the actual figure could be three times that.

Google, of course, was quick to take action. Google cares.

I am disappointed that this infinitesimal aberrations in an integrity filled business have been reported as “true” fact.

More data are needed, please. I know that Facebook and Google can explain this misguided assertion.

My goodness, manipulation of online advertising. Shocking. Shocking.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2018

More Pressure on For Fee Legal Publishers

October 24, 2018

One of the things we take for granted in the United States is information access. The US Constitution and other laws make it mandatory that certain information is shared with the public for transparency. Other reasons are laws like the Freedom of Information Act that declassifies confidential information when it is no longer a security risk. The Electronic Frontier Foundation shares how the US Court of the Appeals of the Federal Circuit shares its documentation, “Federal Circuit Makes Briefs Immediately Available To The Public.”

The Federal Circuit Court will now make its briefs available to the public. Before briefs were only available after a period of days when they were reviewed by the Clerk’s Office. However, the Clerk’s Office wants to be clear that all received briefs will be marked as “tendered,” until the office has accepted them for filing, then they will be publicly available. The instant access is a victory:

“While this is perhaps a small change, we appreciate that the Federal Circuit is making briefs available upon filing. We had encountered delays of 7 days or more (this meant that the parties’ briefs were sometimes not available until after supporting amicus briefs were due). Ultimately, the public’s right of access to courts includes a right to timely access. The Federal Circuit is the federal court of appeal that hears appeals in patent cases from all across the country, and many of its cases are of interest to the public at large.”

The Federal Circuit’s former access to briefs conflicted with other actions it holds on transparency. The good news is that the Federal Circuit will only seal information if there is good reason and if parties want to have more than fifteen consecutive words sealed they need to file a separate motion. Hopefully more federal district courts will not seal as many records, because the Federal Circuit is not doing so.

Whitney Grace, October 24, 2018

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