Mir Books: Filling a Niche

June 23, 2022

Russian literature stereotypically compromises Tolstoy’s novels and works by scientists with unpronounceable names. Another Russian literature stereotype deals with fiction subject matter. It pokes fun at the prolonged, abject suffering of the country, how it has become the standard way of life for them, and that it makes them strong, resilient people. Despite actions by their politicians, the Russian people have a great sense of humor and love joking about their unyielding misery with themselves and foreigners.

As for their non-fiction works, especially in the sciences, there is an entire library of knowledge unknown to the majority of the world. Mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and other scientists are usually the only ones familiar with these works, but these fields have a limited audience.

Mir Books is the name of a defunct Soviet Union publisher as well as a blog maintained by a dedicated fan. The unnamed fan has made it their mission to share these out-of-print titles with the world, because of nostalgia and for posterity.

“An entire generation of Indians came of age with the titles from Mir Publications. But with the end of the Soviet era, the Mir saga came to an end. The Mir titles which at times were cheaply and easily available became scant. And finally ceased to be a part of the mainstream bookshops. The only places one could find them were in the used book shops, and that too became scarce as the years went by. This trend continues till date. To find a Mir title today even in a used book shop is nothing less than a MIRacle!! …

Many of the titles will be lost forever never to delight a new generation of readers. The knowledge that at least these books existed should not be lost. This blog is a project to make a comprehensive list of the titles published by Mir and over the years. So that the knowledge about these titles goes to the larger community, so that in the future someone can take up their digitization and / or republication. I urge and request all the people who owe even a little bit to books by Mir to contribute their knowledge about these books here…”

What is remarkable is that Mir Books published books for the Indian market. India and Russia are not normally associated with each other, but they are close neighbors and it only makes sense they are economic partners, especially in the Soviet age!

The blog creator digitized a lot of rare science texts, but the best are the children’s books. The Soviet Union printed propaganda material just like communist China and Nazi Germany to indoctrinate kids, but they also published educational materials with a Soviet slant. Despite complying with propaganda rules, they do contain scientific facts. The scientists with the unpronounceable names had to get the basics somehow.

Whitney Grace, June 23, 2022

Time Warp: Has April Fool Returned Courtesy of the Google?

June 22, 2022

I delivered a lecture on June 16, 2022, to a group of crime analysts in a US state the name of which I cannot spell. In that talk, I provided a bit of information about faked content: Text, audio, video, and combinations thereof. I am asking myself, “Is this article “Ex-Google Worker: I Was Fired to Complaining about Wine Obsessed Religious Sect’s Influence?” “real news”?

My wobbly mental equipment displayed this in my mind’s eye:

image

Did the Weekly World News base its dinosaur on the one Google once talked about with pride? Dear Copyright Troll, this image appears in Google’s image search. I think this short essay falls into the category of satire or lousy “real journalism.” In any event, I could not locate this cover on the WWN Web site. Here’s a link to the estimable publication.

A dinosaur-consuming-a-humanoid news, right? Thousands of years ago, meh. The Weekly World News reported that a “real journalist” was eaten alive by 80 ft dinosaur.”

What about the Google Tyrannosaurus Rex which may have inspired the cover for my monograph “Google Version 2: The Calculating Predator?” Images of this fine example of Googley humor are difficult to find. You can view one at this link or just search for images on Bing or your favorite Web image search engine. My hunch is that Google is beavering away to make these images disappear. Hopefully the dino loving outfit will not come after me for my calculating predator.

What’s in the Daily Beast article about terminations for complaining about Google wine obsessed sect at the Google?

Let me provide a little reptilian color if I may:

  1. A religious sect called the Fellowship of the Friends operates in a Google business unit and exerts influence at the company.
  2. The Fellowship has 12 people working at the online ad giant
  3. The Fellowship professionals have allegedly been referred to the GOOG by a personnel outfit called Advanced Systems Group
  4. The so-called “sect” makes wine.

The point that jumps out at me is that Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind or AGYD people management professionals took an action now labeled as a “firing” or wrongful termination.

Okay, getting rid of an employee is a core competency at AGYD. Managing negative publicity is, it appears, a skill which requires a bit more work. At least the Google dinosaur did not eat the former Google employee who raised a ruckus about a cult, wine, recruitment, etc. etc.

Stephen E Arnold, June 22, 2022

More Facebook Papers

June 20, 2022

Interested in Facebook? If so, you may find the latest installment of the Facebook papers interesting. Who is publishing these documents? The answer is the “real news” outfit Gizmodo. “The Facebook Papers: How Meta Failed to Fight Against American Climate Denial.” I liked the subtitle because it is Google-ized: “Facebook’s own employees think its efforts combating misinformation on climate change are inadequate. Read the internal documents for yourself.”

The write up explained how “real news” provides access to what are presumably company confidential documents:

In November 2021, Gizmodo partnered with a group of independent experts to review, redact, and publish the Facebook Papers. This committee serves to advise and monitor our work and facilitate the responsible disclosure of the greatest number of documents in the public interest possible. We believe in the value of open access to these materials. Our previous publications have covered Jan. 6 and Donald Trump, Facebook’s ranking algorithms, and the influence that politics has on the company’s product decisions.

Any criteria for “public interest”? Not in the write up.

The article does include a reference to Covid, which seems different from “climate change” and “management processes.”

The article includes links to specific Facebook documents. Helpful for anyone writing a high school term paper or crafting a blue chip consulting firm report.

What does “confidential” mean? I am still puzzling over an answer to that question. Here’s another brain teaser: What does the release of confidential documents say about those who obtain, censor, and plan the release of selectively filtered information?

Hmmm.

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2022

When Mouse Pads and Clicks Are Not Enough Google Pays Publishers

June 2, 2022

Watch for flying pigs. It looks like Google has finally caved to pressure from EU news publishers and regulatory agencies. Or do regular publishers now have value for the company? Reuters posts, “EXCLUSIVE: Google Paying More than 300 EU Publishers for News, More to Come.” Reporter Foo Yun Chee writes”

“Google has signed deals to pay more than 300 publishers in Germany, France and four other EU countries for their news and will roll out a tool to make it easier for others to sign up too, the company told Reuters. The move to be announced publicly later on Wednesday followed the adoption of landmark EU copyright rules three years ago that require Google and other online platforms to pay musicians, performers, authors, news publishers and journalists for using their work. News publishers, among Google’s fiercest critics, have long urged governments to ensure online platforms pay fair remuneration for their content. Australia last year made such payments mandatory while Canada introduced similar legislation last month. read more ‘So far, we have agreements which cover more than 300 national, local and specialist news publications in Germany, Hungary, France, Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland, with many more discussions ongoing,’ Sulina Connal, director for news and publishing partnerships, said in blog post seen by Reuters and expected to be published later on Wednesday. The blog did not say how much publishers were being paid.”

It did, however, say the new tool would offer thousands of news publishers throughout Europe the chance to sign up. Google will be able to display thumbnail images and article snippets in exchange for the undisclosed licensing fee. Will this arrangement be enough to placate EU regulators?

Cynthia Murrell, June 2, 2022

Near: A Complement to ClearView AI?

May 26, 2022

Data Intelligence Startup Near, with 1.6B anonymized User IDs, Lists on NASDAQ via SPAC at a $1B Market Cap; Raises $100M” is an interesting story. On one hand, in the midst of some financial headwinds, the outfit Near is a unicorn. That’s exciting for some. The most significant part of the short item is this passage: Near offers

anonymised, location-based profiles of users based on a trove of information that Near sources and then merges from phones, data partners, carriers and its customers. It claims the database has been built “with privacy by design.”

The word merging as in “merging data from different sources” is not jargony enough. The Near write up uses the term “stitching” as in “threads which hold the parts of a football together.” I prefer the term “federating” as in “federating data.”

The idea is a good one. Take information from different sources, index it (assign tags today, of course) and group information about a person under that entity’s “name.” This is a useful workflow, and my hunch is that the system works best for individuals leaving digital footprints and crumbs of ones and zeros behind as these “entities” go about their business.

The successful merging and profiling will give Near a competitive advantage. Like ClearView and many other companies, scraping and licensing commercial datasets can produce a valuable data asset.

On the downside, as ClearView has learned as it explained its business to legal eagles, some concerns for privacy can arise. Assurances of privacy have created some issues for firms performing similar work for government agencies. Law enforcement and intelligence professionals are likely to show some interest in Near’s products and services.

Successfully navigating marketing to commercial outfits and selling to government agencies is like sailing into an unfamiliar port with a very large boat.

Kudos to near for its funding. Now it will be interesting to watch the firm’s management walk the marketing tightrope over the Niagara Falls of cash flow as legal eagles circle.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2022

More Facebook Documents

May 17, 2022

Facebook apparently generates quite a few documents. In a time of abundance, some of the excess finds its way into places unexpected. “We’re Publishing the Facebook Papers. Here’s How Facebook Killed News Feed Fixes Over Fear of Conservative Backlash” provides those who want to study the Way of the Zuck with some “new” information. The write up has a reason to report a Silicon Valley-type news organization’s interest in chewing on the ankles of Mr. Zuckerberg. The article states:

Facebook said it did not “build and withhold any News Feed changes based on potential impact on any one political party.” Internal documents say otherwise.

You can read allegedly original, once confidential documents from the cited article with additional information at  this link.

The main idea seems to be that Facebook mostly does what it wants and says what is necessary to continue on its business trajectory.

What’s the main point?

From my redoubt in rural Kentucky, I have perceived the Zuck operation as an interesting example of information weaponization. I assume that a few other people share my view of the company. The once-confidential documents are interesting, particularly to those rushing to understand how information flows have an impact in the real world and in real time.

Is it possible that Gizmodo is walking a path which may lead to legal questions? Of course not! Freedom of speech and the stuff taught in high school civics. (Ooops. Research is surfacing that suggests online learning is not as zippy as some assumed.) Disclosing content which an enterprise developed for use by authorized individuals strikes me as a variation on the “move fast and break things” approach to some activities.

Gizmodo, it seems to me, is putting the pedal to the metal. Will the buggy break down as it speeds down the information highway trying to catch up with an outfit with a head start?

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2022

Gizmodo: The Facebook Papers, Void Filling, and Governance

May 2, 2022

If you need more evidence about the fine thought processes at Facebook, navigate to “We’re Publishing the Facebook Papers. Here’s What They Say About the Ranking Algorithms That Control Your News Feed.” In the story is a link to the link tucked into the article where the once-confidential documents are posted. In the event you just want to go directly to the list, here it is: https://bit.ly/3vWqLKD.

I reacted to the expansion of the Gizmodo Facebook papers with a chuckle. I noted this statement in the cited article:

Today, as part of a rolling effort to make the Facebook Papers available publicly, Gizmodo is releasing a second batch of documents—37 files in all.

I noted the phrase “rolling effort.”

In my OSINT lecture at the National Cyber Crime Conference, I mentioned that information once reserved for “underground” sites was making its way to mainstream Web sites. Major news organizations have dabbled in document “dumps.” The Pentagon Papers and the Snowden PowerPoints are examples some remember. An Australian “journalist” captured headlines, lived in an embassy, and faces a trip to the US because of document dumps.

Is Gizmodo moving from gadget reviews into the somewhat uncertain seas of digital information once viewed as proprietary, company confidential, or even trade secrets?

I don’t know if the professionals at Gizmodo are chasing clicks, thinking about emulating bigly media outfits, or doing what seems right and just.

I find the Facebook papers amusing. The legal eagles may have a different reaction. Remember. I found the embrace of interesting content amusing. From my point of view, gadget reviews are more interesting if less amusing.

Stephen E Arnold, May 2, 2022

Just A One Trick Pony Use Case for Clearview AI? Duh?

March 28, 2022

I read “Ukraine Uses Facial Recognition to Identify Dead Russian Soldiers, Minister Says.” If I were a minister, I suppose everything I might say would become a news story from a “trust” outfit. The write up reports that Clearview AI’s technology and image database will allow Ukraine to ID casualties. Then Ukraine will output the matches via social media. The write up makes clear that other questions were asked, but the minister did not comment. One factoid in the write up is that Clearview has an alleged two billion images scraped from VKontakte, the Russian Facebook.

A couple of points:

  • The trust outfit publishing the one trick pony use case requires that one register to ingest the content.
  • Will those in Ukraine use the technology to determine if a living Russian is trying to pass as a resident?

My clear view is that the more immediate use case for the system might be to focus on the living. Does that idea creep into the news report? Of course not, Thomson Reuters is not the New York Times.

Which is better the “we don’t comment on the obvious spin from the minister” or “the laptop content” shuffle? “Better” is the incorrect word. How about “different.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 28, 2022

Mathy Types Want Free Textbooks: Professional Publishers Do Not

March 25, 2022

The United States is home to many of the best universities in the world. Unfortunately higher education has become incredibly expensive. One of the biggest expenditures for students are textbooks. A single textbook can run hundreds of dollars and it could be for only one class! Many students, professors, universes, and organizations support open source and open access to textbooks.

Thew American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) supports free textbooks:

“The American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) seeks to encourage the adoption of open source and open access mathematics textbooks. The AIM Editorial Board has developed evaluation criteria to identify the books that are suitable for use in traditional university courses. The Editorial Board maintains a list of Approved Textbooks which have been judged to meet these criteria.

Approved Textbooks   The list is organized by courses ranging from pre-calculus to upper division analysis and algebra. Each book has a brief description of its important features and information about how to get it.

Evaluation Criteria   There are a number of features that the Editorial Board considers in evaluating textbooks.

Guide for Authors  Here is some advice on questions facing open textbook authors.

Editorial Board   The AIM Editorial Board develops the criteria for acceptance and reviews open textbooks.

Open access curriculum material for inquiry based learning courses can be found at
The Journal for Inquiry Based Learning in Mathematics.”

Authors and publishers of textbooks should be published for their work, but students do not need to pay hundreds of dollars for a single book they may not use. Professional publishers are likely to interpret the free textbook idea as evidence of lunacy which is difficult to convert to a function that yields revenue.

Whitney Grace, March 25, 2022

Ever Heard of Editorial Policy?

March 16, 2022

I have been working through the digital baloney that is tossed in my face each morning. Mashable reveals that Substack is losing writers due to censorship. The story “Why Substack Creators Are Leaving the Platform, Again” explains how Substack’s management fell on its sword. TikTok’s problems with content moderation in Russia are explained by the “real” news outfit owned by the estimable Rupert Murdoch. “TikTok Struggles to Find Footing in Wartime” explains that figuring out how to deal with what Mr. Putin perceives as untoward content. Amazon Twitch faces similar challenges. And there is YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

The issue is that none of these high tech outfits attended to the value of what I call “editorial policy.” The idea is that there are guidelines developed by professionals working in an information generating operation develop. These are discussed, debated, and written down. Once they have been written down, the guidelines are reviewed, presented when new employees are hired, summarized in user documentation, described in training sessions, and mentioned (briefly or in detail) in conference posters or presentations.

The main idea is to demonstrate a set of guidelines that the information generation outfit followed. I have delivered briefings to start ups, venture funds, and professional groups for more than 50 years. I can say, based on my experience, that once the Internet made everyone into an expert, very few found editorial policies particularly relevant.

Now the zippy types are figuring it out. The problem is that effort is needed. Disciplined thinking is necessary. Staff training and continuity are important. Management commitment is important.

I am not sure retroactive editorial policies will be possible. Let’s just go with the flow. How is that working out for you?

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2022

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