By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Why do companies deploy open office layouts? A major justification is the idea that removing spatial boundaries between colleagues will generate increased collaboration and smarter collective intelligence. Cal Newport: As I learned in a fascinating new study, published earlier this week in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, there was good reason to believe that this might be true. As the study's authors, Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, note" [T]he notion that propinquity, or proximity, predicts social interaction -- driving the formation of social ties and therefore information exchange and collaboration -- is one of the most robust findings in sociology." But when researchers turned their attention to the specific impact of open offices on interaction, the results were mixed. Perhaps troubled by this inconsistency, Bernstein and Turban decided to get to the bottom of this issue. Prior studies of open offices had relied on imprecise measures such as self-reported activity logs to quantify interactions before and after a shift to an open office plan. Bernstein and Turban tried something more accurate: they had subjects wear devices around their neck that directly measured every face-to-face encounter. They also used email and IM server logs to determine exactly how much the volume of electronic interactions changed. Here's a summary of what they found: Contrary to what's predicted by the sociological literature, the 52 participants studied spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face after the shift to an open office layout. To make these numbers concrete: In the 15 days before the office redesign, participants accumulated an average of around 5.8 hours of face-to-face interaction per person per day. After the switch to the open layout, the same participants dropped to around 1.7 hours of face-to-face interaction per day. At the same time, the shift to an open office significantly increased digital communication. After the redesign, participants sent 56% more emails (and were cc'd 41% more times), and the number of IM messages sent increased by 67%.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's legacy-systems department
Slashdot reader yeokm1 recently installed Linux on a 1993 PC. But in a new blog post he lists every keyboard he's owned over the last 12 years -- to explain why he's now typing on a 5.3-pound Model M keyboard from 1987 that's older than he is, "with its legendary buckling-spring switch."
It'll probably last me the decades to the day that keyboards should become obsolete... It is sad that with all the advancements in computing, the one piece of equipment that we use the most to interact with our computers has regressed technologically in the name of costs. We don't usually expect to be using 30-year-old hardware on a daily productive basis but the IBM Model M keyboard is that exception.
Today, I don't really care about fancy features like great aesthetics, RGB backlights, media keys and extra USB ports. I just need something that gives me great tactile feedback, be durable, enable me to easily swap keys to fit my Programmer Dvorak layout. The Model M fits my needs perfectly.
"Really can use this as a weapon," the blog post jokes. There's even a video "to show clicky sound difference" between two different versions of the Model M -- and in true geek fashion, he even removes the casing screws to see whether the inside had rivets or bolts.
The original submission drew a tip from long-time Slashdot reader Spazmania based on his own experiences with the Model M. "The thing I most like? There are little plastic caps on the keys. When they get dirty I can pop them off and run them through the dishwasher."
Any other Slashdot readers want to share their own experiences with Model M keyboards?Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's software-gone-awry department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Earlier this week, an algorithm made an absurd choice. Google AdSense, Google's advertising program that makes up the bulk of the tech giant's advertising revenue, decided that a web page about a decades-old bill about sexual abuse was "adult content," and wasn't allowed to display ads anymore. The page, which is at least six years old and contains strictly legislative information about a bill called the "Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act of 1986" on free legislative research and tracking website GovTrack.us, tripped the AdSense algorithm that decides what pages are allowed to run ads. This single, very dry page being flagged as "adult content" is most likely a minor fluke in the AdSense algorithm, but it's a perfect example of how a tiny tweak in the way a platform uses automation to enforce policies can send a ripple through seemingly-unrelated parts of the internet. The page was flagged by Adsense as "policy non-compliant" on Monday, with Google citing the page's "violations" in a summary of the AdSense adult content policy. Here's what Google told GovTrack: "As stated in our program policies, we may not show Google ads on pages with content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse. This includes, but is not limited to: pornographic images, videos, or games; sexually gratifying text, images, audio, or video; pages that provide links for or drive traffic to content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse." The GovTrack page contains none of these, yet the page still can't run AdSense.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's high-tech-solutions department
Kenya will reportedly use Alphabet's system of internet balloons to connect its rural population to the web. The balloons, known as Project Loon, were developed by Alphabet's X, the company's innovation lab. It was recently used by U.S. telecom operators to provide connectivity to people in Puerto Rico after a hurricane last year. Reuters reports: Joe Mucheru, the information, communication and technology minister, told Reuters on Wednesday that project representatives were holding talks with local telecom operators on the deployment of the technology. "The Loon team are still working out contracts and hopefully once that is done, we can be able to see almost every part of the country covered," he said. With more than 45 million people, Kenya's major cities and towns are covered by operator networks, but vast swathes of rural Kenya are not covered. "Loon is another technology that is being introduced that the licensed operators hopefully can be able to use," Mucheru said, adding it would help the government meet its goal of reaching everyone. "Connectivity is critical. If you are not online, you are left out."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's kill-two-birds-with-one-stone department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Professor Veena Sahajwalla's mine in Australia produces gold, silver and copper -- and there isn't a pick-axe in sight. Her "urban mine" at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) is extracting these materials not from rock, but from electronic gadgets. The Sydney-based expert in materials science reckons her operation will become efficient enough to be making a profit within a couple of years. "Economic modeling shows the cost of around $500,000 Australian dollars for a micro-factory pays off in two to three years, and can generate revenue and create jobs," she says. "That means there are environmental, social and economic benefits." In fact, research indicates that such facilities can actually be far more profitable than traditional mining.
According to a study published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, a typical cathode-ray tube TV contains about 450g of copper and 227g of aluminum, as well as around 5.6g of gold. While a gold mine can generate five or six grammes of the metal per tonne of raw material, that figure rises to as much as 350g per tonne when the source is discarded electronics. The figures emerged in a joint study from Beijing's Tsinghua University and Macquarie University, in Sydney, where academics examined data from eight recycling companies in China to work out the cost for extracting these metals from electronic waste.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's turning-a-page department
Slashdot reader Dave Knott brings news:
Steve Ditko, the legendary comics artist best known for co-creating Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, has died at age 90. No cause of death was announced.
Neil Gaiman posted on Twitter, "I know I'm a different person because he was in the world." Entertainment Weekly reports:
Ditko's most enduring characters were created during his tenure at Marvel Comics, where he worked alongside editor-in-chief Stan Lee to develop the look of Spider-Man in 1961. Jack Kirby had previously taken a swing at the webslinger, but Lee was unconvinced by that artist's interpretation of the now-iconic character.
When Spider-Man -- whose red-and-blue costume, Spidey senses, and web-shooters all came directly from Ditko -- first appeared within the pages of Amazing Fantasy No. 15, the friendly neighborhood superhero proved a surprisingly massive hit for Marvel Comics, paving the way for a solo comic series titled The Amazing Spider-Man. Ditko's influence on Spider-Man was tremendous, his often dark sensibilities informing an at-the-time rare superhero whose life was often worsened and trauma-filled as a consequence of his good deeds. The artist additionally helped conceive many of the most memorable members of Spidey's rogues' gallery, including Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, and the Lizard...
Two years later, Ditko delivered another Marvel icon by creating Doctor Strange, the mystical Sorcerer Supreme who furthered the comic book empire's reach into more cosmic, even psychedelic realms... As a freelancer, he continued contributing to Marvel and created cult-favorite character Squirrel Girl for them in 1992.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-on-my-watch department
A recently discovered hole in Valve's API allowed observers to generate extremely precise and publicly accessible data for the total number of players for thousands of Steam games. While Valve has now closed this inadvertent data leak, Ars can still provide the data it revealed as a historical record of the aggregate popularity of a large portion of the Steam library. From the report: The new data derivation method, as ably explained in a Medium post from The End Is Nigh developer Tyler Glaiel, centers on the percentage of players who have accomplished developer-defined Achievements associated with many games on the service. On the Steam web site, that data appears rounded to two decimal places. In the Steam API, however, the Achievement percentages were, until recently, provided to an extremely precise 16 decimal places.
This added precision means that many Achievement percentages can only be factored into specific whole numbers. (This is useful since each game's player count must be a whole number.) With multiple Achievements to check against, it's possible to find a common denominator that works for all the percentages with high reliability. This process allows for extremely accurate reverse engineering of the denominator representing the total player base for an Achievement percentage. As Glaiel points out, for instance, an Achievement earned by 0.012782207690179348 percent of players on his game translates precisely to 8 players out of 62,587 without any rounding necessary (once some vagaries of floating point representation are ironed out). Ars has shared the Achievement-derived player numbers in their report; there's also a handy CSV file. Some of the titles with the most total unique players include Team Fortress 2 (50,191,347 player estimate), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (46,305,966 player estimate), PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS (36,604,134 player estimate), Unturned (27,381,399 player estimate), and Left 4 Dead 2 (23,143,723 player estimate).Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's signed-into-law department
In early May, Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing chemicals that contribute to the destruction of the state's coral reefs and other ocean life. Hawaii Governor David Ige signed the bill this week, making the ban official. Popular Mechanics reports: Hawaii is the first U.S. state to pass a legislation banning the sale of sunscreen containing [oxybenzone and octinoxate]. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2021. "We are blessed in Hawaii to be home of some of the most beautiful natural resources on the planet," Ige said at the bill signing, according to The Huffington Post. "But our natural environment is fragile and our own interaction with the Earth can have everlasting impacts, and this bill is a small first step worldwide to really caring about our corals and our reefs in a way that no one else anywhere in the world has done."
A 2015 study conducted by scientists at the University of Central Florida found that oxybenzone, a common UV-filtering compound, kills the coral, causes DNA damage in the coral's adult stage, and deforms the DNA in the larval stage, hindering its development. A separate 2015 study, published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology and conducted by biologist Craig Downs, also found that the chemicals produced water pollution and had damning effects on the coral reefs. In 2012, Women's Health reported that oxybenzone and octinoxate may actually be harmful to humans as well, not just coral reefs. According to the publication, when the skin absorbs oxybenzone, it can cause an eczema-like allergic reaction and disrupt hormone levels. Octinoxate may damage skin cells and lead to premature aging.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
Victorien Erussard, an experienced ocean racer from the city of Saint-Malo in the north of France, was halfway through a dash across the Atlantic when he lost all power. Never again, he thought. "I came up with the idea to create a ship that uses different sources of energy," he says. The plan was bolstered by the pollution-happy cargo ships he saw while crossing the oceans. "These are a threat to humanity because they use heavy fuel oil." Five years on, that idea has taken physical form in the Energy Observer, a catamaran that runs on renewables. From a report: In a mission reminiscent of the Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane that Bertrand Picard and Andre Borschberg flew around the world a few years back, Erussard and teammate Jerome Delafosse are planning to sail around the planet, without using any fossil fuel. Instead, they'll make the fuel they need from sea water, the wind, and the sun. The Energy Observer started life as a racing boat but now would make a decent space battle cruiser prop in a movie. Almost every horizontal surface on the white catamaran is covered with solar panels (1,400 square feet of them in all), which curve gently to fit the aerodynamic contours. Some, on a suspended deck that extends to the sides of the vessel, are bi-facial panels, generating power from direct sunlight as well as light reflected off the water below. The rear is flanked by two vertical, egg whisk-style wind turbines, which add to the power production. Propulsion comes from two electric motors, driven by all that generated electrical energy, but it's the way that's stored that's clever. The Energy Observer uses just 106-kWh (about equivalent to a top-end Tesla) of batteries, for immediate, buffer, storage and energy demands. It stores the bulk of the excess electricity generated when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing as hydrogen gas.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's beginning-of-the-end department
HTC has been struggling to stay competitive for years now with its Android handsets and virtual-reality headsets, and it still can't seem to get any relief. As BGR reports, the latest ominous headline points to a nearly 68-percent sales slump in June, marking HTC's worst results in more than two years. From the report: Even beyond all that, the company has had a tough go of it lately. There have been a few rounds off layoffs this year alone, the most recent being the company's culling of 1,500 workers from its Taiwan manufacturing division. After HTC president of smartphone and connected devices Chialin Chang resigned in February, the company also gave pink slips to several U.S. workers in the wake of combining its smartphone and VR units. Those 1,500 workers being axed, it also should be noted, comprise almost a quarter of the company's worldwide workforce.
Reuters on Friday quoted an unnamed analyst at market research firm Trendforce who puts the blame for some of this at HTC's feet partly as a result of unexciting products. "In the high-end segment, the sales of their flagship phone this year has been lower than expected, leading to lower market share," the analyst notes. "As for HTC's middle-end and entry-level series, the new models feature neither new specs nor high performance-price ratio, influencing the sales."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's slow-as-molasses department
dryriver writes: If you are a user of a popular professional desktop software program, it is not uncommon for that program to get anywhere from 5 to 20 major or minor new features and functions about once a year to stay desirable and competitive. But it seems that hugely popular internet-based sites and services like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Google Search, Gmail, Outlook, WhatsApp, Telegram and others get major new features/changes much, much slower than desktop software. Quite often you'll come across a barrage of breathless news articles that say "Popular Internet Service X will add Y feature starting from April 1st." It is often one single and very obvious feature or functionality being added that people have wanted for years, not a cluster of 5 or 10 funky new functions at the same time. Why is this the case? How is it that desktop software with just a few hundred thousand users and no more than a few dozen coders working can add 5 to 20 major new functions in just one year, and do this year after year, but a major internet-based service with tens or hundreds of millions of users and presumably hundreds or thousands of techies working behind the curtain keeps everyone waiting three years or longer to build a much requested feature into the system, and then only rolls out that one desired feature to great fanfare as if it is a huge achievement? Is it really that much harder to code major new features into an internet/cloud service, versus coding major new features into desktop software; or is this a deliberate business model that has become popular?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: A&R, or "artists and repertoire," are the people who look for new talent, convince that talent to sign to the record label and then nurture it: advising on songs, on producers, on how to go about the job of being a pop star. It's the R&D arm of the music industry. [...] What the music business doesn't like to shout about is how inefficient its R&D process is. The annual global spend on A&R is $2.8bn, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, and all that buys is the probability of failure: "Some labels estimate the ratio of commercial success to failure as 1 in 4; others consider the chances to be much lower -- less than 1 in 10," observes its 2017 report. Or as Mixmag magazine's columnist The Secret DJ put it: "Major labels call themselves a business but are insanely unprofitable, utterly uncertain, totally rudderless and completely ignorant." In the golden age of the music industry, none of that really mattered. So much money was flowing in that mistakes could be ignored. There was no way to hear most music other than to buy a record, and when CDs entered the market in the 1980s -- costing little to produce, but selling for a fortune -- the major labels were more or less printing their own money. But then came the internet: first file-sharing, then streaming slashed sales of physical music so deeply that the record business became a safety-first game. Every label executive has always wanted hits, but these days the people who run the big imprints want guaranteed hits. The rise of digital music brought with it a huge amount of data which, industry executives realized, could be turned to their advantage. In his first public speech as CEO of Sony, in May 2017, Rob Stringer asserted: "All our business units must now leverage data and analytics in innovative ways to dig deeper than ever for new talent. The modern day talent-spotter must have both an artistic ear and analytical eyes." Earlier this year, in the same week as Warner announced its acquisition of Sodatone, a company that has developed a tool for talent-spotting via data, another data company, Instrumental, secured $4.2m of funding. The industry appeared to have reached a tipping point -- what the website Music Ally called "A&R's data moment." Which is why, wherever the music industry's great and good gather, the word "moneyball" has become increasingly prevalent.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's gift-that-keeps-giving department
To celebrate this week's holiday, The Vindicator, a small newspaper in Texas, posted sections of the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." Yadda, yadda. You get the idea. But a section of the text containing the phrase "Indian Savages" set off Facebook's hate-speech flags. The post was then temporarily taken down by Facebook, Business Insider reports. From a report: He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. After The Vindicator ran a story on the censorship, Facebook corrected the mistake. "The post was removed by mistake and restored as soon as we looked into it. We process millions of reports each week, and sometimes we get things wrong," a Facebook spokesperson said. And honestly, as far as Facebook getting things wrong, this is an ideal "mistake."Read Replies (0)