By Soulskill from Slashdot's who-gets-the-placebo department
An anonymous reader writes: This summer, news broke that Facebook had conducted an experiment on some of their users, tweaking which posts showed up in their timeline to see if it affected the tone of their later posts. The fallout was extensive — Facebook took a lot of flack from users and the media for overreaching and violating trust. (Of course, few stopped to think about how Facebook decided what to show people in the first place, but that's beside the point.) Now, Wired is running a somewhat paranoid article saying Facebook can't help but experiment on its users. The writer says this summer's blowback will only show Facebook they need to be sneakier about it.
At the same time, a study came out from Ohio State University saying some users rely on social media to alter their moods. For example, when a user has a bad day, he's likely to look up acquaintances who have it worse off, and feel a bit better that way. Now, going on social media is going to affect your mood in one way or another — shouldn't we try to understand that dynamic? Is there a way Facebook can run experiments like these ethically? (Or Twitter, or Google, or any similarly massive company, of course.)Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's eyes-on-your-test-no-keyloggers-keep-your-botnet-to-yourself department
New submitter Williamcole
sends news that in many U.S. states, educators will begin administering standardized tests on school computers this school year. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, for the sneakier kids), only two states have codified regulations to prevent cheating
and make sure the tests are secure: Oregon and Delaware. According to a new report
(PDF) from American College Testing (ACT), the other states aren't doing enough to prevent keyloggers, transmission of test materials, or even teachers going in afterward to change a student's responses. They also warn that the kids will likely find ways to access the internet while taking the test, letting them look up answers as needed. Even the rules in Oregon and Delaware have weaknesses ACT recommends strengthening before testing begins.Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's networks-that-make-it-feel-like-christmas department
sends this report from New Scientist:Networks shaped like delicate snowflakes are the ones that are easiest to fix when disaster strikes Power grids, the internet and other networks often mitigate the effects of damage using redundancy: they build in multiple routes between nodes so that if one path is knocked out by falling trees, flooding or some other disaster, another route can take over. But that approach can make them expensive to set up and maintain. The alternative is to repair networks with new links as needed, which brings the price down – although it can also mean the network is down while it happens.
As a result, engineers tend to favor redundancy for critical infrastructure like power networks, says Robert Farr of the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences. So Farr and colleagues decided to investigate which network structures are the easiest to repair. They simulated a variety of networks, linking nodes in a regular square or triangular pattern and looked at the average cost of repairing different breaks, assuming that expense increases with the length of a rebuilt link. ... They found the best networks are made from partial loops around the units of the grid, with exactly one side of each loop missing (abstract). All of these partial loops link together, back to a central source. ... These networks have three levels of hierarchy – major arms sprouting from a central hub that branch and then branch again, but no further. When drawn, they look remarkably like snowflakes, which have a similar branching structure.Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's opposing-view department
writes: Challenging a previous Code.org story on tech diversity, a Forbes.com writer interviewed 716 women who left the technology field. Her conclusion: corporate culture, and the larger social structure, is the primary cause for these women leaving the industry and never looking back. Specific issues include a lack of maternity policies in small companies, low pay which barely covers day care, "jokes" from male coworkers, and always feeling like the "odd duck." In reality, there are probably many intertwined causes: peer pressure at the high-school and college level, female-unfriendly geek culture, low pay, a lack of accommodations for pregnant/nursing mothers, the myth of "having it all," stereotype threat, and repeated assertions that women aren't biologically suited to writing software and therefore there's no problem at all.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's under-pressure department
writes Nellie Bowles writes in Recode that three of the most prominent high tech entrepreneurs involved with Tony Hsieh's project to build a startup city in Downtown Las Vegas have recently committed suicide, sending the tight-knit community into a tailspin. In January 2013, Jody Sherman, the 48-year-old founder of Ecomom, one of the most prominent Vegas tech-funded startups, shot himself while in his car. His company had been going south. In January 2014, 24-year-old Ovik Banerjee, who was part of the first Venture for America group in Vegas and an integral member of the Downtown Project team, leapt from his Town Terrace apartment in downtown. In May 2014, Matt Berman, the 50-year-old founder of Bolt Barber, the flagship shop at the center of the Container Park, was found in his home in an apparent suicide by hanging. Whether or not the suicides are statistically significant, the deaths have clearly shaken the entrepreneurs.
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By timothy from Slashdot's mary-lou-can-do-no-wrong department
The Wall Street Journal reports in a paywalled article
that a team under Pixel Qi founder and OLPC co-founder Mary Lou Jepsen
at Google's skunkwork labs Google X is working on modular video displays that could be expanded by snapping them together "like Lego." Ars Technica
, The Verge
, and several others summarize the claims made by "three people familiar with the project"; here's a snippet from TechSpot's version:Even in the home and office, the use of multiple displays isn’t uncommon but just like with larger implementations often used for advertising purposes, screen bezels are always a problem. Bezels are less visible from a distance but up close, they pretty much ruin the experience.
The scope and target audience for the project is unclear at this hour as we are told the project is currently in an early stage. One of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to stitch images together across screens, both electronically and through software.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's we-could-all-be-dead-by-then department
writes Solar power could be the leading source of electricity compared with other renewables and conventional sources of power, such as oil and coal, according to a pair of reports from the International Energy Agency. PV panels could produce 16% of the world's electricity, while solar thermal electricity (STE) is on track to produce 11%. At the end of 2013, there had been 137GW of solar capacity deployed around the world. Each day, an additional 100MW of power is deployed. One reason solar is so promising is plummeting prices for photovoltaic cells and new technologies that promise greater solar panel efficiency. For example, MIT just published a report on a new material that could be ideal for converting solar energy into heat by tuning the material's spectrum of absorption. Ohio State University just announced what it's referring to as the world's first solar battery, which integrates PV with storage at a microscopic level. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost," said iying Wu, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State.Read Replies (0)