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Customer Feedback Surveys Could Be Considered Harmful
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's scratch-beneath-the-surface department:
Longtime Slashdot reader Stunt Pope writes: Customer Feedback surveys are now near-ubiquitous, subjecting us all to near-Black Mirror-esque pursuit to "rate your experience" for everything from going to the bank to ordering a pizza. Thanks to The Curse of Goodhart's Law, all of these surveys are beyond useless and even damaging. Mark Jeftovic writes in a blog post: "The shop/hire-rate-reward feedback loop has become baked-in to some systems. Many live marketplaces incorporate these feedback transactions into ratings, which then become a score which then impacts future prospects of whomever is being rated. And that's where the trouble starts. There is a point where this stops being useful and the knock-on effects of a ratings system predicated on feedback results becomes counter-productive. That point is when the ratings become targets. When a company decrees 'All customer feedback ratings must score a minimum of X, or else...' the company has just commenced the process of invalidating and corrupting all useful information to be gleaned from that feedback/survey process. A label which captures this concept is 'Goodhart's Law' -- after economist Charles Goodhart, who posited in essence that 'when a measure becomes a target, it becomes useless.'"

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Facebook Dumps Personalized 'Trending Topics' After Backlash
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's personalized-news-for-nerds department:
As the company works to strengthen its reputation as a place for news and curb the spread of misinformation on the site, Facebook announced it has removed the personalized interest-based list of news topics on the right-hand side of your news feed. Now everyone in a geographic region will see the same trending topics. CNET reports: In addition to doing away with the personalized list, there are two other big changes to the trending topics section that will start rolling out today and will take place for everyone in the U.S. "in the coming weeks." First, instead of just seeing a bare-bones topic, like "Saturn" or "X-men," two things that had been trending for me, you'll see a full headline from one of the news stories about that topic. That's the headline that had always popped up when you hovered over the topic. Second, Facebook is changing the way the topics are selected. The topics had been chosen based on how many people on Facebook are engaging with it. With the new changes, Facebook will look at the number of outlets posting stories on a particular topic, and decide its inclusion based on engagement around that group of articles. "This should surface trending topics quicker, be more effective at capturing a broader range of news and events from around the world and also help ensure that topics reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets," Will Cathcart, vice president of product management, said in a statement.

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Microsoft Reportedly Working On a 'Lightweight Version of Windows' Known As 'Cloud Shell'
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 12:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-with-you department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: Last week, details emerged of Microsoft's plans to develop a single, unified, 'adaptive shell' for Windows 10. Known as the 'Composable Shell', or CSHELL, the company's efforts were said to be focused on establishing a universal Windows 10 version with a standardized framework to scale and adapt the OS to any type of device, display size or user experience, including smartphones, PCs, tablets, consoles, large touchscreens, and more. Today, Petri reported that Microsoft is working on a new shell for Windows known as 'Cloud Shell'. According to internal documentation referred to in that report, Cloud Shell is described as a "lightweight version of Windows designed for the modern computing world." It also hints at plans to introduce the Cloud Shell sometime in 2017 -- but little else is known about the new shell besides that. Cloud Shell is said to be connected, in some way, with the Windows Store and Universal Windows Platform app framework, and the report speculates that it may also be related to Microsoft's plans to bring the full version of Windows 10 to mobile devices with ARM-based processors, which it announced in December. However, the cloud nomenclature, and the reference to this being a 'lightweight' version of Windows could hint at a 'thin client'-style approach, in which the Windows 10 shell could be streamed from Microsoft's Azure platform to any device with an internet connection, while its cloud servers remotely handle all of the processing and storage requirements of each users' tasks.

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Chrome Now Reloads Pages 28% Faster
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's faster-browsing department:
Google has announced that it has worked with Facebook and Mozilla to make page reloads in Chrome for desktop and mobile significantly faster. According to Google's data, reloading sites with the latest version of Chrome should now be about 28 percent faster. From a report: Typically, when you reload a page, the browser ends up making hundreds of network requests just to see if the images and other resources it cached the first time you went to a site are still valid. As Google engineer Takashi Toyoshima notes in today's announcement, users typically reload pages because they either look broken or because the content looks like it should have been updated (think old-school live blogs). He argues that when browser developers first added this feature, it was mostly because broken pages were common. Today, users mostly reload pages because the content of a site seems stale.

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Twitter Scrambles For Next Big Feature, Bets On Merging Tweets, Hashtags, Moments
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-big-thing department:
Twitter is introducing a long requested feature: A better way to discover people, events and trends.
The company is introducing Explore, a tab that the company says will be a home for the most popular and relevant content on the platform. From a report: In a blog post today, product designer Angela Lam said the addition will house Trends, Moments, Search and live video. "Over the past year, we've been exploring different ways to make it simpler for people to find and use Trends, Moments, and Search," Lam wrote. "During our research process, people told us that the new Explore tab helped them easily find news, what's trending, and what's popular right now." Explore -- which will begin rolling out for iOS today and for Android within the next few weeks -- is similar to what Twitter has been testing with some users a few months back. The news also comes just a few weeks after CEO Jack Dorsey used his own account to crowdsource suggestions for what users think Twitter could do to improve the experience.

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The Doomsday Clock Is Reset: Closest To Midnight Since The 1950s
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's story-of-our-lives department:
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has taken the unprecedented step of moving the Doomsday Clock ahead 30 seconds, taking the world to two-and-a-half-minute to midnight. The scientists said Thursday that several factors weighed heavily in their decision, particularly climate change denial by people in power -- they cited U.S. President Donald Trump -- and talk about more nuclear weapons. From a report on NPR: The setting is the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1953, when scientists moved it to two minutes from midnight after seeing both the U.S. and the Soviet Union test hydrogen bombs. It remained at that mark until 1960. "Make no mistake, this has been a difficult year," Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said as the new setting was announced Thursday.

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New Zealand To Bring Ultrafast Internet To 85 Percent Of Population
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Ultrafast broadband is coming to more than another 200,000 homes, but doubts are already being expressed that the expansion of the network isn't quite ambitious enough. From a report: Another 423,000 people will be able get ultrafast broadband (UFB) by the end of 2024 as a result of a long-awaited decision to expand the network. Prime Minister Bill English said UFB would be extended to more than 151 additional towns, on top of the 33 cities that are already getting the service. The expansion will mean UFB will be available to "up to 85 per cent" of the population, up from the 75 per cent coverage that is planned to be delivered by 2020.

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'The Future of Advertising is Fewer, Better Ads'
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 08:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
For more than a decade, the online advertising world has been dominated by "display ads," served up to consumers alongside web content, search results or social media posts. But they're not the only game in town, one digital ad exec says. From a report: "I think the advertising world going forward is going to be filled with fewer, better ads," Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer said on the latest episode of Recode Media. "The display advertising market is going to crater. By giving away stuff for free for so long, we've created an ad economy that is bigger than it should be," he added. Schafer says there's a untapped value in "nonstandard" ads, meaning branded content and other forms of advertising on platforms such as Snapchat, Musical.ly, WeHeartIt and Imgur.

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Uber Was the Most-Expensed Service, With 6% of all Business Receipts in 2016
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 08:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-its-way department:
Uber continues to be the transportation service of choice for business travelers, making up 52 percent of all expenses in Q4, according to a study by Certify. From a report: The online travel and expense management service provider today claimed Uber received the majority share of ground transportation, compared to 40 percent the same quarter in 2015. Additionally, the private on-demand ride hailing service was the most expensed service in 2016.

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Apple Set To Join Amazon, Google, Facebook in AI Research Group
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 08:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's For-greater-good department:
Apple will take a significant step toward disclosing more of its artificial intelligence research this week by becoming a member of a non-profit AI research consortium founded by five of the tech industry's biggest players, reports Bloomberg. Last September, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and IBM publicly announced The Partnership on AI, an organisation established "to study and formulate best practices, to advance the public's understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society." Apple released its first AI paper to the public last year.

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New Zealand To Bring Ultrafast Internet To 85 Percent Population
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 07:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Ultrafast broadband is coming to more than another 200,000 homes, but doubts are already being expressed that the expansion of the network isn't quite ambitious enough. From a report: Another 423,000 people will be able get ultrafast broadband (UFB) by the end of 2024 as a result of a long-awaited decision to expand the network. Prime Minister Bill English said UFB would be extended to more than 151 additional towns, on top of the 33 cities that are already getting the service. The expansion will mean UFB will be available to "up to 85 per cent" of the population, up from the 75 per cent coverage that is planned to be delivered by 2020.

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Facebook Hires Hugo Barra, Former Android VP and Public Face of Xiaomi, To Head Oculus
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 07:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's musical-chair department:
Facebook has hired Hugo Barra, the most prominent global executive at Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, to lead its virtual reality business including the Oculus unit, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said. "Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They'll enable us to experience completely new things," Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook.

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DragonflEye Project Wants To Turn Insects Into Cyborg Drones
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 06:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's research-and-development department:
New submitter robotopia writes: Scientists at a research and development company called Draper are using genetic engineering and optoelectronics to turn dragonflies into cybernetic insects, reports IEEE Spectrum. To control the dragonflies, Draper engineers are genetically modifying the nervous system of the insects so they can respond to pulses of light. The goal of the project, called DragonflEye, is enabling insects to carry scientific payloads or conduct surveillance.

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Personality Traits Are Linked To Differences In Brain Structure, Says Researchers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 26 '17 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's open-minded department:
New submitter baalcat quotes a report from Neuroscience News: Our personality may be shaped by how our brain works, but in fact the shape of our brain can itself provide surprising clues about how we behave -- and our risk of developing mental health disorders -- suggests a study published today. According to psychologists, the extraordinary variety of human personality can be broken down into the so-called 'Big Five' personality traits, namely neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic a person is), openness (how open-minded a person is), agreeableness (a measure of altruism), and conscientiousness (a measure of self-control). In a study published today in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, an international team of researchers from the UK, US, and Italy have analyzed a brain imaging dataset from over 500 individuals that has been made publicly available by the Human Connectome Project, a major US initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health. In particular, the researchers looked at differences in the brain cortical anatomy (the structure of the outer layer of the brain) as indexed by three measures -- the thickness, area, and amount of folding in the cortex -- and how these measures related to the Big Five personality traits. The study has been published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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Boeing Unveils New NASA Spacesuits For Starliner Austronaut Taxi
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's going-out-of-style department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The NASA astronauts who fly aboard Boeing's new spaceship will wear sleek, blue suits that are lighter, simpler and more comfortable than the bulky orange gear of the space shuttle era, company representatives said. Unveiled today (Jan. 25), the new "Boeing Blue" spacesuits for the Starliner capsule weigh about 20 lbs. (9 kilograms) each with all of their accessories, compared to 30 lbs. (13.6 kg) for the old space shuttle suits, NASA officials said. Other advances include touch-screen-sensitive gloves, more-flexible material and soft helmets that are incorporated into the suit (rather than the hard, detachable helmets of the shuttle era). The Boeing Blue suit, and the one that SpaceX develops, will help keep astronauts safe in the event of an emergency during trips to and from orbit. The suits are not designed for spacewalks; the large, bulky "extravehicular mobility units" that astronauts use for this latter purpose are already aboard the ISS. "The spacesuit acts as the emergency backup to the spacecraft's redundant life-support systems," Richard Watson, subsystem manager for spacesuits in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in the same statement. "If everything goes perfectly on a mission, then you don't need a spacesuit. It's like having a fire extinguisher close by in the cockpit. You need it to be effective if it is needed." You can view pictures of the spacesuits here.

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Nicotine Shown To Reduce Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '17 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's voices-in-my-head department:
New submitter future guy quotes a report from New Atlas: A meta-analysis of worldwide studies conducted in 2005 definitively showed what many doctors had been anecdotally noting for decades. Schizophrenia patients were much more likely to become heavy smokers than than those in the general population. In fact some studies found over 80 percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia were smokers. There were many social and psychological hypotheses proposed to explain this strange anomaly, but none were ever sufficient. A new study published in Nature Medicine has not only revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, but unlocks an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease. The study expanded on the recent discovery of a genetic mutation, labelled CHRNA5, that was identified as being associated with the cognitive impairments seen in schizophrenic patients. The scientists took mice with the CHRNA5 gene variant and discovered they displayed similar characteristics to those suffering from schizophrenia, such as an inability to suppress a startle response and an aversion to social interaction. Using brain imaging technologies the research team discovered the mice with the CHRNA5 gene variant displayed symptoms of hypofrontality, a state of decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Hypofrontality is commonly thought to be a prominent cause of many symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as being associated with other psychiatric conditions including Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. As well as identifying the role this gene variant plays in causing hypofrontality, the study examined how nicotine acted to restore normal activity to the prefrontal cortex. The researchers found that within one week of daily nicotine dosing the impaired brain activity in mice with schizophrenic characteristics had normalized.

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Scientists Cure Mice of Diabetes Using Cells Grown Inside Rats
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '17 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's medical-breakthrough department:
In a process that could transform organ transplantation, scientists in Japan and the U.S. have reportedly cured mice of diabetes by transplanting mouse cells grown in rats. The study has been published in the journal Nature. Quartz reports: To achieve this feat, researchers injected mouse pluripotent stem cells into a rat embryo. As the name suggests, these pluripotent stem cells are able to transform themselves into all types of cells. The mouse cells intermingled with rat cells, and created a chimera whose organs and tissues were almost all created from a mix of mouse and rat cells. Crucially, however, they had modified the rat to not produce pancreatic cells. They achieved this by knocking out a gene called Pdx1. The upshot was that the pancreas in the chimera was almost completely made of mouse cells. When the rat-mouse chimeras became adults, the researchers removed the animals' pancreases and from them, isolated endocrine islets, which contain B-cells that produce insulin. The B-cells were then transplanted to diabetic mice that had lost all their native B-cells. The mice that received the transplant were put on mild immunosuppressant drugs. However, the scientists found they only needed to administer the drugs for five days after transplantation. Surprisingly, the few rat cells that came along during the transplant (mostly in the blood vessels in the islets) had been destroyed and replaced by the mouse's own cells. The B-cells in mice that got the transplants functioned just as they would in a healthy mouse for more than a year, which was the complete observation period. These lab mice only live for two to three years, which makes a one-year observation fairly long. The research opens up the door for growing human organs inside, say, a pig, using the patient's own stem cells and then transplanting the organ when it's mature and ready.

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Samsung's Galaxy S8 Will Feature a Headphone Jack, Desktop Dock, 'Infinity Display' and More, Says In-Depth Report
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '17 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-in-one department:
The Guardian has published a considerable amount of information on Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone. The phone will reportedly launch in March with a headphone jack and a desktop dock, among other features. From the report: Samsung's Galaxy S8 will come in two sizes, have an almost bezel-less, edge-to-edge "infinity" display and an iris scanner, the Guardian has learned. The two variants will have screens in the 5in to 6in region, with the devices having the same or smaller proportions of previous versions of Samsung's flagship smartphone but with larger displays, according to several well placed sources talking to the Guardian. The S7 was available with either a 5.1in and 5.5in screen. The two smartphones are codenamed Dream and Dream 2, representing the smaller and larger Galaxy S8 respectively, according to two sources. Both versions will have screens that curve down at the left and right sides of the device similar to the Galaxy S7 Edge, two sources have said. The so-called "infinity display" will cover the majority of the front of the device, with very little body on the top and bottom of the screen not dedicated to the display. Two sources said there wasn't even room to put a logo or brand name on the front of the device. Samsung has moved the fingerprint scanner to the back of the device, multiple sources said. The Galaxy S8 will have a traditional 3.5mm headphone socket, according to several sources. Samsung also plans a range of new accessories for the Galaxy S8. Two sources said a new dock and service that turns the Galaxy S8 into an Android desktop computer, connecting to a monitor, keyboard and other peripherals called DeX (desktop extension) will be available. DeX has been likened to Microsoft's Continuum, which connects Windows smartphones to a desktop extension to allow them to be used as Windows PCs, but only with Windows Store applications.

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Russia Arrests Top Kaspersky Lab Security Researcher On Charges of Treason
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tried-for-treason department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Russian authorities arrested Ruslan Stoyanov, one of Kaspersky Lab's top-ranked security researchers, under article 275 of the Russian criminal code, which refers to treason. According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, who broke the story today, Stoyanov was arrested in December, together with the head of the Russian Secret Service (FSB) information security department Sergei Mikhailov. In a statement released today by Kaspersky Lab, the company says that Stoyanov was arrested based on activities he partook in before joining the company. Details regarding the investigation are murky, but according to the Russian newspaper who quotes anonymous sources, Stoyanov was involved in facilitating the transfer of funds from foreign companies to Mikhailov's accounts. According to Stoyanov's LinkedIn account, before serving as Head of the Computer Incidents Investigation Team at Kaspersky, he worked as Deputy Director for a company called Indrik, but also as a Major in the Ministry of Interior's Cyber Crime Unit.

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Google Bans 200 Publishers From Its Ad Network
Posted by News Fetcher on January 25 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's search-and-destroy department:
Since it passed a new policy against fake news, Google has banned 200 publishers from its AdSense network, an ad placement service that automatically serves text and display ads on participating sites based on its audience. "The ban was part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites that mislead users with their content," reports Recode. From the report: Not all 200 publishers were swept up as part of the effort to root out fake news sites. Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organizations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google's 2016 "bad ads" report, normally released at the beginning of each year. So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of ".co" domains by appearing similar to legitimate news sites that would normally end in ".com." Google declined to provide a listing of the banned sites. Separately, the annual report on violations of advertising policy also included data on ads removed by Google. The company reported that in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015. Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behavior and improvements in technology to detect offending ads. Also among those the removed ads were what Google calls "tabloid cloakers." These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines, but when the user clicks, an ad for a product such as a weight loss supplement pops up. Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.

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