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)