By msmash from Slashdot's email-etiquette department
Yes, we're all overwhelmed with email. One recent survey suggested that the average American's inbox has 199 unread messages. But volume isn't an excuse for not replying. Ignoring email is an act of incivility, reads an opinion piece. From the story: "I'm too busy to answer your email" really means "Your email is not a priority for me right now." That's a popular justification for neglecting your inbox: It's full of other people's priorities. But there's a growing body of evidence that if you care about being good at your job, your inbox should be a priority. When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious -- organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)
I'm not saying you have to answer every email. Your brain is not just sitting there waiting to be picked. If senders aren't considerate enough to do their homework and ask a question you're qualified to answer, you don't owe them anything back. How do you know if an email you've received -- or even more important, one you're considering writing -- doesn't deserve a response? After all, sending an inappropriate email can be as rude as ignoring a polite one. [...] Whatever boundaries you choose, don't abandon your inbox altogether. Not answering emails today is like refusing to take phone calls in the 1990s or ignoring letters in the 1950s. Email is not household clutter and you're not Marie Kondo. Ping!Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is still upset that Amazon isn't coming to New York. De Blasio attacked the company Sunday for canceling plans to build a second headquarters in Queens last week. From a report: "This is an example of an abuse of corporate power," de Blasio told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press." "Amazon just took their ball and went home. And what they did was confirm people's worst fears about corporate America." He made similar comments in a New York Times op-ed Saturday. Amazon canceled the deal just months after announcing plans to split its new, second headquarters between New York and Virginia. The Seattle-based company, which is trying to grow its footprint at home and abroad, spent a year reviewing hundreds of "HQ2" proposals from all over North America before settling on the two regions.
[...] On Sunday, de Blasio, a Democrat, said New York offered Amazon a "fair deal," and blamed the company for making what he called an "arbitrary" decision to leave after some people objected. "They said they wanted a partnership, but the minute there were criticisms, they walked away," he added. "What does that say to working people that a company would leave them high and dry simply because some people raised criticisms?"Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's upon-further-reflection department
An excerpt from a report, which looks at the complicated business of funding open source software development: On the surface, the open source software community has never been better. Companies and governments are adopting open source software at rates that would've been unfathomable 20 years ago, and a whole new generation of programmers are cutting their teeth on developing software in plain sight and making it freely available for anyone to use. Go a little deeper, however, and the cracks start to show. The ascendancy of open source has placed a mounting burden on the maintainers of popular software, who now handle more bug reports, feature requests, code reviews, and code commits than ever before.
At the same time, open source developers must also deal with an influx of corporate users who are unfamiliar with community norms when it comes to producing and consuming open source software. This leads to developer burnout and a growing feeling of resentment toward the companies that rely on free labor to produce software that is folded into products and sold back to consumers for huge profits. From this perspective, Heartbleed wasn't an isolated example of developer burnout and lack of funding, but an outgrowth of a systemic disease that had been festering in the open source software community for years. Identifying the symptoms and causes of this disease was the easy part; finding a cure is more difficult. Further reading: How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, India has wanted foreign companies to thrive in the country. When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014, one of its early major pushes was to formulate plans and structure incentives to attract foreign investment. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled plans to liberalize the foreign investment rules. He also visited the U.S. and met with top Silicon Valley executives, nearly all of whom subsequently expanded their commitments in India. It further introduced lofty incentives to encourage companies to participate in Make in India and Digital India, a set of state-run initiatives to drive job growth in the nation.
[...] But over the past year, in the run-up to the general elections in May, the Indian government has unveiled -- and in many cases, enforced -- a wave of sweeping changes. It now dictates how foreign companies handle and make use of Indian user data and other aspects of how ecommerce platforms operate, and it is working on introducing greater oversight for technology platforms. [...] Lobby groups that represent U.S. companies and industry watchers say they see an extreme shift from the "warm, welcoming, collaborative" approach the government exhibited in 2014. "In the past year or so, the engagement has been combative, with abrupt, disruptive policy changes that are being held without consultation, and, unusually, with absolutely no room for negotiation or even deadline extensions -- as we saw with data localisation and FDI in ecommerce," Prasanto K Roy, a technology and policy analyst, told VentureBeat. The story also looks at how much revenue Silicon Valley companies that count India as one of their biggest markets is generating there. Spoiler alert: it's very little.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Reader theodp writes: Thanks to software, Bill and Melinda Gates report in their 2019 Annual Letter, textbooks are becoming obsolete. Bill writes: "I read more than my share of textbooks. But it's a pretty limited way to learn something. Even the best text can't figure out which concepts you understand and which ones you need more help with. It certainly can't tell your teacher how well you grasped last night's assigned reading. But now, thanks to software, the standalone textbook is becoming a thing of the past" (if so, it'll be a 60-year overnight success!). The Gates are putting their money where their mouths are -- their education investments include look-Ma-no-textbooks Khan Academy and Code.org. Code.org, whose AP Computer Science Principles course for high schools "does not require or follow a textbook", boasted in its just-released Annual Report that 38% of all AP CS exam takers in 2018 came from "Code.org Computer Science Principles classrooms," adding that it had spent $24.2 million of its donors' money on curriculum and its Code Studio learning platform (30,300 hours of coursework), another $46.7 million to prepare 87,000 new K-12 CS teachers, $12.4 million on Marketing, and $6.9 million on Government Affairs. So, do we still need textbooks?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's food-fight department
The Washington Post reports on why some U.S. cities are restricting the spread of discount "dollar stores":
Residents fear the stores deter other business, especially in neighborhoods without grocers or options for healthy food. Dollar stores rarely sell fresh produce or meats, but they undercut grocery stores on prices of everyday items, often pushing them out of business...Grocery stores run on thin profit margins -- usually between 1 and 3 percent. And they employ more workers than dollar stores to keep perishable food stocked.
"It's no longer the big-box grocery store" that threatens local businesses, said David Procter, a Kansas State University professor who studies rural grocery stores. "But it's the discount retailer that's coming to town and setting up shop right across the street."
"As the stores cluster in low-income neighborhoods," the Post writes, "their critics worry they are not just a response to poverty -- but a cause."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-saved-by-the-bell department
In the hunt for potential acts of student violence, "schools are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence-backed solutions," reports USA Today.
Bark Technologies, Gaggle.Net, and Securly Inc. are three companies that employ AI and machine learning to scan student emails, texts, documents, and in some cases, social media activity. They look for warning signs of cyber bullying, sexting, drug and alcohol use, depression, and to flag students who may pose a violent risk not only to themselves, but classmates. When potential problems are found, and depending on the severity, school administrators, parents -- and under the most extreme cases -- law enforcement officials, are alerted. In the fall of 2017, Bark ran a test pilot with 25 schools. "We found some pretty alarming issues, including a bombing and school shooting threat," says Bark chief parent officer, Titania Jordan....
The Bark product [which monitors more than 25 social media platforms] is free to schools in the U.S. for perpetuity. The company says it can afford to give the service away to schools, because of the money it makes from a version aimed at parents... Bark is currently used in more than 1,100 school districts, covering 2.6 million children. If it detects something that is considered exceedingly severe such as a child abduction or school shooting threat, the issue is escalated to the FBI. According to Jordan, Bark sends out between 35,000 and 55,000 alerts each day, many just instances of profanity. But 16 plausible school shootings have been reported to the FBI since Bark launched its school product last February, she says.
The article notes these solutions have three major limitations:
"A school can't police a student's smartphone or other devices outside the ones it issued, unless the student signed into a social media, or other account, using the email or credentials the school provided."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fugitives-from-justice department
A 44-year-old living in Maine has just been arrested and charged with committing a murder when he was 18, the Washington Post reports:
The April 1993 slaying of Sophie Sergie, an Alaska Native, was one of the state's most notorious cold cases until Friday, when authorities announced that DNA genealogical mapping helped triangulate a genetic match... Police recovered the suspect's DNA from Sergie's body. At the time, the district court filing said, DNA processing technology had not been introduced in Alaska. A DNA profile confirming the suspect as male was uploaded in 2000, but it did not match anyone in the FBI's database. The case went dormant for years...
Then the alleged "Golden State Killer" was captured [after searching commercial online genealogy databases for relatives who matched DNA found at a crime scene]. The publicity of the feat, state troopers said, sparked the idea for investigators in the Sergie case. Why not try the same? A forensic genealogist prepared a report on Dec. 18, comparing the suspect's genetic material from the crime scene to likely relatives. A woman's DNA profile emerged in the search. Investigators found their link: She was an aunt of Downs's.
Downs had been a student at the college where the murder took place. He's also been charged with sexual assault -- and with being a fugitive from justice for the last 25 years.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fake-medical-news department
"As a disturbing number of measles outbreaks crop up around the United States, Facebook is facing challenges combating widespread misinformation about vaccinations on its platform," reported the Washington Post Wednesday, saying Facebook "has become a haven for the anti-vaccination movement" and that "the rise of 'anti-vaxx' Facebook groups is overlapping with a resurgence of measles" in the U.S.
Facebook has publicly declared that fighting misinformation is one of its top priorities. But when it comes to policing misleading content about vaccinations, the site faces a thorny challenge. The bulk of anti-vaccination content doesn't violate Facebook's community guidelines for inciting "real-world harm," according to a spokesperson, and the site's algorithms often promote unscientific pages or posts about the issue...
Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently met with Facebook strategists about dealing with public health issues, including misinformation about vaccines, on the platform... "Facebook isn't responsible for changing quacks but they do have an opportunity to change the way information is served up." But Facebook's algorithms often promote anti-vaccination content over widely accepted, scientifically backed posts or pages about vaccinations. A recent investigation from the Guardian found that Facebook search results regarding vaccines were "dominated by anti-vaccination propaganda...." Facebook also accepted advertising revenue from Vax Truther, Anti-Vaxxer, Vaccines Revealed and Michigan for Vaccine Choice, among others, according to another investigation from the Guardian [which found Facebook even offers the ability to target 900,000 users that Facebook has helpfully identified as interested in "vaccine controversies."]
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's giant-leaps-for-mankind department
Nine private spaceflight companies are bidding on contracts to deliver robotic NASA payloads to the moon -- and Thursday NASA said they'd like them to start flying "this calendar year."
Discover magazine reports NASA envisions this "as the first step toward returning to the moon, this time for good."
The first tasks will be to practice launching and landing on the moon, as well as answering questions about its surface... They will test habitation for future crewed missions. They'll prove that they can collect materials from the lunar surface and return them to space or Earth. And they'll establish communication networks between robots on the moon's surface, way stations in lunar orbit, and mission control on Earth.
But NASA also wants to deploy demo technology that can mine the moon's resources "to pave the way for human settlement," Space.com reports:
The main lunar resource to be exploited, at least initially, is water. The lunar surface has lots of this stuff, locked up as ice on the permanently shadowed floors of polar craters. This water will aid lunar settlement and further exploration, and not just by slaking astronauts' thirst, NASA officials say. Water can also be split into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel.
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program is just part of NASA's broad moon-exploration plan, which prioritizes an open architecture that encourages cooperation with many commercial and international partners. (Indeed, NASA wants to be the commercial landers' first, but not only, customer.) One of the most critical pieces of this plan is a small space station, called the Gateway, which NASA aims to start building in lunar orbit in 2022. Gateway will be a hub for many kinds of lunar exploration, including sorties to the surface by landers both crewed and uncrewed.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's everyone-leave-the-room department
The Guardian reports: Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who played Adolf Hitler in the film Downfall, has died in Zurich at the age of 77, his agent announced. The actor became internationally renowned for his 2004 portrayal of the German dictator's final days inside his Berlin bunker. In a Guardian review of Downfall Rob Mackie described Ganz as "the most convincing screen Hitler yet: an old, bent, sick dictator with the shaking hands of someone with Parkinson's, alternating between rage and despair in his last days in the bunker...." It is widely believed to be the cinematic footage most often shared online, as well as the cause of one of the world's most productive internet memes.
They're referring to "One climactic scene featuring a Ganz tour de force" that was "relentlessly parodied in widespread 'Hitler Finds Out...' videos, featuring anachronistic subtitles depicting his rage and fury over topical, mundane, or banal events and trivial gossip," explains long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed:
The spread of the meme was aided inestimably by the Streisand Effect caused when the production company, Constantin Films began sending DMCA takedown notices to YouTube. Eventually the company relented as the parodies constituted strong fair use cases.
When the director of the film was asked about the parodies, he admitted that "I think I've seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I'm laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn't get a better compliment as a director."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lobbyists-versus-legislation department
"New Hampshire lawmakers got an early taste last week of the arguments that manufacturing, technology and telecommunications lobbyists will use to try to hobble and defeat right to repair legislation in 16 states this year," writes long-time Slashdot reader chicksdaddy.
The Security Ledger reports:
Curious children could find themselves dismembered by run-away washing machines. A phalanx of illegally modified lawn tractors and leaf blowers will belch pollution in defiance of the EPA, darkening the sky... At least, that's the scene painted by representatives from some of the U.S.'s biggest industry groups. At a hearing before the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and Consumer Affairs February 5, they painted a dire picture of the consequences of passing a proposed Digital Fair Repair Act, HB 462, saying the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.
"There is a lot at stake when it comes to Right to Repair, and you could feel those stakes in the room," wrote Nathan Proctor, the head of the right to repair campaign at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), in an email statement. "Legislators have their work cut out for them sifting through all the frantic opposition and their deceptive, and at times bizarre, arguments," he wrote.
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