Algorithm Identifies Tweets Sent Under the Influence of Alcohol (MIT TR) — notable for how they determined whether a Tweet was sent from home. They made a list of phrases like “home at last!” and had MTurkers confirm the Tweets were about being home, then used those as training data for an algorithm to identify other Tweets talking about home.
Puzzle Game to Help Program Quantum Computers (New Scientist) — Devitt has turned the problem of programming a quantum computer into a game called meQuanics. His team has developed a prototype to test the game, which you can play now, and today launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a fully fledged version for iOS and Android phones.
MacroBase — Analytic monitoring for the Internet of Things. The code behind a research paper, written up in the morning paper where Adrian Colyer says, there is another story that also unfolds in the paper – one of careful system design based on analysis of properties of the problem space, of thinking deeply and taking the time to understand the prior art (aka “the literature”), and then building on those discoveries to advance and adapt them to the new situation. “That’s what research is all about!” you may say, but it’s also what we’d (I’d?) love to see more of in practitioner settings, too. The result of all this hard work is a system that comprises just 7,000 lines of code, and I’m sure, many, many hours of thinking!
Survey of Commenters and Comment Readers — Americans who leave news comments, who read news comments, and who do neither are demographically distinct. News commenters are more male, have lower levels of education, and have lower incomes compared to those who read news comments. (via Marginal Revolution)
Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read (NYT) — On average, fewer than half of the books tested were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5% of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75% of readers. Sixty percent of books fell into a range where 25% to 50% of test readers finished them. Business books have surprisingly low completion rates. Not surprisingly low to anyone who has ever read a business book. They’re always a 20-page idea stretched to 150 pages because that’s how wide a book’s spine has to be to visible on the airport bookshelf. Fat paper stock and 14-point text with wide margins and 1.5 line spacing help, too. Don’t forget to leave pages after each chapter for the reader’s notes. And summary checklists. And … sorry, I need to take a moment.
What Thomas Hardy Taught Me — In educational research, perhaps the greatest danger lies in thinking “that which I cannot measure is not real.” The disruption fetishists have amplified this danger, now evincing the attitude “teaching that cannot be said to lead to the immediate acquisition of rote, mechanical skills has no value.” But absolutely every aspect of my educational journey — as a student, as a teacher, and as a researcher — demonstrates the folly of this approach to learning. (via Dan Meyer)
scala school — Twitter’s instructional material for coming up to speed on scala.
Robin Hood Fellowship — fellowship to use technology to increase access to legal services for New Yorkers. Stuff that matters.
The Echo From Amazon Brims With Groundbreaking Promise (NY Times) — A bit more than a year after its release, the Echo has morphed from a gimmicky experiment into a device that brims with profound possibility. The longer I use it, the more regularly it inspires the same sense of promise I felt when I used the first iPhone — a sense this machine is opening up a vast new realm in personal computing, and gently expanding the role that computers will play in our future.
Crossword-Solving Neural Networks — Hill describes recent progress in learning-based AI systems in terms of behaviourism and cognitivism: two movements in psychology that effect how one views learning and education. Behaviourism, as the name implies, looks at behaviour without looking at what the brain and neurons are doing, while cognitivism looks at the mental processes that underlie behaviour. Deep learning systems like the one built by Hill and his colleagues reflect a cognitivist approach, but for a system to have something approaching human intelligence, it would have to have a little of both. “Our system can’t go too far beyond the dictionary data on which it was trained, but the ways in which it can are interesting, and make it a surprisingly robust question and answer system – and quite good at solving crossword puzzles,” said Hill. While it was not built with the purpose of solving crossword puzzles, the researchers found that it actually performed better than commercially-available products that are specifically engineered for the task.
Mathematical Foundations for Social Computing (PDF) — collection of pointers to existing research in social computing and some open challenges for work to be done. Consider situations where a highly structured decision must be made. Some examples are making budgets, assigning water resources, and setting tax rates. […] One promising candidate is “Knapsack Voting.” […] This captures most budgeting processes — the set of chosen budget items must fit under a spending limit, while maximizing societal value. Goel et al. prove that asking users to compare projects in terms of “value for money” or asking them to choose an entire budget results in provably better properties than using the more traditional approaches of approval or rank-choice voting.
Intelligence-Augmented Rat Cyborgs in Maze Solving (PLoS) — We compare the performance of maze solving by computer, by individual rats, and by computer-aided rats (i.e. rat cyborgs). They were asked to find their way from a constant entrance to a constant exit in 14 diverse mazes. Performance of maze solving was measured by steps, coverage rates, and time spent. The experimental results with six rats and their intelligence-augmented rat cyborgs show that rat cyborgs have the best performance in escaping from mazes. These results provide a proof-of-principle demonstration for cyborg intelligence. In addition, our novel cyborg intelligent system (rat cyborg) has great potential in various applications, such as search and rescue in complex terrains.
Brain Modem — a tiny sensor that travels through blood vessels, lodges in the brain and records neural activity. The “stentrode” (stent + electrode) is the size of a paperclip, and Melbourne researchers (funded by DARPA) have made the first successful animal trials.
Robots in American Law — This article closely examines a half century of case law involving robots. […] The first set highlights the role of robots as the objects of American law. Among other issues, courts have had to decide whether robots represent something “animate” for purposes of import tariffs, whether robots can “perform” as that term is understood in the context of a state tax on performance halls, and whether a salvage team “possesses” a shipwreck it visits with an unmanned submarine. (via BoingBoing)
Comments Off on Four short links: 29 February 2016
Paul Ford on Racter — But don’t get too ahead of things. Using Racter is not as different from using Siri as you might expect. It’s just that Siri has petabytes of stuff in her brain, whereas Racter has a floppy’s worth. Computers have changed a ton in the last 30 years, humans barely at all. Don’t mistake their progress for ours. We’ve learned how to talk to computers, and they’ve learned how to pretend to understand us. Useful when driving. People love chatting with their Amazon Echo. But the conversation still doesn’t really mean anything.
Not Quite So Broken TLS (Adrian Colyer) — instead of ad-hoc codery, A precise and testable specification (in this case for TLS) that unambiguously determines the set of behaviours it allows (and hence also what it does not). The specification should also be executable as a test oracle, to determine whether or not a given implementation is compliant. The paper outlines this for TLS, but I see formal methods growing in importance in coming years. We can’t build an airport with cardboard on a swamp. In this metaphor, cardboard represents our ad hoc dev practices and the swamp is our platform of crap code. The airport is … look, never mind, I’ll work on the metaphor. Read the paper.
Comments Off on Four short links: 23 February 2016
Security Without Identification (PDF) — a David Chaum paper from 1985. Digital pseudonyms, handheld signing devices, Current systems emphasize the one-sided security of organizations attempting to protect themselves from individuals; the new approach allows all parties to protect their own interests. The new approach relies on individuals keeping secret keys from organizations and organizations devising other secret keys that are kept from individuals. During transactions, parties use these keys to provide each other with specially coded confirmation of the transaction details, which can be used as evidence.
Killing Slow Chrome Tabs (Medium) — There is one not-so-well known tool in Chrome, that allows you to analyse how much resources the individual tabs consume. It is called Task Manager and you can find it in Menu > More Tools > Task Manager.
Comments Off on Four short links: 22 February 2016
Exoskeletons Must be Covered by Health Insurance (VICE) — A medical review board ruled that a health insurance provider in the United States is obligated to provide coverage and reimbursement for a $69,500 ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, in what could be a major turning point for people with spinal cord injuries. (via Robohub)
New Models for the Company of the 21st Century (Simone Brunozzi) — large companies often get displaced by new entrants, failing to innovate and/or adapt to new technologies. Y-Combinator can be seen as a new type of company, where innovation is brought in as an entrepreneurial experiment, largely for seed-stage ideas; Google’s Alphabet, on the other hand, tries to stimulate innovation and risk by dividing a large company into smaller pieces and reassigning ownership and responsibilities to different CEOs.
Zephyr — Linux Foundation’s IoT open source OS project. tbh, I don’t see people complaining about operating systems. Integrating all these devices (and having the sensors actually usefully capturing what you want) seems the bigger problem. We already have fragmentation (is it a Samsung home or a Nest home?), and as more Big Swinging Click companies enter the world of smarter things, this will only get worse before it gets better.
Old-School PC Fonts — definitive collection of ripped-from-the-BIOS fonts from the various types of PCs. Your eyes will ache with nostalgia. (Or, if you’re a young gun, wondering how anybody wrote code with fonts like that) (my terminal font is VT220 because it makes me happy and productive)
Cognitive Load: Brain Gems — We distill the latest behavioural economics & consumer psychology research down into helpful little brain gems.