Tag Archives: New York Times

Karen Sparck Jones

Computer scientist Karen Sparck Jones wrote a pioneering paper in 1972 about natural language recognition that led to the development of Internet search engines. Her work from the 1960s-80s is still groundbreaking today. [Nellie Bowles] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/obituaries/karen-sparck-jones-overlooked.html


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella turned the company around by focusing on its core strength in business services; betting big on the cloud; ditching failing lines, mainly the handset business; and opening up the culture.

Really an amazing turnaround; in the technology industry, dominant technology companies in decline, like Microsoft was, don’t make a comeback. I can only think of two examples other than Microsoft: Apple, which required the return of its charismatic founder, and IBM 25 years ago.

Digitizing history

The New York Times is using Google AI to digitize 5-7 million historical photos.

The newspaper’s “morgue” has 5 million to 7 million photos dating back to the 1870s, including prints and contact sheets showing all the shots on photographers’ rolls of film. The Times is using Google’s technology to convert it into something more useful than its current analog state occupying banks of filing cabinets.

Specifically, it’s using Google AI tools to recognize printed or handwritten text describing the photos and Google’s storage and data analysis services, the newspaper said. It plans to investigate whether object recognition is worthwhile, too.

[Stephen Shankland/CNET]


Trump Tax Records Obtained by The Times Reveal He Could Have Avoided Paying Taxes for Nearly Two Decades

Trump ran up nearly a billion dollars in red ink from spectacular real estate failures — this is the guy who’s running for President because he’s supposedly a great businessman — enough to shield him from paying taxes for 18 years.

My favorite part of the story is where the Times finds Trump’s accountant from the 90s, Jack Mitnick, who’s now 80 years old and verifies the record.

“This is legit,” he said, stabbing a finger into the document….

[Mitnick] contrasted Fred Trump’s attention to detail with what he described as Mr. Trump’s brash and undisciplined style. He recalled, for example, that when Donald and Ivana Trump came in each year to sign their tax forms, it was almost always Ivana who asked more questions….

Mr. Mitnick … said there were times when even he, for all his years helping wealthy New Yorkers navigate the tax code, found it difficult to face the incongruity of his work for Mr. Trump. He felt keenly aware that Mr. Trump was living a life of unimaginable luxury thanks in part to Mr. Mitnick’s ability to relieve him of the burden of paying taxes like everyone else.

“Here the guy was building incredible net worth and not paying tax on it,” he said.

David Barstow, Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner and Megan Twohey report for the New York Times in an admirable feat of old-fashioned investigative journalism.


The free software movement tries to hack the law

And open source what happens when advocates try to make free software business-friendly.

Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything podcast:

Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman tells us about her book Coding Freedom and the time she spent among the Hackers, “Chris” makes his TOE debut with a story about the alleged hacking of the New York Times by the Chinese, and your host wonders if it might be possible to hire a hacker to break into George RR Martin’s computer so that he can read the rest of the Game of Thrones story without having to wait 10 years like everyone else.

Facebook, Twitter join network to tackle fake news

The coalition includes 30 media and technology companies, including Google, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and more.

Billion-dollar companies are openly conspiring to make sure we only find out what they decide is legitimate news. But it’s for our own good, so that’s nothing to be concerned about.

(Angela Moon, Reuters)


Bill Cunningham, Legendary Times Fashion Photographer, Dies at 87

He worked the street and high society.

His obituary describes him as an ascetic but it sounds to me like he found the life he loved, and lived it.

He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand.

He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had until very recently for under $3. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall amid rows and rows of file cabinets, where he kept all of his negatives. He slept on a single-size cot, showered in a shared bathroom and, when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details (which he helped Annie Flanders launch in 1982), said: “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”

His uniform was utterly utilitarian: a blue French worker’s jacket, khaki pants and black sneakers. Although he sometimes photographed upward of 20 gala events a week, he never sat down at any of them for dinner and would wave away people who walked up to him to inquire whether he would at least like a glass of water.

[Jacob Bernstein/The New York Times]


Sounds awful

Soylent, the high-tech food replacement, is “the most joyless new technology [since] MS-DOS”

Soylent, the high-tech food replacement, is nasty stuff, says The New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo. It takes all the pleasure out of eating.

I just spent more than a week experiencing Soylent, the most joyless new technology to hit the world since we first laid eyes on MS-DOS.

Soylent is a drink mix invented by a group of engineers who harbor ambitions of shaking up the global food business. Robert Rhinehart, the 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive of the firm selling the drink, hit upon the idea when he found himself spending too much time and money searching for nutritious meals while he was working on a wireless-tech start-up in San Francisco. Using a process Mr. Rhinehart calls “scientific,” the firm claims to have mixed acornucopia of supplements to form a technologically novel food that offers the complete set of nutrients the human body needs for survival.

Soylent misses the point that most breakthrough consumer technologies don’t just perform a function; they offer pleasure too, Manjoo says. Uber, for example, isn’t just popular because it’s convenient; “it lets you feel like you’re the boss,” because you don’t have to pay when you get out.

STATE JP2 articleLarge


An internal New York Times report paints a dire picture of digital strategy

The Times is too print-focused, says an internal report leaked to Buzzfeed. Reporters are evaluated on how often their stories get on page one, the online deadline is structured around the print deadline, and headlines are poorly search optimized.

I’m surprised by this. I thought the Times did a good job online.

Except for the headline SEO — I’ve noticed that myself.

Headline SEO doesn’t just make headlines more attractive to search engines. A well-SEO’d headline is better for readers.

Print readers have all sorts of clues as to what a story is about and how important it is. The print reader sees story placement, the amount of space the story occupies, sidebar headlines, subheads, take glance at the lede of the story, photos and breakheads — all of these things tell a print reader what the story is about before the reader actually dives in

Online, the headline is often all there is. The headline needs to tell the reader what the story is about, what to expect when they read it, and why they should read it — all in a half-dozen words or less.

For example, consider this powerful article about a 16-year-old who was put in prison after being put through hell in a series of homes where she was tortured and prostituted. The headline: What Is This Child Doing In Prison? That’s just a weak headline.

Writing online headlines is hard, and I wish I was better at it myself.

1991 New York Times article about the discovery of a manuscript for Huckleberry Finn in Mark Twain’s own hand

“The only thing comparable to it I can think of would be an original Shakespeare manuscript,” Paul Needham, head of Sotheby’s books and manuscripts department, told the Times. 

Mr. Needham said the voluminous corrections and changes — many of them lengthy — throughout the manuscript were clues to Twain’s creative process. “What you see is his attempt to move away from pure literary writing to dialect writing,” he said.

Changing the First Sentence

The manuscript shows that Twain changed the opening lines of “Huckleberry Finn” three times. Twain first wrote, “You will not know about me,” which he then changed to, “You do not know about me,” before arriving at the final version: “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’; but that ain’t no matter.”

The manuscript was discovered in a trunk in a Los Angeles attic. The trunk belonged to James Fraser Gluck, a Buffalo lawyer and book collector who was a friend of Twain. The manuscript may have been located at a Buffalo library. 

William H. Loos, curator of books at the Buffalo library, said yesterday that the discovery might be described as nothing more or less than the resurfacing “of an overdue book.” He said he suspects Mr. Gluck, a major benefactor of the library who was instrumental in persuading Twain to donate the Huck Finn manuscript, borrowed half of the manuscript and forgot to return it.

“Mr. Gluck must have taken that part of the manuscript home with him, presumably to read, and possibly forgot he had it,” said Mr. Loos. “He died very unexpectedly and tragically at the age of 45 in 1897, 10 years after the manuscript had been presented to the library. Because there was no title page on it, just a pile of handwritten documents, it was probably simply swept up when his estate was settled, put in these trunks and nobody has looked at them all these years. We greatly honor the memory of James Fraser Gluck, the single most generous benefactor of this library. If he forgot to return this overdue book, we are prepared to forgive him.”

It’s a handwritten manuscript. Twain was one of the first authors to work on a typewriter, but apparently not at the time he was writing Huck Finn. 

First Half of ‘Huck Finn,’ in Twain’s Hand, Is Found – New York Times

(Via Will Shetterly – thanks!)