Tag Archives: technology

How Do You Recover After Millions Have Watched You Overdose?

www.nytimes.com:

As opioid deaths have soared in recent years, police departments and strangers with cameras have started posting raw, uncensored images of drug users passed out with needles in their arms and babies in the back seats of their cars. The videos rack up millions of views and unleash avalanches of outrage. Then some other viral moment comes along, and the country clicks away.

But life is never the same for the people whose bleakest, most humiliating moments now live online forever. In interviews with The New York Times, they talked — some for the very first time — about the versions of themselves captured in the videos.

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech

An unelected council of a few dozen Facebook employees decides what more than 2 billion people are allowed to share. Facebook “has quietly become, with a speed that makes even employees uncomfortable, what is arguably one of the world’s most powerful political regulators.” Max Fisher investigates in depth at www.nytimes.com

Why People Still Use Fax Machines [Sophie Haigney/The Atlantic]

Fax machines are still in widespread use in law enforcement and medicine.

An early facsimile message was sent over telegraph lines in London in 1847, based on a design by the Scottish inventor Alexander Bain. There is some dispute over whether it was the first fax: Competing inventors, including Bain in the United Kingdom and Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell across the Atlantic, sought to father facsimile technology, which was a kind of white whale for inventors. Telegraphs already allowed messages to be passed across distances, one letter at a time using Morse code. But the dream of transmitting copies of messages and images instantly over wires was very much alive. Writing in 1863, Jules Verne imagined that the Paris of the 1960s would be replete with fax machines, or as he called them, “picture-telegraphs.”

The technology did eventually lead to a revolution in communication, though it didn’t happen until years later. It first became known to many Americans after the 1939 New York World’s Fair, where a fax machine transmitted newspaper images from around the world at a rate of 18 minutes per page—lightning speed for the time.

“In an age of instantaneous information and images, it is hard to appreciate the magic that millions in the 1930s experienced upon seeing photographs of distant disasters appear the next day in their newspapers, or the excitement in the 1980s of watching an exact copy of a letter emerge line by line from a machine connected to the telephone network,” Jonathan Coopersmith writes in his book Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine.

Faxing really took off in the ’80s, in offices around the world. It caused major changes in the speed of business transactions, allowing individuals and companies to disseminate materials quickly and broadly—someone in an office building in Japan could fire off a document to the United States instantly. It also served as a precursor to today’s digital-image culture: Fax allowed for the speedy dissemination of pictures of all kinds. This gave rise to so-called creative faxers who, Coopersmith writes, faxed “pizza orders, song requests, party invitations, greeting cards, ski reports, amniocentesis results, baby footprints, children’s drawings, and vows of eternal love.” People faxed Santa Claus. They faxed God, via the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

But its reign was short-lived.

Why do you (still) have to sign so many credit card receipts? [Rachel Sugar/Vox]

Merchants are finally phasing out signature requirements for transactions, though the US is moving more slowly on it. “We just love signing things here; after football, it is our national pastime.”

Interesting information: The Talmud requires signatures for contracts — as important as marriage, or as minor as buying a cup of coffee. Does this mean religious Jews will no longer be able to use credit cards? Can religious Jews now use Apple Pay and the Android equivalent?

The Story of Lenny, the Internet’s Favorite Telemarketing Troll [Motherboard]

“Lenny” is a chatbot designed to waste telemarketers’ time – brilliantly simple, he sounds like a chatty old man with an Australian accent who leads telemarketers on and never gets to the point.

According to a Reddit post by the person who claims to be the voice and creator of the Lenny chatbot, he sought to create a “telemarketer’s worst nightmare.” This, he decided, would be “a lonely old man who is up for a chat, proud of his family, and can’t focus on the telemarketer’s goal.”

The final result was a chatbot that consists of 16 stock phrases played in order. The first four phrases are scripted so as to encourage the telemarketers to begin their sales pitch and the last 12 phrases are played in a loop until the telemarketer hangs up. Lenny is powered by an interactive voice script, a software program that listens for one-and-a-half second pauses in the conversation so that it knows when to say the next phrase in the loop.

To those in the know, Lenny’s persona is hilarious. He has a thick Australian accent, a bit of a lisp, and talks excruciatingly slow. When a telemarketer calls, users can forward the call to Lenny, who answers the phone and eagerly assents to whatever the telemarketer is calling about. As the conversation progresses, however, Lenny’s responses get increasingly off topic. At one point he begins telling the telemarketer how proud he is of his family and then later he has to get off the line to go silence some ducks that can be heard quacking in the background.

After nearly a decade of existence, Lenny has garnered something of a cult following. Lenny is available on a public server so anyone can forward their telemarketing calls to the chatbot. There’s a dedicated subreddit chronicling Lenny’s interactions with telemarketers, and hundreds of audio recordings of Lenny have been uploaded to YouTube, often attracting hundreds of thousands of views.

How to Delete Facebook [Brian X. Chen/The New York Times]

If you’ve been very active on Facebook, deleting your account isn’t easy.

I have avoided using Facebook — or Google, Twitter, or anybody else — to log in to other sites. Bad idea to trust my logins to a third party. It’s not hard to create a separate login for each site and use a password manager (I use 1Password) to track them all.

Facebook’s biggest problem is that I can stop using it and be fine [Alex Sherman/CNBC]

Nobody needs Facebook, and that’s a problem for the company.

I’ve been struggling with my conscience this year about my Facebook usage.

On the one hand, Facebook has numerous, documented problems.

On the other hand, it brings people together.

I enjoy the conversation on Facebook, which I don’t find anywhere else — and I know from experience that asking people to follow me on another platform just doesn’t work.

And I use Facebook for professional and community activities.

I don’t know what to do about this. What do you think?

Dear tech companies, I don’t want to see pregnancy ads after my child was stillborn [Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post]

Tech companies need to make it easier for people to customize the ads they see, says the mother of a stillborn child who wants to stop seeing ads for baby products.

Heartbreaking essay. I only had an inkling what people go through when their child is stillborn. I guess I always thought of it as being something like recovering from a serious, but short-lived illness, like when an otherwise healthy person gets pneumonia or a burst appendix. It’s really more like losing a child, isn’t it?

Microsoft Putting Edge on Chromium Will Fundamentally Change the Web [Owen Williams/Motherboard]

Microsoft putting Edge on Chromium isn’t just about the browser. It’s about making Web apps that do a better job integrating with the operating system — like Electron apps, or MacOS Marzipan apps, but better.

Interesting. Until reading this article I thought Edge on Chromium was a yawner, because I don’t see any reason to switch to Edge. But this puts a new face on it.