Facebook does not care about truth. Facebook wants to sell your attention to the highest bidder. 




Don’t trust your Facebook feed. All Facebook wants is for you to spend time on Facebook, so that they can sell your attention to the highest bidder.

Facebook recently fired 18 employees whose job was to write headlines for and monitor the “Trending Topics” list. When that list fell under scrutiny for an alleged anti-conservative bias, Facebook conducted an internal review, and reported that it found no evidence of such a bias, and now it’s all bots all the time. Except that humans still monitor the list. Except when they obviously don’t, such as when the list recently posted a mismatched URL and title, and when an item about Megyn Kelly trended for hours even though it was false.

I make it a point to check multiple news pages, including sources on the left, the right, and libertarian/tech sites that defy easy categorization. Google News is noteworthy because I can easily sample how dozens or hundreds of different news sources cover a breaking international story.  I check the Drudge Report a couple times a day (Drudge was the one who forced the world to recognize the power of online news) and usually wake up listening to the NPR news summary (it occupies my brain during the last few snooze cycles).

imageFacebook says humans are still involved in the story selection process for Trending Topics, but it’s never been more opaque about what role they play. Before, Facebook had a set of guidelines that instructed human curators how to analyze fast-moving news events, and then contextualize the coverage of those events on regional, national, and international scales. This involved closely watching mainstream sources like The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post. These contractors were also instructed to analyze headline styles, sourcing of quotes and facts, and to avoid sensationalism.

The changes instituted on Friday didn’t throw all of that away; Facebook has been slowly stripping away the human element of Trending Topics for months now. Rather, it marked the moment Facebook decided its algorithmic approach was more favorable, or perhaps more cost-effective and less damaging. But in shifting the reins to engineers, the company has minimized the kind of news judgment typically exercised by journalists and editors. Now, just a few days later, we’re realizing just how important that human element was. —The Verge

How to Think Like Shakespeare



Saving this for the next time I teach Shakespeare.

imageAll well and good, you say, but my parents are worried about what I’m going to do after I graduate. There, too, Shakespeare can be a model. When he was born, there wasn’t yet a professional theater in London. In other words, his education had prepared him for a job that didn’t even exist. You should be encouraged to learn that this has been true for every generation: Four of today’s largest companies did not exist when I was born, 43 years ago. One of them, Apple, was co-founded by someone who said that the most important topic he ever studied was not engineering but calligraphy. —Chronicle of Higher Education

Rip Van Winkle



Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 5.18.10 PMCertain it is, that he was a great favorite among all the good wives of the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took his part in all family squabbles, and never failed, whenever they talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood. | The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. —Irving, “Rip Van Winkle”

Had a good discussion of Rip Van Winkle in American Lit class. Class was divided over whether to side with Rip’s gentle amiability or the society that scolded him for being unproductive. The kids of the village loved him. If gender roles were more flexible back then, maybe he’d have been a great caregiver, and his wife’s strong personality better suited for cut-throat haggling in the marketplace.

Facebook Removes Human Curators From Trending Module



Screen-Shot-2016-08-27-at-11.13.57-AM-1Today, Facebook announced that human curators will no longer write short descriptions that accompany trending topics on the site. Instead, the company will rely on an algorithmic process to “pull excerpts directly from stories.” The company also said it will stop using human curators to sort through the news…. It’s important to note that Facebook originally claimed its Trending Topics section was sorted by an algorithm. The company seems to have misled Recode’s Kurt Wagner in a story that has now been heavily edited to reflect a more accurate representation of what was happening. Before our series of reports, Facebook publicly claimed Trending Topics were “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”–Gizmodo

Meet octobot, a soft-bodied robot that looks like the future



Our future robot overlords never looked so squishy. A team of Harvard University scientists has built an entirely soft robot — one that’s inspired by an octopus.

The octobot, described this week in the journal Nature, could pave the way toward more effective soft robots that could be used in search and rescue, exploration and to more safely interact with humans.

“The octobot is a minimal system designed to demonstrate our integrated design and fabrication strategy, which may serve as a foundation for a new generation of completely soft, autonomous robots,” the study authors wrote.

While the octobot mostly just flexes its limbs, it could pave the way toward more effective soft robots that could be used in search and rescue, exploration and to more safely interact with humans. —Seattle Times

NASA Just Found a Lost Spacecraft



Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.41.59 PMIf movies about space have taught us anything, it’s that no one can hear you scream. If you get lost in space, nobody’s going to find you. Unless you’re a spacecraft with a direct link to NASA. Then, there is hope for you yet. STEREO-B, from the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, went missing on October 1, 2014 after losing contact with the team back on Earth. However, on Sunday night, scientists were able to reestablish contact, after 22 months of searching, when the Deep Space Network (NASA’s tool for tracking space missions) was able to lock on to the signal. —Gizmodo

The 7 things new college students don’t know that drive professors crazy




Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.25.52 PMWhile secondary schools pour their resources into helping students get into a good university, and adults rush to teach teens how to behave well socially, no one’s covering what kids need to know for, you know, the actual classes. I have a clear picture of what’s missing from their preparation. Here’s what to tell your college-bound students to help them succeed. —Washington Post