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Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com  

Google Maps promises to stop racist trolls messing with maps—but how?

whitehousenope

Struck by a succession of abusive scrawlings going live on its popular maps service, Google has apologized and promised to retool the service to prevent it from happening in future.

"This week, we had some problems with Google Maps, which was displaying results for certain offensive search queries," wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, a Vice President of Engineering and Product Development, explaining how Google's system slurped up the offensive terms because of how it incorporates "online discussions" of particular places. "… This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren’t looking for."

Earlier this week, it was found that when given offensive search terms, Google would return inappropriate locations. Queried with "nigga house," for example, Google would offer the White House.

Howard University, reported one internet user, "shows up as ‘N***er University’ on Google Maps."

The benefits of algorithmic changes will be seen soon, Fitzpatrick promised, and Google will continue to refine its software over time: "Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don't."

Maps, like much in the Googleverse, is comprised significantly of information added by users or algorithmically incorporated into its dataset—unvetted and often dependent on community reporting when something goes awry.

Google recently shuttered another crowdsourced component of Google Maps due to repeated addition of naughty and offensive landscape features that were not, in fact, there.

Ad bad

I'd love to read The Next Web's article titled "Ad-blockers aren’t ‘immoral,’ but maybe you’re using them wrong", but it is impossible because of the hilariously broken full-screen ad superimposed upon it.

The truth about cavemen

GEICOCAVEMEN Is that they only lived in caves seasonally, "maybe a couple of months a year at the most." At Nautilus, Jude Isabella interviews anthropological archaeologist Margaret Conkey, who sets the record straight.
Archaeologists are influenced by their culture, not surprisingly. We can’t be totally neutral—we’d be like a blob—but it’s important to recognize what biases we bring to our work. My colleagues and I are suggesting that we have certain biases about what constitutes a “home” and that mobile people didn’t think of home as a stationary physical structure. A “homeless” archaeologist would have a different perspective. Only instead of using the term “homeless,” which in our culture has a negative connotation, I use the term “spatially ambitious.” Clearly, based on what we found, our ancestors were way more spatially ambitious than the cavemen we had thought them to be.

Could you quit working full-time?

flowers

"Life is too short for a full-time job," writes Mohit Satyanand. "Time unwatched is its own treasure, gracious host to conversations that drift and swoop, afternoons that stretch into evenings, dinners that slur into a last coffee." Good if you can hack it, I suppose.

Read the rest

Show off your painted miniatures!

miniature My nephew, Joshua Smith, is graduating high school this week and will soon be off to the U.S. Coast Guard. In his free time, he's learning to painstakingly paint miniatures, and is starting to get pretty good! Here's a current WIP. Show us your own best work, for great justice.

Taylor Swift video rotoscoped into complete insanity by 49 animation students

Each were given 52 frames of Shake it Off, and the result is "2767 frames of lovingly hand-drawn rotoscoped footage." Come for the tentacles, stay for the surrealist dragon kin.

Redrawing Taylor Swift - Shake it Off Rotoscoped

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 reviewed

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Brett Howse says the ultra-thin model from Lenovo—up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD with a 14" 1440-line display, i7 CPU opion and several USB ports—is "likely the fastest ultrabook yet." At $2000 as tested, it better be.

Man happy after cheap smartphone downgrade

When his fancy, high-end Sony smartphone died, Abhishek Anand decided to replace it with a cheap $75 model. He's much happier, not least because it actually lasts a day on a charge.
If my ₹ 5000 Moto E lasts even for 6 months, it would have a much better ROI than my previous phone. Now that I have used both phones for a bit, with my usage patterns, it is simply not worth it to buy an expensive phone. Also, in pure economic terms, money invested is better than money spent on a depreciating asset ☺, so the gap between the two prices widens even more.

Texas plans to loosen gun laws proceed

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Investigators still aren't clear on the details of what went down over the weekend between biker gangs in Waco, Texas, that killed 9, but politicians know what needs to be done: more guns!

On Monday, deliberations over a bill that would allow for the open carrying of handguns in Texas went on as scheduled in the state’s Senate. Lawmakers offered support for the measure, which has already passed Texas House. “This bill does not have anything to do with what went on yesterday," a state senator remarked. This sentiment was echoed by others, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who told the AP on Monday: "The shootout occurred when we don't have open carry, so obviously the current laws didn't stop anything like that.”

Dont mess with Texas: please mop up the blood.

Antigay pastor trolled Grindr for gay sex

queerty

Reverend Matthew Makela has two problems with queer people: he can't stop calling them predatory sickos, and he can't stop having sex with them.

According to his official bio, the associate pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Michigan enjoys family, music, home improvement, gardening and landscaping. According to his Grindr profile, discovered and exposed by Queerty, he likes topping and cuddles.

Of course, how someone behaves between the sheets is really nobody’s business but his own, except when he’s actively doing damage to others. We’ve seen it time and time again. The lawmaker who spends his days fighting against gay rights and his nights cruising for bottoms, or the ex-gay activist who isn’t quite as ex-gay as he’d like everyone to believe.

Which brings us back to Makela. The married father of five from Midland, Michigan doesn’t just preach Jesus’ love and help with bake sales. He also uses his position of authority and respect in his community to broadcast his self-loathing view on same-sex attraction.

The collection of statements is damning: he's a full-spectum hater, ranging from gay-curing nonsense to effortlessly nasty transphobia aimed at a specific local resident. Makela told Queerty that he has resigned and told his wife and senior pastor, but Queerty is having none of it:

…his community also deserves to know. If Makela made even one LGBT kid at St. John’s “Christ-based” elementary school, their parents, friends, family or anyone who ever stepped foot in the church feel like being true to yourself is shameful (and it seems all too likely that he did), then we’re glad to share his hypocrisy with the world.

Create pixel art using style sheets

mario-dudes-round "Oh my gosh, please never actually use this in production," warns creator Una Kravets, "It's terrible for performance."

When the oil runs out, what do we do with all the tankers?

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They are innumerable, immortal and enormous. Let's turn them into beachfront villages!

How Mad Men got its weird, moody theme tune

Fast Co interviews electronic musician RJD2 on how A Beautiful Mine ended up in the just-concluded TV show, and what he's got planned next: "I've always had this ethos of my career that is along the lines of you should try everything once even if it seems like a bad idea."

Uber hired Carnegie Mellon robotics lab out from under it

UberMap.0

Uber and the tech college announced a partnership earlier this year. Looks it was a trojan horse to identify and hire away Pittsburgh's top robotics experts to build its driverless cab fleet. [pic via The Verge]

PayPal fined $25m for tricking users into credit program

paypal

A few months ago, I noticed that PayPal put a "pay later" button where the usual payment button would be. It's a tricky way to snooker users into the credit/debt treadmill, and PayPal has been fined for this fraudulent behavior, writes Josh Lowensohn.

The organization says PayPal signed people up to the service without their permission, deceptively advertised its benefits (which never materialized in some cases), forced users to use PayPal Credit instead of other payment methods, and "mishandled" billing in a way that raked up late fees and extra interest charges. All in all, very bad things for people trying to spend money on the internet.

"Many of these consumers learned of their PayPal Credit accounts for the first time when they received billing statements with accrued late fees and interest charges, or when they received debt-collection calls," the complaint says.

Paypal must reimburse them, writes Bloomberg News.

In particular, CFPB said, PayPal used deferred-interest promotions, which push off payments to a later date, to rope in customers. The company then made it difficult to avoid the deferred fees, which customers can typically do by paying off a loan before a specified date, the agency said. Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for PayPal, said the company “takes consumer protection very seriously.”

I hadn't even known I had used this checkout option myself until a payment I expected to be deducted never materialized. They really do present it in the most cunning way possible. Once you know what they're up to, you'd spot it a mile off. But the psychological blinders used seem as self-consciously deceptive as the usual phishing techniques, and have the huge advantage of being the verifiably proper payment venue.

I can't remember exactly how it appeared, but the manipulation depended on my familiarity with the usual payment UI and my expectation that a particular button in a particular place would do a particular thing.

I also recall these sleazy-looking "statement alert" emails I'd get now and again, which seemed crafted to look like spam or otherwise be ignored, instead of a formal monthly invoice for the minimum payment required to avoid interest and fees. They're not sent even from the same domain!

x 2015-05-20 at 9.09.07 AM

The tiny little $25m fine won't bother it much. PayPal seems to have few serious incentives to be honest and forthright in its dealings with customers.

hitler.ninja implements Windows 7 Beta as God intended

hitler.ninja

Finally. Well, at least it's better than Vista.

Mad Men misogynist Paul Johansson well-suited to his role

enhanced-28704-1430959506-1Buzzfeed's Susan Cheng reports that during an interview with the actor portraying a 70's corporate sleazebag, he made inappropriate sexual remarks; put his arm around her; and told her he was 'sweating like a rapist.'
I know far worse things have been said and done than what Johansson said and did that day. But his conduct is common in a Hollywood culture that puts young women in positions where they can be easily manipulated or harassed by older men. What’s worse, that culture also discourages those women from speaking out and continues to reward the men accused of committing such offenses, as recent events have indicated. Last week, I emailed Johansson’s publicist with a request to speak to him about how he acted toward me, and what he was thinking. I received a response 20 hours later: a letter from Johansson’s lawyer (an excerpt of which can be seen at the bottom of this post) claiming that the actor “never acted inappropriate towards [me], or any of [my] colleagues at the BuzzFeed offices.”

When she complained, she received a letter from his lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, in which he accused her of fabricating the story to "exploit" his client's popularity.

What Hollywood’s Acceptance Of Sexism Looks Like In Practice