The game consumption cycle

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In the wake of spectacular trailers for forthcoming games at the E3 trade show this weekend (I'll have trouble resisting Skyrim: Fancy Edition) this graphic, by RamsesThePigeon, burned up the 'net. The lessons apply to all forms of consumerism. Here's something similar I did about gadgets a decade ago, though for some reason it was about the marketing and supply chain side of things. Itself based on a 1902 chocolate ad.

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Former Facebook staff say they routinely manipulated trending news topics

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Update: Facebook released a statement on Monday afternoon: “We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum.”

Facebook workers "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," reports Gizmodo, regarding the "trending" topics that are inserted in readers' feeds. This was apparently an issue of individuals working on their own initiative rather than the result of corporate policy, but they were directed to squelch news about Facebook itself and to manually inject "missing" stories into the trending topics.

These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.

In short, Facebook's "trending" stuff comes out of a newsroom-like culture, with editorial direction and values. Which would be fine, except for the fact that Facebook claims that its trending topics are an organic or algorithmic representation of user interests and activities. Read the rest

Bay leaves are a lie

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Bay leaves, writes Kelly Conaboy, are bullshit.

What does a bay leaf taste like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf smell like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf look like? A leaf. How does a bay leaf behave? It behaves as a leaf would, if you took a leaf from the tree outside of your apartment building and put it into your soup. People say, “Boil a bay leaf in some water and then taste the water if you want to know what a bay leaf tastes like.”

No.

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What would it be like if we all wore accurate lie detectors around all the time?

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Today we travel to a future without lies. What would it be like if we all wore accurate lie detectors around all the time?

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon

In this episode of Flash Forward we talk about when children learn to lie, the different social functions of lying, and what might happen if we couldn’t ever fib. How would negotiations be different? How would we make small talk? Could we create art or music? All that and more in this week’s future. (Illustration by Matt Lubchansky)

▹▹ Full show notes Read the rest

UK Home Secretary auditions for a Python sketch: "UK does not undertake mass surveillance"

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UK Home Secretary Theresa May stood before Parliament on Wednesday, and, with a straight face, said: "The UK does not undertake mass surveillance. We have not, and we do not, undertake mass surveillance, and that is not what the Investigatory Powers Bill is about." Read the rest

How to spot a liar

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The supposed "tells"—looking off to the right, body language, nervousness, "microexpressions"—fall apart under scrutiny. Read the rest

Teenager faked pregnancy with FakeABaby.com products

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FakeABaby.com deals in faked ultrasound images, pregnant belly prosthetics, and other materials. One customer was a Wyandotte, Michigan 16-year-old who managed to trick her relatives, charitable folks, and her boyfriend, also 16, who thought he was about to be a father of triplets and says he "started looking for jobs the best I could." Read the rest

Bilbo Baggins' Hobbit hole would cost $14m if it were in the Shires of England

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A U.K. realtor valued the subterranean residence at £8.5m (~$14m), on the assumption that it is situated in Worcestershire, the county J.R.R. Tolkien supposedly had in mind when creating the homeland for his doughty, half-height, very well-to-do hero.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

The Metro's experts value Winterfell at $200m, though. It's a stark reminder of the wealth of the aristocracy. Read the rest

Reporters easily fooled into writing that chocolate helps you lose weight

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John Bohannon conducted a deliberately worthless "study"—15 people eating a chocolate bar a day for three weeks—then set out to see who would publish the paper and who would report whatever he told them to about it. Read the rest

World full of useless placebo buttons

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Everyone suspects that buttons on pedestrian crossings, elevators, train doors, etc., do nothing. They are right. The BBC's Chris Baraniuk reports on the buttons that lie—and the power of the illusion of control.

Langer demonstrated this phenomenon experimentally by asking subjects to play a lottery. Some participants were able to choose their tickets and some of those tickets had symbols on them which were more or less familiar to them. The type of ticket had no effect whatsoever on their chance of winning, but they appeared to believe this was the case. Those who had chosen tickets with recognisable symbols were much less willing to part with them in an exchange than those who hadn’t. But instead of framing this as an irrational delusion, Langer described the effect as a positive thing. “Feeling you have control over your world is a desirable state,” she explains. When it comes to those deceptive traffic light buttons, Langer says there could be a whole host of reasons why the placebo effect might be counted as a good thing. “Doing something is better than doing nothing, so people believe,” she says. “And when you go to press the button your attention is on the activity at hand. If I’m just standing at the corner I may not even see the light change, or I might only catch the last part of the change, in which case I could put myself in danger.”
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Gov Walker caught lying about his rewrite of the U Wisc mission

Since 1904, the State of Wisconsin and its university system have been governed by the public service mandate of the "Wisconsin Idea" -- until Governor Scott Walker's office leaned on the university to change the Idea to be all about providing workers for the state's businesses, and then lied about it. Read the rest

10 classic ads from the sugar and cereal industries

10 reminders from the sugar industry to eat lots of healthful candy this Halloween! Read the rest

Weaseling about surveillance, Australian Attorney General attains bullshit Singularity

Michael writes, "Watching Australia's Attorney-General try to explain why tracking Australians' web histories is not such a big deal resembles listening to a dirty joke told by a ten-year-old, i.e. it leaves one with the distinct impression the speaker is trying to seem like they understand something they've only heard about secondhand." Read the rest

Factbot: a bot that spouts viralish, truth-sounding lies

Shardcore, who gave us the programatically generated Hipsterbait tees, had advanced the art of autonomous, self-perpetuating Internet memes.

Email dead again

This time, it is Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz to declare that email is about to die. Technologists are such teases. [Wired] Read the rest

Rob Ford police document: allegations of heroin use and more

Another tranche of police documents on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been released [474 page (!) PDF]. Despite the mayor's insistence that all of his secrets were now out in the open and he had nothing more to hide, the new materials contain several bombshells, including allegations of heroin use, bribing crooks with marijuana, and lying about the infamous crack video. Read the rest

NSA's talking points for friends and family -- rebutted

Firedoglake obtained a copy of a two-page memo [PDF] of talking points for family and friends that the NSA sent to employees on November 22, so that spooks could rebut skeptical relatives around the Thanksgiving table. It's full of misleading statistics and outright falsehoods. Thankfully, Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola took the time to comprehensively rebut every point in the document, with extensive links to primary sources, Congressional testimony, and other significant facts. Read the rest

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