Twitter funds MIT Laboratory for Social Machines

Twitter committed $10 million to the MIT Media Lab to create a Laboratory for Social Machines that will study social systems, build tools for "social engagement and change," and deploy "social machines — networked human-machine collaboratives."

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The apology letter Google SHOULD have used to announce the end of G+ "Real Names"

The sudden reversal of Google's years-long insistence on "real names" for G+ users came after a long fight about the biases inherent in such a policy.

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Google Plus drops "Real Names" policy

After years of criticism, Google Plus has finally dropped its controversial, Facebook-alike "Real Names" policy.

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New Mexico threatens inmate with 90 days' solitary because his family made him a Facebook page

The New Mexico Corrections Department has a policy prohibiting inmates from "accessing the Internet through third parties," which they've interpreted to mean that prisoners whose families maintain Facebook pages for them can be punished with solitary confinement.

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Bffbot1 loves you as only an algorithmic entity can


@bffbot1 is the latest weird-ass crazy awesome Twitterbot from Shardcore.

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A day of Yik Yak hell in high school

Mean girls cast

Yik Yak is a social app that's basically an anonymous, hyperlocal bulletin board. Over at New York Magazine, Will Haskel, a senior at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut, wrote about the day this social media product fueled incredibly antisocial and brutally nasty behavior among his classmates. To illustrate, just a few of the endless stream of posts from the day:

“L. M. is affiliated with Al Qaeda.”

“The cheer team couldn’t get uglier.”

“K. is a slut.”

“J. N. is a fag.”

“The fact that O. P. has diabetes makes me happy.”

“S. D. + 10 years = trailer park.”

“Nobody is taking H. to prom because nobody has a forklift.”

“J. T.’s gonna get lynched at SMU.”

"A Gossip App Brought My High School to a Halt" (Thanks, DMD!)

Is that cool news true? Here's how you judge.

Love this list of 20 rules of thumb to help you analyze the validity of science news. A lot of it boils down to statistics and common sense (hey, you guys, scientists are human), but it's also stuff that easy to lose sight of when you're excited or scared or totally fascinated. Print this out and read it before you click "share".

Science in 6 seconds: The best of Vine

GE hosted a contest to make super-short science videos for Vine and the results feature some really clever, nifty little clips.

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Evolutionary psychologist mocks fat people, devours own foot

On June 2, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller declared on Twitter that fat Ph.D. students who didn't have the willpower to stop eating carbs wouldn't have the willpower to finish a dissertation, either. He later went on to claim that the tweet — and presumably, the negative reactions to it — was actually part of his research, not a reflection of his actual beliefs. (In other words, it was a social experiment, as the kids used to say on LiveJournal.) And now, the shocker: Yesterday, Miller's superiors at The University of New Mexico told The Daily Mail that the tweet was not, in fact, part of any research project Miller was working on. This is probably going nowhere good for him.

A marine biologist's guide to determining whether floodwaters really are shark-infested

This is an older piece, but given that we're into hurricane season, I expect it will come up again. How do you tell if the photo you've been forwarded, showing sharks swimming through flooded urban landscapes, is real or fake? Marine biologist (and shark expert) David Shiffman has a simple 5-step process. In fact, it's so simple that I'm sure many of you will already be familiar with these tricks. But, here's the thing, it's helpful to be reminded that the tricks are necessary. They're very easy to forget when a hurricane is crashing into shore and social media is blowing up. Besides which, this will make a handy link to forward to friends and family passing questionable photos of all sorts.

How London cops use social media to spy on protest movements

Juha sez, "If you're going to build a protest movement, it might be better to stay off Facebook and Twitter because the cops are fully tuned into social media these days. The Open Source Intelligence Unit at London's Metropolitan Police Service has a staff of seventeen who work seven days a week - to track social media feed back and to monitor community tension. Having a sense of humour and understanding of slang gives humans the edge over social media surveillance software, UK cops reckon. The British cops are worried about 4G mobile broadband though because it'll generate much more data such as video."

The unit monitored some 32 million social media articles during the Olympics, with 10,300 tweets being posted every second during the opening ceremony.

“Companies will tell your that sentiment analysis from a piece of software is about 56 percent accurate … we would say it's lower, because it doesn’t pick up humour or slang,” Ertogral said.

In addition to looking at trends, he said the unit was also exploring association to establish influencers, particularly for protest movements.

“So we’re trying to build friend lists on Facebook, who’s connected to who, who are the influencers out there etc.”

Police tap social media in wake of London attack [Charis Palmer/IT News]

(Thanks, Juha!)

Social steganography: how teens smuggle meaning past the authority figures in their lives

Danah boyd has a great summary of the new Pew report on Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. The whole thing is worth a read -- especially her thoughts on race and social media use -- but the most interesting stuff was about "social steganography" -- smuggling meaning past grown-ups through the clever use of in-jokes and obscure references (this is also something that Chinese net-users do to get past their national censors):

My favorite finding of Pew’s is that 58% of teens cloak their messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references, with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger teens (46%). This is the practice that I’ve seen significantly rise since I first started doing work on teens’ engagement with social media. It’s the source of what Alice Marwick and I describe as “social steganography” in our paper on teen privacy practices.

While adults are often anxious about shared data that might be used by government agencies, advertisers, or evil older men, teens are much more attentive to those who hold immediate power over them – parents, teachers, college admissions officers, army recruiters, etc. To adults, services like Facebook that may seem “private” because you can use privacy tools, but they don’t feel that way to youth who feel like their privacy is invaded on a daily basis. (This, btw, is part of why teens feel like Twitter is more intimate than Facebook. And why you see data like Pew’s that show that teens on Facebook have, on average 300 friends while, on Twitter, they have 79 friends.) Most teens aren’t worried about strangers; their worried about getting into trouble.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as teens have given up on controlling access to content. It’s too hard, too frustrating, and technology simply can’t fix the power issues. Instead, what they’ve been doing is focusing on controlling access to meaning. A comment might look like it means one thing, when in fact it means something quite different. By cloaking their accessible content, teens reclaim power over those who they know who are surveilling them. This practice is still only really emerging en masse, so I was delighted that Pew could put numbers to it. I should note that, as Instagram grows, I’m seeing more and more of this. A picture of a donut may not be about a donut. While adults worry about how teens’ demographic data might be used, teens are becoming much more savvy at finding ways to encode their content and achieve privacy in public.

thoughts on Pew’s latest report: notable findings on race and privacy

Abusive restaurateurs stage spectacular social media meltdown


Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro is Scottsdale, AZ gained some small notoriety when it became the first restaurant that Gordon Ramsey gave up on in his show Kitchen Nightmares, in which the restaurateur helps failing businesses reform their ways. The Ramsey segments show the owners of the restaurant, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, screaming obscenities at customers, taking servers' tips, and generally behaving very badly.

But that was just for warmup. After the episodes aired and showed up on YouTube, the Bouzaglos took to Facebook to condemn their critics on Reddit and Yelp with a mix of profanity, Bible-thumping, spurious legal threats, and, finally, a claim that it wasn't them at all, all the crazypants stuff had been the work of hackers who took over their Facebook account.

In a world with innumerable social media hissyfits and bun-fights, the Bouzaglos' meltdown stands out as a world-beater. Truly, this is an exceptional episode of bad behavior.

This is the Facebook page for Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Community Memory: a social media terminal from 1973


Wired's gallery of the paleolithic antecedents of today's social media technologies is a bit mismatched (some really interesting insights into today's media lineage, but mixed with some silliness), but the lead item, the Community Memory terminal from 1973, is pure gold. I wrote half an unsuccessful novel about this thing when I was about 25, and it's never stopped haunting me.

Three decades before Yelp and Craigslist, there was the Community Memory Terminal.

In the early 1970s, Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski and Lee Felsenstein set up a series of these terminals around San Francisco and Berkeley, providing access to an electronic bulletin board housed by a XDS-940 mainframe computer.

This started out as a social experiment to see if people would be willing to share via computer -- a kind of "information flea market," a "communication system which allows people to make contact with each other on the basis of mutually expressed interest," according to a brochure from the time.

What evolved was a proto-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp-Craigslist-esque database filled with searchable roommate-wanted and for-sale items ads, restaurant recommendations, and, well, status updates, complete with graphics and social commentary.

"This was really one of the very first attempts to give access to computers to ordinary people," says Marc Weber, the founding curator of the Internet History Program at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Holy shit, that is a thing of beauty.

Facebook?! Twitter?! Instagram?! We Did That 40 Years Ago [Daniela Hernandez/Wired]

Modern Seinfeld Twitter account pitches episodes for the Facebook age

What's the deal with texting? Are you being sarcastic? Are you mad at me? Are you typing this while on the toilet? I don't wanna be a meme! Did you ever stop to think about how incredibly perfect Seinfeld would be in today's social media-crazed world? Thanks to the newly formed Modern Seinfeld Twitter account, you can get a 140-character (or less) idea at what a current episode of the "Show About Nothing" would cover. And when you consider all the "nothing" we do all day and how much awkward human behavior it causes, Seinfeld could probably find enough material to last twenty years. (via Twitter)