A new (slow) open source JPEG algorithm makes images 35% smaller and looks better than older compression systems

Guetzli is Google's new free/open JPEG compression algorithm, which produces images that are more than a third smaller in terms of byte-size, and the resulting images are consistently rated as more attractive than traditionally compressed JPEGs. It's something of a web holy grail: much smaller, better-looking files without having to convince people to install a plugin or browser makers to support a new file-format. Read the rest

The grueling emotional labor of an open source maintainer

Nolan Lawson is burning up the free/open source web with an essay called What it feels like to be an open-source maintainer, where he describes the contradictory and negative experiences of trying to please hundreds of people who are just trying to get his code to work, where the more emotional and technical work he does to make them happy, the more he ends up with. Read the rest

Queen Bees and Wannabes: a parents' up-to-date guide to the perils of "girl-world"

It's been fifteen years since the first edition of educator Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes was published; now in its third edition -- updated with current, timely material about social media and other fast-moving subjects, as well as reflections from girls who were raised on the techniques in the previous editions -- the book is a compassionate, aware, and intensely practical guide to navigating the toxic, gendered lives of young girls in a diverse, politicized world.

London cops use an insecure mail-server that lets third parties intercept mail in transit

Best practice for mail-servers is to turn on TLS by default, which means that when that mail server talks to other mail servers, it encrypts the connection to thwart eavesdroppers. Though the practice (sometimes called "opportunistic encryption") started out as something only paranoid organizations partook of, it's now so widespread that Google warns you if you attempt to use Gmail to send a message to someone whose server won't accept encrypted connections. Read the rest

Google's troll-fighting AI can be defeated by typos

Jigsaw is a "wildly ambitious" Google spin-off research unit that recently released Perspective, a machine-learning system designed to identify argumentative, belittling and meanspirited online conversation. Within days of its release, independent researchers have published a paper demonstrating a way of tricking Perspective into trusting ugly messages, just by introducing human-readable misspellings into their prose. Read the rest

The internet promised open markets, delivered rigged ones, then fake ones, then outright monopolies

Markets don't solve all our problems, but they sometimes produce remarkably efficient systems for producing and distributing goods, and the internet traded on that promise with marketplaces like Ebay (anyone can sell, anyone can buy); Google (anyone can publish, anyone can read), and Amazon (one marketplace where all goods are transparently priced and ranked). Read the rest

To understand trumpism, study the self-professed "betas" of 4chan

Dale Beran's been writing about 4chan, /b/ and Anonymous for years, and lurking on their message-boards, and he traces the rise of the self-professed "betas" who embody fragile, toxic masculinity and have been important bellwethers for many internet and real-world phenomena, linking them to Trump as "the loser who won": "Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does." Read the rest

Techdirt is being sued by the "I invented email" guy and needs your money

Indie news outlet Techdirt is being sued for $15M by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email in 1978, eight years after Ray Tomlinson sent an email over ARPANET; Ayyadurai is represented by Charles Harder, a key figure in the Gawker-killing legal campaign that Peter Thiel financed, and who is also representing Melania Trump in her $150m lawsuit against The Daily Mail. Read the rest

The automated, invisible revert-wars of Wikipedia's bot ecosystem

In Even good bots fight, a paper written by Oxford Internet Institute researchers and published in PLOS One, the authors survey the edits and reverts made by Wikipedia's diverse community of bots, uncovering some curious corners where bots -- rate-limited by Wikipedia's rules for bots -- slowly and remorseless follow one another around, reverting each other. Read the rest

A "travel mode" for social media - after all, you don't take all your other stuff with you on the road

As the US government ramps up its insistence that visitors (and US citizens) unlock their devices and provide their social media accounts, the solution have run the gamut from extreme technological caution, abandoning mobile devices while traveling, or asking the government to rethink its policy. But Maciej Cegłowski has another solution: a "travel mode" for our social media accounts. Read the rest

Texas lawmaker introduces bill chastising Texans for using the Chilean flag emoji

Texas and Chile have remarkably similar flags (though Chile got theirs first, by a matter of decades) and Texas doesn't have a Unicode-defined emoji for its flag (just a sprinkling of proprietary ones that do not cross platforms gracefully), so Texans have taken to using the Chilean flag emoji as a shorthand for the longhorn state. Read the rest

It's very hard to maintain an anonymous Twitter account that can withstand government-level attempts to de-anonymize it

It's one thing to set up an "anonymous" Twitter Hulk account whose anonymity your friends and colleagues can't pierce, because the combination of your care not to tweet identifying details, the stilted Hulk syntax, and your friends' inability to surveil the global internet and compel phone companies to give up their caller records suffice for that purpose. Read the rest

Techdirt's "I Invented Email" gear

Techdirt, a fearless source of excellent technology news and commentary, is being sued for $15M by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email -- he is represented by Charles Harder, a key figure in the Gawker-killing legal campaign that Peter Thiel financed, and who is also representing Melania Trump in her $150m lawsuit against The Daily Mail. Read the rest

Trump's big data "secret sauce" sorcery - a much-needed reality check

An article that went viral last week attributed Trump's Electoral College victory to the dark big data sorcery of Cambridge Analytica, a dirty, dementor-focused big data company that specializes in political campaigns. Read the rest

After record-breaking donations and members, ACLU signs up for the Y Combinator startup accelerator

The ACLU raised $24M over the weekend of the #muslimban, six times its usual annual average, and now it is joining the Winter 2017 class at Y Combinator, a startup accelerator that has emerged a mixed bag of great and terrible companies, which has had to contend with controversy over its ties to Peter Thiel. Read the rest

Google quietly makes "optional" web DRM mandatory in Chrome

The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Read the rest

Flying into the USA? Here's two ways you can help EFF and ACLU fight the #muslimban

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking first-hand reports of travellers being asked to divulge their social media habits by US border guards (beyond the optional field on the ESTA form) (email info@eff.org); meanwhile, ACLU urges travellers to stay on the customs/immigration side and let them know if people are being detained (Tweet @nobanjfk). Read the rest

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