Just let the AI handle it …

Having deligated its English-to-Swedish translation duties to an AI tool (Alexa perhaps ..?) Amazon announced

“We are pleased to open the doors for Amazon.se and offer Swedish consumers a selection of more than 150 million products, of which tens of thousands come from local Swedish companies,” said Alex Ootes, vice president of European expansion at Amazon, in a press release.

Upon reviewing feedback from local Swedish press Computing commented:

“Among those 150 million products, Swedish shoppers were surprised,  some no doubt delighted, to find an expansive range of “cock brushes”, “cock paintings”, “rape curtains” and “prostitute earrings”, although how many came from local Swedish companies was not made clear.”

Facebook CTO steps down

A change in the FB technology leadership team follows hot on the heels of  a series of reports last week by WSJ that discussed how Facebook “either ignores or fails to properly address numerous problems affecting users across its services”.

Included in the articles was the allegation that FB was fully aware that Instagram has had a negative effect on the mental health of teenage girls as well as how algorithm changes “made users angrier” and how Facebook is exploited by criminal gangs to recruit members.

FB has criticised the WSJ articles saying that they contain “deliberate mischaracterisations” and saying that they ” [make] a claim which could only be made by cherry-picking selective quotes from individual pieces of leaked material in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.”

The current FB CTO is to replaced by the head of FB hardware which some have seen as potentially signalling a switch away (or diversification) from the FB social media platform to alternative hardware-based products and services for the corporation.

article updated in the interest of balance  to include responses from FB critiquing the WSJ articles

Computer Pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies aged 81

Well-known computer computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair has died at home in the UK, aged 81, following a long battle with cancer.

His achievements spanned the latter quarter of the 20th Century with ground-breaking inventions such as an affordbale microprocessor-based pocket calculator, a range of low-cost Z80 based personal computers and the (in)famous C5 personal transport pod.

Sir Clive has been credited with making BASIC programming accessible to the general public with the Z80, Z81 and Spectrum machines ranking amongst the most popular and affordable machines brought to market years before the introduction of the IBM PC.  Many IT professionals (including the author) got their start with a Sinclair computer at a time when only offices and schools could afford personal computers.

Whilst his vision of personal transport attracted considerable criticism at the time of the product’s launch, Sir Clive was arguably massively ahead of his time with a vision of electric cars having been shown to be rather prescient though technology, tools and specifically batteries taking decades to catch up with that vision.

He opened many people’s eyes to the opportunities of computing and technology though famously did not use computers himself preferring to use a sliderule claiming that he found it distracting to use computers as he would focus on imprioving/redesigning thenm rather than the job at hand.

He was named “businessman of the year” in the 80’s by Margaret Thatcher and Knighted by the Queen 1983 for services to the technology industry. 

UTW Episode 23: Rory Cellan-Jones

Reporting on the Web

In this episode, we talk with journalist Rory Cellan-Jones. He’s reported for BBC for 40 years, and for much of that time primarily focused on business and technology stories. He has covered everything from smartphones to social media and more. He’s just published a new book, which he spoke about at this year’s ACM Web Science conference.

For this episode, Rory talks about some of the biggest and best stories of his career at BBC and beyond.  He was there to see this generation’s “model Ford” moment, when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. He was the reporter who’s question triggered Stephen Hawking to say AI could make humans obsolete. Rory reflects on these moments and what he calls the “social smartphone era” in this episode. Take a listen to hear this and more.

 

UTW Episode 22: Pablo Boczkowski

Cultural Perspectives on the Web

Our guest for this episode is Pablo Boczkowski, who is Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, as well as the founder and director of the Center for Latinx Digital Media. He’s also the cofounder and the co-director of the Center for the Study of Media and Society in Argentina, and has been a senior research fellow at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin, Germany.

In this episode, Pablo discusses his new book “Abundance,” which draws on research in Argentina — and explains why what some people term “information overload” could actually be thought of in less negative terms. He also makes a compelling argument for why studying the global south is a necessity — and why web science should take a more cultural perspective in tandem with technical advancements. To hear his talk about this and more, listen to this episode.

 

UTW Episode 21: Taha Yasseri

Dating on the Web

For this episode, we talk with Taha Yasseri, an associate professor at the School of Sociology and a Geary Fellow at the Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin, Ireland. He has been a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and AI, and a Research Fellow at Wolfson College at the University of Oxford.  He is interested in the dynamics of social machines on the Web.

During this episode, Taha tells us all about dating on the Web — from who initiates conversations (spoiler alert: there’s a big gender gap) to what traits people value in a partner. Some of these are age-old questions, answered by new web science methods. And he discusses his research outside of that realm, from people and bots that “fight” on Wikipedia to how the web impacts our “collective memory.” To hear to all this and more, listen to this episode.