Tagged: social media

Babble is on about “mini ice age” coming — and of course it’s not true


Ignore this crud – talk about sunspots!

“Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030 and could cause temperatures to plummet,” blared one headline from this weekend.

“Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years,” warned another.

By Sunday evening, news that the Earth could be headed for period of bitter cold was trending on Facebook and whizzing across Twitter. The story — which has been reported everywhere from conservative blogs to the British press to the Weather Channel to the Huffington Post — was based on a recent presentation at the Royal Astronomical Society’s national meeting. Researchers studying sunspots found that solar activity is due to decline dramatically in the next few decades, reaching levels not seen since the 17th century, during a period known as the Maunder minimum. Back then, the decline coincided with what’s called the “Little Ice Age,” when Europe’s winters turned brutally cold, crops failed and rivers froze over. Could another one be on its way?

Not really.

Though University of Northumbria mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova, who led the sunspot research, did find that the magnetic waves that produce sunspots…are expected to counteract one another in an unusual way in the coming years, the press release about her research mentions nothing about how that will affect the Earth’s climate. Zharkova never even used the phrase “mini ice age.” Meanwhile, several other recent studies of a possible solar minimum have concluded that whatever climate effects the phenomenon may have will be dwarfed by the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Besides, that “Little Ice Age” that occurred during the Maunder minimum, it wasn’t so much a global ice age as a cold spell in Europe, and it may have been caused more by clouds of ash from volcanic eruptions than by fluctuations in solar activity.

BTW…Zharkova’s findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so her conclusions haven’t been vetted and refined.

But those nuances were totally lost as stories about Zharkova’s research made the rounds on social media and in the press. Instead, we got 300-year-old engravings of Londoners cavorting on the frozen River Thames accompanied by predictions of food shortages and brutal cold — plus snarky tweets about not worrying about global warming anymore…

Nope. Climate change-deniers have resorted to clutching at journalistic straws. Paying off professional skeptics doesn’t have the return it used to. Thugs like the Koch Bros. and their peers in the oil side of fossil fuel profiteering have to content themselves with the tiny, exclusive anti-science brigade contained within conservative political parties and fundamentalist religions locked into creationism.

Sad, but, true. Capable only of mustering the gullible, obedient and hopelessly ignorant.

Dumb crook of the day

A Maine man who’d been wanted by police for several weeks made a couple of critical mistakes that led to his capture – he sent out social media messages pinpointing his location.

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office had been looking for Christopher Wallace, of Fairfield, in connection with a burglary in January.

Police tell the Morning Sentinel that on Sunday night they received tips from people who said Wallace had posted on Snapchat that he had returned to his Fairfield home.

So, police went to the house.

While they were searching with permission of the resident, they were tipped off that Wallace had posted a new Snapchat message saying police were in the house looking for him and he was hiding in a cabinet.

He was found in the cabinet.

There is dumb. Then there is compulsively dumb.

Dumb crook of the day


Police photo in the State Patrol parking lot — click for video

A man faces auto theft charges after he drove a stolen car right to the Washington State Patrol district office parking lot in Bellevue…

An alert driver recognized the stolen vehicle from a post on a european motorist club Facebook post and spotted it in the Issaquah area, troopers said. The witness captured video of Micah Hatcher, 36, behind the wheel of the car and used his cell phone to report it, troopers said. The witness followed the car along Interstate 90 between Issaquah and Bellevue. Hatcher got off the freeway and drove the stolen car into the WSP district office parking lot, where he was arrested by troopers….

Detectives said it was the easiest auto theft arrest they’d ever had.

Hatcher had been arrested several days prior on outstanding warrants and drug charges, troopers said. He was contacting troopers to try to retrieve some belongings that were taken during his initial arrest, they added. Hatcher was arrested – again – and booked into the King County Jail.

I’ve added the video taken by the witness who spotted Hatcher and the stolen car.

5% of Americans want their sex tracked online … Really

spreadsheets-app

The Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing in Las Vegas, which means editors’ inboxes are flooded with press releases about it.

Here at MedPage Today, we received one Monday that made us do a double-take. Well, one line in it, anyway.

The release, on behalf of “A&D Medical, the worldwide leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices, was about a survey of Americans’ attitudes on using smartphones and other “connected health devices that automatically connect online and send information to their doctor or other people they choose.”

We had just posted a story with a headline including the phrase “Smartphone in Bedroom Is Not So Smart Choice,” albeit for kids. Still, we were primed for some cognitive dissonance when we saw a line in the release saying that “And only 5% of Americans wanted their sexual activity monitored online.”

Really? We wondered whether “only” was really the right term there. We’re not PR experts, but we might have gone with something more like “More Americans want their sexual activity monitored online than voted for a third-party candidate in 2012.”

I must be out-of-date. I recall [in 1965] causing a disturbance in the middle of orientation for a group of activists when a pedant started listing distractions from strategic goals. He said something about food, where to eat in Chicago. He said something about sex.

I said “I don’t especially differentiate between the two…food and sex, that is.” Made some good friends on the West Side that day.

Now, I guess I need a new simile about smartphones and sex. I don’t think it works as well.

The Geography of Hate

homophobic tweets
Click for interactive map

The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically. As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different.

Rather than focusing just on hate directed towards a single individual at a single point in time, we wanted to analyze a broader swath of discriminatory speech in social media, including the usage of racist, homophobic and ableist slurs…

All together, the students determined over 150,000 geotagged tweets with a hateful slur to be negative. Hateful tweets were aggregated to the county level and then normalized by the total number of tweets in each county. This then shows a comparison of places with disproportionately high amounts of a particular hate word relative to all tweeting activity. For example, Orange County, California has the highest absolute number of tweets mentioning many of the slurs, but because of its significant overall Twitter activity, such hateful tweets are less prominent and therefore do not appear as prominently on our map. So when viewing the map at a broad scale, it’s best not to be covered with the blue smog of hate, as even the lower end of the scale includes the presence of hateful tweeting activity.

Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated.

Clicking through to the original article details the methodology of analysis. It’s a start. Poisonally, I think more time spent verifying and validating target analysis will lead to more precision.

Still, this is not only a productive study, it’s provocative. Useful in its own right.

Clicking on the graphic at the top leads you to an interactive map for homophobia, racism, disability – hatred in several forms.

Thanks to Barry Ritholtz for pointing this out

Associated Press reporters smacked by the boss for tweeting


Karen Matthews, AP reporter, arrested by NYC coppers
Photo by AP photographer Seth Wenig, also arrested

Associated Press has reprimanded some of its journalists for breaking news on Twitter before posting it on the wires.

The news agency issued the warning after some staff members tweeted that AP journalists had been arrested at the Occupy Wall Street camp in Manhattan. An email from bosses followed reminding staff about AP’s social media policies…

While Twitter is an invaluable tool in newsrooms around the world, it has also forced news organisations, including AP, to draw up strict rules.

“If you have a piece of information, a photo or a video that is compelling, exclusive and/or urgent enough to be considered breaking news, you should file it to the wire, and photo and video points before you consider putting it out on social media,” the AP policy reads.

After the recent incident in New York, AP’s managing editor Lou Ferrara wrote an email to employees explaining that their first duty was to the agency not Twitter.

And executive editor Kathleen Carroll issued a memo saying much of the resulting “chatter” had missed the point.

“When we lose contact with a journalist, our main focus is making sure they are safe, no matter where they are. Sometimes, talking about it while things are still uncertain can endanger them,” she said.

“It’s not outlandish to think that a tweet that’s taken by someone in authority to be opinionated or sarcastic could lead to one of our staffers being held longer than necessary…”

But Anthony de Rosa, social media editor at Reuters, thinks that such policies may need to be overhauled. He tweeted: “News agencies must evolve or face extinction.”

He expanded the point in his official Reuters blog.

The wire is still a huge part of our business and always will be. However, acting in a way that handcuffs us from doing our best work on Reuters.com and on social networks, which help drive traffic and extend our brand, is writing a death sentence for us as a future media company.

“To bury our head in the sand and act like Twitter (and who knows what else comes into existence next month or five years from now?) isn’t increasingly becoming the source of what informs people in real-time is ridiculous,” he wrote.

RTFA – the discussion moves in a few directions not the least of which is hoax tweets – which are generally reprehensible.

Book industry balance continues to tilt towards the author

Every week, it seems there is more evidence that the balance of power in the book industry continues to tilt towards the author and away from the all-powerful publisher. One of the latest examples is John Green, who writes fiction for young adults from his home in Indianapolis, and whose latest novel has hit number one before it has even been published.

Green gives credit for this phenomenon to his Twitter and YouTube followers, but the real credit should go to him for being willing to not just use social media as a promotional tool the way some do, but to actually reach out and engage with his readers and fans.

As the Wall Street Journal describes it, Green simply posted the title of his new book — a story about two young cancer patients called “The Fault In Our Stars” on his Twitter account — where he has built up a following of more than a million fans — and on his Tumblr blog, as well as a community forum based around Green’s work called YourPants.org.

He then offered to sign the entire first print run of the book, and later followed that up with a live YouTube show, in which he discussed his plans for the book and read from a chapter of the uncompleted novel.

The whole process started on Tuesday afternoon, and by that evening, the book had apparently hit the number one spot on both the Amazon list of bestsellers and the Barnes & Noble list.

Not surprisingly, this kind of word-of-mouth marketing multiplied by the force of social media has caused a lot of raised eyebrows in the industry. As one senior editor at publisher Harper Collins told the Journal:

Everyone is now focused on it, because when it works, it can be a runaway train

Obviously, not everyone is going to have the million-plus followers that Green has, or the devoted following on YouTube that he and his brother Hank have built up over years of doing what used to be called “vlogging” or video-blogging… The point is that no publisher or agent or industry had to create those things; the author did it himself with help from his fans.

RTFA. More information, more compartments of experience and method open up. How and why an author can seize more control over growing their fans, their market. Because the capability is there for writers. Because publishers aren’t especially willing or able to do the same.

Egyptian dad names his newborn ‘Facebook’

A man in Egypt has named his newborn daughter “Facebook” in honor of the role the social media network played in bringing about a revolution, according to a new report.

Gamal Ibrahim, a 20-something, gave his daughter the name “to express his joy at the achievements made by the January 25 youth,” according to a report in Al-Ahram, one of Egypt’s most popular newspapers.

Many young people used Facebook and other social media networks to organize the protests, which began January 25 and ultimately led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.

Rock on, dude! May your daughter enjoy the fruits from the tree of liberty and democracy.

Pope whines about alienation inside social networks


“Look what I just got from Intel!”

Pope Benedict gave a qualified blessing to social networking Monday, praising its potential but warning that online friendships are no substitute for real human contact.

Amazing insight, dude – for someone who defines women, gay folks, members of most other religions and atheists all as inferior beings.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who does not have his own Facebook account, set out his views in a message with a weighty title that would easily fit into a tweet: “Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age.”

He said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered “a great opportunity,” but warned of the risks of depersonalization, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones…

The vast horizons of new media “urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age,” he said.

What part of communications matches the weight of “pronouncements” inside the corporate Catholic Church?

The pope did not mention any specific social networking site or application by name, but sprinkled his message with terms such as “sharing,” “friends,” and “profiles.”

Not a whole boatload of difference from the agitprop Madison Avenue crap ranging from my favorite laugher – renaming the War Department – to reactionary demagogues still trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare after decades and calling the process “reform”.