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21 Aug 15:56

That Time of Year: TOR's Year in Review

Hey! It’s kinda, sorta the one year anniversary for The Old Reader. I know, some of you have been using The Old Reader since 2012. But the current team took over just a year ago. And now we’re going to celebrate, have some cake, and reminisce.

When we first got involved, there was a lot of mystery about who we were. This blog initially only said that a “a new corporate entity in the United States” was going to take over and improve the service.

We didn’t mean to be so mysterious. We were a new company ourselves. Levee Labs is our web application company. It’s the kind of work we’ve been doing since the late 90’s before starting our own shop a few years ago.


Like most people who used TOR, we were sad when we heard that the founders, Elena and Dmitry, planned to shut it down because the volume of users was overwhelming. However, they were willing to sell the application as long as the new owners had the same values and attitudes along with the technical ability to improve the application’s availability. I like to think we’ve delivered on both.

Our first priority was to handle traffic spikes better. We’ve been building high volume, highly scalable web apps for a long time, so we knew a lot about that particular problem. In the first few months, a lot of what we did was backend stuff to improve the architecture and performance.

Thanks to all of you who hung with us while we moved all of the data 5,000 miles to our new infrastructure.

Next came the new features. We’ve added a number of new social sharing features as well as usability features. Social sharing features like Starred items and Send To allow you you to highlight and share posts from The Old Reader for friends or social media. We also added the bookmarklet feature to send a copy of any web page to your TOR account.

A lot of these are features you’ve all been asking for, while other are just things we think are cool. More recently, we added Spritz to help you read faster. And of course, we have grown the list of apps to make your Old Reader feed available everywhere, as with the most recent, Reeder for iOS and Mac.

Of course, the biggest change was in February when we rolled out Premium accounts for The Old Reader. This was the biggest risk of all, but I am happy to say it has worked out. TOR now has well over a half million users and thousands of Premium users.

Premium isn’t just way to make sure the service is viable for the foreseeable future. It’s what lets us keep the service available without resorting to the ads, feed manipulation, data mining, sponsored content, and all of the crap that pollutes social media and other online services. We’ll also keep rolling out new Premium features to make the service even more valuable. 

Reading this, I am immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished. But know that we’re not even close to done. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works, big and small. It should be a fun year. 

Now, back to cake.

21 Aug 14:00

Haha! Fair enough!

by Mark


If you’re wondering by the way, I don’t really believe in the introvert/extrovert thing. Its just labels and as soon as you label yourself, you limit yourself :)

Just accept that we’re all complicated little snowflakes who have lots of little preferences when it comes to everything and have a good day, hooray!!

19 Aug 05:00

Grail In Another Castle by Drew Wise!

Shirt Image
19 Aug 15:41

xysciences: Flame tests for Lithium, Strontium, Sodium, Copper...


Flame tests for Lithium, Strontium, Sodium, Copper and Potassium.

19 Aug 15:17

dobeytheshark: Wow Guardians of the Galaxy looks great


Wow Guardians of the Galaxy looks great

20 Aug 06:05

soulslookingforhome: thinksquad: As anger erupted again on the...


This is the recipe for intensifying even more the protests.



As anger erupted again on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, a human rights team from Amnesty International worked on the ground in the US for the first time ever.

Confrontation flared up after an autopsy found that Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by an officer on 9 August, had suffered at six bullet wounds including one in the top of his head.

Eye-witnesses report seeing police, with no visible ID badges, hurling tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and threatening members of the press in another night of demonstrations.

Amnesty International, said it would be observing police and protester activity and gathering testimonies as well as training local activists “on methods of non-violent protest” in an “unprecedented” move by the campaigners.

Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director, Steven W Hawkins said that the “people of Ferguson have the right to protest peacefully the lack of accountability for Michael Brown’s shooting”.

Jasmine Heiss, one of the 13-strong team sent by Amnesty, told Buzzfeed that the limits placed on the organisation’s access to post-curfew areas was indicative of “the overall lack of transparency in this investigation”.

Complex Magazine said that police had opened fire into the crowds without warning three hours before the midnight curfew began, causing some children and members of the media to be hit with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Two black journalists from Complex also said that they had been racially profiled, being refused re-entry into the press area whereas white members of the press had been.

it begins

20 Aug 20:47

Finally, a Use for Big Data: Cracking the Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript might have been dropped to Earth by aliens; it might be a medieval cipher whose mystery outlived anyone who had the key; it also might be a prank and moneymaking scheme by some haggard rare bookseller. But whatever the book actually is, Brazilian scientists are pretty certain that the manuscript's text—which is written in a language and alphabet only found in the Voynich itself—isn't just gibberish. There's meaning in there, and complex network modeling or other big data tools might crack the enigma that has thus far proven unbreakable.

Granted, the work led by Dr. Diego Amancio hasn't yet told us anything new about the manuscript, which is named for the antiquarian who came across the medieval-looking book in 1912, Wilfred Voynich. A professor at University of São Paulo's Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Amancio found evidence that indicates, at least, that the manuscript makes some sort of sense. Beyond just revealing the manuscript's secrets, Amancio's work may help to boost the intelligence of bots past the Turing Test, like the impressive or maybe unimpressive software Eugene Gootsman, which famously sort of passed the test early this year.

“Our research has shown that the Voynich Manuscript presents a great deal of statistical patterns that are similar to those of natural languages,” says Amancio. Besides endorsing the existence of some meaning in the text, his conclusions fly in the face of many theories that treat this piece of work as an elaborate prank made by some old-school braggadocio.

Fraud theories have long loomed over the studies of the manuscript. Chemical analyses prove that the book was crafted between 1404 and 1439, but much of the book's life, like its meaning, remains shrouded. It began its rise to worldwide fame starting at the beginning of the 20th century, with its rediscovery in Italy, by the Polish bookseller Wilfrid Voynich.

Voynich wasn't able to translate the weird book, nor could he find anyone who could. Thanks to his efforts, however, the story of the Voynich Manuscript and its singular Voynichese language has piqued the interest of scientists and cryptographers no less notable than Alan Turing himself. None have succeeded, but people to this day won't give up trying.

It's easy to see why: The Voynich Manuscript boasts around 200 pages written in unknown characters, and filled with sketches of bizarre, unrecognizable plants, naked women diving into weird-ass pools, tentacled creatures, and Zodiac constellations. I mean, what's going on here?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In his thesis, published on the scientific magazine PLoS One, Amancio applied statistical methods to the text to determine if it was just codified mumbo-jumbo that looks a lot like a text—which frustrated would-be translators have accused it of being—or if its an actual text in an actual language. Instead of considering possible meanings, and attempting to translate, Amancio mapped the words with clusters and connection cables, in what is called complex network modeling.

“In texts, each distinct word represents a vortex. Each words are connected by an edge if they appear close to the other on it”, Amancio said. Programming on C and using the Network 3D software, Amancio managed to create gigantic orbital models in which words and their connections showed themselves according their presence and location within the text.

The researcher attested that the Voynich systems are, in 90 percent of cases, similar to those of other known books such as the Bible, indicating that it’s an actual piece of text in an actual language, and not well planned gibberish. While Voynichese has been accepted as very language-like, at least, by employing concepts such as frequency and intermittence, which measure occurrence and concentration of a term in the text, Amancio was able to discover the manuscript’s keywords.

The gigantic model created by Diego Amancio

What emerged are terms like cthygokeedy, and shedy. Although each original Voynichese letter got an equivalent from the Latin alphabet, the results don't make any sense to human beings yet. Let’s just say that Amancio sees that as an edge piece of a bigger, complicated puzzle. “These words can be studied further by cryptographers and other manuscript scholars," he says.

After so much research, even he can only guess at what the book's actual content says. “I believe it’s a compendium of medieval practices involving medicinal recipes, astrological and metaphysical descriptions and fertility rites, as the images imply,” he says.


The Voynich Manuscript is held at the Beinecke Library at Yale. Amancio saved himself a trip to New Haven, and instead examined the pages of the book through its digital version, which has opened the Voynich to any willing cryptographer with an internet connection.

At the beginning of 2014, Stephen Bax, professor of applied linguistics on Bedforshire University, in the UK, implied that Amancios's hunch is correct after using a totally different approach to the enigma. In an interview with Motherboard, Bax pointed to one of his articles wherein, just like the first Egyptologists, he began establishing meanings starting from capital letters, proper nouns and illustrative images. In this manner, Bax believes he discovered Voynichese words for “bull” and “coriander."

His line of work has attracted a great deal of criticism from other scholars though. The website Cipher Mysteries dismissed Bax as that dude who has come crashing in late to the party. Bax, though, shrugs and goes on trying to break the code. In the end, criticism like this is commonplace on the academic universe, and in the manuscript’s case, which has attracted its share of crackpots, even more so.

Jorge Stolfi, a specialist in natural languages’ processing, has studied the manuscript for seven years. He believes it to be a transcription of an East Asia language, but the Campinas University (Unicamp) professor avoids stating what the book contains for certain. “Even if my hypothesis is correct, I don’t dare foreseeing when it’ll be deciphered," he told FAPESP Magazine in an interview.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Another language specialist raised on a hard sciences diet, Osvaldo Oliveira Jr. is a bit more apprehensive regarding the Manuscript’s translation. The professor and director for USP São Carlos’ Physics Institute is openly enthusiastic about the possibilities presented by research that merge data and machine analysis with complex network modeling though.

“We want to use statistical physics to analyze texts. This is a hardware limitation in 2014, but it may not be so in 2020," he says. Along with Amancio and researchers Eduardo Altmann and Diego Rybski, Osvaldo is a co-author of the article on the manuscript. According to their research, the principles used on the book can also someday be used to identify the authors of unknown documents, as well as determine the most likely meaning for an ambiguous term, and even determine the quality of a translation.

If all it takes is more hardware to crack the Voynich manuscript, whose authorship, meaning, and translation have resisted revelation for over a century, it's time to send some processors to Brazil, stat. Making robotic Russian teenagers is one thing, but this is a whole new language game.

20 Aug 07:01

Lunch Break

by Doug
20 Aug 00:00

twentypixels: Yep. Doing things will just have to wait.


Yep. Doing things will just have to wait.

19 Aug 06:00


20 Aug 16:30

The Difference Between Knowledge and Understanding Is Empathy

by Melanie Pinola

The Difference Between Knowledge and Understanding Is Empathy's Matt Zoller Seitz has penned an excellent piece on what white privilege really means, in response to all the horribleness that has been happening in Ferguson. He reminds us that there's a very big difference between knowing something and truly understanding it.


19 Aug 20:24

Best friend.

by Ryan
19 Aug 18:44

Comic: TV

by Cale Grim

TV shows have good writers, you can tell when the TV is off

The post Comic: TV appeared first on Things in Squares.

19 Aug 07:56

Com seriedade escolhendo o candidato

14 Aug 20:30

The Ultimate Guide to this Fall's Science Fiction and Fantasy TV!

by Meredith Woerner

The Ultimate Guide to this Fall's Science Fiction and Fantasy TV!

This is truly the fall of comic book TV heaven. Gotham, The Flash, Constantine and Arrow dominate the Fall TV line-up, nut there's still plenty of room for new zombie shows and supernatural hoo-haw. Here it is the ultimate list of Fall TV for 2014.


20 Aug 13:51


20 Aug 11:05

When the world sleeps

by Nathan Yau

Jawbone Sleep

An additional hour of sleep can make a huge difference in how you feel the next day (especially when you have kids). It's the ability to concentrate for long periods of time versus the ability to stare at a clock until your next break. I got the Jawbone UP24 band to try to improve on that, and I still wear it every night to better understand my sleep habits.

So, it only seems natural for Jawbone to look closer at how people sleep as a whole in a couple of interactive graphics. Select your city to see how people sleep in your neck of the woods.

Every now and then we see a set of graphics that shows America's sleep habits, based on data from the American Time Use Survey. The Jawbone data is likely more accurate though, which makes it more interesting. The former depends on survey participants' memories and doesn't factor out things like reading in bed. The latter is actual sleep.

Tags: Jawbone, sleep

18 Aug 23:21


by Tom

Facebook wants to buy *evertything* that the kids are using. Because they are afraid that this thing will turn into "the next Facebook".


So this is what it’s like to feel old.

The post Snapchat appeared first on Happy Jar.

06 Mar 23:00

By The Time You See It, You'd Probably Be Dead

by Alex Santoso


Image: Art Wolfe - via Moillusions

You're the leader of an African expedition and danger lurks from every corner. Your team depends on your ability to spot the threat - it may be closer than you think ... can you find it in the photo above, before it finds you?

Renowned Washington-based photographer Art Wolfe (previously on Neatorama) snapped this intriguing photo back in 2010. Leave a comment how long it took you to spot the danger, or whether you see it at all ...

16 Aug 08:00

Your Girlfriend Would Just Take Up That Space Anyway

Your Girlfriend Would Just Take Up That Space Anyway

Submitted by:

Tagged: laptops , hipsters , beds
18 Aug 11:03

E o prêmio de melhor pai do ano vai para…

by Zanfa

Esse cara!


19 Aug 00:20


18 Aug 23:54


18 Aug 18:00

Artist’s Self Portraits Spanning Over Five Years Document The Painful Progression Into Alzheimer’s Disease

by Leslie Tane




Alzheimer’s Disease


Alzheimer’s Disease


Alzheimer’s Disease is sometimes called The Long Goodbye, a gradual loss of memory, self, and eventually, life. When artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he began to make a series of self-portraits that would continue for five years. Looking at the pictures in chronological order is looking at a life diminished by degrees. As his technical skill ebbed, so did Utermohlen’s apparent sense of self. Still, the urge to create persisted.

In an essay about the self-portraits, Utermohlen’s wife, Pat, wrote:

“In these pictures we see with heart-breaking intensity William’s efforts to explain his altered self, his fears and his sadness. The great talent remains, but the method changes. He sometimes uses water-colour and paints a series of masks, perhaps because he could more quickly express his fear. In both the oils and water-colours these marvellous self portraits express his desperate attempt to understand his condition. There is a new freedom of expression, the paint is applied more thickly, art-historically speaking the artist seems less linear and classical, more expressionist, and I see ghosts of his German heritage.”

Worldwide, nearly 36 million people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia—almost everyone will be touched by Alzheimer’s in some way during their lifetimes. Although Pat Utermohlen told the New York Times, “It’s so strange to be known for something you’re doing when you’re rather ill,” it was also a testament to William Utermolen’s ability as an artist that he was able to transcend his own experience, even unknowingly, and create work that was at once profound, heart-breaking, and universal.













The post Artist’s Self Portraits Spanning Over Five Years Document The Painful Progression Into Alzheimer’s Disease appeared first on Beautiful/Decay Artist & Design.

19 Aug 02:09

Newswire: The Mountain from Game Of Thrones is now Europe’s Strongest Man

by Sam Barsanti

Some news stories are so surprising that they deserve to be told to as many people as possible, some are so obvious that reporting them at all seems unnecessary, and some just seem so right that it’s a wonder they didn’t happen before. Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson—The Mountain from Game Of Thrones—winning the Europe’s Strongest Man competition actually seems to fit into all three. It’s surprising because he’s a guy from TV, it’s obvious because he’s a massively huge guy from TV, and it’s right because we all saw him squish a man’s head like a grape a few months ago. Sure, that wasn’t real, but after seeing the highlight reel that News Of Iceland recently posted, it’s a safe bet that he could also do it in real life.

Björnsson’s feats of strength are certainly impressive ...

19 Aug 09:00

After the 5th cup of coffee

by sharhalakis

by uaiHebert

02 Aug 10:44

Yes, yes you may! #9gag

Yes, yes you may! #9gag

03 Jul 07:09

Started using my Gym card today. #9gag

Started using my Gym card today. #9gag

19 Aug 05:02

dog philosophy

by Ian

dog philosophy

02 Jul 08:52

Come on Barbie, let’s go party. #9gag

Come on Barbie, let’s go party. #9gag