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15 Aug 18:16

Google’s experience raises questions about usefulness of diversity, bias training

mkalus shared this story from The Seattle Times The Seattle Times.

Companies use diversity training to prevent hostility in the workplace, but it can backfire.

Former Google employee James Damore was supposed to come away enlightened by his diversity training, armed with a newfound sense of empathy for colleagues who did not look like him, a white male.

Instead, the software engineer was so enraged by the experience he decided to write a now-infamous 3,000-word memo on a flight to China railing against Google’s “ideological echo chamber” and arguing that women land fewer tech jobs because of biological differences.

“I went to a diversity program at Google and … I heard things that I definitely disagreed with,” Damore, 28, told Stefan Molyneux, a libertarian podcaster and author. Damore said he had some conversations at the program, but “there was a lot of, just, shaming — ‘No, you can’t say that, that’s sexist’; ‘You can’t do this.’… There’s just so much hypocrisy in a lot of the things that they’re saying.”

Damore’s words were disavowed by Google and rejected by those who believe women possess the same qualities as men to succeed in the tech world — an industry that has sparked no shortage of controversy over its treatment of women and inclusion of minorities.

But Damore’s bitter reaction raises questions about the effectiveness of diversity and bias training, a tool companies and other organizations have adopted to prevent hostility in the workplace, and in Google’s case, to promote the hiring and retention of more women and minorities.

Researchers remain divided on its usefulness, but organizations may have no better option to attempt to shift company culture, establish behavioral guidelines and address the legal risk of a hostile work environment.

Google introduced training in 2013 to make employees aware of hidden biases, such as hiring a man over a more qualified woman because of an unconscious assumption that the woman will be distracted by child care. The tech giant, which has funneled three-quarters of its more than 70,000 workers through the program, did not respond to questions about its training program.

One employee said the training covered topics such as considering female employees’ opinions equal to those of male counterparts. The sessions, which were mandatory, included smaller group discussions. “Most people who go to the trainings really want to be better, but of course that’s not true of everyone who comes to the classes we offer,” said the employee, Sarah Adams, a software engineer.

Experts say one of the fundamental challenges of diversity and bias training is this: People don’t like to be told what to do and think. That’s why experts say an instructor’s words can quickly backfire if they put the audience on the defensive.

“It’s a lot of what not to do: ‘Don’t say this, don’t do that,’ ” said Joelle Emerson, founder and chief executive of Paradigm, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm whose clients include Airbnb, Lyft, Twitter and Spotify. “Turns out most people don’t engage super well on that type of training on anything. People are more motivated around strategies that focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot do.”

That could mean simply providing structure to an interview so that all job candidates are asked the same questions, reducing the chances of unforeseen prejudices influencing an outcome.

Experts say such guidelines are necessary because it’s difficult to change people’s minds, particularly when it comes to biases. Often, a more realistic goal is to simply try to manage biases so that they don’t poison an atmosphere on the job.

“If you’re offered training that tries to make you less biased, that’s probably bad training because you can’t eliminate bias,” Emerson said. “We train employees and managers on the types of behavior that are designed to reduce the negative consequences of bias.”

Damore, who did not respond to requests for an interview, also belongs to a particularly intransigent group when it comes to addressing attitudes and feelings, said Joan C. Williams, professor of law at UC Hastings College of the Law and author of “What Works for Women at Work.”

“What that engineer expressed is an attitude that’s common in engineering, which is that engineering is technical and pure, and that anything else that has to do with social issues is unrigorous and doesn’t belong in engineering,” she said.

Across national studies investigating gender bias, Williams said, this position “is a minority attitude, but it’s much stronger in engineering than it is in the legal profession.”

Rather than being prescriptive and telling people what they can or can’t say or do, it’s more effective to play to people’s strengths as problem solvers, according to Williams.

When she has trained people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in the past, she has gotten the best response when she presented the room with a well-documented bias, and asked them how they would “interrupt” it.

People working in science and technology fields, who are used to and comfortable with finding new solutions to old problems, are typically much more open and engaged when asked to come up with solutions this way, she said.

Frederick R. Lynch, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and the author of “The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the ‘White Male Workplace,’ ” is deeply skeptical of many bias-training courses because they inherently strike fear in white audiences who think they’ll have to answer for society’s inequalities.

“The problem with political correctness and the diversity-training environment is that it can undermine trust; everyone gets so sensitive they feel like they’re walking on eggshells,” Lynch said.

Moreover, Lynch believes the primary goal of such training is often not to change attitudes but to reduce any legal liabilities from workplace incidents.

“Most organizations are interested in covering their rear ends,” he said.

Damore said he wrote the memo after his bias training to clarify his thoughts.

In the 10-page memo, which he sent to colleagues and which later went public, Damore accused Google of resorting to discriminatory practices in its quest to diversify its workforce.

He has granted interviews to Molyneux and to University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, who have sizable followings on YouTube and track records of criticizing attitudes they describe as politically correct.

Damore told Peterson that he was fired by his human-resources representative and his director at Google “for perpetuating gender stereotypes” and described himself as a victim of “PC silencing.”

“This was a huge PR move,” Damore said of his termination. “They would have needed approval from higher-ups.”

He told The Associated Press that he filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board before he was fired and that he is exploring his legal options. A Google spokesperson told the AP that the firing could not have been retaliatory because Google did not learn of the complaint until afterward.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has denounced Damore’s memo for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes.”

15 Aug 18:15

Amateur Sleuths Aim to Identify Charlottesville Marchers, but Sometimes Misfire

mkalus shared this story :
Collateral Damage is totally acceptable for the Greater Good™ /s

For someone whose only sin was a passing resemblance to someone else — the actual man in the Charlottesville photo has not been conclusively identified — Mr. Quinn bore the direct consequences of the reckless spread of misinformation in breaking news, a common ritual in modern news events.

There is considerable controversy around the practice of “doxxing,” a term for publicly identifying — often with sensitive personal details like addresses, phone numbers and employer information — people who were otherwise anonymous or semi-anonymous. Many social media platforms, including Twitter, consider it a violation of their rules.

But it is also a standard practice in journalism to track down and identify individuals caught up in a public news event. While professional news organizations have had their fair share of misidentifications, the ability of anyone to launch a name to national prominence with a few mistaken retweets has heightened the likelihood of destructive mistakes.

In the case of Charlottesville, social media users hoped identifying rally participants would lead to real-world consequences for racism. One Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, was retweeted tens of thousands of times by people trying to help name the men in several photos.

The internet vigilantes claimed some successes over the weekend. One rally participant, Cole White, was fired from his job at a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., according to Berkeleyside.

“The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog,” the restaurant said in a sign that was posted on Sunday.

Another man, Peter Tefft, was repudiated by his entire family in a letter to The Forum, a North Dakota newspaper. Signed by the man’s father, the letter said he would no longer be welcome at family gatherings.

And Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, of Reno, Nev., was forced to defend himself after a picture of him shouting at the rally spread widely. He confirmed it was him but told KTVN-TV that “I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”

While the @YesYoureRacist account was one of the most visible leaders in the name-and-shame effort, it also made a misstep. The account apologized for using an old photo of Joey Salads, a YouTube star, from a different event in which Mr. Salads said he was wearing an armband with a swastika as an “experiment.” He was not at the rally. And the person behind @YesYoureRacist — who could not be reached for comment — was the target of an apparent doxxing by another Twitter user, who posted what appeared to be phone numbers and other personal information. Twitter deleted that tweet and suspended the account.

As news organizations have learned — sometimes through high-profile mistakes — misidentifying a person accused of wrongdoing can have bad consequences, from lawsuits to a loss of credibility.

Journalists at Storyful, a news agency that verifies social media content, aim to find eight to 10 pieces of corroborating information before confirming an identity, said Ben Decker, a research coordinator. Identification must be approved by several editors, he said. (The New York Times is a Storyful client, and Mr. Decker works directly with The Times.)

Simply looking at a photo can often lead to mistakes. There’s a lot of potential for human error related to lighting, positioning, how much of the face is seen, and how many similar faces are in the world, Mr. Decker said.

Having a name isn’t enough, either. For example, there are several men with military backgrounds in the United States named James Alex Fields, the name of the man charged in Saturday’s fatal attack with a car on protesters in Charlottesville, Mr. Decker said. An attempt at confirming an identity in that case would have required a date of birth and address, at least.

As for Mr. Quinn, the University of Arkansas professor, he fell victim to a resemblance to one of the rally participants, but the possibility that he was there wouldn’t have held up with more careful checking, Mr. Decker said. Such mistakes routinely happen during amateur sleuthing, he said.

“There’s ostensibly a very quick jump into the first detail that emerges,” he said.

People who then try to correct the record often feel drowned out by the false information.

Mark Popejoy, an art director in Bentonville, Ark., attempted to correct dozens of Twitter accounts that had inaccurately pegged Mr. Quinn as the Charlottesville rally participant. He would point out that the University of Arkansas had confirmed that Mr. Quinn was not involved, and ask that the Twitter users delete their erroneous tweets.

While some appreciated the new information, others adamantly refused to change their minds, he said in an interview on Monday. He said he didn’t know Mr. Quinn but sympathized with his position.

“I think it’s dangerous just to go out accusing people without any kind of confirmation of who they are,” he said. “It can ruin people’s lives.”

Continue reading the main story
15 Aug 18:15

What are you actually DOING to fight racists and Nazis? Take the pro bono pledge.

by Josh Bernoff

This weekend brought white supremacist marches, Nazi salutes, counter-protests and vehicular murder to Charlottesville, Virginia. You probably joined everyone from Orrin Hatch to Justin Trudeau in condemning it. Now what? You’re against racism. Good for you. You posted your outrage on Facebook. A bunch of people who agree with you and are also against hate and … Continued

The post What are you actually DOING to fight racists and Nazis? Take the pro bono pledge. appeared first on without bullshit.

15 Aug 18:15

Communications Breakdown

by Stowe Boyd

Lyft is growing fast, and the pain from incompatible communications platforms is growing, too

source: Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash

I encountered a compelling section of an in-depth The Information article by Amir Efrati on car-hailing service Lyft, and how it is accommodating growth in the organization, or not, at least when it comes to communications tools:

Amir Efrati | The People Who Matter at Lyft
Lyft is coming to grips with the typical pitfalls of a growing workforce. Last week, Mr. Morelli, the engineering chief, who oversees more than 400 engineers, sent an email to much of Lyft’s staff describing broken communication problems across the company and what could be done about them.
“We are actively looking into ways to improve, as communication at this stage of our company is critical to our ability to collaborate and scale. We want to equip you with the information you need to do your work,” he said.
One issue is that different teams use different messaging services. Lyft’s product and engineering teams use Slack, while some in the legal and HR teams use Google Hangouts, said an employee. Mr. Morelli, echoing efforts by Lyft’s “internal communications team,” urged more people to use “Facebook for Work.” That way more workers could get on the same page on company-wide matters, he suggested.

First comment: Slack, Google Hangouts, and Workplace by Facebook (referred to as Facebook for Work, it’s old name) are simply called ‘messaging services’, as opposed to the more historical ‘collaboration tools’. I think it’s a sign of their widespread adoption, and their convergence and overlap with personal, non-work communications like texting and messaging apps.

Second comment: No mention of email, at all. Perhaps this hints at the displacement of email, at long last (thank all the swamp gods). Still, email has the benefit of universal ubiquity, at any rate. But yes, it is the place where knowledge goes to die.

Third comment: How did they get into this fragmented situation? But in the final analysis, can’t they simply impose order by fiat, and tell everyone to use Workplace, or Slack, or whatever tool? Yes, someone’s feelings will be bruised, but in the final analysis, any supposed benefit from the particular feature set of one of these tools over another is swamped by the benefits of company-wide communications.

So the company can make Workplace (for example) the solution for management-to-company communications. If the developers want to use Slack for their internal team communications, fine. They can set up hooks to send messages back and forth if necessary.

Fourth observation: There is no mention of communications with the Lyft drivers, who are mobile-first (and maybe mobile-only). And they are the front line of the company’s operations. Clearly, that has to be a consideration, even if the drivers are only in direct and regular contact with specific operations groups within the company.

Originally published at stoweboyd.com.


Communications Breakdown was originally published in Work Futures on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

15 Aug 18:14

"I’m tired of being told that everything is going to be grim and dystopian and people are going to be..."

“I’m tired of being told that everything is going to be grim and dystopian and people are going to be murdering each other for food. I’ve had enough of that.”

-

Seth McFarlane, cited by Adam Epstein in The “Family Guy” creator wants to bring back optimistic sci-fi

Well, the way things are going, McFarlane is going to have to get over that.

15 Aug 18:14

Flickr Heroes of the Week

by Leticia Roncero

Our new Flickr Heroes of the Week are ‘Colorful Squares‘ by Mai Son on Facebook & Google+ and ‘Nara Line, Kyoto, Japan‘ by Emre Çift on Twitter & Tumblr.

Colorful squares
Nara Line, Kyoto, Japan

Here are some Flickr Hero Honorable Mentions:

Street
Morning at Paris
The Brilliance
Water Drop, CaptiveLight, Bournemouth, UK

If you want your photo to be considered for a Flickr Hero feature next week, submit your best image(s) to the Flickr Heroes group pool by Monday morning! Winners are announced in the Flickr Heroes Group, on the blog, and across our social media accounts!


15 Aug 18:14

RT @SteveStuWill: Why are birds so smart? Because they've got primate-like numbers of neurons squeezed into their tiny bird brains. https:/…

by SteveStuWill
mkalus shared this story from primalpoly on Twitter.

Why are birds so smart? Because they've got primate-like numbers of neurons squeezed into their tiny bird brains. pic.twitter.com/2RIjTeGtSF




Posted by SteveStuWill on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 9:01am
Retweeted by primalpoly on Monday, August 14th, 2017 4:11pm


303 likes, 161 retweets
15 Aug 18:14

Twitter Favorites: [Lesley_NOPE] HER NAME IS SLEEPY! SURPRISE! https://t.co/Y3euvkwrf1

Sleeve Fierce @Lesley_NOPE
HER NAME IS SLEEPY! SURPRISE! pic.twitter.com/Y3euvkwrf1
15 Aug 18:14

Isolated Integration Tests in Shell

As I’ve been building out During, we have a handful of microservices powering things like syncing, importing, some single-purpose serving of heavy data, and so on.

If you aren’t familiar, a microservice is just a fancy word that means “let’s spread our business objects all OVER the fucking place!”.

Anyway, my microservices are all, well, really really micro. And because I’m definitely not above being an idiot, I’ve rewritten one of my web services a number of times, starting with a folder inside of Rails, then extracted out into Ruby, then Crystal, then Go, and now back to Ruby. It’s not a huge time sink, and to be honest, much of this was just for shits and giggles to try out new approaches.

I’ve since moved all these services back to Ruby. I’m really good at Ruby these days, and it’s really easy to scale Ruby to handle all of my users. Granted, the app hasn’t even launched into beta yet, so it turns out it’s also really easy to scale when you have no users. In fact, virtually everything about software development is easier when you have no users. Aside from the making money part, that is (but that hasn’t stopped Silicon Valley much either).

Anyway, I digress. Something I’ve been really enjoying as of late is specifically using shell to test these services.

POSIX shell, more like UBIQUITOUSIX shell amirite

I’ve been writing my tests for these services in shell script, and it’s been pretty great. For one, the infrastructure is obviously easy. Shell is already on all of my AWS instances, any CI service I may use, and on my local machine. Don’t have to install anything, don’t have to run any Docker instances (though that certainly doesn’t hurt).

The most important aspect, though, is that my tests are now isolated and independent from any future language testing I may use. I can bounce around between languages and frameworks, and I don’t have to change any of the tests. This is really important because if, for example, your v1 has a subtle bug that your tests were fine with, you can rewrite the whole v2 service and your tests will fail if you accidentally corrected the bug. That means that your API you expose to the rest of your services won’t break, and you can prepare the rest of your services to fix the bug at your leisure instead of being surprised by it in production.

The tooling for shell testing is pretty decent these days, too. For years I’ve used my buddy Blake Mizerany’s roundup, a lovely tiny testing tool for shell. Recently I’ve been using Sam Stephenson’s bats, which has been steadily growing into a really active community. (lol, around a shell testing tool, who would have thought?) Most of my shell tests now look like this one, in bats:

@test "Responds with events within the given timespan" {
  url_params="?starts_at=2017-05-01T00:00:00-00:00&ends_at=2017-05-31T00:00:00-00:00"
  run curl "$URL$url_params" --silent -H "Authorization: Bearer:$bearer"

  assert_output --partial "Test Event 0"
  assert_output --partial "Test Event 2"
  refute_output --partial "Test Event 5"
  refute_output --partial "No location data"
  refute_output --partial "Not included in the date span"
}

Tests are pretty simple and easy to reason about. Basically just a curl and you check the output. Done.

Integration rules everything around me

One last quick point: these microservices are very-small to fairly-small, and I can get by with ignoring writing any other tests entirely. Writing integration-only, full-stack tests is really interesting, but people get really religious about whether this is the next best idea ever or the worst idea in the world. For what it’s worth, GitHub’s Gist was happily running in production with zero unit tests whatsoever for years. I’m somewhat up in the air about the practice overall; I go back and forth for sure. There’s plenty of other posts on the topic you can read if you’re interested.

But I will say that in these cases, wowza, what a breath of fresh air. Our tests are portable, and we don’t have to write any new tests if I ever rewrite the service. I just have to conform to my shell-based tests.

15 Aug 18:10

Teaching Digital at the Kennedy School of Government: Part 4: The Trap — Teaching Tech and Concepts

by David Eaves
Before talking about the framework for thinking about digital at the Harvard Kennedy School, I want to discuss what we aren’t doing. I do this because I frequently get asked by students and others to respond to needs that I think are poorly articulated. I believe we should listen to users (students) but that doesn’t […]
15 Aug 18:04

Internal Microsoft memo attempts to downplay Consumer Reports Surface reliability survey

by Igor Bonifacic
Microsoft Surface Pro 2017

In a recent memo obtained by prominent Microsoft insider Paul Thurrott, the Redmond, Washington-based company says it’s preparing to release data that contradicts the recent Consumer Reports study that suggests its Surface computers are among the least reliable PCs currently on the market.

“It’s important for us to always learn more from out customers and how they view their ownership journey with our products,” says Surface head Panos Panay in the memo. “Feedback like this stings, but pushes us to obsess more about our customers.”

Panay goes on to acknowledge that the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book suffered from “some quality issues” at launch.

At the time, Thurrott was told by multiple senior Microsoft officials that the issues were related to Intel’s then new Skylake processors — the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book were among the first laptops to ship with Skylake chipsets — which led Microsoft to place the blame on Intel.

However, Thurrott says a Microsoft source later told him that the blame rested on the Surface-specific drivers and settings the Surface team shipped alongside the two devices.

Whatever caused the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book issues, Panay says in the memo that his team worked “tirelessly” to ensure that subsequent launches — specifically the launch of the Surface Laptop, Surface Pro, Surface Studio and Surface Book with Performance Base — led to more reliable devices.

Panay concludes, however, that his team’s efforts were “unfortunately not reflected in the results of this [Consumer Reports] survey.”

As Thurrott suggests, it’s likely that Microsoft believes Consumer Reports’ recent survey is unfairly weighted toward Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book users who experienced issues with their PCs at launch.

In defence of the Surface line, Panay says that ‘incidents per unit’ across the entire Surface portfolio is “extremely low.” Moreover, he adds that the metric has improved “with every device launch.”

He also adds that return rates have decreased over the past 12 months. At worst, the Surface Book suffered a 17 percent return rate, according to data accompanying the memo.

Lastly, Panay cites the Surface portfolio’s net promoter score, which does not measure reliability, instead offering insight into whether a consumer would recommend a product they bought to a friend or family member, as further evidence that consumers believe the company’s Surface computers to be reliable.

Together, Microsoft’s data suggests the company Surface lineup may well have had reliability issues in the past, but that the company has since addressed those issues.

The memo is available in full on Paul Thurrott’s website.

The post Internal Microsoft memo attempts to downplay Consumer Reports Surface reliability survey appeared first on MobileSyrup.

15 Aug 18:04

Papert 1: Mathophobia, Affect, Physicality, and Love

by Eugene Wallingford

I have finally started reading Mindstorms. I hope to write short reflections as I complete every few pages or anytime I come across something I feel compelled to write about in the moment. This is the first entry in the imagined series.

In the introduction, Papert says:

We shall see again and again that the consequences of mathophobia go far beyond obstructing the learning of mathematics and science. The interact with other endemic "cultural toxins", for example, with popular theories of aptitudes, to contaminate peoples' images of themselves as learners. Difficulty with school math is often the first step of an invasive intellectual process that leads us all to define ourselves as bundles of aptitudes and ineptitudes, as being "mathematical" or "not mathematical", "artistic" or "not artistic", "musical" or "not musical", "profound" or "superficial", "intelligent" or "dumb". Thus deficiency becomes identity, and learning is transformed from the early child's free exploration of the world to a chore beset by insecurities and self-imposed restrictions.

This invasive intellectual process has often deeply affected potential computer science students long before they reach the university. I would love to see Papert's dream made real early enough that young people can imagine being a computer scientist earlier. It's hard to throw of the shackles after they take hold.

~~~~

The thing that sticks out as I read the first few pages of Mindstorms is its focus on the power of affect in learning. I don't recall conscious attention to my affect having much of a role in my education; it seems I was in a continual state of "cool, I get to learn something". I didn't realize at the time just what good fortune it was to have that as a default orientation.

I'm also struck by Papert's focus on the role of physicality in learning, how we often learn best when the knowledge has a concrete manifestation in our world. I'll have to think about this more... Looking back now, abstraction always seemed natural to me.

Papert's talk of love -- falling in love with the thing we learn about, but also with the thing we use to learn it -- doesn't surprise me. I know these feelings well, even from the earliest experiences I had in kindergarten.

An outside connection that I will revisit: Frank Oppenheimer's exploratorium, an aspiration I learned about from Alan Kay. What would a computational exploratorium look like?

14 Aug 22:54

Transit Report Card released

by Stephen Rees

fullsizeoutput_24e9

Nathan Pachal has posted his annual Transit Report Card on the South Fraser blog. This report compares information from the major transit authorities that is derived from the Canada Transit Fact Book published by the Canadian Urban Transit Association.

I am not going to say very much about the report itself because I think you should follow the link and go read it for yourself. It does show that Translink is doing pretty well. Or perhaps I need to rephrase that. It shows that in 2015 Translink did pretty well. Because despite this being 2017 and all of us having the equivalent of the data processing capacity of the Apollo space missions in our hip pocket, it still takes a bunch of publicly funded and regulated agencies that long to get their act together on comparative data. In the United States APTA and FTA seem to be able to do things better in the sense of “easy to get hold of” if not actually faster. Go to the CUTA web site and you will read “Please note that these publications are not available for distribution to non-CUTA members.” In other words you, the people who pay for and use public transportation cannot access this sort of information easily in Canada. So thanks to Nathan Pachal for performing a very necessary public service – and smack upside the head to the people who think this data needs to be locked away somewhere.


Filed under: transit, Transportation Tagged: Canada, CUTA, transit data
14 Aug 22:54

The Fall

by Rui Carmo
The fountain at the Water Garden in Parque das Nações
14 Aug 22:54

Outward

by Rui Carmo
A view from the walkway near the Público office
14 Aug 22:53

Amazon Echo speakers have reportedly started to accept Canadian addresses

by Bradly Shankar
Amazon Echo speaker

While the Amazon Echo has yet to officially launch in Canada, a number of users are reporting that their Canadian addresses are working with the smart home speaker.

“Tonight around 11pm I decided I would try to add my Canadian address, as I tend to do from time to time, and shockingly, it accepted it!” writes original poster asutt on a reddit thread. “It was added normally through the app. I can confirm that weather and local information are functional.” While asutt and others have noted there are some caveats — it’s still not possible to shop on Amazon using an Echo set to a Canadian address, for example, and the speaker sets the wrong time zone at first — all other features are working properly.

“Shopping doesn’t seem to work, and it initially set the wrong timezone, but everything else seems fine.”

Interestingly, as per user reports, it seems that addresses from other countries do work with the Echo, such as those from South America, South Africa and Australia.

Have you had success in putting Canadian addresses into the Amazon Echo? Let us know in the comments.

The post Amazon Echo speakers have reportedly started to accept Canadian addresses appeared first on MobileSyrup.

14 Aug 19:35

Learning through the Open Creation of Knowledge

files/images/OCModel.png

Allison Littlejohn, Little by Littlejohn, Aug 16, 2017


Icon

This is a quick read exploring the idea of students creating and organizing heir own learning. As Allison Littlejohn notes, "Some Massive Open Online Courses have been designed around every learner also acting as a teacher and bringing knowledge to the network." Students don't always follow present objectives. "Students who do not complete a MOOC or who drop out are often very satisfied with their learning." So, concludes Littlejohn, "we need new ways to support students in planning, achieving and reflecting on their (self-determined) measures of success." This is true, to a point. The bulk of the post creates a structure within which this support would take place. "The model focuses on how students plan, learn, study, create and reflect/ assess." And it suggests that there need to be models that go beyond learning behaviour, and include cognitive and affective aspects as well. My concern is that the more structure is put inbto place, the less autonomy they student has.

[Link] [Comment]
14 Aug 19:35

Communication Breakdown

I encountered a compelling section of an in-depth The Information article by Amir Efrati on car-hailing service Lyft, and how it is accommodating growth in the organization, or not, at least when it comes to communications tools:

Amir Efrati | The People Who Matter at Lyft

Lyft is coming to grips with the typical pitfalls of a growing workforce. Last week, Mr. Morelli, the engineering chief, who oversees more than 400 engineers, sent an email to much of Lyft’s staff describing broken communication problems across the company and what could be done about them.

“We are actively looking into ways to improve, as communication at this stage of our company is critical to our ability to collaborate and scale. We want to equip you with the information you need to do your work,” he said.

One issue is that different teams use different messaging services. Lyft’s product and engineering teams use Slack, while some in the legal and HR teams use Google Hangouts, said an employee. Mr. Morelli, echoing efforts by Lyft’s “internal communications team,” urged more people to use “Facebook for Work.” That way more workers could get on the same page on company-wide matters, he suggested.

First comment: Slack, Google Hangouts, and Workplace by Facebook (referred to as Facebook for Work, it’s old name) are simply called ‘messaging services’, as opposed to the more historical ‘collaboration tools’. I think it’s a sign of their widespread adoption, and their convergence and overlap with personal, non-work communications like texting and messaging apps. 

Second comment: No mention of email, at all. Perhaps this hints at the displacement of email, at long last (thank all the swamp gods). Still, email has the benefit of universal ubiquity, at any rate. But yes, it is the place where knowledge goes to die.

Third comment: How did they get into this fragmented situation? But in the final analysis, can’t they simply impose order by fiat, and tell everyone to use Workplace, or Slack, or whatever tool? Yes, someone’s feelings will be bruised, but in the final analysis, any supposed benefit from the particular feature set of one of these tools over another is swamped by the benefits of company-wide communications. 

So the company can make Workplace (for example) the solution for management-to-company communications. If the developers want to use Slack for their internal team communications, fine. They can set up hooks to send messages back and forth if necessary.

Fourth observation: There is no mention of communications with the Lyft drivers, who are mobile-first (and maybe mobile-only). And they are the front line of the company’s operations. Clearly, that has to be a consideration, even if the drivers are only in direct and regular contact with specific operations groups within the company. 

14 Aug 19:34

Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds Review: Truly wireless

by Ted Kritsonis

True wireless earbuds are sprouting up more and more from different manufacturers now, though Jabra can lay claim to being among the first to give it a shot last year with the Elite Sport.

Built to withstand the rigours of regular workouts and even a dunk or two in water, the tough reputation for this pair puts it onto a different level than pedestrian efforts like the Apple AirPods. Like some other makers, including Nuheara and Bragi, Jabra is attempting to add versatility to its pair.

Mind you, this isn’t the first version. In trying to improve battery life, Jabra has reissued the Elite Sport with what it claims to be a 50 per cent longer charge and new colour variant. Having tested the first edition extensively, it was worth looking into whether these did actually last longer.

Same old design

In some respects, the Elite Sport is an offshoot of Jabra’s Sport wireless earbuds — the ones that have a cable connecting the two earbuds. In removing all cords, the Elite Sport was already intriguing, except it also came at the right time.

Jabra had learned from past mistakes relating to fit, which adversely affected music playback by reducing bass response. A bad combination if you’re into music that has plenty on the low end of the audio spectrum. The Elite Sport was a culmination of that realization, so work was done to stop the audio bleeding and make sure they stayed in place.

Jabra Elite Sport loose

To that end, Jabra has apparently done nothing to physically alter the size or enhance the drivers inside. An equalizer on the Jabra Sport Life app does offer some customization, but more on that later. The way the first version fit is the same here. Even the weight is effectively unchanged. You still get the same heart rate monitor in the left earpiece to track beats-per-minute and exercise, plus onboard controls for volume, track navigation, workouts and voice assistant.

The battery inside is larger, pushing the max life per charge from three hours to 4.5 hours. Such an increase is a big deal in this sub-category, where squeezing out an extra hour of tunes can be enough for two workouts.

Then there’s the new lime green-grey colour scheme. The all-black model from before is back, but this new lighter variant is available exclusively from Jabra’s website.

Water and sweat

Embedded IP67 water-resistance allows the Elite Sport to work for 30 minutes in up to 3.3 feet of water. Technically, you can go swimming with these on, so long as you’re within range of the phone or tablet you’ve paired them with. It’s only clear water, as saltwater would almost certainly damage them beyond repair.

Jabra Elite Sport case

That waterproofing has an equal, and arguably more important, benefit. Sweat is the biggest culprit to wireless earbuds breaking down, which is partly why Jabra offers a three-year warranty on sweat-related damage or malfunction. Being able to rinse and dry them after an excessively hot and sweaty workout could help avoid that from happening.

The one catch to the warranty eligibility is that you have to register the Elite Sport through the Sport Life app.

Setup and app

Bluetooth pairing isn’t hard at all, since the Elite Sport go into pairing mode right away. As before, there are three sets each of ear gels and Comply Foam tips, plus three ear wings, in large medium or small.

Finding the right fit is a bit of trial and error, and I suspect it would take most users a few attempts with different sizes to finally settle on what provides the best fit with the best sound. It was smart to include the foam tips, which do a better job at noise isolation, but are prone to deforming upon repeated exposure to heat and sweat.

Jabra Elite Sport open case

Once paired, Jabra’s Sport Life recognized I was wearing them, proceeding to measure my heart rate. Within the app are four different tests for heart rate: VO2max to track overall fitness level, Cooper to test endurance, Orthostatic to estimate training level and Resting to personalize training zones.

It also tracks exercises, be it cardio or weight training. I liked that physio exercises were included, since I’ve had to do them for sports injuries on many occasions. There are several available to choose from, with Jabra making the smart move of separating running and walking with treadmill, and cycling and spinning.

Third-party app support with the likes of Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Endomondo and MapMyFitness increases the reach and sophistication for those using any of those apps. .

Music playback

Apart from battery life, this is probably the most critical part of any pair of true wireless earbuds. The Elite Sport were among the best I had tested before, despite the bar not being exceptionally high at that point for lack of competition. Many months later, it’s becoming a crowd, and so, choosing not to physically improve audio fidelity was a bold move.

Jabra’s equalizer in the Sport Life app is pretty barebones, and nowhere near as intricate as EQ apps are on iOS and Android. I suppose that is a fallback, in case it’s not enough, though it would’ve been an option with the previous iteration anyway.

All that said, I enjoyed listening to tunes wearing these. Looking for anything different, I found the EQ did allow for increasing the bass, vocals or highs to bring more out of a track. My issue was the lack of presets to use for certain playlists. It may depend on what genre you like listening to, but the Elite Sport aren’t meant for audiophiles. They’re good enough to enjoy music on the go while feeling unfettered. That would probably apply to any fan of any genre.

Jabra Elite Sport accessories

HearThrough is another feature that allows for ambient noise to filter through the buds. This way, I could chat with someone without having to take them off. I even had the option to automatically lower the music volume or mute it altogether whenever it was engaged by double-tapping the main button on the right earpiece.

I should also mention that phone calls sound pretty good through the Elite Sport too. Callers knew I was using a hands-free device, but wouldn’t have been able to tell I was using something like this.

Battery life

Increasing battery life to a rated 4.5 hours per charge is a nice move, even if little changed elsewhere on the Elite Sport. The charging carrying case has its own battery, able to recharge the earbuds up to three times. That’s where Jabra’s claim of 13.5 hours of battery life comes from.

Jabra Elite Sport app screens

The overall claim is accurate if volume is around 50 per cent, which is a bit low in a louder gym setting. It knocks down as volume goes up, but suffice it to say, this version definitely outlasts Jabra’s debut effort.

With such a short span, some range anxiety does set in. On the iPhone, I was able to see what the charge level was on the top bar, whereas I would have to check the Sport Life app to see it on an Android device.

The post Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds Review: Truly wireless appeared first on MobileSyrup.

14 Aug 19:34

800-Block Robson: Trained by Motordom

by pricetags

The City has just repaved the road lanes in the 800-block Robson, using asphalt to raise the roadbed to sidewalk level, creating a constant surface for this now car-free plaza.

And yet, pedestrians largely stick to the sidewalks.  That’s the way we’ve been trained since childhood: see asphalt, stay off.  It’s only for cars.

That will likely change when the asphalt is painted another colour, street furniture is replaced, performances and demonstrations occur, and more people use the space.  But even if we’re not quite conscious of it, something will feel not quite right until the surface design of the plaza is reconfigured from the standard road-and-sidewalk layout.


14 Aug 19:33

Make Your Mark in Mount Pleasant

by Sandy James Planner

                       Sandy James Image

The Daily Hive notes that the City of Vancouver is looking for artists and designers  to create “sidewalk stencils” for the sidewalks in front of commercial businesses along Mount Pleasant’s Main Street. There have been sidewalk stamps before, most notably along Heather Street between 49th and 54th Avenues. Those sidewalks stamps were chosen from images created  by the Churchill Secondary School’s fine art class,  and were cut into metal stencils using a plasma cutter at the City works yard. Some of the images have been so successful that they have been used in other parts of the city as well.

Sidewalks were installed on Heather Street from 49th Avenue to Marine Drive and there was the opportunity to imprint the metal stencil directly into fresh cement. In the Mount Pleasant case,  a metal stencil will be prepared to sand blast an image on existing sidewalks in front of the businesses.

Designs need to be clear and crisp to contrast on the sidewalk. The City stipulates that  the “designs should be 20″ x 20″ (50 cm x 50 cm) in size and based on themes relevant to the local community, such as historic creeks, art, music, pop culture, and breweries.” 

Submission deadline is Friday August 18 with designs being submitted in PDF format to the City of Vancouver. Artists will be paid a small stipend and also receive recognition from the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association. Further information can be found here.

broadway-salmon-jumpingDaily Hive Image

 


14 Aug 19:33

Better Together: How Slack and Dropbox make team communication easier

by Jason Lyman

Illustration for Better Together blog post

Everyone has their own favorite way to communicate. And many prefer different tools for different tasks. That’s why Dropbox believes the better your apps work together, the easier your job will be. Millions of people use Slack to connect with the people and tools they work with every day. Dropbox partnered with Slack to provide a more seamless experience, so work can be shared directly with teammates where they’re already communicating. Here’s how they can help simplify team collaboration.

Paste links for direct sharing

When you connect Dropbox to Slack, you can share files with teammates where you’re already working. You can gain instant access to your Dropbox files by sending or uploading a Dropbox link within a Slack conversation.

Stay in sync and up to date

Your files will stay in sync so your team always has the latest version of any file, without the headache of managing version history.

Protect access

Dropbox and Slack work together to make it easy to share with confidence. Your files’ original sharing preferences are preserved so only the right people have access.

Simplify search

This joint solution also helps you find what you’re looking for quickly. Every file you share is automatically indexed so it’s easy to find later on—you can search by file name, who shared it, or the contents of your file directly from Slack.

When you choose the right apps and connect them with a platform like Dropbox, you and your team can unlock greater productivity. To learn more, download our free eBook, Better Together.

14 Aug 19:33

Big Bridge Changes, Big Bridge Rethink?

by Sandy James Planner

 

6999318Vancouver Sun Image

From CBC via Price Tags Editor Ken Ohrn is the notification that “four of the five members of the Transportation Investment Corporation board, which oversees B.C.’s Port Mann Bridge, have been removed by the provincial government.” 

That’s right- “In an Order In Council formally approved on Friday, chair Daniel Doyle and directors Anne Stewart, Clifford Neufeld and former finance minister Colin Hansen had their appointments rescinded.” One person remains, Irene Kerr who is the CEO of TI Corp and will be on the board until the end of 2018. TI Corp is the governmental creation that managed the construction of the bridge and the subsequent tolling on this and the Golden Ears Bridge.

treo-toll-bridge-tantrum-1024-93576

While the Port Mann is not making money as projected from tolls, it is still projected to pay for itself . The 2017 B.C. budget suggested that losses of  $88 million dollars in 2017 and $90 million dollars in 2018 are expected. The TI Corp was also to provide “support” for the implementation of the ‘George Massey Tunnel Replacement  Project-when will he NDP government be announcing what they are doing with that vast overbuilt  project?

Meanwhile south of the Fraser  City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day supports the transit idea of the  Mayor of Delta who was pleading for a ten lane bridge, and for a rapid transit connection to get that bridge. Councillor Day calls the refusal of the Mayors’ Council to consider rapid transit to Delta  the “special sort of short sightedness that is iconic of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. This creates a piecemeal approach to infrastructure that approves individual projects in isolation of one another without sufficient consideration of the future.”

Councillor Day further notes: “Mayor Jackson is absolutely right in saying that we have to think about building capacity for 75 years into the future rather than merely extending existing transit lines. We will be able to plan out a much more efficient transit network if all current and potential projects support each other and a unified vision.” 

It is going to be an interesting time as the new Provincial government reviews and unravels the truths and myths about the Massey Tunnel crossing, and evaluates what will work  best for the Fraser River crossing in Delta-where, how, and why.

 

massey-tunnel1

Richmond News Image

 

 


14 Aug 19:33

Vancouver Mural Festival

by Stephen Rees

The festival ran from August 7 to 12 but, of course, the murals themselves will last a lot longer than that. Thinking to avoid the crowds, I went out the day after the festival events were over, but there were still plenty of people out taking pictures. Other blogs are already ahead of me with their postings and so far I have only covered those near Main Street from 14th to 4th. There’s a lot more to come but to get a taste of what else is out there see Ken Ohrn’s series on Price Tags. His pictures show many of the murals being created.

Click on the image in the gallery to see the larger version
Check out the festival’s page for artist details and so on – I have added a copy of their map at the bottom of this post.

 

 

Some of the murals were much bigger than I could get into one shot so there are some much larger, stitched panorama images on my flickr stream

VMF 2016 GODZILYA

Actually from the 2016 Festival but one of my personal favourites

Native Education College

Native Education Centre

Hoot Suite

And only in that last one was I unable to get a clear shot without people. I do not understand why so many were getting themselves photographed in front of the murals. This last one is on the Hoot Suite building.

Vancouver Mural Festival Map

Vancouver Mural Festival Map

There are now two further posts that cover the murals not shown in this one. There is also a flickr album of all of these pictures, which are downloadable at their original size and covered by a Creative Commons license.


Filed under: Art, photography, Vancouver Tagged: street art, Vancouver, VanMuralFest
14 Aug 19:33

Transit Analysis: Canada-Wide

by Ken Ohrn

Occasional PT author, and full-time Langley City Councilor Nathan Pachal has written the latest Canada-wide transit report card (18-page PDF HERE).    Note included commentary by this Fellow Gordon Price.

fassbender-translink

Peter Fassbender, no longer in service

Transit service in Canada’s major regions has not been able to keep up with population growth. Under-investment by all levels of government has resulted in overcrowding in some areas, and lack of service in others.

“Whether it’s elementary school students or transit systems, by the time you get three years of grades you can begin to see the trends. Nathan Pachal has again provided – for Canada’s transit networks – the comparisons, the grades and the trends,” says Gordon Price, Fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue.

Service hours per capita, transit service per person, has been declining steadily over the last three years reported. The good news, though, is that transit agencies have been doing more with less. Passenger Trip Intensity, a measure of efficiency, has been increasing year over year.

Metro.Transit.Scores

[Click to enlarge]

The analysis is reasonably intense, and it helps a lot to review the definitions and arithmetic used to form the rankings.  See the Pachal report PDF.

The data is from “Canada Transit Fact book — 2015 Operating Data” (by Canadian Urban Transit Association).  The book is available for purchase HERE.


14 Aug 19:32

Fascism

by Real Life

This past winter, Real Life collected some of our essays on fascism for a special issue. We are republishing it again today. Please click the image below for a pdf.


With the rise of fascist leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s natural to want to investigate the degree to which new communication technologies have facilitated it. Much as Horkheimer and Adorno indicted the incipient mass media and the “culture industry” for mid–20th century fascism, we might look at 21st–century social media in the same light. Online platforms have become instruments for meting out brutality, suppressing freedom of thought, reinforcing marginalization and social exclusion, and enforcing orthodoxy. But it makes sense also to think of fascism itself as a political technology, an approach to social control that relies on negating the truth, sowing confusion, destabilizing 
shared values, and setting unmoored bureaucracies against the population and one another. We face an unprecedented combination of seemingly opposed ideologies that have come to reinforce each other: Big Data positivism generates an endless stream of uninterpretable information that post-truth demagoguery can triumphantly push aside. —Rob Horning

Featuring:

“Apocalypse Whatever,” by Tara Isabella Burton

“Chaos of Facts,” by Nathan Jurgenson

“What Was the Nerd” by Willie Osterweil

“Broken Windows, Broken Code,” by R . Joshua Scannell

14 Aug 19:32

Playgrounds, Playgrounds, Everywhere…

by Tony Hirst

A quick round up of things I would have made time to try to play with in the past, but that I can’t get motivated to explore, partly because there’s nowhere I can imagine using it, and partly because, as blog traffic to this blog dwindles, there’s no real reason to share. So there here just as timeline markers in the space of tech evolution, if nothing else.

Play With Docker Classroom

Play With Docker Classroom provides an online interactive playground for getting started playing with classroom. A ranges of tutorials guide you through the commands you need to run to explore the Docker ecosystem and get your own demo services up and running.

You’re provided with a complete docker environment, running in the cloud (so no need to install anything…) and it also looks as if you can go off-piste. For example, I set one of my own OpenRefine containers running:

…had a look at the URL used to preview the hosted web services launched as part of one of the official tutorials, and made the guess that I could change the port number in the subdomain to access my own OpenRefine container…

Handy…

Python Anywhere

Suspecting once again I’ve been as-if sent to Coventry by the rest of my department, one of the few people that still talks to me in the OU tipped me off to the online hosted Python Anywhere environment. The free plan offers you a small hosted Python environment to play with, accessed via a browser IDE, and that allows you to run a small web app, for example. There’s a linked MySQL database for preserving state, and the ability to schedule jobs – so handy for managing the odd scraper, perhaps (though I’m not sure what external URLs you can access?)

The relatively cheap (and up) paid for accounts also offer a Jupyter notebook environment – it’s interesting this isn’t part of the free plan, which makes me wonder if that environment works as an effective enticement to go for the upgrade?

The Python Anywhere environment also looks as if it’s geared up to educational use – student’s signing up to the service can nominate another account as their “teacher”, which allows the teacher to see the student files, as well as get a realtime shared view of their console.

(Methinks it’d be quite interesting to have a full feature by feature comparison of Python Anywhere and CoCalc (SageMathCloud, as was…)

AWS SAM Local

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Service Application Model (SAM) describes a way of hosting serverless applications using Amazon Lambda functions. A recent blogpost describes a local Docker testing environment that allows you to develop and test SAM compliant applications on your local machine and then deploy them to AWS. I always find working with AWS a real pain to set up, so if being able to develop and test locally means I can try to get apps working first and then worry about negotiating the AWS permissions and UI minefield if I ever want to try to actually run the thing on AWS, I may be more likely to play a bit with AWS SAM apps…

Tinkering With Neural Networks

On my to do list is writing some updated teaching material on neural networks. As part of the “research” process, I keep meaning to give some of the more popular deep learning models – PyTorch, Tensorflow and ConvNet, perhaps – a spin, to see if we can simplify them to an introductory teaching level.

A first thing to do is evaluate the various playgrounds and demos, such as the Tensorflow NeuralNetwork Playground:

Another, possibly more useful, approach might be to start with some of the “train a neural network in your browser” Javascript libraries and see how easy it is to put together simple web app demos using just those libraries.

For example, ConvNetJS:

Or deeplearn.js:

(I should probably also look at Dale Lane’s Machine Learning For Kids site, that uses Scratch to build simple ML powered apps.)

LearnR R/Shiny Tutorial Builder

The LearnR package is a new-ish package for developing interactive tutorials in RStudio. (Hmmm… I wonder if the framework lets you write tutorial code using language kernels other than R?)

Just as Jupyter notebooks provided a new sort of interactive environment that I don’t think we have even begun to explore properly yet as an interactive teaching and learning medium, I think this could take a fair bit of playing with to get a proper feel for how to do things most effectively. Which isn’t going to happen, of course.

Plotly Dash

“Reactive Web Apps for Python”, apparently… This perhaps isn’t so much of interest as an ed tech, but it’s something I keep meaning to play with as a possible Python/Jupyter alternative to R/Shiny.

Outro

Should play with these, can’t be a****d…


14 Aug 19:32

@stoweboyd

@stoweboyd:
14 Aug 19:32

@johnrobb

@johnrobb:
14 Aug 19:32

"It doesn’t matter what my diet philosophy is because I don’t follow it. I don’t have the discipline...."

“It doesn’t matter what my diet philosophy is because I don’t follow it. I don’t have the discipline. I think it’s because of exhaustion. I really want to change. I have this dream of finding a dietitian who will not only tell me what to eat, but also what to feed the kids. That way everyone is healthy and everyone eats the same thing, so I don’t have to break my head about what is everybody eating. This is my dream.”

- | Selma Hayek in Salma Hayek Isn’t Trying to Fool Anyone