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Category Archives: Communications

Could a Bot write a poem? Take the challenge – it’s National Poetry Month

As weird as it seems, there’s is such a thing as Bot Journalism. Reportedly, a bot broke a story of an earthquake in California in 2014. But poetry written by bots? I took the challenge at ‘Bot Or Not’, a site that asks you to guess if a poem could have been written by a real person or a software bot. Have to say I failed!

Consider this – could these lines have been put together by a bot? Or a human?

Mortal my mate, bearing my rock-a-heart
Warm beat with cold beat company, shall I
Earlier or you fail at our force, and lie
The ruins of, rifled, once a world of art?
The telling time our task is; time’s some part,
Not all, but we were framed to fail and die—
One spell and well that one. There, ah thereby
Is comfort’s carol of all or woe’s worst smart.
Field-flown, the departed day no morning brings
Saying ‘This was yours’ with her, but new one, worse,
And then that last and shortest…

To find out, go to Bot Or Not.

As for the lines above: It’s by one of my favorite poets – Gerard Manley Hopkins. I should have known better.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2018 in Communications, Education

 

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Explaining the ‘Valley of Death’ on the Hill, Robert gets applause

My friend Dr. Robert Selliah took his message to Capitol Hill in February, to talk of drug discovery – pediatric drugs, that is.

I’ve followed Robert’s work for some years now and often tell him what’s impressive is his knack of explaining biotech complexities in such as way that a lay person gets it. In my Public Speaking class, when I deal with a Manuscript Speech, I address how important it is to not let jargon and the ‘Haigspeak‘ creep in.

Here Robert deals with the thicket of drug discovery by light-heartedly cautioning the audience that some technical language was coming.  And he even threw in an analogy, comparing the ‘linear process’ of molecular discovery to making a movie. Nice touch!

Capitol Hill is stocked with technocrats, who probably know how to tune out speeches. I’m sure Robert kept them awake, tuned to his ‘movie’!

 

 
 

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Child’s Trade Deficit lesson – to Trump

Who said ‘trade deficits’ are hard to understand? With some graphics a kid could do it. The script is spot on.

(Despite the fact that the target audience is the most powerful man in the world.)

Of course this seems ‘produced’ by older folk – probably by the Jimmy Kimmel show. But there’s great lessons in her presentation technique – voice inflexion, body language and gestures, and even the pacing. The kid turns a very dry subject from Economics 101 into a story.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2018 in Communications

 

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No, WhatsApp is no substitute for Facebook

It may seem tempting to think WhatsApp could be a great Facebook substitute. But that’s amlost like giving up donuts for breakfast, and having a bar of chocolate instead.

For starters, Facebook owns WhatsApp – a little known fact. It bought it for $19 billion in 2014. That was when many were becoming aware of that thing called ‘Chat apps.’ This means much of user data, inclusing phone records, pictures, text chats etc are being scooped up into a giant data blender.

Also, Whatspp is not a mini broadcast station. No ‘PDA’ feature – for public displays of affection.

And just in case you’re wondering if Instagram might be an substitute, bad news. Facebook owns that too. Like not putting cream and refined sugar in your tea, and using consensed milk instead.

 

 
 

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Channel 4 sting shows how Internet gets contaminated

To me the most disturbing thing was not the use of a Sri Lankan decoy in Channel 4’s Sting operation on Cambridge Analytica. It’s the creepy statement by the chief exec of Cambridge Analytica caught in the sting :

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Communications

 

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Facebook, just like nicotine, has no good patch

About eight years ago, I would begin a workshop with an opening line that went something like this: Facebook is the greatest, most irresistible social network ever designed.by the CIA. Not factual, or course, but it got attendees to ponder how surveillance had become so easy, with no need for wiretaps, or laws such as FISA or ECPA.

Well, it’s now normal for journalists to talk of Facebook as being the great harvesting ground of big data organizations that use it to surveil and/or target users. That includes our friends and family in our networks. Social media addiction feeds the algorithm. Here’s what Mashable’s Damon Beres just wrote that it’s time to protect yourself -and your friends –from Facebook:

“The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful. And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.”

He uses the analogy of the Marlboro Man, and the rugged cowboy appeal that continued to lure ‘users’ into a deadly nicotine habit, despite the truth which tobacco companies hid, and were reluctantly forced to admit.

So what to do? Some of my friends have quit Facebook. I haven’t yet. But I do recommend limiting data that algorithms could vacuum up: birthdays, business information, opinions related to our social causes, political rants and things we purchase online. No public displays of affection for family birthdays, anniversaries and such. (Birthday cards and letters were invented for this; despite claims to the contrary they haven’t gone out of style.) And Selfies! –unless you don’t mind feeding facial recognition algorithms now being used in many, many locations.

Deleting some of this now is a bit too late, but like the nicotine patch, it’s better than the alternatives. Unless your family and friends don’t mind the creepy second-hand smoke…

 

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Still publishing Newsletters? We do!

I’ve often said I still read newsletters. From the quirky Trader Joes’ black-and-white ‘Fearless Flyer,‘ to those that come in the mail, often unsolicited. A good friend, a realtor, publishes and mails us an information-filled newsletter that is a delight to read each month. And there are many more – we just don’t give them enough credit in an everything’s-on-Facebook kind of era.

What’s your favorite newsletter? Does it still get printed or has it turned digital? I’m curious.

The case for newsletters has been debated ad nauseam. Most tend to get into the print vs email debate. But I don’t think it’s an either/or. It could be both. Sure, the reading habit is on life-support in some places. But we’re not going to pull the plug.

And so in school, some of us continue this tradition as a way to communicate with parents and the community as to what goes on in our classes in Music, Art, Library and Media Center, PE, and Computers & Tech. Here’s our latest Specials Newsletter – the March 2018 issue.

 

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