Monthly Archives: January 2018

Here’s How To Not Let Your Career Resolutions Slide

19 January 2018

From Fast Company:

The best part of the New Year? We all get a chance to have a do-over. Whatever goals and dreams you have been thinking about over the past year, now’s your chance to make those achievements possible over the next 12 months.

. . . .

Most of us who set New Year’s resolutions tend to have a few goals that are vague or a little too over the top. If you want to actually see your resolutions through, make sure you think about how realistic your goals are and how you will track the progress you make.

“For those of us with a full-time job, I love the idea of crafting some resolutions around the progress you desire to make in your career and the lifestyle you want to experience in your downtime,” says Weldy.

For those work resolutions, Weldy says it’s important to consider very measurable ones–so focus your resolutions on specific awards, titles, projects, or milestones you want to complete or work on this year.

. . . .

If you want to get ahead in your career, you can’t set resolutions that are going to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s hard to avoid this, but it comes down to spending more time thinking about the resolutions you are setting and why you are setting them.

“This is one of the downsides of the New Year’s resolution phenomenon–if you didn’t achieve your resolutions last year (or the year before that) it’s easy to get discouraged,” says Weldy. “Your resolutions or goals should never be a source of shame for you–instead, think of them as always-changing reflections of what matters to you right now.”

. . . .

Sometimes when we set our New Year’s resolutions, we set too many big goals and later find ourselves completely failing at keeping most of them. We start the year excited and make a long list of all the ideas we have and all the things we want to accomplish. Some 50 resolutions later, and we can’t even remember half the ones we set for ourselves.

. . . .

Weldy recommends keeping your resolution list short with about 3-5 resolutions in total.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

How Google is Killing the Independent Movie Industry

19 January 2018

From Newsweek:

Sitting at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, I could feel the air leave the room when I said: “Google is the biggest threat to the entertainment business.”

In the current landscape, where powerful Silicon Valley monopolies are being chastised for their role in multiple scandals, I’m surprised my comment shocked so many.

However, it’s important that our nation’s leaders understand who is affected when copyright protections are flouted and the wholesale theft of our work is induced and facilitated by some of the most powerful companies the world has ever seen.

. . . .

I’ve been in the movie business for three decades now. I started in the ’80s – where my passion for independent cinema led me to co-head the indie division at the William Morris Agency.

Now, I’m a producer of independent films like Mudbound and Dallas Buyers Club.From this vantage point, I’ve clearly seen how Internet piracy has decimated the independent film industry.

. . . .

The problem dates back to 1998 – when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed. The DMCA predates the Internet as we know it; 1998 was the same year Google was founded, and when Mark Zuckerberg entered high school.

Congress, intending to assist the growth of a young industry, established what became known as “Safe Harbor” provisions, which protected Internet companies when their platforms were used to distribute pirated material.

Without the provision, nascent Google might have had to face the consequences of serving up pirated content – given their central role in enabling the infringement.

Back then, Congress reasoned that creatives would send a few notices to some Internet hosting company and ask them to kindly remove a piece of content. How quaint – and not at all forward thinking.

What started out as a helping hand to an infant industry has become a shield against accountability that some of the largest companies in the world hide behind. Piracy has run rampant on the Internet, and creatives have no chance of keeping up with all of it.

Google alone receives 900 million takedown notices every year. While they usually get around to taking down the offending link, it rarely helps because a new one appears in its place – it’s endless. Overwhelmed creatives simply run out of steam trying to find all the pirate links – and thanks to the DMCA, that’s not Google’s problem.

Link to the rest at Newsweek

No, machines can’t read better than humans

19 January 2018

From The Verge:

Computers are built to process data, but there’s a particular form of information so rich and dense in meaning that it’s beyond the full comprehension of even the most advanced AI. It’s also one that you and I process intuitively and deal in every day: language.

Understanding the written and spoken word is a big an important challenge for computer scientists. This month, a small milestone was passed when a pair of teams from Microsoft and Alibaba independently created AI programs that can outperform humans in a reading comprehension test. As you might expect, this news resulted in a flurry of coverage. Headlines like “Robots can now read better than humans, putting millions of jobs at risk,” and “Computers are getting better than humans at reading.”

But of course, it’s not as simple as that.

Technically, these headlines aren’t wrong. But, like a lot of coverage of artificial intelligence, they exploit ambiguities to exaggerate things to the point that they become incredibly misleading. (It’s ironic, considering the subject at hand is reading comprehension.) Computers can now outperform humans at reading, it’s true, but only at one very specific and constrained task — which even the creators say was never designed to capture the full complexity of what we understand as “reading.”

As is often the case in AI, the test is actually a dataset, compiled by a group of Stanford university computer scientists that includes Percy Liang and Pranav Rajpurkar. It’s called the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (or SQuAD for short), and consists of more than 100,000 pairs of questions and answers based on 536 paragraph-length Wikipedia excerpts. You then read the excerpt and answer questions on it.

. . . .

But while these questions and topics look intimidating, the test itself is easy. Think about it like this: for each question, the computers and humans know that the answer has to be in the source paragraph somewhere — and not just the answer, but the exact wording. Asking “Whose authority did Luther’s theology oppose?” seems tough, but when the source text includes the sentence “[Luther’s] theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope,” it doesn’t look quite so bad. You don’t need to understand what “authority” is, you just need to look for basic grammatical components, like the subject and object of a sentence.

All this is expected, explain Pranav Rajpurkar and Percy Liang. “A lot of these models use pattern matching to arrive at an answer,” Rajpurkar tells The Verge.

. . . .

Goldberg also notes that the baseline the computers are being measured against doesn’t really capture humanity at its finest. The 82.3 percent accuracy score comes from workers recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (standard practice in computer science), who are paid a few cents per question and have to answer under a time limit. “So maybe they weren’t really doing their best,” suggests Goldberg.

Liang adds, “Just to paint the spectrum a little bit: when you take the SATs or whatever, those are much, much harder than SQuAD questions. Even elementary school reading comprehensions are harder, because they often include questions like ‘Why did X do this?’ and ‘If this person had not gone to school what would have happen?’ So they’re a lot more interpretive. We’re not even tackling those more open-ended types of questions.”

Link to the rest at The Verge

Exactly what gets a book banned from prisons

19 January 2018

From Quartz:

Last week, following a public outcry, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would suspend a pilot program that would have severely restricted books in state prisons and left 50,000 inmates in veritable information darkness. The program would have prohibited inmates from receiving any packages that weren’t bought through approved vendors, which critics pointed out carried very few books on topics outside religion and puzzles.

But while New York’s inmates were spared this program for now, prisoners across the country still contend with policies that ban or restrict access to books and other reading materials, for reasons ranging from reasonable to arbitrary to downright bizarre.

Prisoners in Alabama are banned from being in book clubs. In Michigan and Ohio, prisoners are barred from reading books that teach computer skills. In Michigan, the computer programming manual C++ For Dummies was kept out of a prison in 2012 because it posed a “threat to the order/security of institution.” The same reasoning applied to a book about Egyptian hieroglyphics.

. . . .

Books are important for everyone, but access to books is crucial for prisoners. Inmates have no or very limited access to the internet, so reading is a way to stay connected to society, if not to just pass time. Policies on book access for prisoners are widely divergent, and sometimes bafflingly inconsistent, across state, federal, and private prisons.

Mostly, the governing bodies keep the process and criteria for banning books frustratingly opaque. For some clues as to what goes into these decisions, however, a document from the state of Pennsylvania is particularly revealing. Unlike other states’ departments of corrections, Pennsylvania’s publishes a document that lists what books make it in, alongside the ones that are prohibited, sometimes with detailed reasons.

The list, a spreadsheet containing over 500 items, shows publications that were sent to prisoners and initially banned by the local prison, then were sent up the chain for further review after the prisoner appealed the decision. So it’s only a partial record of the total books banned and permitted across the state.

. . . .

“The Department of Corrections publication review policy is designed to allow inmates to have access to the widest possible array of publications,” writes Amy Worden, a press secretary for the Pennsylvania DOC, by email. “Publications are denied only as necessary to ensure the safety, security and rehabilitation requirements inherent in the operation of a prison.”

. . . .

Denied

BookBody Language 101: The Ultimate Guide to Knowing When People Are Lying, How They Are Feeling, What They Are Thinking, and More
Author: David Lamber
Reason: “security—ways to deceive others”

BookHollywood in Kodachrome
Author: David Wills
Reason: “Nudity – nipples with less than opaque covering”

BookThe Millionaire Prisoner: Special TCB Edition
Author: Joshua Kruger
Reason: “Running/marketing a business from within the prison”

Link to the rest at Quartz

The great thing

19 January 2018

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been..

Madeleine L’Engle

Theme Experiments

18 January 2018

If you saw any strange WordPress themes earlier this afternoon, PG was trying out some alternates to the one he’s been using.

Sorry for any confusion.

How Technology Is (and Isn’t) Changing Our Reading Habits

18 January 2018

From The New York Times:

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Alexandra Alter, who covers the books industry for The Times, discussed the tech she’s using.

Given that you write about the books industry, how do you prefer to read books? On a Kindle or iPad or some other device, or printed books?

I came a little late to e-books, but I became a convert in 2010 when my older daughter was born. I needed a way to read books with one hand (and in a dark room), so I got a Kindle. The Kindle and ice cream sandwiches — also easily managed with one hand — are what got me through the brutal early weeks with a newborn, when you basically can’t put them down. Now I’m on my fifth Kindle.

I still love print books and find it to be a much more relaxing and immersive experience, but when I’m reading books for work — honestly, the bulk of my reading — the Kindle is incredibly convenient. I have all my books on a single device that I always have with me. I read advance copies of books that way: Publishers send me digital copies through NetGalley or Edelweiss, sites where book industry professionals and critics can get digital copies of books before they’re published.

. . . .

How is technology affecting the publishing industry?

About a decade ago, when Amazon introduced its first e-reader, publishers panicked that digital books would take over the industry, the way digital transformed the music industry. And for a while, that fear seemed totally justified. At one point, the growth trajectory for e-books was more than 1,200 percent. Bookstores suffered, and print sales lagged. E-books also made self-publishing easier, which threatened traditional publishers.

But in just the last couple of years, there has been a surprising reversal. Print is holding steady — even increasing — and e-book sales have slipped.

One possible reason is that e-book prices have gone up, so in some cases they’re more expensive than a paperback edition. Another possibility is digital fatigue. People spend so much time in front of screens that when they read they want to be offline. Another theory is that some e-book readers have switched to audiobooks, which are easy to play on your smartphone while you’re multitasking. And audiobooks have become the fastest-growing format in the industry.

. . . .

Many new authors are skipping traditional publishers and use tech tools to go straight to self-publishing their own e-books or print books. What will be the fate of traditional publishers in the next few years?

Self-publishing has been one of the most fascinating corners of the industry to me. There have been a handful of massively successful self-published authors who have started their own publishing companies, and they’ve started to publish other “self-published” authors. But publishers have survived so far through consolidation, and we’ll probably see more of that.

. . . .

 The future of Barnes & Noble looks uncertain, and the company has suffered setbacks after a few disastrous strategies. It made a huge and, in retrospect, unwise investment in digital hardware and its Nook device, and then tried to become more of a general-interest gift and toy and books store, which probably alienated some of its core customers. Lately, it has tried smaller concept stores, with cafes with food and wine and beer. There was some snickering online after its new chief executive announced that its latest strategy was to focus on selling … books. Snickering aside, I think it’s the smartest thing the company can do. In many parts of the country, Barnes & Noble is the only place people can buy books, and it’s still a beloved brand.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG wonders if anyone who doesn’t live in New York City suffers from digital fatigue. Perhaps digital fatigue is a surreptitiously funded marketing campaign.

Who’s funding it? It wouldn’t be surreptitious if we knew.

As for himself, PG often suffers from Big Publishing fatigue. Symptoms include an inexplicable desire to kneel while facing Seattle and a warm feeling whenever he passes a Starbucks even though he hasn’t drunk coffee for a long time.

PG will, however, keep his eyes open for symptoms of digital fatigue the next time he travels to the skinny island that time forgot.

Why I Still Read Junior and Young Adult Fiction

18 January 2018

From Book Riot:

I confess, I am an adult, but I still read Junior and Young Adult novels. When my daughter was around age 12, she suddenly proclaimed that she was old enough that she didn’t need a bedtime story any more. By this time, we were well beyond picture books. However, each night I would read a chapter of a Junior or Young Adult Novel to her. I enjoyed the time we spent snuggling up, reading together. It was a bedtime ritual that we had started when she was very young, as I believed in the importance of reading to your baby.

It was also a great way for me to read novels that I was interested in. Novels that were marketed to younger generations, that is. Together we read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials seriesand Kate Forsyth’s Chain of Charms series, along with too many other books to name.

. . . .

A study published in 2012 showed that 55% of those purchasing YA fiction are over 18, with 78% of these reporting that the books are being purchased for themselves.

. . . .

The reason I read Junior and Young Adult fiction is because the plots are punchy and fast paced, keeping me turning page after page, usually well after I intend to put the book down. The characters are engaging and believable; they have to be to keep a younger audience hooked.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Can you dance?

18 January 2018

“Can you dance?” said the girl.

Lancelot gave a short, amused laugh. He was a man who never let his left hip know what his right hip was doing.

PG Wodehouse

Storage Wars

18 January 2018

From The Gray Market Weekly:

On Wednesday, Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School, waded into the still-smoldering controversy over the Berkshire Museum’s deaccession plan in order to address what he sees as a much larger, more consequential problem: the behemoth number of inactive artworks shuttered away in institutional storage.

At major museums, O’Hare estimates that as much as 90 percent of holdings are effectively on ice like a severed finger at any given time. In response to SF Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais’s recent assertion that “cultural value, as opposed to monetary value, is the only worth of the objects in museum collections,” O’Hare asked in his piece, “Aside from maybe someday appearing in a scholarly article… just how are these works creating cultural value if no one is looking at them?”

O’Hare’s argument would affect more than just the Berkshire brawl.

. . . .

MoMA director Glenn Lowry even knowingly took a step toward the killing fields when he declared on this week’s episode of In Other Words, the Art Agency, Partners podcast, that museums…

“…should deaccession rigorously in order to either acquire more important works of art or build endowments to support programming…. It doesn’t benefit anyone when there are millions of works of art that are languishing in storage…. We would be far better off, in my opinion, allowing others to have those works of art that might enjoy them, but even more importantly, converting that [resource] to… support public programs, exhibitions, publications.”

Lowry’s advance here—applauded by O’Hare in a brief blog post—is about more than just stumping for museums to edit their holdings via sales. He’s also suggesting that institutions consider sanctioning a new use for the proceeds: bolstering their endowments so that the added revenue could be funneled into museum programming and publishing.

. . . .

With only a few exceptions, art museums refuse to put monetary values on their collections in their publicly available financial disclosures. As he describes it in an earlier long read for Democracy, “When [a museum] buys a painting, there’s an expense, and then it just disappears [from the balance sheet], as though they bought lunch for everyone and ate it.”

Why is this the standard? To invoke Desmarais’s earlier contention, it’s a way of arguing via the sorcery of accounting that something worth money outside the museum magically transforms into something only worth culture thereafter.

No matter where you stand on deaccessioning policy, this practice is objectively absurd. Even for people who take the AAMD and AAM’s guidelines as sacred texts, their member institutions still have full blessing to sell works from the permanent collection, i.e. to capitalize on their monetary value. The only caveat is what can be done with the cash.

Link to the rest at The Gray Market Weekly

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