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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 10/6/23: Don’t pet the fluffy cows

Don’t pet the fluffy cows 

Those dedicated conservationists who guard our natural parks and resources are showing a surprisingly snarky side on social media. Their goal, says Sierra magazine, is to draw people in with some “flashiness and goofiness.” That’s why the National Park Service’s Twitter feed contains advice like “Hike in groups. Bears like options'' and “Don’t pet the fluffy cows.” Check out more sage NPS tips here, but be advised: you will not be able to un-see that snake.

An up side to downtime 

Waiting sometimes feels like a huge waste of time, whether at the check-out counter, doctor’s office or bus stop. The New York Times has rounded up some apps that can turn your smartphone into a personal tutor when you’ve got a minute. Learn a language, explore global culture, brush up on coding skills, or give your brain a quick workout. Who knows, you might even look forward to that late meeting start.

First Amendment defense kit 

The American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week is October 1-7, with the theme “Let Freedom Read.” In August, the Michigan Library Association launched its own six-month “MI Right to Read” campaign for parents, encouraging residents to fight censorship and defend their First Amendment rights. Their website resources include action kits and tip sheets. Read on!

Hands across the browser 

Bing Chat now works on Chrome, Google’s browser, says SearchEngineLand. Initially, Microsoft launched its AI chatbot to only work on its own Edge browser. But in late August, Bing’s CEO announced it’s now 100% functional on Chrome, with Safari support coming soon. Of course, he cautions, it works best on Microsoft Edge.

ZDNet has a quick overview of Bing Chat vis-a-vis ChatGPT, in case you’re curious.

Looking for love in all the wrong places 

Perhaps it's the (nominal) end of the pandemic that’s causing dating site patronage to soar. For anyone considering looking for love online, The Conversation has some tips on how to screen for possible online romance scams. With nearly 70,000 reported victims and over $1.3 billion in losses in 2022, learning those bad actors’ scripts and patterns could help avoid heartache or worse.

According to Marketplacedating sites like Tinder and Bumble are trying new price tiers, similar to other popular online services. Tinder’s new premium subscription could cost upwards of $500 a month. Other sites are offering weekly premium memberships, so users can sample the features and decide if the higher price is worth it. Hmmm, maybe you can buy love.

Clickety-clack, cyberattack 

Computer scientists at three English universities have used AI to simulate a cyberattack where a deep learning module was able to figure out a password someone typed on a keyboard using audio recordings from Zoom and a smartphone. It’s called an acoustic side channel attack and new technology makes it easier. Mashable has advice on how to protect your passwords, if you still don’t have a password manager.

Wash me 

If you’ve ever caught the light just right on your laptop screen and gagged, this Popular Science article is for you. How to clean your computer screen without destroying it seems like a good thing to know. Think your screen is squeaky clean? Try their black image test and find out.

Chat with Charles Darwin 

Education nonprofit Kahn Academy is employing AI in some interesting ways this fall while classroom testing its chatbot, Kahnmigo. CNN business writer Nadia Bidarian was especially intrigued by a feature that allows students to chat with historical and fictional characters such as Cleopatra, George Washington or Hamlet. Read an excerpt from Bidarian’s “conversation” with Einstein, who unfortunately couldn’t comment on his portrayal in Oppenheimer.

How the net was won 

Even people closely associated with the School of Information may not know that the heart of the internet was once on North Campus. Or of the role that the University of Michigan and UMSI Professor Emeritus Douglas Van Houweling played in the creation of the network that would change the world. The U-M Heritage Project has the backstory, and it’s a great one.

When the truant officer is a robot 

One Japanese city is turning to robots to help ease some children’s reluctance to return to school post-Covid, says The Guardian. Equipped with cameras, microphones and speakers, two robots will circulate in classrooms and roam the halls, communicating with children at home what it’s like to be back in school - and how much fun they’re missing.