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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 10/2/19: This issue rocks asdfasdfasdf!

The world of information - in Fun Size!

UMSI's Fun Size digest features tiny, delicious news tidbits relating to information and library topics. Reach us at [email protected].

Assisted living

Placing digital assistants like Echo Dot in senior living environments is proving very popular, writes Tanya Basu in MIT Technology Review. In a Dutch study, participants who tested Google Home for two weeks didn’t want to give the devices back. They said it was like having a new friend to talk to and wanted to rename it so they didn’t have to address it as “Hey, Google.”

Alexa, explain yourself

Speaking of home assistants, why did Alexa answer a question you didn’t ask or start playing music you didn’t request? Soon, according to Amazon, the helpful home assistant will be able to explain, when you ask “Why did you do that?” If she didn’t do what you asked, she’ll have an answer for that too. And probably in a more polite tone than your kid’s.

Funny ha ha or funny peculiar?

The New Yorker cartoon caption contest inspired frequent-entrant, never-winner, data scientist and blogger Aaron Wilson to develop an algorithm that generates cartoon captions for single-panel cartoons in 19 categories. A.I. clearly has a ways to go, but you can still have some fun with his caption generator.

Suspicious citation

Professors groan; students rejoice. A digital product agency, aptly named MSCHF, has dreamed up some mischief that turns any Wikipedia page into what appears to be a legitimate academic article from the made-up M-Journal.It even generously provides citations in MLA, APA and Chicago styles, BuzzFeed.News reports.

We’re not #1

Coursera, the global online learning platform, recently released its first Global Skills IndexThe index benchmarked 60 countries and 10 industries for business, technology, and data science skills. Key findings include the U.S.’s middling ranking in skill proficiency and a shrinking demand for business skills. It may be time to sign up for a few data science courses – on Coursera.

Big free library

File under Too Good to Be True. The Broward County SunSentinel (FL) reports that anyone, anywhere can apply online and get a Broward County library card, gaining access to the library’s entire online collection. Resources include OverDrive, Hoopla and Rosetta Stone. “Just making visitors feel at home,” say county officials. “People would like it if you handed out $20 bills, too,” says a library worker worried about the unfair burden on taxpayers.

A date with disaster

OK, you’ve swiped right. Now, what do you talk about to a complete stranger? Tinder to the rescue, says the New York Times, with a scripted, choose-your-own-adventure series. The four episodes of SwipeNight, aimed at 18-25 year olds, present an apocalyptic scenario where viewer choices create the outcome. Did you both save the same person? Discuss!

A smashing success

In our never-ending quest to keep Fun Size readers on the cutting edge of texting jargon, we bring you the keysmash, a random cluster of letters used to express high emotion – like frustration or excitement. explains asdfasdfasdf and why those letters are used instead of hjklhjkl.

Dollar signs in your eyes

Your streaming device is tattling on you and there’s not much you can do about it, says Kate Cox, writing for Ars Technica. Two separate studies have shown that modern internet-based streaming devices – delivering our Hulu, Netflix and other favorites – are feeding our data to Google, Amazon and Facebook. The better to advertise to you, my dears.

News from UMSI

Paul Resnick, Michael D. Cohen Professor of Information at the University of Michigan, will receive the “CSCW Lasting Impact Award” for groundbreaking research he co-authored. The award honors “GroupLens: an open architecture for collaborative filtering of netnews,” published at the 1994 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW).

The award recognizes a paper published at the CSCW conference at least 10 years ago that has been extremely influential since its publication. Read more.