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Fun Size for 3/2/20: A bracelet that baffles Alexa

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 umsi.funsize@umich.edu.

Books beat movies 2-1

Bookbub reports a recent Gallup poll found that in 2019, Americans visited libraries twice as often as they attended a movie theater. Midwesterners had the highest usage with an average of 12.9 visits a year (yay!). Lower income families visited more often than affluent families, underlining the value that libraries contribute by making information accessible to all.


One busy bot

There are just 16.5 million speakers of Cebuano, a language in the Philippines, compared to 2 billion speakers of English. So how come the Cebuano Wikipedia has the second highest number of articles after the English edition? The explanation, presented by Motherboard Tech by Vice, is a single bot created by a Swedish physicist, which is responsible for 99% of the Cebuano edition’s content.


Bangle jangles Alexa

When he wants Alexa in the home and she objects, what to do? From the New York Times comes the story of two University of Chicago computer scientists who put their techie heads together and came up with a solution, an Echo-jamming "bracelet of silence." When activated, the chunky bangle’s 24 speakers emit a high-frequency sound that microphones pick up instead of speech. Though you might not want to wear it around your dog. 


The art of vintage advertising

Ooh, la la! My Modern Met reveals the Minneapolis College of Art and Design has made a curated collection of 200 posters from La Belle Époque available for download. Iconic posters range from ads for the Moulin Rouge and Folies-Bergère to restaurants, liquor, cigarettes and the London Underground. Tour the Flickr gallery for an eyeful of elegance.


When corn met wheat

Another institution of higher ed, the University of Texas - San Antonio, has digitized its extensive collection of Mexican cookbooks, many hand-written and some dating back to the 18th century, says The Takeout.com. The books chronicle the blending of two cultures – European and native American – through the evolution of recipes.


Wikipedia exonerated

Praising Wikipedia no longer self-identifies you as an idiot, claims Richard Cooke, writing for Wired. He calls Wikipedia “The Last Best Place on the Internet,” lauding its army of dedicated, anonymous editors and celebrating the site as “a community, a library, an experiment and the closest thing to an online public square.”


Amazon’s many tentacles

Geekwire has a handy précis of the recent two-hour PBS Frontline documentary on the Amazon empire. The program explores Amazon's influence, which spans retail, cloud computing, digital media, advertising, logistics, and perhaps much more in the years ahead. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it here.


Are you lonesome tonight?

Cheer up: Some of the hottest picks of the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) could keep you company. Among these are artificial human companions and Jennie, an adorable animatronic companion dog designed by the Jim Henson Company that makes “real puppy sounds.” The 25 Best Products at CES selected by Tech Republic also include a toilet-paper-delivering robot. Now there’s an item we could get behind.


Tech watchdog goes on guard

After some juggling of editorial and executive staff, the tech watchdog website The Markup launched last week, reports the New York Times. Backed by millions from the founder of Craigslist and staffed by journalists from The Wall St. Journal, Pro Publica, Marketplace and Buzzfeed, the site describes itself as “a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change our society.” First in its sights: How Allstate uses algorithms to set insurance rates.


News from UMSI

Regents approve our new home: In the coming years, the University of Michigan’s School of Information will move from Central Campus to North Campus to share a new state-of-the-art facility with the College of Engineering’s Computer Science and Engineering division, the university has announced.

The $145 million, 163,000-square-foot addition to the Bob and Betty Beyster Building was approved February 20 by the Board of Regents. The addition will be built on the west side of the current building at 2260 Hayward St. Read more.