Skip to main content

University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 6/8/18: Tweet M for Murder

Tweet M for Murder
An amateur sleuth in Spain attracted a landslide of online attention when he claimed on Twitter to have solved a murder the police ruled a suicide. Via dozens of tweets and photographic evidence, he laid out clues that led to the culprit. It seemed credible to many, but turned out to be an unintended lesson in the era of fake news and internet manipulation, according to BBC News.

Baby’s first word
It had to happen. What does a modern baby hear more often than “Mama” or “Da-da” in its first year? How about “Alexa”? According to a New York Post article, a British couple claims their baby’s first word was “Alexa.” “Alexa, order me a dozen nappies, a box of biscuits and a baby bouncer.” 

Cracking the Vatican Code
The Vatican’s Secret Archives (yes, they’re real) is a treasure trove of historic documents, like the papal bull that excommunicated Martin Luther and missives s from Mary, Queen of Scots. But until now, most of these handwritten documents have been inaccessible to scholars, since optical character recognition (OCR) software only works with typeset text. The Atlantic describes a new technology combining AI and OCR that may hold the key to cracking open these and other handwritten historic archives around the world.

Five steps to inbox zero
It’s not an impossible dream. Tech Republic offers five tips to keep that inbox sparkling clean, with practical advice on using filters and deleting emails once they’ve been answered. No more excuses!

Is it real… or is it Duplex?
Voice recognition software just keeps getting better and better. If you haven’t already heard them, listen to the phone calls Google’s virtual assistant Duplex made to some unsuspecting humans, demoed at a recent conference. The Vergecontemplates the ethics and implications of the achievement.

Compliments of Innovation Enterprise, here’s an infographic that traces the history of voice recognition, from a toy dog in the 1920s to Alexa and Duplex.

Avis tries harder
What’s a car rental company to do in the era of self-driving cars and ride-sharing? With a dwindling demand for rental cars, Avis is exploring intriguing options for its future, such as electric bikes, charging networks, car cleaning services and maintenance, according to Wired.

Read me a story
We love audiobooks for long walks, long drives and tedious household chores. has compiled a thoughtful list of sites where one can download audiobooks free, legally. And they’re not all pre-1923 public domain volumes, either. 

Honey, I shrank the URL!
You’ve found a video or comic you want to share via email, so you copy the link and end up with the URL from hell, with six lines of tracking data. What portion can you strip off safely before sending?  Lifehacker has found an app that does it for you and works in Chrome and Firefox to tidy up those long, clunky web addresses.

Reclaim your privacy
They claim we’re in control of our privacy data, but big tech companies know that 95% of us won’t change a darn thing on their default privacy settings. This Washington Post article digs into the policies of some prominent companies to share 15 settings you should change right now.

The non-view from 30,000 feet
Air travel these days can already make passengers feel like sardines stuffed in cans, so why not take the next step and remove planes’ windows? Emirates airlines is considering replacing real windows with virtual windows to make planes lighter and save on fuel costs, reports ABC News Australia. Claustrophobics may need to consider the train. 

 News from UMSI

How can a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors help high school girls learn to code in Python? UMSI assistant professor Robin Brewer explains her outreach project Brave Initiatives in this video, “Changing Lives through Code. Watch the video.