Human Nature

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ABC logoJust before before Easter, Microsoft let their youth-targeted chatbot named Tay loose on Twitter and other social networks — and it was a disaster.

Tay was meant to hold conversations with Americans aged 18 to 24, which is why it’s named after Taylor Swift. But the project was terminated after just 16 hours, because the bot started tweeting abuse at people, and even went full neo-Nazi, declaring that “Hitler was right I hate the jews.”

Art Technica reported some analysis of what went wrong. Davi Ottenheimer summarised the problem as “weak intelligence weakened by weakness”, and pointed me to more detailed research by Russell Cameron Thomas.

I spoke about this disaster with Robbie Buck on ABC 702 Sydney, debunking some aspects of the mainstream news stories along the way.

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This audio is ©2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

There’s a reason the list of most popular posts for 2015 was so disappointing. Take out the posts related to podcasts and crowdfunding, or were audio or video grabs from my media appearances, or were a Weekly Wrap, are you’re left with just two.

  1. It’s time to turn around the Revenue Ship, and fast, 5 April. This was a reflection on the need to get some revenue happening. I probably should have paid more attention.
  2. Algorithms and the Filter Bubble references for 2015, 11 September. These were the notes for my lecture at University of Technology Sydney.

Obviously all my interesting writing is now elsewhere, at the mastheads that pay for it. But this fact has gotten me thinking. More on these thoughts soon.

It has been my custom at the end of each year to list the most-read posts on my website. But this list for 2015 is most disappointing. Perhaps this list might be the last. Or at least the last in this form.

Chart of website traffic 2015

This website doesn’t get much traffic. Once you take out the home page, the about page, and the media page, most pages are only viewed few hundred times.

And in terms of popularity, you have to get past some ancient stuff that just happens to have plenty of Google juice — including all the pre-2015 items listed over the fold — before you get to something actually written in 2015. In 26th spot.

Even then, all ten items are posts related to The 9pm Edict podcast, and I’m pretty sure they only got traffic because I tweeted them repeatedly.

  1. Announcing “The 9pm Live Animal Experiments 1”, 3 November. Even this supposedly “most popular” post only scored 179 pageviews.
  2. The 9pm Sleepless in Canberra, 8 February.
  3. Coming Soon: The 9pm Urgent Hardware Refresh, 24 June.
  4. Live Blog: The 9pm Dirty, Dirty Chasm, which was published in May but taken down when I changed my mind.
  5. The 9pm Orgy of Confusion, 31 May.
  6. The 9pm Planet of Fascist Delusions, 21 June.
  7. The 9pm I can’t believe it’s not January, 1 February.
  8. The 9pm Public House Forum 1, 13 September.
  9. The 9pm Malcolmgasm, 20 September.
  10. The 9pm Statement of Regret, 15 April.

The first text article is down at the the 56th spot, It’s time to turn around the Revenue Ship, and fast. It was published on 5 April, and scored just 103 pageviews.

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Screenshot of Stilgherrian from Download This Show: click for podcast websiteABC logoWould you believe it’s been more than a year since the last time Marc Fennell invited me onto Download This Show? Well, it is.

Ironically, it seems like this week’s episode was designed specifically to troll me. We discussed TV (which I don’t watch) in the context of the new Apple TV, cars (which I don’t drive) in the context of hacking them, and weddings (which I’m not interested in). Still, Janet Carr and I had fun.

Here’s how the ABC website describes the episode:

Has Apple really reinvented the ole TV box? Also is your digital DAB radio the key to hackers accessing your car? More inside…

There’s a video of the Apple TV segment over the fold. If it doesn’t work for you here, watch it on YouTube.

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ABC logoApparently South Australia had an #optuswrongtime incident today, when some customers’ devices showed the wrong time, causing chaos for them.

The same sort of thing happened in Queensland in January — that’s when the hashtag was invented — and just like then, the official explanation was less than forthcoming.

An overnight maintenance upgrade of our 4G Plus mobile network caused some Optus customers’ devices in South Australia and the Northern Territory to switch to a different time zone earlier this morning. The Optus 3G network was unaffected.

Optus technicians resolved the issue with a fix that set clocks to the correct time zone.

Customers were also able to resolve the issue in a number of ways, including:

  • Turning flight mode on and off
  • Turning automatic clock settings off and on
  • Turning their device off and on.

We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience.

I spoke about the incident this afternoon on ABC 891 Adelaide with Sonya Feldhoff.

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The audio is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logo“How relevant is handwriting in 2015, when people are increasingly communicating via text messages, via email, via tweets, Facebook updates, those sort things?”, asked ABC 891 Adelaide presenter Michael Smyth on Monday afternoon.

There are schools in Finland and the US reportedly phasing out the teaching of handwriting.

Here’s what I think is an interesting 12-minute discussion that includes a vox pop of people in Adelaide, talkback calls, and Pam Kent, president of the South Australian Primary Principals Association, as well as myself.

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The audio is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Bonus link: By a happy coincidence, this week’s episode of ABC Radio’s Future Tense asks Does handwriting have a future?

ABC logoThe Ashley Madison hack returned to the news this week, because the 30-day deadline given by Impact Team, the hacker(s) who claimed responsibility, expired, and the site’s data started being dumped onto the internet.

While I’d spoken about this before on ABC 936 Hobart, this week I spoke about the then-latest developments on Friday with ABC Gold Coast. Here’s the full conversation with morning presenter Nicole Dyer.

The site I mentioned at the end, where you can check whether your email address appears in the Ashley Madison data dump, or in many of the larger data breaches of recent years, is haveibeenpwned.com, run by Australian security researcher Troy Hunt. Use it.

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The audio is of course ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoThe information security news story of the week was, of course, the data breach at “affairs” and “cheaters” website Ashley Madison, something first reported by journalist Brian Krebs.

I spoke about this data breach in a couple of radio spots — I’m reluctant to call it a
“hack” until we have some evidence that a hack was involved, as opposed to some internal problem — but I reckon the first was the best.

Here’s that conversation, a 13-minute chat from Tuesday morning with ABC 936 Hobart morning presenter Leon Compton. Enjoy.

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The audio is of course ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoIt would be unfair to say that Randi Zuckerberg is only important because her brother is Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. She already had her own media career. Nevertheless…

Ms Zuckerberg spoke at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit in Brisbane on Wednesday, and if The Australian‘s report on Thursday is an accurate rendition, it must’ve been a disjointed jumble of ideas.

Chief amongst them was the idea of a “digital detox”, something which I’ve spoken about before. That topic caught the eye of the team at ABC 891 Adelaide, and I ended up speaking about it with Peter Goers. He normally presents the evening program, but this week he was filling in on mornings.

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The audio is of course ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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