How Facebook, computer scientists at MIT, and members of Anonymous are finding ways to address cyberbullying:
"Lieberman is most interested in catching the egregious instances of bullying and conflict that go destructively viral. So another of the tools he has created is a kind of air-traffic-control program for social-networking sites, with a dashboard that could show administrators where in the network an episode of bullying is turning into a pileup, with many users adding to a stream of comments—à la Let’s Start Drama. 'Sites like Facebook and Formspring aren’t interested in every little incident, but they do care about the pileups,' Lieberman told me. 'For example, the week before prom, every year, you can see a spike in bullying against LGBT kids. With our tool, you can analyze how that spreads—you can make an epidemiological map. And then the social-network site can target its limited resources. They can also trace the outbreak back to its source.' Lieberman’s dashboard could similarly track the escalation of an assault on one kid to the mounting threat of a gang war. That kind of data could be highly useful to schools and community groups as well as the sites themselves. (Lieberman is leery of seeing his program used in such a way that it would release the kids’ names beyond the social networks to real-world authorities, though plenty of teenagers have social-media profiles that are public or semipublic—meaning their behavior is as well.)"
PUBLISHED: Feb. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6218 words)
It remains nearly impossible for investors to understand what's going on inside the big banks—and what risks they're taking on:
"When we asked Dane Holmes, the head of investor relations at Goldman Sachs, why so few people trust big banks, he told us, 'People don’t understand the banks,' because 'there is a lack of transparency.' (Holmes later clarified that he was talking about average people, not the sophisticated investors with whom he interacts on an almost hourly basis.) He is certainly right that few students or plumbers or grandparents truly understand what big banks do anymore. Ordinary people have lost faith in financial institutions. That is a big enough problem on its own.
"But an even bigger problem has developed—one that more fundamentally threatens the safety of the financial system—and it more squarely involves the sort of big investors with whom Holmes spends much of his time. More and more, the people in the know don’t trust big banks either."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 2, 2013
LENGTH: 37 minutes (9440 words)
From The Daily Beast's David Sessions, a collection of stories on gun violence and policy in the U.S., featuring The Atlantic, Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek and Mother Jones.
[Fiction] A man receives a letter from his deceased brother:
'My brother hired you to give me a message after he was dead?'
Harding smiled and nodded.
'He died six and a half months ago,' I said. 'What took you so long?'
'His wish was for us to execute his instructions not less than half a year after his demise.'
'Is this some kinda legal thing?'
'It is a simple agreement between FRC and your brother,' Lance Harding said, maintaining an aura of imperturbable patience. 'Often individuals wish to pass on knowledge outside of the rubric of wills and other legal formats. Some leave a spoken message, others might wish to pass along a note or a small package.'
'Seth didn’t have much,' I said. 'He couldn’t have anything to hide.'
'We all have something to hide, Mr. Vaness. Either that or something is hidden from us.'
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2012
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5665 words)
Author Ann Patchett on opening an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tenn. at a time when brick and mortar bookstores are considered dead:
"I was starting to understand the role that the interviews would play in that success. In my 30s, I had paid my rent by writing for fashion magazines. I found Elle to be the most baffling, because its editors insisted on identifying trends. Since most fashion magazines 'closed' (industry jargon for the point at which the pages are shipped to the printing plant) three months before they hit newsstands, the identification of trends, especially from Nashville, required an act of near-clairvoyance. Finally, I realized what everyone in fashion already knew: a trend is whatever you call a trend. This spring in Paris, fashionistas will wear fishbowls on their heads. In my hotel room in Australia, this insight came back to me more as a vision than a memory. 'The small independent bookstore is coming back,' I told reporters in Bangladesh and Berlin. 'It’s part of a trend.'
"My act was on the road, and with every performance, I tweaked the script, hammering out the details as I proclaimed them to strangers: All things happen in a cycle, I explained—the little bookstore had succeeded and grown into a bigger bookstore. Seeing the potential for profit, the superstore chains rose up and crushed the independents, then Amazon rose up and crushed the superstore chains. Now that we could order any book at any hour without having to leave the screen in front of us, we realized what we had lost: the community center, the human interaction, the recommendation of a smart reader rather than a computer algorithm telling us what other shoppers had purchased. I promised whoever was listening that from those very ashes, the small independent bookstore would rise again."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 29, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4590 words)
A eulogy for the visionary architect, who died this week:
"Like many people, I was—and remain—devastated to have learned that architect Lebbeus Woods passed away last night, just as the hurricane was moving out of New York City and as his very neighborhood, Lower Manhattan, had temporarily become part of the Atlantic seabed, floodwaters pouring into nearby subway tunnels and knocking out power to nearly every building south of 23rd Street, an event seemingly predicted, or forewarned, by Lebbeus's own work.
"I can't pretend to have been a confidant of his, let alone a professional colleague, but Lebbeus's influence over my own interest in architecture is impossible to exaggerate and his kindness and generosity as a friend to me here in New York City was an emotionally and professionally reassuring thing to receive—to a degree that I am perhaps only now fully realizing."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 30, 2012
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1806 words)
Inside Google's secretive Ground Truth program—and why it suddenly makes sense that they are working on a self-driving car:
"Let's step back a tiny bit to recall with wonderment the idea that a single company decided to drive cars with custom cameras over every road they could access. Google is up to five million miles driven now. Each drive generates two kinds of really useful data for mapping. One is the actual tracks the cars have taken; these are proof-positive that certain routes can be taken. The other are all the photos. And what's significant about the photographs in Street View is that Google can run algorithms that extract the traffic signs and can even paste them onto the deep map within their Atlas tool."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 6, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2414 words)