Tag Archives: Some

Facebook, Twitter and Google Finally Got Some Good Feedback on Their Anti-Hate Speech Efforts
February 4, 2019 12:44 pm|Comments (0)

European Union officials have given Facebook, Google and Twitter a rare pat on the back, for cutting the time it takes to scrub hate speech from their platforms.

The EU’s crusade against hate speech is a long-running issue that has involved threats of new regulation, as happened in Germany, if the big social media firms don’t do more to tackle the problem. As things stand, the companies have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct.

On Monday the European Commission—the bloc’s executive body—said its clean-up drive is bearing fruit. According to its statistics, 89% of suspect content is being evaluated within a day of someone flagging it up, and 72% of the content that is found to be illegal is removed.

For comparison’s sake, those figures were 40% and 28% respectively, back in 2016. The stats come from civil society organizations that monitor take-downs across various EU countries.

“Illegal hate speech online is not only a crime, it represents a threat to free speech and democratic engagement,” said Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová in a statement. “In May 2016, I initiated the Code of conduct on online hate speech, because we urgently needed to do something about this phenomenon. Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech.”

The European Commission claimed “there is no sign of over-removal,” and noted that content using racial slurs and degrading images in reference to certain groups is only removed in 58.5% of cases.

Facebook is apparently being especially cooperative, assessing 92.6% of hate-speech notifications within 24 hours. This is notable, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently pledged to make Facebook—whose AI isn’t yet fully up to the task—better at properly adjudicating what qualifies as hate speech and what doesn’t. The company’s nature as a conduit for hate speech was highlighted last year by its reported role in the Myanmar genocide.

The Commission’s one gripe on Monday was the lack of transparency and feedback to users, when content gets flagged up and removed—the levels of feedback actually fell over the last year, from 68.9% to 65.4%. Again, Facebook did well here, while YouTube failed quite badly, offering feedback less than quarter of the time.

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Delta Air Lines Just Got Some Incredibly Good News. (and Just In the Nick of Time)
January 5, 2019 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

If one raises checked bag fees, almost all the rest quickly follow suit. If one squeezes more passengers into basic economy, then most of the rest do as well.

Often, the only way an airline can stand out is to do the single, basic thing that they’re paid to do–but be better at it than competing airlines do. In other words, get you from point A to point B, safely and on time.

Thank God, the safety part of the equation has been near-perfect in the United States recently, with the single exception of a Southwest Airlines passenger who died in an in-flight incident last year. 

That leaves only the race to be on time. It’s why American Airlines treats on-time departures as the number-1 metric by which employees are judged.

And it’s why Delta Air Lines must be absolutely thrilled with the news that the airline got this week. That’s because Flight Global released its list of the most on-time airlines in the world.

And for the second year in a row, Delta is number-1 on the list. It’s the only U.S. airline ever to earn the distinction, which is based on a year’s worth of analysis of 124,000 flights every day.

If a flight arrives within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time, it’s considered on-time according to Flight Global. By that standard, Delta gets an 89 percent on-time arrival rate.

Here’s the full list of 10:

  1. Delta
  2. Qatar Airways
  3. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  4. ANA
  5. Aeroflot
  6. Alitalia
  7. Emirates
  8. United Airlines
  9. American Airlines
  10. SAS

Not everything is rosy for Delta. If you’re an investor, you might be a little concerned about the financials Delta released this week, which dropped its stock and led to questions about the airline industry as a whole.

But if you’re a passenger, or if you’re an airline trying to improve this one metric because you think it’s one of the main remaining differences between you and many of your rivals, it’s welcome news indeed. 

Published on: Jan 5, 2019

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China's Didi to halt some mainland services in new safety measures
September 4, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing said on Tuesday it will halt some late-night services in mainland China including taxi and ride-hailing operations between Sept 8 and Sept 15 as part of their steps to improve safety.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing is seen at their new drivers center in Toluca, Mexico, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo

Didi also said in a statement it will upgrade its police hotline function for customers and its investments for customer service.

The firm has been under mounting pressure from regulators and consumers after a 20-year-old passenger was murdered by her Didi driver in August. Another passenger was killed by a driver in May.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; editing by Jason Neely

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Some Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram users face temporary outage
September 4, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc on Monday said a technical problem prevented some users from accessing and posting on the social network as well as messaging app Whatsapp and Instagram, and it had mostly fixed the issue.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

“Earlier today, a networking issue caused some people to have trouble accessing or posting to various Facebook services. We quickly investigated and started restoring access, and we have nearly fixed the issue for everyone. We’re sorry for the inconvenience,” Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said.

Most affected users experienced problems for less than 90 minutes and the problem was not specific to a particular region.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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United Airlines Has Some Great News About Its Business (There's Bad News for Passengers)
August 12, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Even if it says so itself.

The airline just released some figures for July, and, at a cursory glance, they’re glowing.

Consolidated traffic (revenue passenger miles) increased 6.9 percent and consolidated capacity (available seat miles) increased 4.0 percent versus July 2017. UAL’s July 2018 consolidated load factor increased 2.4 points compared to July 2017.

Won’t you look at that?

This means the airline’s packing them in and making lots of money.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that domestic traffic rose by 9.1 percent in July. Compared to last July, that is.

And Lordy, the airline is doing wonderfully in the regions. There, traffic is up a pulsating 17.6 percent.

United’s also packing them in on each flight.

The so-called load factor (number of people who are actually paying) at home soared to 90.5 percent. That’s a 2.6 percent increase.

United was loaded internationally, too. A 2.2 percent increase to 87.8 percent.

People are paying to fly United and there are more flights to more places, which makes the United world a wonderful place.

Alright, if you read the headline at all — and if you didn’t, what are you doing here? — there’s a little bad news. 

You see, when you pack more people onto your planes, it might take a little longer. 

That’s what appears to be happening. All this success in selling tickets appears to be leading to a reduction in on-time departures, the beautifully named D0. 

A mere 62.3 percent of mainline flights — that is, the non-regional variety — departed on time or even slightly early. 

This is a 1 percent drop from this time last year.

This isn’t, of course, merely an inconvenience for passengers. When a plane departs late, cabin crew must explain themselves to their bosses.

Well, you see, it was like this. There were so many darned people. And have you seen all that stuff they bring on planes? 

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Want to Turn Planes Around Faster? Delta, United, and Southwest Have Some Creative Ideas
August 5, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

We saw separately how Delta Air Lines customer service agents came up with an idea that shaves a couple of minutes off turnaround time for the airline’s jets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 

I was curious whether other lines did the same or similar thing, so I reached out to all of the Big Four. Southwest and United replied, while Delta also responded with a couple of other ideas worthy of attention.

Turnaround time is a big deal. The FAA reported in 2010 that flight delays cost the U.S. economy roughly $ 32.9 billion a year. Andit’s one of the key metrics on which airlines  judge themeselves.

Here are some of the other things big airlines are doing to turn airplanes around more quickly.

45 degree pushback

This is the original idea that Delta customer service agents came up with. We’ll summarize it here: Instead of pushing an airplane straight back from the gate, then turning it 90 degrees and pushing it again, the idea is to push straight back at a 45 degree angle.

This simple change shaves about a minute or more off turnaround time, which really adds up over 1,000 or more flights a day. Delta does it at Atlanta and Detroit. And, United tells me they do a 45-degree pushback at some airports as well, “depending on a variety of factors including aircraft type and setup of gate.”

The Quick Turn Playbook

This one is all United. The airline has what it calls a “Quick Turn Playbook,” which is a proprietary document that it says outlines “how all departments work together to help reduce the amount of time it takes to service and turn an aircraft.”

“The playbook was developed with the help and input of United frontline employees,” a United spokesperson told me. “We continue to go back to employees to solicit feedback on how it can be continuously improved.”

Maybe it’s working: United ranked #1 among competitors during the Q2 of 2018 for on-time departures.

Open seating

Yes, this one is limited to only one big airline–Southwest–and they were quick to point it out when I asked about turnaround tactics. Letting passengers take any open seat “saves us valuable time and keeps our aircraft moving efficiently,” as a spokesperson put it.

It’s hard to understand why other airlines don’t copy this–perhaps not on entire plans, but maybe by letting economy passengers board in order of how expensive their fares are?

Self-parking guidance systems

Both Delta and United told me they use laser-guided parking systems at some airports and gates. 

Instead of an employee standing on the ground and guiding the plane in with a couple of orange flags or lights, the laser system lets the pilot know how to inch the plane up to the gate, and when to stop. That means the employees can get ready to hook airplanes up to ground power and do other tasks more quickly.

Not charging for checked bags

Again, this is just Southwest, which doesn’t charge bag fees for any passengers. That’s in contrast to economy class passengers on United, American and Delta.

As a result, on any given Southwest flight there are likely fewer people carrying bags onto the plane and trying to put them in an overhead compartment to avoid a bag fee. That means less blocking of the aisles, and a faster process. 

The one they’re not doing

I found a few other interesting tactics. Ryanair, the low cost European carrier, says it cut turnaround time “dramatically” by removing seat back pockets, which means there’s no place for passengers to stick trash that has to be cleaned out. 

But the interesting one is a more complicated boarding dance called the Steffen Method, after the astrophysicist who came up with it in 2014. In summary, passengers would board from the outside in: window, then middle, and then aisle. And they’d board from the back, skipping every other row.

One drawback: Travelers flying together couldn’t board together if they were really strict about the process. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t really caught on.

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Fortnite's Stink Bombs Do Some Pretty Serious Damage
June 19, 2018 6:08 pm|Comments (0)
Most read

, I write about video games and technology. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Credit: Epic Games

Fortnite: Battle Royale’s new stink bombs.

Fortnite got a new weapon today, and while that’s a sentence you can write just about every other week, this week’s feels like it might actually have the potential to change the way the game is played. The stink bomb went live today, and it’s basically a cute name for mustard gas: a brutal, yellowish cloud that forms sulfuric acid in your lungs and melts you from the inside. Despite the aesthetic similarities, Epic want sto be sure that you know the stink bomb is not that. Regardless, it’s just as brutal. Damage was a major question when the stink bomb first released, and I can assure you: the thing hurts.

Like most players, my first experience with the legendary-tier stink bomb was on the receiving end. I was playing squads without teammates because I was getting some challenges done and I find they’re easier in squads. So I was already at a steep disadvantage when I came across three opponents by the indoor soccer stadium. Regardless, I built my little 1X1 fort and took aim, like you do. I was immediately pelted by at least two stink bombs, rendering my fort completely unusable. I did the only thing that I could do and hopped out, where I was immediately shotgunned by the players that had been using the stink as a cover for an approach.

The stink here does 5 damage every half-second for 9 seconds for a total of 9 seconds, which is just under what it takes to kill an opponent at full health. Despite the two grenades, the damage I received did not appear to stack, meaning I still only received the five damage per half second. Regardless, that was enough to make my life very unpleasant. It means that if I were to have stayed put it would only have taken 10 health damage to put me down for good.

I’d expect this to change the game in interesting ways. Right now, explosives and wild firing are the only real area control methods, and neither does so as effectively as the stink bomb. It could really change the way the early moments of an encounter go if one player is able to scare the other out of their fort without losing access to theirs. I’m interested to see what this looks like at the higher levels.

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Why the Supreme Court's Ruling in Favor of a Colorado Baker Has Some Unlikely Cheerleaders
June 5, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop, which has been hailed as a victory for religious freedom–and a loss for gay rights advocacy groups–is getting some cheers from a surprising corner of the U.S.: non-religious entrepreneurs.

“While I thoroughly disapprove of [Jack] Phillips’ values, I fully respect his right to run his business in accordance with those values, just as I reserve the right for myself,” says Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant and founder of the firm GreenAndProfitable.com. He notes that while the ruling, at face value, seems unfair to gay and lesbian patrons, the logic of the Court’s decision is solid; it similarly protects entrepreneurs who object to serving, say, openly racist clientele.

Entrepreneurs aren’t siding with Jack Phillips–the owner of the Lakewood, Colorado bakery, recently vindicated in this case–for religious reasons. Rather, some support the High Court’s decision because they simply don’t want to be told how to run their companies. That’s true even among religious founders.

“For me, I prefer to run my practice without government coercion and decide proactively to assist people from divergent perspectives, as opposed to being forced by the heavy hand of the law to do that,” says David Engelhardt, a practicing Christian and founder of his eponymous New York City law practice, Engelhardt Law.

Clearing the Path for Discrimination? 

Of course, plenty of entrepreneurs are livid about the ruling, as they fear it could give businesses and other institutions the freedom to mistreat minority customers. “This case will embolden even more bigots to discriminate against us,” says J Mase III. The transgender entrepreneur is the founder of a Seattle-based talent agency called awQward, which represents around 25 musicians and artists identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ).

Rachel B. Tiven had a similar reaction. In a statement, the CEO of the LGBTQ advocate Lambda Legal, based in New York City, writes: “The Supreme Court has become an accomplice in the right’s strategy to hollow out one of its finest achievements, the right to equal marriage.” 

Brittny Drye, the founder of CEO of Love, Inc., is similarly concerned that the decision will serve as a pretext for mistreatment of same-sex couples in the future. “While this isn’t a ‘defeat’ for the community, per se, it does give people an argument for not serving gay people,” Drye added. Her company, an integrated wedding site and digital magazine that serves heterosexual as well as LGBTQ couples, promotes a ‘Love List’ of vendors that support same-sex unions.

That fear may be overstated, cautions Wendy Patrick, a business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University. “The court’s limited ruling is focused on anti-religious bias against Jack Phillips, which doesn’t necessarily translate into ‘businesses can now discriminate,” she said.

The decision in the case, as Patrick alludes, has been described as “narrow,” meaning that other similar cases may not necessarily be decided along the same lines. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy insisted on Monday that the Colorado state commission had simply violated the baker’s right to religious freedom back in 2012, when it ruled against him after the couple sued. “The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” Justice Kennedy wrote in his slip opinion of the court (PDF.) 

Narrow Focus, but Long Reach

Even so, legal observers suspect that despite the narrow focus of this decision, the issue will continue to crop up. Because the commissioner supposedly treated Phillips with ‘hostility’ in the 2012 ruling, per Justice Kennedy’s telling in the slip opinion–discrimination did not occur to begin with.

“That argument doesn’t hold water,” suggests JoLynn Markison, a partner with the international law firm Dorsey and Whitney, of the idea that Phillips merely exercised his religious freedom. “The fact of the matter is that he would sell a wedding cake to a heterosexual couple, but not to a homosexual couple and the inquiry ends there.” She adds that such an idea–which smacks of the Jim Crow-era notion of ‘Separate but Equal’–has been used to discriminate against other minorities in decades previous. “Let’s say someone has a sincerely held religious belief that black and white people shouldn’t marry. That’s discrimination,” she says, adding that it’s no different from what happened here.

Although the Supreme Court has hedged, as it were, on deciding whether Phillips’ was within his rights to deny service to the couple, the ruling could influence other high-profile cases–including Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington, in which a flower retailer refused to make a wedding arrangement for a same-sex union. “There are a number of cases that are percolating in the court system right now that involve similar questions,” notes attorney Markison. “Even though the court didn’t decide that religion trumps the right to be free from discrimination, it does send a dangerous message to society at large, who may not appreciate the rationale.”

For Mase, the transgender talent agent, the signal point here is that the Supreme Court has drawn what he calls a “false equivalence” between gay people and religious business owners. “There is an assumption that LGBTQ folks have enough capacity to discriminate on the same level, which we know is not possible just based on the numbers,” he says. “This country had sodomy laws until 2003. We cannot act as though the application of the law is the same across the board.”

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Amazon’s Alexa Has A Clear Favorite – and Some Savage Analysis – for the NBA Finals
June 3, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is a handy, seamless way to listen to music and find out about the weather. As the NBA finals head into tonight’s Game 2 between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, though, the voice assistant is also dabbling in sports analysis.

If you ask Alexa “Who will win the NBA Finals this year,” it gives you the following dissertation:

“Even with both conference finals going to game 7, these playoffs were over before they even started. I think the Warriors will win the playoffs pretty handily, and the rest of the league will spend the off-season trying to figure out what they will do to damper the dynasty.”

Yes, savage. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Alexa is showing some bias – the Warriors’ home base in Oakland is much closer than the Cav’s HQ to both Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and to Silicon Valley, which you might call Alexa’s spiritual home. But Alexa’s stance is also shared by most NBA analysts (and, if the memes are any indicator, LeBron himself).

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Of course, it’s deeply misleading to say that “Alexa” has any opinions at all. While the voice assistant incorporates an array of what are known as “limited” or “weak” artificial intelligence functions, such as search and natural language processing, it doesn’t have any more opinions, emotions, or sports analysis skills than your laptop (or, for that matter, your refrigerator). Those are the realm of human-like “general” A.I., which we won’t see for nearly 20 years, at the very least.

That becomes clear if you ask Alexa a more nuanced or specific question. Ask “Alexa, who will win Game 2 of the NBA finals?” and you get the same spiel about the series as a whole. Ask “Who will be NBA MVP this season?” and the machine draws a blank. Ask “Who will be MVP of the NBA Playoffs?” and you’ll be treated, for some reason, to a summary of Game 1.

Most likely, the scripted pro-Warriors response was plugged in manually by Amazon’s Alexa team. The Game 1 report that Alexa spits out in response to almost any other Finals-related query might have been scraped from news feeds by a more automated process, similar to the way Alexa finds and reads the news or stock reports.

Fortune has reached out to Amazon for more details about their creation’s anti-Cleveland bias. But don’t worry – Alexa won’t be replacing Jeff Van Gundy on the mic anytime soon.

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Retirement Strategy: Waiting For Some Good Buys? Here Are A Few
April 23, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

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