Web publishing and image files

As part of my course at Charles Sturt University, I have just learnt something simple yet amazing – which file format to use for images and when!

I had always wondered what the difference was between a PNG, JPG and GIF, and when I should use each of these file types. If you are making eLearning content, webpages or printing posters with images, then you should know the difference between these files types. To summarise what I have learnt:

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Machine Learning

Continuing on from my earlier post about Facial Recognition, let’s talk about machine learning. This is a type of artificial intelligence that lets machines ‘learn’. So just as facial recognition software is able to ‘learn’ by building templates of faces, other machines can learn a vast array of useful information.

For example, a company called Jigsaw has recently announced a new technology to help identify trolls and inappropriate comments on websites (via Engadget). These types of systems are usually given a data bank of typical examples of the content they are learning. Here, the machine (known as ‘Perspective’) was given a huge amount of comments labelled as ‘toxic’ by human reviewers. It can then use these as templates to identify more similar comments. Each time it is correct, or incorrect, it becomes more accurate.

4-04-2017 3-40-02 PMAnother example, which is a whole lot of fun, is Google’s ‘Quick, Draw‘ game. Simply press play, and you’ll be given 20 seconds to draw a simple item. These doodles are then saved to “the world’s largest doodle data set” to help with machine learning research in the future. As you draw, you can see the machine recognising your pictures (or not) in comparison to other pictures people have drawn of the same item. Give it a go, it’s very addictive!

Other examples include algorithms that recognise and filter email spam, provide you with ‘you may also like’ suggestions and targeting advertisements at you.

So what does this mean for us humans? Is this the beginning of the end a la Terminator movies? Hopefully not. These systems still need a lot of human guidance, but every new development is truly amazing. And if it simplifies my life and work, I’m all for it!

 

Wunderlist

Oh excitement! If you are a list-maker, than this is the application for you!

WUNDERLIST

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Using this program makes me very happy, because I love to be organised.

You can download it onto your phone and other devices and sync all your lists, as well as just using it as a webpage on your desktop.

The premise is pretty simple. Create a category, such as ‘work’, ‘groceries’ or ‘packing’ and then create each item in the list. You can set dates, email reminders and star important items. You can even share lists with other people.

The best part – when you tick something off as completed, you get a very satisfying ‘ding’!

I definitely recommend downloading this to anyone who usually has a thousand post-it notes and scrappy lists lying around. It’s definitely my new favourite thing!! 🙂

 

Lego and coding

I have to say – I love Lego. When I was a kid and now as an adult, it really is the best. Fun, creative and practical, I could/can spend hours constructing new creations, or following plans to make a model. Even the Lego movie was amazing!

And I have just seen some of their new products, bringing together traditional Lego with high-tech robotics!! So. Cool.

And of course, these would be great for Maker spaces.

Lego Mindstorms aimed at young adults can be seen here, including a video demo.

Lego Boost, aimed at kids (7+), comes with a companion app to teach coding. Check it out here.

Even as an adult, these funky little robots look like so much fun to build and play with! I hope I can find an excuse to give these a go soon 🙂

 

Facial Recognition

Continuing on a similar thread from the past few posts this year – let’s chat quickly about facial recognition.

It’s pretty freaky when you upload a photo to social media and the image is automatically tagged with the people in it. Very accurately too. According to the article ‘Is Facebook’s Facial-Scanning Technology Invading Your Privacy Rights?‘ Facebook’s DeepFace recognition software has “an accuracy rate of 97.35 percent compared with 97.5 percent for humans”

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I don’t ever remember being given a notification or option to ‘opt out’ of having my face recognised by this technology, and thus this is another example of our privacy potentially being invaded without us even thinking about it. Think how useful this type of information could be to an identity thief. Because you cannot change your face (unless you are willing to go super sci-fi and try out a ‘Face Off’ style scenario) this type of ‘biometric identifier’ can be used to link all sorts of information about you.

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Internet of Things

To continue with the discussion of online privacy from a post earlier this year, I wanted to briefly mention the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT basically just means where everyday items have internet connectivity, so they can send and receive data. So we have ‘smart watches’ and ‘smart rings‘, fridges with the internet to do grocery shopping on and so forth. You can read more about this trend on the Center for the Future of Libraries webpage.

While these advances are exciting, few people seem to stop and think about how these products can affect our privacy.

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Online Privacy

Let’s start the new year with a topic I’ve been keen to write about for a while now; online privacy.

First, online privacy matters. Yes, even if “you have nothing to hide”. Because really, you do have something to hide in a sense, otherwise you wouldn’t have curtains or wear clothes (as Christopher Soghoian discusses in the TED talk/article). Amnesty International even goes so far as to label encryption as a human rights issue to protect and promote free expression (see Electronic Frontier Foundation).

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According to Collier in Vocativ, “Plenty of people across Europe and the United States agree on the importance of keeping their data private. But according to a new survey, far fewer are willing to do anything to protect it.” Another article in Vocativ explains that many Americans are willing to give up their online privacy for more convenience in their online behaviour. Though these views seem to alter by age, and type of situation. For example younger people, especially when using social media, were more willing to accept the sharing of their personal information (for example to receive personalised ads).

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Minecraft: Education edition

In case you’ve been living under a very square pixelated rock, Minecraft is a super popular game amongst the young ones.

Many libraries have utilised this game in their makerspaces, and now the company has announced the Minecraft Education edition.

The game that promotes creativity, collaboration and problem-solving is pretty awesome, and I am a keen supporter of gamification in schools and libraries, so I am very excited to see this expanded version.

The classroom version will include a camera that allows students to create portfolios, chalkboards for instructions, starer worlds, and in-game characters who exist only to help players out. They’ll also offer teachers lessons in how to get the most out of Minecraft’s teaching opportunities. [states Vocativ]

I wish I was still a student so I could learn by play using Minecraft, instead of the big heavy old textbooks I had!!

If you would like to know more about gamification in libraries and education, a division of the American Library Association has a nice summary article to read.

More specifically, the American Association of Law Libraries has published an article about the rewards and risks of gamification.

Writing for the Web

I recently attended a course which discussed the best way to write for the web. We were given examples of real websites that quite clearly lacked these techniques – and the difference in readability was quite evident.

So I present to you; a few tips for writing for the web! (Broken into the 5 sections the course reviewed)Read More »