" /> Coruscation: March 2017 Archives

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March 25, 2017

No time to study to be competent to judge many questions, then no time to believe.

Who among us has not shared posts without fact-checking them? Unfortunately, that doesn't make it right. Almost everything that we encounter online is being presented to us by for-profit algorithms, and by us, post by post, tweet by tweet. That fact, even more than the spread of fake news, can be its own sort of shell game, one that we are pulling on ourselves.

As the late-19th-century mathematician W. K. Clifford noted in his famous essay, "The Ethics of Belief," ambivalence about objective evidence is an attitude corrosive of democracy. Clifford ends the essay by imagining someone who has "no time for the long course of study" that would make him competent to judge many questions. Clifford's response is withering: "Then he should have no time to believe."

-- Michael P. Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, is the author of the "Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data." Twitter: @Plural_truth.

March 23, 2017

Job male applicants feminine language; upshot disconnect ?

Job postings for home health aides say applicants need to be
"sympathetic" and "caring," "empathetic" and focused on "families."

It turns out that doesn't lead very many men to apply.

Employers have something to do with that: An analysis of listings for the 14 fastest-growing jobs from 2014 to 2024 found that they used feminine language, which has been statistically shown to attract women and deter men. The study was done by Textio, which has analyzed 50 million job listings for language that provokes disproportionate responses from men or women.

Compare that with job listings for cartographers, one of the few fast-growing jobs that is male-dominated. It is 62 percent male and expected to grow 29 percent by 2024. Common key words were manage, forces, exceptional, proven and superior. These words tend to appeal to men and generally result in a male hire, Textio found.

Job descriptions for the two fastest-growing jobs that men mostly do -- wind turbine technicians and commercial divers -- also used masculine language.

Upshot's job-disconnect-male-applicants-feminine-language.

Textio said it improved the results for a job posting for a software development manager by changing a few words from masculine to gender neutral:
"premier" instead of "world-class,"
"extraordinary" instead of "rock star" and
"handle a fast-paced schedule" instead of "manage" it.

March 22, 2017


Economics profession: gloomy
Markets: Up
Small business owner survey: Up stratospherically

these groups are describing different things. Businesses and markets care about profits. Economists focus on workers as well as the businesses they work for, on buyers as well as sellers, and on new firms as much as existing firms. Mr. Trump's anti-regulatory zeal may help businesses but hurt workers; his anti-trade agenda could help sellers but hurt buyers; and his instincts to protect existing jobs may advantage existing businesses at the expense of the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Perhaps this fear makes sense: It's the double whammy that worries economists, that Mr. Trump's populist pose assigns less value to economic expertise, while also creating the conditions under which it's most likely to be needed.

March 20, 2017

Big Five book publishers are made up of imprints, for Milo

Publishing 101: The Big Five houses are made up of imprints

To understand publishing's right-wing imprints, first you have to understand how modern American book publishing is organized.

American trade book publishing is dominated by five publishing houses, known as the Big Five: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster. Of these, Penguin Random House is the biggest, Macmillan is the smallest, and Simon & Schuster sits comfortably in the middle.

Together, these five publishing houses make up over 80 percent of the US trade publishing market share -- meaning that they produce over 80 percent of the kinds of general-interest books that get sold in Barnes & Noble. The remainder is published by smaller independent presses, and those independent presses usually have specific areas of specialty. But the Big Five houses don't need to specialize, because they can do that on an imprint level instead of a company level.

Milo Yiannopoulos represents something new in conservative trade publishing.

Milo Yiannopoulos is not a run-of-the-mill conservative thinker. His brand is ostensibly a winking, provocative, speaking-truth-to-power punk rock ethos -- hence the title of his forthcoming book, Dangerous. But that image only rings true if you think that women, people of color, trans people, and other historically disenfranchised people have too much power over white cis men and need to be put in their place.

That is what Yiannopoulos believes deeply. And while many more mainstream conservative thinkers would agree with him that liberals have a stranglehold on the culture and bully those who disagree with them, Yiannopoulos's tactics are extreme even by their standards.

March 19, 2017

Long Island Upzoning encore

In 2001, the city rezoned the Queens Plaza/Court Square district in an attempt to turn the area into a vibrant business district. The city provided developers with the ability to build huge buildings. The rezoning did not restrict developers as to what type of building went up, therefore opening the door to luxury residential towers.


Since the rezoning, 13,000 units of housing have gone up or are in the process of going up, with only 5 percent of them--or 650 units--affordable, said City Planner Penny Lee at the meeting.

Meanwhile, City Planning's 2001 goal of adding 6 million square feet in office space has fallen well short. To date only 2 million square feet of office space has been constructed or is in the process of being constructed. The lack of office space has pushed commercial rents higher, putting pressure on small businesses.

March 17, 2017

MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again, Cernovich

A gorilla may be strong enough to mash you into the pavement, but that doesn't mean he knows anything.

In his conspiratorial and misogynistic pronouncements, Cernovich is a run-of-the-mill creature of the online alt-right. He nevertheless makes for an interesting subspecimen, as one of the only fixtures of the movement to parlay his politics into a self-help brand. Cernovich's blog and books are not just Trumpist propaganda. They sell a lifestyle, a package of inspirational macho clichés to help weedy, socially inept men become their ultimate selves. Cernovich takes Trump's sales pitch one step further: Make America Great Again is not just a political program. It is a whole new you.

March 16, 2017

Fake campaign news was clickbait to spamvertizers

Sometimes it was hard to tell who was doing the trolling and for what purposes. Aleta Pearce, 54, who lives in Malibu, California, was an administrator of half a dozen pro-Sanders Facebook groups and a member of many others. In May 2016, she posted a memo to various Facebook groups about the fake news issue, warning of bogus sites.

"The pattern I'm seeing is if a member is repeatedly posting articles that are only from one URL that person is just there to push advertising," Pearce wrote. "They probably have a sock account with little to no content. They are often from Russia or Macedonia." (A "sock" or "sock puppet" account uses a false identity to deceive.)

Pearce added, "Please share this with other Bernie groups so we can put an end to this spam bombing that's filling up our pages and groups. It's time to chase the mice out of the hen house and send them a message. They don't know who they are messing with."

The first tidal wave of spam was mostly anti-Bernie, Pearce recalled, posted by Clinton backers. (David Brock's Clinton-backing super PAC had likely paid for some portion of those.) But after Clinton became the Democratic nominee in July, Pearce noticed a switch to anti-Hillary messages with links to fake news and to real news with obnoxious pop-up ads.

"Every site publishing those ― you clicked on the article, you would be slammed with ads and strange articles," Pearce told HuffPost. "It was overwhelming. It was 24/7."

In Act 2, Russian Trolls Fooled Sanders Voters With Anti-Clinton Fake News
The trolls set out to distract and divide the invigorated left.

But Matthew Smollon, a 34-year-old copy editor and page designer based in Knoxville, Tennessee had a hard time convincing other Bernie supporters that they were being played. "No one cared," Smollon said. "At that point, you were a Hillary shill. It was like an echo chamber of anger."

Even when pointing out that something like NBCPolitics.org was a fake site ― the real site is NBCNews.com/politics ― he drew criticism. He was eventually removed as a moderator from one of the pro-Sanders Facebook groups. "It's the closest I've been to being gaslit in my life," he said.

In June, Smollon posted a piece on Medium with the headline, "Dear Bernie Supporters: Stop sharing posts from dumpster fire websites." He urged his fellow Sanders fans to wake up:

Guys, I sincerely love you. I love your passion. I love your fire. I love all of that. But when 400 people are circle-jerking clickbait links in between wondering how Hillary Clinton is behind the FEMA Earthquake drill that happens on several days with one of them being primary day?

But the legitimate skepticism opened the door to believing the more demented propaganda. And the more the fake news was passed around, the harder the divisions became. Clinton backers would charge Sanders supporters with being obnoxious, sexist "Bernie bros." Many of those bros may have been trolls, not real Sanders supporters. Tell that to a Clinton backer, however, and you can be accused of dismissing the hostility they faced.

Aidan King set up a popular Reddit page for Sanders beginning in 2013 and went to work for the campaign in January 2016 as Sigala's deputy. He dealt directly with many of the Facebook groups. After the Democratic convention, he said he noticed a strong shift away from the party in the tone of many of those pages.

-- Ryan Grim , Jason Cherkis

March 14, 2017

Wired chronicles the blue pill stance

In designing to maximize engagement, social networks inadvertently created hives of bias-confirmation and tribalism.

"There are things we were optimizing for that had unintended consequences,"

-- Justin Kan, a venture capitalist at Y Combinator and co-founder of Twitch.

March 10, 2017

45nrths' Dillinger 5 fat bike studdable tire: Bikerumor

BikeRumor review 45nrths dillinger 5 fat bike tires rob the bank but may be worth doing the time.

March 9, 2017

Re-intermediation: lead generators

Consider, for example, a person who googles "need rent money fast" or "can't pay rent."

Among the search results that Google returns, there may be ads that promise to help provide payday loans--ads designed to circumvent Google's policies against predatory financial advertising.

They're placed by companies called lead generators, and they work by collecting and distributing personal information about consumers online. So while Google says it bans ads that guarantee foreclosure prevention or promise short-term loans without conveying accurate loan terms, lead generators may direct consumers to a landing page where they're asked to input sensitive identifiable information.

Then, payday lenders buy that information from the lead generators and, in some cases, target those consumers--online, via phone, and by mail--for the very sorts of short-term loans that Google prohibits.

See also Led Astray: Online Lead Generation and Payday Loans, October 2015.

March 1, 2017

Sheryl Sandberg speaks when needed

What passes for technology journalism today:

Sandberg's only other recent Facebook posts concern a feel-good story about a long-distance swimmer (hashtagged #LeanIn) and a politically defanged feel-good story about a Syrian refugee Olympian, the latter on the eve of the inauguration. On January 21, the day of the unequivocally historic Women's March, Sandberg didn't appear in public, nor did she express her support. Instead, she withdrew comfortably into the same "deafening post-November silence" that for many women in tech isn't going unnoticed.

The streets filled with women from every walk of life, but for Sandberg, who built her personal brand -- and some of her fortune -- around a particularly virulent strain of apolitical white feminism, it appears to have been all too political. (Sheryl, if you read this, pick up some bell hooks!)

as a feminist, it's perfectly acceptable to hold other feminists to certain standards. Particularly ones in positions of vast power that at times find themselves seated next to arguably the most powerful man in the country (hint: it's Pence!). And ones that have sold millions of books promoting a diluted form of feminism that might have got us here in the first place. Oh, and ones making a fortune off of a sandbox for fake news stories, or as Sandberg playfully likes to call them, "hoaxes."

Sandberg's is not an intersectional feminism, nor is it really feminism at all. Like much Silicon Valley hypocrisy, it's lip service that never quite takes it to the next level. Leveraging your particular strain of politically expedient pseudo-feminism to sell books is fine and all, but don't expect us not to call you out -- not when you have a literal seat at the most powerful table in the world.