How many clicks through YouTube’s “Up Next” recommendations does it take to go from an anodyne PBS clip about the 116th United States Congress to an anti-immigrant video from a designated hate organization? Thanks to the site’s recommendation algorithm, just nine.
Katie Notopoulos, writing for BuzzFeed:
A lot what Tumblr is banning is just gratuitous porn GIFs, and the internet is not lacking options when it comes to free pornography. But Tumblr is also a thriving place for the kind of sexual expression that you won’t find on Pornhub. “Tumblr sex sites created spaces for ALL KINDS of people who don’t have access to sexual community elsewhere,” wrote Steven Thrasher. It has always been a safe haven for young people exploring and expressing their sexuality. There is tasteful erotica, supportive places for people to post their own bodies — including those that don’t look like typical porn bodies — and to consume and engage with the wide swath of human sexual experience that can’t be replicated by logging on to xHamster and being greeted with a blast of extremely aggressive heterosexual facials.
Davey Alba, writing at BuzzFeed:
Since at least 2012, Spotify users like Meghan have been asking the music streaming giant for a block feature for a simple reason: Over the years, harassers and abusers have used the service to stalk and intimidate victims. […] A company representative told BuzzFeed News that Spotify “does not have any timeline on plans for a block feature.”
Charlie Warzel, writing at BuzzFeed:
Angry users bring up the issue of political bias largely because the platforms themselves have so consistently and nervously shied away from anything that could be construed as censorship. But in 2018, ideas of political bias and censorship feel almost irrelevant, given the reality of how these platforms actually operate. The discussion of complete neutrality is now a quaint notion when nearly every discussion that takes place on these networks is weaponized toward a political end. It’s a luxurious philosophical debate that the platforms have little time for. Instead, they should be focused on preventing harm.
Brianna Sacks, writing at BuzzFeed:
Eric Abramovitz had been training for this moment for nearly his entire life: the opportunity to study under one of the best clarinet teachers on the planet, on a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious music conservatory in Los Angeles. […] What happened next, outlined in interviews and court documents filed in Abramovitz’s successful lawsuit against Lee, paint the picture of a promising “what if” life trajectory knocked off its rails by what a Canadian judge called “despicable interference” by a selfish girlfriend.
This story is bonkers. I sent it to my violinist girlfriend and she read the entire thing slack-jawed.
Nicole Nguyen, writing at BuzzFeed:
The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.
Rachael Krishna, writing for Buzzfeed:
An online harassment campaign and culture war called #Comicsgate is underway against people pushing to diversify the comic book industry, with trolls and their influential enablers targeting those calling for increased representation for women, different races, and the LGBT community.
Several comics superfans and creators are calling it a dark evolution of the Gamergate controversy that targeted women participating in video game culture with abuse.
Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:
And meanwhile, over at the Unicode Consortium, there is a contentious debate over a scowling pile of shit.
Digital shit, of course.
According to public consortium documents, Unicode, the technical organization in charge of selecting and overseeing emojis, is embroiled in a fierce debate over a series of proposed emojis, including, but not limited to, “Frowning Pile Of Poo” and “Sliced Bagel.” The heated discussions are the latest in a long-simmering dispute over the future of the 24-year-old organization, which has been — somewhat unexpectedly — tasked with governing what some see as the first digital universal language.
? ? ?
Ryan Mac, writing for BuzzFeed:
In a music era dominated by Spotify, SoundCloud has been, at the best of times, a startup in stagnation, and, at the worst of times, an organization in disarray. Once harboring aspirations to be the YouTube of sound, the Berlin-based company has struggled to remain viable, hamstrung by management missteps, an ineffective business strategy, and a stubborn music industry that would rather it had never existed.
With SoundCloud holding out for just under $2 billion, Twitter balked, sources said, put off by the heady price tag, music industry headaches, and the discrepancy between Soundcloud’s monthly visitors and its registered users. (Many people listened to SoundCloud’s content, but never registered with the site.)
SoundCloud’s quest to build a business and find legitimacy in the eyes of labels divided the company and alienated long-time users. Internally, workers noticed a distinct shift away from creators and toward listeners. Internal key metrics changed from “tracks posted” to “number of minutes listened.” Meanwhile, the company’s short staffed engineering team focused on developing products that could better track copyrighted content. When SoundCloud killed its record button, the move was interpreted by some as a sign the company was less focused on creators. Soon it would stop supporting groups, a feature that allowed like-minded users to congregate on the site and share or comment on the tracks posted to it.
Jim DeRogatis, writing at Buzzfeed:
Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle — Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee — provided details supporting the parents’ worst fears. They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.
The last time J. saw her daughter was Dec. 1, 2016.
Caroline O’Donovan, writing for BuzzFeed, on why star ratings are awful:
The other problem is that not everyone can agree on what the star ratings mean — not even the companies themselves. Lyft says that five stars means “awesome,” four means “OK, could be better,” and three means “below average.” But for Uber, five stars is “excellent,” four is “good,” and three is “OK.”
Individuals have different interpretations, too. “For some people, three could mean this is good, while four is great and five is perfect. Some people might say, nowhere is going to be perfect, so I’m going to say five stars is really good, and four is good,” Celis said. “The way you can interpret those stars is infinite, and most people don’t have the exact same system.”
Agreed completely. Moving to a more descriptive system was one of the first things I did when redesigning this website.
Alicia Melville-Smith, writing for BuzzFeed:
Bridges said passengers were allowed to board the flight but were later told four people would need to give up their seats for four United employees who were needed in Louisville on Monday.
She said no passengers volunteered, so a manager came aboard and said passengers would be randomly selected and asked to leave.
When asked to leave, the man in the video became “very upset” and said he was a doctor who had patients to see the next day, Bridges said. A manager then told him security would be called if he refused to leave the plane. Three security guards then removed him from his seat while other passengers yelled in disgust.
Holy shit. The videos and pictures are horrific.
Small stations in multiple states have unexpectedly found themselves playing the YG song since Trump’s inauguration.
Not all heroes wear capes.
Reggie Ugwu, writing at Buzzfeed, with a really great profile on the professional playlist creators at Apple, Spotify, and Google:
We’ve come to expect that virtually all of our problems can be solved with code, so much so that we summon it unthinkingly before doing almost anything: from choosing what movie to watch, to finding a doctor, to deciding where to wake up the next morning and who with. But what if music is somehow different? What if there’s something immeasurable but essential in the space between what is now called “discovery” and, you know, that old stupidly human ritual of finding and falling in love with a song? Algorithms excel at the former, but the latter is stubborn heritage: It’s your father’s old record collection, your sister’s stash of mixtapes, a close friend’s desert island soundtrack of choice.
Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed News, with an oddly fascinating tale of trouble and political infighting at the Unicode Consortium (the people that get to define what gets to be an emoji or not):
The series of frustrated messages show a deepening rift between those who adhere to the organization’s original mission to code old and obscure and minority languages and those who are investing time and resources toward Unicode’s newer and most popular character sets: emojis, a quirky periodic table of ideograms and smiley faces that cover everything from bemused laughter to swirling, smiling piles of poop. The correspondence offers a peek behind the scenes of the peculiar and little-known organization that’s unexpectedly been tasked with building what some see as the first digital universal language.
Bring on stuffed flatbread!