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sciencehabit writes "A new study suggests that all the reviews you read on Yelp and Amazon are easily manipulated. It's not that companies are stacking the deck, necessarily, it's that a few positive comments early on can influence future commenters. In fact, when researchers gamed the system on a real news aggregation site, the items received fake positive votes from the researchers were 32% more likely to receive more positive votes compared with a control (abstract). And those comments were no more likely than the control to be down-voted by the next viewer to see them. By the end of the study, positively manipulated comments got an overall boost of about 25%. However, the same did not hold true for negative manipulation. The ratings of comments that got a fake down vote were usually negated by an up vote by the next user to see them."

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jcatcw writes "A recent study shows that a single random up-vote, randomly chosen, created a herding behavior in ratings that resulted in a 25% increase in the ratings but the negative manipulation had no effect. An intuitive explanation for this asymmetry is that we tend to go along with the positive opinions of others, but we tend to be skeptical of the negative opinions of others, and so we go in and correct what we think is an injustice. The third major result was that these effects varied by topic. So in business and society, culture, politics, we found substantial susceptibility to positive herding, whereas in general news, economics, IT, we found no such herding effects in the positive or negative direction."

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samzenpus

Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook's Graph Search is an ambitious project: give users the ability to search through the social network's vast webs of data via natural-language queries. But that's much easier said—so to speak—than done. Although human beings think nothing of speaking in 'natural' language, a machine must not only learn all the grammatical building-blocks we take for granted—it needs to compensate for the quirks and errors that inevitably pop up in the course of speech. The Facebook team tasked with building Graph Search also knew that the alternate option, keyword-based search, wasn't a viable one. 'Keywords, which usually consist of nouns or proper nouns, can be nebulous in their intent,' Facebook engineering manager Xiao Li wrote in an April 29 posting on Facebook's blog. 'For example, "friends Facebook" can mean "friends on Facebook," "friends who work at Facebook Inc," or "friends who like Facebook the page."' That left the team with building a natural-language interface. The posting digs deep into the elements of the backend, including everything from 'parse trees' to a lexical analysis system."

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An anonymous reader writes "Stephen Totilo at Kotaku has a long article detailing the exploits of an Australian hacker who calls himself SuperDaE. He managed to break into networks at Microsoft, Sony, and Epic Games, from which he retrieved information about the PS4 and next-gen Xbox 'Durango' (which turned out to be correct), and he even secured developer hardware for Durango itself. He uncovered security holes at Epic, but notified the company rather than exploiting them. He claims to have done the same with Microsoft. He hasn't done any damage or facilitated piracy with the access he's had, but simply breaching the security of those companies was enough to get the U.S. FBI to convince Australian authorities to raid his house and confiscate his belongings. In an age where many tech-related 'sources' are just empty claims, a lot of this guy's information has checked out. The article describes both SuperDaE's activities and a journalist's efforts to verify his claims."

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New submitter cellurl writes "I run wikispeedia, a database of speed limit signs. People approach us to mirror our data, but I am quite certain it will become a one-way street. So my question is: How can I give consumers peace of mind in using our data and not give up the ship? We want to be the clearing house for this information, at the same time following our charter of providing safety. Some thoughts that come to mind are creating a 'Service Level Agreement' which they will no doubt reject, or MySQL-clustering, or rsync. Any thoughts, (technically, logistically, legally) appreciated."


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gspec writes "A little background about me: 36-year-old computer engineer working in the Bay Area. While I bring in a comfortable salary, I consider myself an underachiever, and my career is stagnant (I have only been promoted four times in my 12-year career). I have led a couple projects, but I am not in any sort of leadership/management position. I realize I need to do something to enhance my career, and unfortunately, going back to school is not an option. One thing I can do is to read more quality books. My question: which books, of any type or genre, have had a significant impact on your life?"


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First time accepted submitter blubadger writes "Having slept through chemistry at school, I'm looking to fill in the gaps in my science education by following a short online course or two. I've been searching for 'Chemistry 101,' 'Basics of Physics,' 'Biology Primer,' and so on. There's some high-quality stuff on offer – from Academic Earth, MIT and others – but it tends to take the form of videos of traditional university lectures. I was hoping to cut through the chit-chat and blackboards and get straight into the infographics and animations that will help me understand complex ideas. Flash and HTML5 Canvas seem wasted on videos of lectures. If the quality were high enough I would be willing to pay. Have Slashdotters seen anything that fits the bill?"


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parallel_prankster writes "Older adults who drank coffee — caffeinated or decaffeinated — had a lower risk of death [full paper is paywalled, at the New England Journal of Medicine] overall than others who did not drink coffee, according to a study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and AARP. Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, although the association was not seen for cancer. These results from a large study of older adults were observed after adjustment for the effects of other risk factors on mortality, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. They also found that the association between coffee and reduction in risk of death increased with the amount of coffee consumed. Relative to men and women who did not drink coffee, those who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had approximately a 10 percent lower risk of death. Researchers caution, however, that they can't be sure whether these associations mean that drinking coffee actually makes people live longer."


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Hugh Pickens writes "Ron Fournier and Sophie Quinton write in the National Journal that seven in 10 Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track; eight in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed, only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business. Less than half the population expresses "a great deal" of confidence in the public-school system or organized religion. 'We have lost our gods,' says Laura Hansen. 'We've lost it—that basic sense of trust and confidence—in everything.' Humans are coded to create communities, and communities beget institutions. What if, in the future, they don't? People could disconnect, refocus inward, and turn away from their social contract. Already, many are losing trust. If society can't promise benefits for joining it, its members may no longer feel bound to follow its rules. But history reminds us that America's leaders can draw the nation together to solve problems. At a moment of gaping income inequality, when the country was turbulently transitioning from a farm economy to a factory one, President Theodore Roosevelt reminded Americans, 'To us, as a people, it has been granted to lay the foundations of our national life.' At the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt chastised the business and political leaders who had led the country into ruin. 'These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men,' said FDR. 'Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.'"


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Dmitri Baughman writes "I'm the IT guy at a small software development company of about 100 employees. Everyone is technically inclined, with disciplines in development, QA, and PM areas. As part of a monthly knowledge-sharing meeting, I've been asked to give a 30-minute presentation about our computing and networking infrastructure. I manage a pretty typical environment, so I'm not sure how to present the information in a fun and engaging way. I think network diagrams and bandwidth usage charts would make anyone's eyes glaze over! Any ideas for holding everyone's interest?"


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