Facebook’s Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty

It’s almost the end of 2014 and Facebook has been repeatedly prompting its users to use its Facebook’s Year in Review feature in their feed. Facebook’s “Year in Review” feature creates a photo scrapbook montage automatically from your photos you’ve posted over the year with various festive, playful backgrounds in the background which you can post on Facebook with a default caption “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.. ”

However, what if your year wasn’t so great?

Eric Meyer, web advocate and author of many books on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) penned an excellent post “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty” on Facebook’s repeated prompting on showing a picture of his daughter who passed away this year.

“This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.

But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.

To show me Rebecca’s face and say “Here’s what your year looked like!” is jarring.  It feels wrong, and coming from an actual person, it would be wrong.  Coming from code, it’s just unfortunate.  These are hard, hard problems.  It isn’t easy to programmatically figure out if a picture has a ton of Likes because it’s hilarious, astounding, or heartbreaking.

Algorithms are essentially thoughtless.  They model certain decision flows, but once you run them, no more thought occurs.  To call a person “thoughtless” is usually considered a slight, or an outright insult; and yet, we unleash so many literally thoughtless processes on our users, on our lives, on ourselves…..

Read the full post by Eric Meyer

Trinidadian and Tobagonians spend over $1billion US online via credit cards in past 2 years

(Photo Credit: http://www.morguefile.com/)

Central Bank Governor (of Trinidad and Tobago) Jwala Rambarran’s address at the 3rd Monetary Policy Forum on December 1 2014 highlighted the increasing use of credit cards for making online payments:

…..There was a time when shortfalls [in foreign exchange supply] would occur seasonally, close to Christmas and the hectic August travel period. Over the last two decades, demand for foreign exchange not only expanded but its composition has also changed to reflect new patterns of consumer spending, for example, use of credit cards for making online payments.

Today is now known as “Cyber-Monday” in the United States and many locals will flood US retailers’ websites from the comfort and warmth of their homes in Trinidad and Tobago thanks to the Internet, credit cards and US delivery addresses.

Foreign credit card purchases devoured US$570 million for the year so far. That excludes today’s Cyber-Monday sales and upcoming Christmas purchases.

Last year, foreign credit card payments consumed US$530 million.
That is more than US$1 billion spent foreign credit card purchases in just two years….

The Trinidad Express December 20 2014 article discusses this and describes the increasing number of freight forwarders and their increasing volume of packages they are bringing.

(Photo Credit: http://www.morguefile.com/)


Skype Translator Preview Program launches with English and Spanish spoken languages and over 40 instant messaging languages

Screenshot of Skype Translator Preview (credit: Skype Garage and Updates Blog (http://blogs.skype.com/category/garage-updates/)


From the Skype Blog:

“Today, we are excited to announce the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program. The preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.”
There’s a video of the Skype Translator Preview in action
with two schools one in the US and one in Mexico having a real-time conversation in English and Spanish.
One can register for the Skype Translator Preview at http://www.skype.com/en/translator-preview/
A Skype Garage Blog Post goes into the technology behind Skype Translator , with an Infographic on how Skype Translator works
and video.


TTCS end of year lime on Wednesday December 17 2014 ; RSVP

pizza yum!






The Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society will be having its end of year pizza lime on Wednesday December 17 2014 from 6:30pm to 9pm at Kava Restaurant at Kapok Hotel.

Come join as we eat and chat about various ICT topics.

Anyone interested in computing and ICT are welcome to attend.

Please note that the contribution per person for this event is $150 TT.

RSVP to [email protected] as space is limited.

We look forward to seeing you.

Season Greetings!