Showing posts with label information resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label information resources. Show all posts

Robot Lawyer To The Rescue! Chatbot Helps Homeless Get Re-Situated

A while ago we wrote about “the world’s first robot lawyer”, an AI software program that interacts like a chatbot and has already helped hundreds of thousands of people defeat parking tickets.  Now, its creator has raised the bar for the 'bot to take on another societal issue:  homelessness.

When human society turns heartless, only the heartless can help human society?
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Words Up: "Expresso" App Helps Edit Your Wrecks Of Text

Writing is one of those art forms that's particularly unpleasant when its bad.  And now, in the age of texting everything and bastardizing verbiage 2 d point tht it loox lik ths (sorry, we won't do that again), it's sometimes hard to remember how to construct a coherent communication without sounding idiotic OR overly loquacious.  Now, there's an app to adjust your adjectives...

Tied up with editing effectively?  This app can help.
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Will History Be Written By Lasers And Preserved On Crystals?

Have you ever written something so mellifluously elegant, so heartwrenching, or so damn dirty that you hid it away on a disk?  How about preserving important family history in your formerly-current computer's format?  If this happened twenty (or even ten) years ago, that disk is likely now obsolete.  How can we keep our digitized information in perpetuity when it's tougher and tougher to stay caught up with upgrades?

Now we can keep track of all of man's crazy fairy godparents,
right up until we all find out whether they're real or not.
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New "Greenhouse" Plug-In Exposes Corporate Political Pay-Outs

It's been a running joke for some time that American politicians should wear advertising logos, a'la racecar drivers, to indicate which corporations they are shilling for.  Despite this idea not yet rising to prominence, now, there's an easier way to tell who (and how much) has been paid to play in politics.

Usually when teenagers say "Greenhouse", weed is somehow involved.
Surprisingly, not this time.
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Learning Is Earning: 8 Online Courses That Improve The Richness Of Your Life (And Maybe Your Wallet)

Do you like learning things, but don't want to spend thousands at college?  Do you have an insatiable lust (or even mild affinity) for knowledge, but you dislike the classroom or tutor dynamic, and you don't like even just waking up in time to stuff stuff into your head?  Now, you can use the Udemy website to become more intelligent on a variety of topics so vast, you'll be smarter just knowing that it's possible to study these things.  Here are just a few of the new things we recently learned we could learn online...

If you're reading this, you may have already taken the first step towards
getting really good at a new skill.  How exciting!
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Bodies And Oddities: New "Figure 1" Medical Photo-Sharing App Offers Different Doctors' Opinions, Crazy Pics

One of the most popular social media apps, Instagram, has been growing in popularity so much that some users have even been abandoning their Facebook for it.  Now, an Instagram-type app has found a niche community for people who need to use the photos for research that goes further than what you're wearing or what you ate today.  Enter Figure 1, a photo-sharing app for doctors.

Physical graffitti?
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True Story: New "StoryCorps" App Aims To Preserve Diverse Histories

Since the dawn of mankind, humans have passed down traditions, songs, legends, folklore, family history, and more via the medium of storytelling.  In modern day, transcribed oral histories have lent insight into some of the most important events of recorded time.  Now, a method to preserve these tales for the ages has been made easy in app form.

"That's how much of my intestinal tract the German bomb eviscerated,
but I still bayoneted five of 'em before I passed out."
-"Uh...Dad, weren't you born in Ecuador?  In 1950?"
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No Funds, My Babe, No Funds: Money Management Apps To Streamline Your Spending (And Stop Your Stress)

Keeping track of your finances takes analysis and effort.  With all of the various things to buy and ways to buy them these days, it can be difficult to properly budget for all of your wants and needs (while still managing to save enough to keep the lights on.)  Now, a money management app may be just what you need to keep from tanking all of your banking.

Designed to make you acutely aware of your expenditures as well as the effectiveness of your savings, a money management app is kind of like a calorie/exercise tracker for your financial fitness.  Through an app's smartphone interface, the user enters all of their transactions, providing them with an accurate (sometimes frighteningly so) account of what's going in and out of your bank account.  This can enable better budgeting, bank account balancing, and more.

In the modern culture of "buy now, pay later", we can sometimes forget how quickly expenses add up.  Loans, mortgages, bills, and incidentals shouldn't be juggled so much as they should be justly dealt with.  According to, there are a number of good apps tailored to a variety of spending situations.

Expensify is one app that allows for the photographing and easy categorization of receipts, perfect for creating a professional expense report with little hassle.  For freelancers, a "Track Distance" and "Track Time" option clocks how much you've traveled and can bill additionally for your boutique pug grooming business or artisanal hedge sculpting or whatever.  Tags for "billable" or "reimbursable" goods and services factor into your financial statements.

Check is an app that deals exclusively with your bills, consolidating them onto one manageable place and using your credit or debit card to deal with each as needed (so no more forgetting to call the cable company until your internet zaps out.)  A pie chart and alerts show you your current bank balance, impending bills, and even a warning if you spend enough to endanger your credit (that tenth round of top-shelf tequila at the fancy bar is no excuse'll know what's up when your funds are down.)

For those little expenditures that add up surprisingly quickly, there is the Daily Cost app, to help you factor exactly how many times a week you can afford that fancy coffee before it means taking cash out of your kid's college fund (it's really rather fast, especially during Pumpkin Spice season.)  The "simple, elegant, and intuitive" interface uses spool-style counter keeps track of items, days, and cost, and it is available in a host of international currencies.

Another popular option for cash control is the Mint personal finance app, which combines many of the above apps' features (such as alerts, budgets, and visible cash flow indicators) as well as the ability to join multiple accounts (say, for a married couple, or a very protective trust fund benefactor.)  Checking, savings, credit, and investments can all be handled here.  They offer "bank-level security" and show how it might be possible to save your way solvent.

Keeping your cash-flow woes in check is now easily handled by apps.  You'll understand your own budget better, and maybe surprise yourself with what could be eliminated from your supposed "needs."  Fill your wallet and chill your worries with some simple smartphone software.

Money management apps make it easy to decide whether you get Manolos or meals this month.
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iRideNYC: A Big App For The Big Apple

6,000 miles of roads.  12,750 miles of sidewalks.  6,000 shared bikes, and countless more independent ones.  1.7 billion subway rides a year.  And cabs...well, cabs EVERYWHERE.  Transportation availability in New York City is no joke, and now thanks to a new app, it will be no mystery.

As reported by, the open-sourced app iRideNYC aims to decode every aspect of travelling in NYC, with realtime information updates from the NYC Department of Transportation aiding the actual (not just scheduled) needs of everyone, from tourist to townie.

Cordell Schachter, chief technology officer at NYCDOT, explained, “It recreates the experience of a local app, but you always have up-to-the minute information."

Issues like construction or train maintenance interference would be factored into your results, as well as smaller-scale options like CitiBike locations and availability. iRideNYC will even suggest interesting nearby sights, and the feasibility of walking to them (which, in NYC, is an often an even better adventure than using mechanized transport.)

Based off of a mobile development platform that the NYCDOT used to document damage during the brutal aftermath of 2012's Hurricane Sandy, the app updates every 30 seconds. Think you can outbike any bus in town? Now you can know for sure...and also catch some cool sightseeing along the way!

Find your place amidst the millions right here.

"Hurry the hell up, I'm about to beat my record for racing the express train."

Text On Fire: New "FireChat" Service Connects Phones Under The Radar

While not stirring up a lot of coverage in the Western world, the current pro-Democracy protests in China are benefiting humanity with more than just a shot at free speech. Namely, in conjunction with a new texting service, now they're showing how many people can use their free speech, internet-free.

According to the, FireChat is an iOS-based text messaging service that is able to operate without cellphone or internet service, making it ideal for revolutionaries in communications-restricted countries. FireChat uses Bluetooth to create "mesh networking" with other phones in the area, strengthening the connection and allowing for discussion.

FireChat does not aim to be the exclusive domain of the repressed, saying it could be useful "on the beach or in the subway, at a big game or a trade show, camping in the wild or at a concert, or even travelling abroad, simply fire up the app with a friend or two and find out who else is there."

Current numbers suggest that already tens of thousands of people are using the FireChat app at any given time, so fire it up and see what's up.

Hear hear.  (Students on the streets of Hong Kong, protesting and pro-texting.  Image courtesy

Google Tests Internet-Enabling Drones; Polar Bears Can Soon Join Facebook

While those of us in the first world are bickering over how to make our internet even faster, there are those on the planet who are not fortunate enough to have any connectivity at all.  Google is now working in conjunction with a drone company to provide internet access to even the most remote areas.

As reported by, Google released a statement saying they have "recently acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems ('UAS') for high altitude, long endurance flights." Along with plans to use high-altitude balloons and low-orbit satellites for the delivery of delicious internet, the Titan drones can use solar power and their five-year flight capacity to keep the world connected.

Google plans to test this idea in New Mexico, and they were quick to point out that they didn't want to step on the FCC's transmission toes. Their statement included the disclaimer, "Google understands that there may be some federal operations in the 900 MHz band in the vicinity of the test site...Google is prepared to coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to avoid harmful interference to any federal operations."

If this idea proves fruitful, it could be used in a variety of situations requiring remote internet access. To far-flung regions that have been devastated by natural disaster or inclement weather, this could be an important aid for rescue operations or other distress signals. For war-torn regions run by despots who demand control of the peoples' link to the world, this could offer an alternative.

So yes, soon you may be able to watch cat GIFs in the middle of the desert, all thanks to the efforts of the search engine who just wants to be found.

"Finally, at long last, I may see what this 'Game Of Thrones' is all about."

Politics And Pay: "Greenhouse" App Turns Up The Heat On Lobbyist Loot

Our system of capitalism now allows the flow of money as a means of free speech, and some of our politicians have been hearing it loud and clear. With lobbyists spending devastatingly large amounts to get their way with politicians (and the overall system widely unchecked by their constituents), it is a great breakthrough that now, thanks to an app by 16-year-old Nick Rubin, we can monitor the money.

The app, called Greenhouse, was conceptualized when Rubin was doing a class project on corporate personhood. This was Rubin's entrance to the rabbit hole of American oligarchy. "What concerns me is the sheer amount of money being pumped into the system because there really is a lot," Rubin told "During the development of Greenhouse and looking over these numbers and seeing how much is being donated—it’s really scary."

Rubin maintains that he simply wants "a system that works", and that Greenhouse is a nonpartisan resource. Bickering over individual parties' perceived superiority doesn't change the fact that both sides take massive money to enact legislature. As the Greenhouse motto states, "Some are red. Some are blue. All are green."

Greenhouse is designed to be simple enough for people of all ages to use, and Rubin hopes the information it offers will compel more involvement and positive change in the world we are allowing to be shaped. He wisely states that, "I really do believe that increased transparency will help fix the problem. Easy access to data empowers voters to make better decisions. Once people are informed, they will reject elected officials who are motived by money instead of principles."

The first step to fixing problems is identifying them, and the moral morass of Washington likes to make that difficult. The Greenhouse app should hopefully spread some light on the problems, making informed opinions grow to help nourish our sometimes-sickly political system.

Fuel, food, pills and bills:  some of the notably lucrative crossovers between industry and politics.

"'The Truth At Any Cost' Lowers All Other Costs": Former US Spy Robert Steele's Admirable Advocacy For "Open Source Everything"

After organizing a major CIA intelligence conference, the highly-respected Marine intelligence officer and CIA agent Robert Steele tried to explain that open-source information (the idea of using freely-accessible knowledge to implement policy, rather than secretly-obtained information) is the means to true freedom. The CIA promptly banned him from organizing further conferences. Now, he's taking his wisdom to the masses.

"Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we realize such a lofty destiny as well as create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth - all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity. This is the 'utopia' that Buckminster Fuller foresaw, now within our reach," states Steele.

With this attitude firmly in mind, Steele writes, lectures, and advocates for the concept of "Open Source Everything": taking the power of knowledge from an elite few and making sure it is disseminated throughout all the world, with a focus on long-term goals that benefit all of humanity. Steele advocates truth as currency over violence, using international stewardship councils of experts in varieties of topics to check, balance, and spread information, looking far down the road on the effects that humanity's decisions of all sorts will have. An Open Source Agency, he claims, would collaborate to share this wisdom, with information coming and going from many elements, particularly including the expanse of information-sharing options available to the average computer user.

As Steele told, "We have over 5 billion human brains that are the one infinite resource available to us going forward. Crowd-sourcing and cognitive surplus are two terms of art for the changing power dynamic between those at the top that are ignorant and corrupt, and those across the bottom that are attentive and ethical. The open source ecology is made up of a wide range of opens – open farm technology, open source software, open hardware, open networks, open money, open small business technology, open patents – to name just a few. The key point is that they must all develop together, otherwise the existing system will isolate them into ineffectiveness. Open data is largely worthless unless you have open hardware and open software. Open government demands open cloud and open spectrum, or money will dominate feeds and speeds."

On the homefront, Steele maintains that the massive national "security" infrastructure we currently have in place is too big, too expensive, too unaccountable, too nonproductive concerning "terrorism" (which he claims has never been thwarted by the NSA), and ultimately bound to fail (though he admits properly-maintained surveillance should certainly remain in place for issues like corruption, pedophilia, and other crimes.) With intelligence out of the pocket of banks and politicians, citizens can better decide what will truly be of help for themselves and others. If a professional spy is willing to show how this is currently all going wrong, surely America and maybe the world can eventually learn to realize and remedy this?

Steele's revolution pre-conditions checklist.  We qualify, now how do we quell it?

The Digital Public Library of America: Information Wants to Be Free

If, as Thomas Jefferson famously stated, a well-informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will, then free public access to repositories of information and the wealth of human knowledge is a prerequisite of self government.  Next month, a great step forward in this regard will be taken with the launch of the Digital Public Library of America.  The New York Review of Books provides some background and context on this massive project.  Excerpt:
The Digital Public Library of America, to be launched on April 18, is a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge. How is that possible? In order to answer that question, I would like to describe the first steps and immediate future of the DPLA. But before going into detail, I think it important to stand back and take a broad view of how such an ambitious undertaking fits into the development of what we commonly call an information society.