New York Times: Commissioner Resigns After He Threw a Cat During Zoom Meeting

New York Times: Commissioner Resigns After He Threw a Cat During Zoom Meeting. “The city Planning Commission meeting in Vallejo, Calif., last week followed the same humdrum pattern of so many municipal meetings: There was the Pledge of Allegiance and a roll call, followed by various reports…. But things took an unexpected turn about two hours and 24 minutes into the session after one of the commissioners, Chris Platzer, was asked if he had any comments after reviewing a project application. ‘Yes, if I’m allowed to make them,’ he said, just after a cat could be heard loudly meowing offscreen, according to a video of the meeting.”

It’s a Bing thing: Microsoft drops plans to shove unloved search engine down throats of unsuspecting enterprises (The Register)

The Register: It’s a Bing thing: Microsoft drops plans to shove unloved search engine down throats of unsuspecting enterprises. “Microsoft has U-turned on plans to automatically switch browser search defaults to Bing when users install Office 365 Pro Plus. In January, Microsoft let slip its plans to install a browser extension for Chrome that makes Bing the default search engine when users installed or updated Office Pro Plus, a key part of enterprise subscriptions to Office 365.”

Digital Trends: Barnes & Noble used A.I. to make classic books more diverse. It didn’t go well

Digital Trends: Barnes & Noble used A.I. to make classic books more diverse. It didn’t go well. “For Black History Month, Barnes & Noble created covers of classic novels with the protagonists re-imagined as people of color. Then it quickly canceled its planned Diverse Editions of 12 books, including Emma, The Secret Garden, and Frankenstein amid criticism that it clumsily altered books by mostly white authors instead of promoting writers of color. The project used artificial intelligence to scan 100 books for descriptions of major characters, and artists created covers depicting Alices, Romeos, and Captain Ahabs of various ethnicities.”

VentureBeat: Amazon is poorly vetting Alexa’s user-submitted answers

VentureBeat: Amazon is poorly vetting Alexa’s user-submitted answers. “Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana can answer all sorts of questions that pop into users’ heads, and they’re improving every day. But what happens when a company like Amazon decides to crowdsource answers to fill gaps in its platform’s knowledge? The result can range from amusing and perplexing to concerning.” I really hope nobody is surprised by this.

The Verge: Inside National Conspiracy Writing Month, A Challenge For Creating ‘Fan Fiction About Reality’

The Verge: Inside National Conspiracy Writing Month, A Challenge For Creating ‘Fan Fiction About Reality’. “The project is called National Conspiracy Writing Month, an unofficial spinoff of the long-running National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) challenge. Where NaNoWriMo requires participants to write a 50,000-word novel, the inaugural NaCoWriMo asks them to produce a ‘deep, viable, and complete conspiracy theory.’ Its creator Tim Hwang hopes these fake plots can illuminate a pervasive cultural phenomenon — helping both participants and spectators understand how conspiracy theories emerge. He just hopes people don’t take them too seriously.” Oh dear. I don’t like this. It’s like forking National Fire Safety Month by having a kerosene-making contest.

Digital Trends: Alexa will start to crowdsource answers to fill in knowledge gaps

Digital Trends: Alexa will start to crowdsource answers to fill in knowledge gaps. “Amazon is now crowdsourcing answers for Alexa through the new Alexa Answers program. This program is meant to fill in the gaps in the assistant’s knowledge so users will no longer get the ‘Hmm, I don’t know that one’ answer. This new program was first mentioned by Amazon in December on Amazon’s blog.” Seems like a not-great idea.

Digital Trends: Amazon starts crowdsourcing Alexa’s answers. What could go wrong?

Digital Trends: Amazon starts crowdsourcing Alexa’s answers. What could go wrong? BESIDES EVERYTHING? “According to Amazon’s DayOne blog, until now, the Alexa division has added the answers to common potential questions to a data bank, merging information from multiple sources…. Alexa Answers will change that, although the program is by invitation only. Starting December 6, 2018, Amazon is sending email invites to certain customers to begin contributing answers for Alexa. The customers will be selected by their history of writing product reviews or engagement with Alexa, The Verge reports.”