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07.09.16 | 7:30 pm

Scientists are using your Instagrams to understand cities

Believe it or not, your group selfies are going to be a gold mine for historians one day. Indeed, the value of detail-rich, location-tagged data from social networks like Foursquare and Twitter is already being mined for insights by scientists today. Their next frontier? Instagram. 

In a recent paper, Dutch researchers John D. Boy and Justus Uitermark outline how scientists can use data from Instagram's API to analyze human behavior within cities and get a clearer picture of how communities and subcultures form and evolve in urban environments and the role that specific public places play in the process

While most of us think of Instagram as a social network or photo-sharing app, social scientists see it as "a participatory sensing system" because of the social and geospatial data generated by its 500 million users everyday.  By ingesting that data and breaking it down by social activity (likes, comments, follows), location and other details, researchers can start to get a new level of insight into the relationship we all share with the places we inhabit. 

"Which places facilitate encounters between members of different groups, and which are exclusive to members of the same group?" the researchers ask. They ranked places from most parochial to most cosmopolitan by employing a diversity measure known as the divergence index. In this chart of places in Amsterdam, the horizontal bar graph on the right shows the value of the divergence measure, with higher values indicating lower diversity.  The heatmap in the middle indicates the relative presence of different clusters of users.

Visualization of place diversity in Amsterdam. Via Boy, et al.

Previously, research into subcultures, communities and human activity within a city required much more onerous and tedious methods of research. And while the process of mining Instagram for urban insights is only just beginning (It's easy to imagine how subfields of artificial intelligence like machine vision could help down the line), the potential future impact of this research is hard to miss. 

As more people flock to cities and the urban experience changes more rapidly, the slow-moving, traditional machinery of science will likely struggle to keep up. So it's a good thing we're creating a trove of useful data (in addition, of course, to all the data collected by advertisers, governments, and hackers) every time we lean in for a group shot or crouch down to frame that new mural in our phone's viewfinder.  So go ahead, snap that selfie. If your friends give you shit, tell them it's for science. 

10.28.16 | 2 hours ago

In historic victory for online privacy, FCC rules that broadband providers need permission to track users

In a huge victory for internet privacy advocates, the FCC ruled on Thursday that broadband giants like AT&T and Comcast can no longer collect and give out data on their users without first getting their permission. Currently, those companies can track their users' activity online—including the websites they visit and apps they use—unless they're told to stop doing so.  The 3-2 decision was historic because it marks "the first time" the agency has passed such online protections, reports the New York Times. Previously, such privacy rules only applied to phones and cable TV.

10.27.16 | 3 hours ago

Pornhub just offered to buy Vine because “six seconds is more than enough”

Soon after it was announced on Thursday that Twitter was shutting down Vine, adult site Pornhub VP Corey Price expressed his interest in buying the platform. In a letter obtained by CNet, Price wrote Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that in light of Twitter's troubles, "you and your stakeholders could benefit from a cash infusion from the sale of Vine." He also promised to "restore Vine to its NSFW glory," adding that clips "of porn in six seconds is more than enough time for most people to enjoy themselves."

10.27.16 | 7:19 pm

Evening intel: Mac attack, GE’s big bet, hacker gets jail time for nude photo heist

• A day after Microsoft set the world ablaze with its much-hyped Surface product launch, Apple (remember them?) struck back by unveiling some shiny new MacBooks Pros.

• A hacker who stole nude photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, and Kate Upton is getting 18 months in prison because justice. H/T Variety.

General Electric is in talks to buy the industrial-services company Baker Hughes Inc., according to those chatty "people familiar with the matter" who always seem to talk to the Wall Street Journal. The acquisition would be GE's biggest ever, WSJ reports.

• Alphabet investors are a little concerned about what Google's business model will look like—or sound like, rather—as the company shifts to voice-based services.

• And finally, what do fossilized dinosaur brains actually look like? See for yourself.

10.27.16 | 6:32 pm

Alphabet investors are worried about voice search push and talent retention 

On Alphabet's third-quarter earnings call, multiple investors asked how Google will continue to capitalize on search ads as it moves toward voice search through Google Home and Google Assistant products. If consumers are asking a screen-less device to look something up, there's no ad for them to see. What will voice ads sound like? Will they draw the same kind of money that display and video ads do? Google CEO Sundar Pichai says only that his team will be thoughtful about it. 

Another question that popped up: Is the Alphabet structure good for retaining top talent? Alphabet changed its stock-based compensation this year so that it could rise or dip based on the division's performance. Employees in some of Alphabet's more daring endeavors might not be keen to take on that risk. Questioning Alphabet's ability to retain key talent isn't off base. This year, Otto, a self-driving truck startup composed of 15 former Google Maps and autonomous vehicle project employees, was acquired by Uber for $680 million. On the call, Pichai said he's comfortable with how the company approaches creating a culture of innovation.

10.27.16 | 6:17 pm

Microsoft’s great week just got even better with LinkedIn’s 3Q earnings

Amid all the talk this week about Microsoft's sexy resurgence, the software giant just got more good news. LinkedIn's third-quarter earnings report—perhaps its last before Microsoft completes its $26 billion acquisition of the company later this year—shows all the arrows pointing in the right direction. More users. More revenue. What more could Redmond ask for? Below are some of the key highlights. 

10.27.16 | 4:17 pm

Amazon shares tumble as Q3 earnings miss expectations

Amazon's Q3 earnings results just went live, and the picture is not as rosy as analysts had expected. While quarterly revenue hit $32.71 billion, which beat expectations, the company missed on earnings per share. EPS was $0.52 compared to estimates of $0.78. Amazon shares are dropping in after-hours trading. 

Here's a rundown of the key numbers:

10.27.16 | 4:17 pm

Alphabet shares soar on better-than-expected earnings as mobile video strategy pays off

Much to the delight of investors, Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported earnings of $9.06 per share on revenue of $22.45 billion. Analysts were expecting EPS of $8.64 on revenue of $22.05 billion. 

"Mobile search and video are powering our core advertising business and we're excited about the progress of newer businesses in Google and Other Bets," writes CFO Ruth Porat in the third-quarter earnings statement.  

Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue were down 1% compared with Q3 2015. The company also appears to be mitigating expenses within its experimental catchall segment, succinctly titled "other bets." Revenue for its "other" category was up 39% year-over-year. Meanwhile, losses shrunk from $980 million in Q3 of last year to $865 million for Q3 2016. Alphabet's stock shot up 2% in after-hours trading before coming back down to this afternoon's closing price.  

10.27.16 | 3:28 pm

Today we got the touch-screen Mac that Apple wants to build

How long have people been wondering if Apple would ever build a Mac with a touch screen? Well, the question has been on some folks' minds for at least eight years. (I know because that's when Steve Jobs told me that adding touch to Macs didn't make sense.) And it currently provides fodder for Microsoft's Surface Book ads.

But the best way to think about Apple's new 13" and 15" MacBook Pro models, which dump function keys in favor of the Touch Bar, is that they're the company's first touch-screen Macs. It's just that the touch screen in question is supplementary to the main display and positioned where your fingers already spend most of their time.

In 2010, Jobs said that conventional touch screens are "ergonomically terrible" and that "your arm wants to fall off" after extended use of one. The Touch Bar integrates touch input into Macs without requiring Apple to backtrack on that stance. Which means it's classic Apple—a new feature that's both unique and a response to an industry trend. 

10.27.16 | 2:39 pm

Check out Apple’s sizzle videos for the new MacBook Pros

And here featuring the soothing tones of Sir Jony Ive:

10.27.16 | 2:38 pm

This is what fossilized dinosaur brains look like

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified what they say is the first known example of fossilized brain tissue in a dinosaur. And it turns out, the tissue is a lot like those found in modern-day birds and crocodiles. 

The specimen comes from a fossil discovered a decade ago in Sussex, in Southeast England, and likely belonged to a dinosaur species related to the Iguanodon. 

It's a good day for dino-nerds. And zombies, for that matter. The video below has all the details. Or read more about the research here

10.27.16 | 2:26 pm

Three new MacBook Pros: Here’s how much they cost

13" without Touch Bar — $1499

13" with Touch Bar/Touch ID —$1799

15" with Touch Bar/Touch ID—$2399

10.27.16 | 2:10 pm

Apple teases new LG 5K display that connects to MacBook Pro with single power/data cable

Apple discontinued its own Thunderbolt Display earlier this year, and has been rumored to be working on a new display with LG. We didn't expect a launch of the new display today, but Apple teased the device at its press event in Cupertino. 

The new display is called the LG Ultra 5K display. It appeared to be around 27 inches, like the old Apple display. It has microphones, at least one camera, speakers. It features three USB-C Thunderbolt ports. And a single USB-C cable to the new MacBook Pro provides both data and power. 

We'll have more on this once we get more spec, pricing, and availability information on the new displays.