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Comment: Advertising =/= scientific research (Score 1) 219

by langelgjm (#47349299) Attached to: Facebook's Emotion Experiment: Too Far, Or Social Network Norm?

It's different from A/B testing in that the experiment is explicitly designed to cause harm to half of the participants.

Presumably most A/B testing would be designed to figure out which choice performs better on a set of metrics. But going in, there is little evidence to point to one or the other, and the "harm" caused would simply be in user experience. In this experiment, the researchers had a prior theory about which choice would cause harm, and the harm is emotional and psychological.

All that aside, if this was purely internal research at Facebook, it would still likely be unethical but probably nothing out of the ordinary. The fundamental different is that this is being presented as scientific research. It's published in PNAS. It involve three co-authors from various universities. There are standards, both legal and ethical, that must be followed when engaging in scientific research, and the concern is that such standards were perhaps not followed.

Manipulation and even inducing harm may be widespread throughout the advertising industry, but that's advertising, not science.

Comment: It's called the Common Rule (Score 5, Interesting) 130

by langelgjm (#47344225) Attached to: In 2012, Facebook Altered Content To Tweak Readers' Emotions

It's called the Common Rule, although it generally only applies to federally funded research. There is some evidence that this study was in part federally funded. I think there are serious questions about whether a click-through agreement meets the standards of informed consent.

Although the study was approved by an institutional review board, I'm surprised, and the comment from the Princeton editor makes me wonder how well they understood the research design (or how clearly it was explained to them). This would never have gotten past my IRB.

Comment: Re:Some people may not afford to work less. (Score 1) 710

by langelgjm (#47314067) Attached to: Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

I'm sure there are stats on this, but I was under the impression that most people working more than 40 hours a week were salaried and overtime exempt, so they don't see any extra income from the extra work.

I would be surprised if it were otherwise - employers loathe time-and-a-half overtime pay, and would consider it unaffordable to pay someone for all those extra hours.

Comment: What about statistics vs calculus (Score 4, Insightful) 155

by langelgjm (#47292757) Attached to: Computational Thinking: AP Computer Science Vs AP Statistics?

It's not really a new debate, but the assumption that high school students will on average be better served by taking calculus instead of statistics could use some scrutiny.

Practically speaking, basic familiarity with statistics is also a form of civics - teaching kids when to call BS on bogus claims, helping them to understand what statistical significance means and doesn't mean, etc.

Comment: No. (Score 1) 76

OP complained about use of the word "gifted," claiming it was derived from Farmville jargon. This is factually incorrect and demonstrably false. I have never heard "gifted" in the context of Farmville or any other Zynga game until this Slashdot discussion. I have, however, heard it many times in normal English usage, used in ways similar to the examples given by the OED.

Just because OP is not familiar with the English word, which predates Zynga by centuries, does not mean that all modern usage derives from Zynga, which appears to be what you are arguing.

Comment: Learn to use a dictionary (Score 5, Informative) 76

From the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of "gift" as a verb:

2. To bestow as a gift; to make a present of. Const. with to or dative. Also with away. Chiefly Sc.
1619 J. Sempill Sacrilege Sacredly Handled 31 If they object, that tithes, being gifted to Levi, in official inheritance, can stand no longer than Levi [etc.].
a1639 J. Spottiswood Hist. Church Scotl. (1677) v. 278 The recovery of a parcel of ground which the Queen had gifted to Mary Levinston.
1711 in A. McKay Hist. Kilmarnock (1880) 98 This bell was gifted by the Earl of Kilmarnock to the town of Kilmarnock for their Council~house.
1754 J. Erskine Princ. Law Scotl. (1809) i. 51 Where a fund is gifted for the establishment of a second minister, in a parish where the cure is thought too heavy for one [etc.].
1801 A. Ranken Hist. France I. 301 Parents were prohibited from selling, gifting, or pledging their children.
1829 J. Brown New Deeside Guide (1876) 19 College of Blairs..having been gifted to the Church of Rome by its proprietor.
1836 A. Alison Hist. Europe V. xlii. 697 Thus did Napoleon and D' away Sicily.
1878 J. C. Lees Abbey of Paisley xix. 201 The Regent Murray gifted all the Church Property to Lord Sempill.

I'm not sure when Zynga was founded, but I'm pretty sure it was after 1619.

Comment: I can't see a benefit, so there is none... (Score 1) 272

by langelgjm (#46993237) Attached to: Why Mobile Wallets Are Doomed

... is a time-tested Slashdot commenting strategy!

But seriously, I don't always carry my wallet with me, but I almost always carry my phone with me. Last year I found myself in the perfect position to benefit tremendously from a mobile wallet on my phone.

I was on mile 4 of a long bike ride when my rear tire failed. Not the tube (I carry a spare), the actual tire. I had decided not to bring my wallet with me, but I did have my phone. Anyway, I needed a replacement tire, but I had no money on me, and I realized that despite having my credit card number memorized, I didn't actually have any direct way to pay a bicycle shop for a tire, so I walked home.

But it felt silly - that I was carrying around a smartphone that has access to multiple bank accounts and payment services, and that I even knew my credit card number, yet without a little piece of plastic, I couldn't pay for anything.

Since then I don't go on bike rides without my wallet, but that's not really the point. Sometimes I take walks and don't want to bring my wallet. Occasionally I change my mind on the way home and decide it would be a good idea to stop at the grocery store. But no wallet, no way to purchase anything, despite having my phone.

In other words, there do exist situations in which one might reasonably have a phone but not a wallet. You may argue they are edge cases, but I am just one person. Other people mentioned check splitting, which is especially a headache in recent years since no one seems to carry cash anymore.

Comment: Re:This (Score 2) 417

by langelgjm (#46957855) Attached to: London Black Cabs Threaten Chaos To Stop Uber

I hate having to pay the local super high taxi fares, but on the other hand, the service is first class. They are on time when preordered, the cars are nice and clean and safe. The drivers won't rob you, beat you, cheat you, or anything. They actually know their area, they also have navigators in every car, as well as the taxi centrals help. They are not allowed to refuse a drive because they don't feel like going to a direction where they won't find anyone to come back the other way.

Problem is, where I live, cabs are regulated, but the service is anything but first class. They're not on time, they're not nice and clean (seems like DC usually gets other cities' worn out cabs). At night, sometimes drivers turn off their meters. They're not allowed to refuse taking you to a destination, but they do anyway. They're not allowed to force passengers to share rides, but they do anyway. They are legally required to take credit cards, but they lie and say their machines are broken (until you say you can't pay because you don't have cash, at which point the machine magically starts working).

Point being, regulation doesn't necessarily mean good service. I've never used UberX, but the few times I've used Uber, while more expensive, it's been a much better experience than the typical cab.

Comment: Re:From a legal perspective, Swartz is probably wo (Score 1) 139

Well, he was going to be prosecuted primarily for violations of the CFAA, not copyright infringement.

Anyway the point I was trying to make is that I'm not convinced that OSVDB has any exclusive right to the information, period. If they don't have any exclusive right to it, then can try and "license" it all they want, but it doesn't matter. You don't get to just throw up a bunch of factual, non-copyrighted (and non-copyrightable) information on a public web page, then claim that anyone who doesn't comply with your "license" is doing something illegal... because they're facts. If you want to play that game, you'd better get your audience to sign a contract. There's no trade secrecy here, either, because the information is public.

Maybe OSVDB has some claim for unfair competition under state misappropriation laws, similar to the "hot news" doctrine. But their case would be much more convincing if they had a copyright claim, which even they don't seem convinced about.

Actually, given the way the CFAA is written (and abused), maybe that would cover the situation.

Of course McAfee is probably being a bad citizen here - I assume the point of the license, whether enforceable or not, is to try to defray the costs of establishing and maintaining the database. But simply being a bad citizen isn't necessarily illegal.

Comment: Re:From a legal perspective, Swartz is probably wo (Score 1) 139

Yeah, I also read something suggesting he wanted to do some text mining on the articles to find bias in corporate funded research. I think it was the prosecution pushing the idea that he wanted to release the articles, based on quotes from the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, etc.

Comment: From a legal perspective, Swartz is probably worse (Score 1) 139

There is no copyright in facts, which is why the Register article says there is a "debate" about copyright protection in databases. If a database is nothing more than a collection of facts, it won't be eligible for copyright protection. (It might be eligible for a database protection right in Europe, though)

That said, databases can be copyrighted if they contain original creative content, or if the selection and arrangement of the facts is original and creative. The article hints at a sweat of the brow justification, which would not work - just because you spend a lot of time compiling facts doesn't mean you get copyright in them (well, at least not in the U.S.). But the threshold for originality and creativity is pretty low, so if OSVDB does any editing or categorization or summarizing of reports, that might be enough to get them copyright in the database.

From a purely legal perspective, Swartz's intentions would probably be considered "worse." He mass-downloaded a bunch of articles from JSTOR (and no, I doubt all of them or even most of them were funded with public money), although he arguably had the right to do so. From what I understand, his intention was to release the articles to the public, but he never got that far. Had he done so, that would certainly have been a massive copyright violation, and there would have been multiple suits from multiple publishers (meanwhile, I'd imagine most of the authors of the articles wouldn't care, since they rarely if ever receive royalties for those articles, and often have to pay fees to have them published).

Whereas McAfee scrapes data from a publicly-accessible database that may or may not be protected by copyright. OSVDB will first have to prove they have a valid copyright in order to claim infringement. Maybe they'll fall back on this argument that even if not copyrighted, the data was licensed, but it's hard to throw up uncopyrighted data on a public web page and claim that there is some kind of binding license on everyone who accesses it. When uncopyrightable databases are licensed, that will usually involve signing a contract.

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau