Read for later - "[The] strength of the project was [its] collective brainpower"

This week’s headline comes from Amita Kelly, a digital editor and producer on NPR's Washington desk, referring to their recent project fact-checking and annotating a transcript from the recent presidential debate. From a project that involved lines of code, speech to text transcription, and a group editing platform, it was the collective intelligence of diverse journalists that created real value in the final product. That’s a line of thinking I hear again and again – the real value and future of libraries resides in the collective intelligence of library professionals.  

Two reminders:

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work.

And let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google's DeepMind, and IBM are among the major partners in a new artificial intelligence organization – the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society – that will conduct open-source research and investigate AI issues such as ethics and human and AI system collaboration (Mashable “Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft form new AI alliance”). See also CNET, Engadget, Geekwire, The Guardian, and TechCrunch.

The IBM Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers have collaborated to build Teacher Advisor, a program that uses artificial intelligence technology to answer questions from educators and help them build personalized lesson plans – available later this year for free to third-grade math teachers with new subject areas and grade levels added over time (The New York Times "Next target for IBM’s Watson? Third-grade math").  See also Engadget.  

Books, Media, and Publishing

NPR’s coverage of the first presidential debate included a transcript fact-checked by 20 NPR journalists in real-time, an experiment in real-time fact-checking involving a transcription service providing a moment-by-moment transcript of each candidates' remarks in real-time, snippets of code that read the transcript and dumped it into Google Docs where the journalists annotated the transcript by checking facts and adding context, and then a second piece of code that fed the annotated transcript onto a page on every 10 seconds (Poynter "NPR’s real-time fact-checking drew millions of readers").  

The Washington Post has implemented a newsroom-wide initiative to judiciously consider the length of articles and to "promote a sense and awareness of responsibility" among reporters and editors that stories shouldn't be long for length's sake, possibly in response to the general lengthening of articles written for the web instead of print (Poynter “Washington Post initiative aims to keep reporters from writing ‘unnecessarily long’”).  

Cities and Government

The White House released a new “Housing Development Toolkit”, encouraging communities to change   zoning codes that restrict new residential developments, eliminate off-street parking requirements, create zoning that allows high density and multi-family developments like townhouses and apartment buildings, require developers to build some affordable housing, incentivize developers to build extra affordable units by allowing them to make their projects bigger if they do, and tax vacant land so it gets put to a productive use – all to encourage more affordable housing and less sprawl in urban areas (Grist "Obama pushes to make cities denser and more affordable").  

The White House announced an additional $80 million available for its Smart Cities Initiative, bringing the total investment to $240 million to help cities tackle public safety, resilience, and transportation improvements through federal research and partnerships among governments, universities, and the private sector – and a new Global City Teams Challenge that will bring together “super-clusters” headed up by more than 20 cities to tackle challenges too big for any one city, such as large-scale natural disasters and regional air-quality improvements (Next City “20-plus U.S. cities make “smart tech” promise”).  

In the Public Interest’s new report, “How Privatization Increases Inequality,” examines municipalities’ efforts to privatize services as part of cost reductions while disproportionately hurting the poor and other marginalized communities (Next City "Examples of how city services privatization leads to inequality are piling up").  

The Economy

New data from the US Census shows that nearly 3.5 million Americans rose above the poverty line last year,  as employers reach deeper into the labor market, create more jobs, especially among retailers, restaurants, and hotels, and pay higher wages to attract workers and meet new minimum wage requirements (The New York Times "Millions in U.S. climb out of poverty, at long last").  


Georgia Tech’s online master’s in computer science costs less than one-eighth as much as its most expensive rival, charging online students the smallest amount necessary to cover its costs – just $510 for a three-credit class (The New York Times "An online education breakthrough? A master’s degree for a mere $7,000").  

More than a dozen colleges from the edX consortium announced plans to offer "micro-master’s" online degrees, roughly equivalent to between a quarter and a half of the course material from a typical master's degree  taken as a series of short online courses without first going through any admissions process (The Chronicle of Higher Education "Online ‘micro-master’s’ programs extend their reach").  

The Internet

Google Station will work to bring free Wi-Fi to trains and buses around the world, offering "partners an easy set of tools to roll-out Wi-Fi hotspots in public places" (CNET "Google could soon bring free Wi-Fi to your bus").  

Meerkat’s new app Houseparty supports video chatting with friends to create a "synchronous social network" through frequent, candid conversations with friends and family (The Verge “Meerkat built a new app in secret, and almost 1 million people are using it”).  See also Engadget, Mashable, and ReCode.

At the same time, Meerkat’s signature app, which helped kick off mobile live-streaming, has been removed from the iOS App Store (The Verge "Live-streaming pioneer Meerkat has been pulled from the App Store").  See also TechCrunch.


Digital and internet-connected toys are a rapidly growing segment of the market, encouraging consumers to synch their phone or tablet to a toy even as the technology becomes less visible and play comes to the forefront (The Guardian "The future of smart toys and the battle for digital children").  


Reporting from The Intercept questions the privacy of iMessage conversations, noting that Apple’s Messages app contacts Apple servers to determine whether to route a given message over the SMS system, represented in the app by green text bubbles, or over Apple’s proprietary and more secure messaging network, represented by blue bubbles – and blue-bubbled texts leave behind a log of which phone numbers users contact that can be shared (along with other potentially sensitive metadata) with law enforcement when compelled by court order (The Intercept "Apple logs your iMessage contacts – and may share them with police”). See also Engadget and The Verge.

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

Virtual or delivery-only restaurants, which capitalize on online ordering and delivery services and avoid the expense and burden of physical dining rooms, are rising in popularity and gaining interest from investors – yet another indicator that we are spending less time together (Eater “When Restaurants Ditch the Dining Room”).  

Smart lock maker August Home and web-connected garage door opener Garageio, both of which have ties to Amazon, are exploring new ways for delivery people to leave products inside the home when residents aren’t there, part of a larger push to make delivery even more convenient and every day (The Information “How Amazon might get through the front door”).  See also CNET, Engadget, TechCrunch, and Vocativ.

And while you’re looking to get products through the front door, why not also control the chain that gets products to the door – that may be Amazon’s long-term goal as it explores options to build a massive delivery network that could compete with such partners as UPS (The Wall Street Journal “Amazon’s newest ambition: Competing directly with UPS and FedEx”). See also ArsTechnica.

Sharing Economy

A new report from Etsy explores three ways the federal government could create a "social security net" for independent workers – a Federal Benefits Portal to manage all individual benefits, regardless of where individual work; a simple tax withholding plan to fund benefits outside of payroll; and a single MyFlex Account rather than various tax-advantaged savings accounts to help manage income fluctuations (Mashable "Etsy proposes 3 ways to improve the gig economy in new report").  

Virtual Reality

Oscar-winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will direct a short film shot in virtual reality about immigration between Mexico and the US (The Verge “The director of The Revenant is making a VR short film about immigration”). See also Engadget, Geekwire, TechCrunch, and Variety.