phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

Facebook M is made out of contractorswww.buzzfeed.com

BuzzFeed’s Mat Honan decided to try out Facebook’s new Messenger-based digital assistant, M.

Facebook M is just a person with a phone.
Facebook M is just a person with a phone.

And what do you know, sending parrots via mobile phone is a thing that you can do in 2015.

Honan talked to a woman from the parrot-renting company, Happy Birds, about what it’s like to receive a request from M. Turns out it’s just a person with a phone.

“She said, ‘I’m doing it for someone else.’ She said ‘well, it’s for my boss’ friend.’”

There was another indicator, however, that this was a legitimate request. Just after the woman claiming to be M called Happy Birds, the company received an identical request through GigSalad — an online platform where performers and event services can connect with interested clients.

This wasn’t the only time I saw evidence of M turning to independent contractors on other platforms to execute requests. When I tried to get it to send a Minion to my colleague Katie Notopolous (she loves Minions) it helpfully offered that “I am able to set up a Tasker with Task Rabbit to go purchase a minion costume and can come interact and entertain for 20-30 min at a rate of $150 for the hour.” (I deemed this too expensive.)

In fact, much of M’s real-word efforts seem to run on contractors. Facebook confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the trainers are all independent contractors. Which to some extent answers the question of how Facebook can scale this up, before M becomes fully automated. It will take an army of humans, each doing small tasks. Simply put, before Facebook can make its robot act like lots of humans, it needs a lot of humans to act like robots.

See also: The Weird Robot Hotel

Link via Casey

The Whalephiffer.org

As a coding exercise for a course I’m teaching this semester I created this single-serving site serializing Moby Dick into tiny individual texts. Remember single-serving sites? Sadly many of those domains have expired, but one of the best of them—Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle—is still there, if a bit quaint. I ruthlessly stole the design.

the-whale

With apologies to Mat Honan. See also: Joshua Cohen serializing his novel PCKWCK (after Dickens’s Pickwick Papers) live on the Internet.

Link, source available on GitHub

Self-driving cars: “utterly inevitable”www.buzzfeed.com

Mat Honan wrote about the experience of riding in Google’s cute self-driving cars.

“One also suspects that the cars look intentionally nonthreatening. That they very much are not intended to look like [some of Google’s other robots](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuThIK-X2gU).” Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News
“One also suspects that the cars look intentionally nonthreatening. That they very much are not intended to look like some of Google’s other robots.” Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

The first time I rode in a fully autonomous car, what really impressed me was when the car saw something that I could not. As I rode down a residential street in Mountain View, the car slowed, for no apparent reason. Yet in the front seat, a laptop showed everything the car could “see.” And up ahead, there was a man, in the street, standing behind a double-parked vehicle. He was concealed from my eyes, but the car detected him. And it slowed down, anticipating that he might step out unexpectedly.

It anticipated this because each and every one of Google robot cars has experienced the totality of everything all its siblings have experienced. Google’s cars have driven a total of 1.2 million miles on the roads. We tend to think of this as combined experience — an aggregate number. But what it really means, effectively, is that every single car has driven that distance, has experienced it. This is a machine that learns. And in addition to that on road time, the cars log, Google said yesterday, 3 million miles every day running scenarios.

This car is a better driver than me, or you, or any of us.

Link via Andy Baio

Gizmodo will pay you for photos of Mark Zuckerberggizmodo.com

Mat Honan:

Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg told startup publicist Mike Arrington that “people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

Facebook has evolved over time too. No longer privately held, it is itself a public company, with a public CEO. We think it’s time he evolves along with his company. In short, it’s time for Mark to go public too.

Here’s the deal: We’re going to pay for photos and videos of Mark Zuckerberg taken between now and Labor Day. Snap a photo or shoot some video of Mark. At a bar, after a conference, on the street. Totally great. We want pictures of him that he isn’t expecting to have made. If we run it, we’ll send you a cool $20.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say $20 is low compared to standard paparazzi rates. This reminds me a little of Rob Cockerham’s paparazzi contest, which was great fun to participate in.

Link