Archive for the ‘News’ Category

I thought maybe I was being paranoid

30 Jan 2017

An odd thing happened to me on twitter today.

UW System had tweeted a statement from system president Ray Cross concerning Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from 7 countries. Cross’s statement is close to the most empty, useless possible such statement.

So I tweeted back, asking him to revise his statement and actually take a stand against Trump’s executive order.


Note that I mentioned not just @RayWCross and @UWSystem, but also @POTUS.

Twenty minutes later, the tweet had gotten a couple of ❤️’s, and then one RT, but for some reason the tweet itself had disappeared from my twitter feed (in the app I use, Tweetbot). I looked at my twitter account in a web browser, and sure enough the tweet wasn’t there.

Puzzled, and knowing I hadn’t deleted the tweet, I poked around and was able to find, somehow, the URL for the original tweet, and I could see the tweet in a browser. So it hadn’t been deleted, it had just been removed from my feed.

@Kerri_Gilbert then wrote that she could see it in her feed but not if she went to my timeline. So I wasn’t completely crazy.

@CFlensburg later wrote that he could see the tweet, but he’s in Australia.

Now my hypothesis was: someone who looks after @potus had somehow suppressed my tweet. Or was I being paranoid?

A quick google search (for “tweet disappeared from feed”) revealed a Washington Post article from 2015-10-30, “Tweets are disappearing on Twitter. Why?” This seems to explain what happened: my tweet was suppressed by some kind of “abuse filter.”

The article is an interesting read. It describes the experience of Paul Dietrich (@Paulmd199), who wrote an analysis of his situation: “Adventures in Twitter Censorship.” Also an interesting read.

And note that the tweet suppression is location-specific. It’s okay for Australians to read the tweet, but Americans need to be protected from it.

But why this tweet?

This tweet of mine was really a pretty bland tweet. I mean, I was directly criticizing my boss‘s boss‘s boss, and we just barely have tenure at Wisconsin anymore, so I certainly wasn’t going to be abusive. I’m not sure why I actually mentioned @potus, but I figured, “What the hell.”

But what sort of abuse detection algorithm would decide that this tweet was abusive? If there’s an abuse filter that would suppress this tweet but not all of the actual abuse rampant on twitter…well that’s bullshit.

Maybe it was that I wrote “Sad.” (I thought that was funny. And hardly abusive.)

I favor the theory that it wasn’t an algorithm but rather a person: that someone is assigned to read all mentions of @potus and if they deem something inappropriate, they flip a switch and the tweet gets suppressed.

So maybe I am paranoid.

(I forgot to mention: @NickFleisher had the best response to Ray Cross’s lame statement: “Revise and resubmit.”)

A bit more on the fire

1 Mar 2013

The Daily Cardinal reports that there were no overhead sprinklers in the area of the fire yesterday. Fire fighters thought that sprinklers had gone off, but it was really a broken water pipe.

And there are no sprinklers in my office, either. I thought they were required, but I guess only in new construction.

There’s a short TV report (after a commercial) at the channel 15 site.

A graduate student interviewed said, “I have multiple copies of my data, but they’re all in that building.”

I hope we all learn from this: Off-site backups (at least with something like DropBox) are important.

There’s a fire in the building…

28 Feb 2013

I was at work this morning at 8am. At 8:45am I got a text asking what was going on in my building, with this picture:

Fire trucks at MSC

It was news to me.

At 8:55am we got an alert saying “Avoid 1300 Univ Ave. Fire and Police on scene for working fire.” Hey, I’m at 1300 University Avenue!

We could see out the window that there was a campus police officer preventing people from entering the building. But the fire alarm had never gone off.

At 9:05am I called the campus police to ask what was going on. They said all the alarms were supposed to go off. They asked me to leave the building. I did immediately, but afterwards I wished I’d brought my lunch and laptop with me.

Apparently no one was hurt, but there seems to be quite a mess. This is on the same floor as my office, not too far away:

Fire-related mess, 4th floor SMI

The fire seems to be around the corner from that shot, in the back-central part of the building. I peaked around the corner and saw a bunch of people standing around, but I was too shy to take a picture of them.

There are related articles in the Wisconsin State Journal and the Channel 3000 site.

Microsoft Office

30 Jan 2013

The New York Times has an article about how Microsoft will have users pay a yearly fee for MS Office, instead of buying it outright.

There’s some mention of competition from Google Docs. Why should one still use Microsoft Office? The brilliant Excel graphs!

As for Google, Mr. DelBene said it has not “in any way diminished demand” for Office because Microsoft’s applications are “just so far beyond the capabilities that are in those alternative products.” As an example, he cited a feature in Excel that analyzes a batch of numbers selected by a user and automatically recommends the best way to represent the data in a chart.

NIH to hire Associate Director for Data Science

15 Jan 2013

See the press release.

Eric Green, currently head of NHGRI, has been appointed the Acting Associate Director for Data Science.

Child abuse and neglect is cancelled today

29 Nov 2012

On a classroom door:

Puzzling typo

27 Oct 2012

There’s a nice op-ed in the NY Times about the crazy conviction of seven Italian scientists for failure to warn about an unpredictable earthquake. But I spent quite a while puzzling over the following typo:

The third highlighted line should be in the middle of the fourth one, to give “…who allow flimsy buildings to be built…” I’m not sure how such an error can occur.

Here’s a PDF of the full article.

The future of personalized medicine

11 Oct 2012

“Scientists” ripping people off by selling them basically useless genetic information with a bullshit report: a genetic test for exercise.

What, no coffee?

28 Sep 2012

I was at a CIDR Access Committee meeting in DC a few weeks ago. We review proposals for genotyping or sequencing by the Center for Inherited Disease Research, a service funded by several of the NIH institutes.

We had to buy our own coffee.

It’s silly to complain. There was a coffee shop across the hall from the meeting room, and the coffee there was suitable.

But isn’t it silly to pay airfare for a dozen people for a 3 hr meeting and then chintz on the snacks? Apparently it’s a new government rule. (I’d thought the rule was maybe instituted following the GSA’s Las Vegas party, but it predates that.)

Without coffee, grant reviewing does not seem to go as well.

Bottle filling station

24 Sep 2012

The Madison airport now has a bottle-filling machine, sort of like this:

Bottle filler/drinking fountains are being installed all over the UW-Madison campus, too.

I really love these things. All airports should have them.