[MEDIA] If you’re doubting that automation is taking over white collar jobs, meet the robo-journalist

cartoon of robotThe Los Angeles times became the first newspaper to publish a story written completely by an algorithm. The program, specifically designed to report on earthquakes, automatically assembles data about recent earthquakes and assembles it into a “story” that gives the basic facts about the quake. The program, written by journalist Ken Schwencke, also can report on crime in the city.

Read more about Robo-reporter on Slate.  
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[EVENTS] NET/WORK Baltimore job fair: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Photo from Philadelphia

Reserve your free tickets now for NET/WORK Baltimore on Thursday, February 20th. If their last event ( Philadelphia, shown here) is any indication, it looks like it’ll be a great event for job-seekers!

Local tech news hub Baltimore is hosting a jobs fair on Thursday, February 20th at the Emerging Technology Center on 101 N. Haven St. in Highlandtown. With over 16 technology-related firms attending (and planning on hiring people now), this event is a must-attend for anyone looking for a job in web design and development, information systems, cybersecurity, game design and development, technology consulting, programming, mobile app development, marketing/advertising, or e-commerce. A number of Baltimore-based non-profit technology community groups will be in attendance, too including Accelerate Baltimore, Betamore, Digital Harbor Foundation, and Girl Develop It Baltimore.

Tickets are usually $5, but students with a valid ID get in for free. Check out the event site to learn more and reserve your ticket before the event sells out.

Some of the firms planning on recruiting at NET/WORK Baltimore include:



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[MEDIA] Removing Copy Protection from Music Boosts Sales 10%


graph from study

Graph via bOING bOING

Torrent Freak summarizes a working paper from University of Toronto PhD candidate Laurina Zhang that shows that music sales from 4 major labels increased by 10% after they removed copy protection (also known as Digital Rights Management or DRM) from their music. Looking at 5,864 albums from 634 artists, Zhang discovered that the effect wasn’t uniform, however: albums with lower sales (under 25,000 copies) showed the biggest boost, with a 41% increase in sales after DRM was removed. Top-selling albums showed little difference in DRM and non-DRM versions. Why the difference? According to Zhang, “My results are consistent with theory that shows lowering search costs can facilitate the discovery of niche products,” or, in other words, allowing people to share music from lesser-known artists made it easier for others to discover (and then buy) new music.

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[EDUCATION] 7 Great ways to learn how to code

Chart showing the difference between a dreamer, a coder, and a hacker

Image courtesy of Paul Downey via Flickr

One of the most common pitches endured by freelance programmers comes from the enthusiastic, wanna-be entrepreneur who thinks that he or she has come up with the greatest idea for a web site (or app or technology) that the world’s ever seen. There’s just one problem: they don’t have the skills to create even a working prototype. So what do they do? They reach out to any coders who will listen to them for more than 5 seconds or who made the mistake of responding to their emails. And the pitch is always the same:


Budding Entrepreneur: “Hey! Listen! I’ve got this idea that’s gonna be the next Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Google! All I need is for someone to do the code! I don’t have any funding right now so I can’t pay you (though confidentially I’ve been working on a few angel investors and might have some funding coming through soon), but I’m willing to offer you an equity stake in my new company if you’ll do the coding for me! It’s the chance of a lifetime!”
Freelance Coder: “Uh…no.”

The problem is that everyone’s got ideas… but few people have the skills (or are willing to learn the skills) necessary to turn their ideas into something tangible enough to convince other people just how great their idea is. Those who have these skills — coders, designers, engineers, architects, Makers, etc.– acquired them with a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hard work. Remember, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. The real key to success  having the creativity to innovate combined with the skills to create what you dream.

That being said, most people can learn how to code. Granted, you might not be cranking out new operating systems or single-handedly writing console games after a few months of practice, but you’d be surprised at what you can do once you know the basics and apply a little creativity. Better yet, these days there are a number of fabulous and free (or very low cost) ways to learn how to code online.

Interested? Check out 7 best ways to learn how to code on VentureBeat.

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[MEDIA] Netflix tops 40 million customers total, more paid US subscribers than HBO


Picture of dead TV

Photo courtesy of Rick Rokely

Netflix tops 40 million customers total, more paid US subscribers than HBO. ’nuff said. We’re in the twilight of TV as we’ve known it.

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[MEDIA] Scholars at the London School of Economics show that file sharing is actually helping the entertainment industry


graph showing music industry revenue as derived by different revenue streams

Trends in music industry revenue

A new study released by scholars at the London School of Economics and Political Science argues that file sharing is actually helping the music industry. As TorrentFreak reports:

The report shows that the entertainment industries are actually doing quite well. The digital gaming industry is thriving, the publishing sector is stable, and the U.S. film industry is breaking record after record.

Rather than dismiss that piracy is occurring, the report points to the fact that while sales of pre-recorded physical media (CDs and DVDs) are indeed going down, alternative revenue streams such as online streaming and live concerts are dramatically increasing. The authors go on to point out that the entertainment industry’s need to innovate because of digital file sharing is the very thing that’s helped them develop the alternative streams of revenue that are saving the industry. According to Bart Cammaerts, Senior Lecturer at the School and co-author of the report:

“Contrary to the industry claims, the music industry is not in terminal decline, but still holding ground and showing healthy profits. Revenues from digital sales, subscription services, streaming and live performances compensate for the decline in revenues from the sale of CDs or records.”




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[MEDIA] Sharing is…stealing? According to new MPAA campaign, yes. It is.

Bad Share!

Stills from new MPAA/RIAA Anti-Piracy Curriculum

You may remember when the Software Publisher’s Association launched its seminal “Don’t Copy That Floppy” campaign in 1992 in an attempt to stop what they saw as rampant piracy of games such as Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. You may even have missed out when the Software and Information Industry Association re-launched the campaign in 2000 as “Don’t Copy that Floppy 2” featuring the triumphant return of MC Double Def DP. Too bad for you…it’s no wonder you’re probably reading this right now while 30 BitTorrent clients stream an unending…err…torrent of pirated materials into your hard drive.

Luckily, your tragedy doesn’t have to be repeated by today’s youth due to a new campaign created by your pals at the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America (MPAA and RIAA, respectively). Designed as “age appropriate” curricula (rather than released onto the Interwebs as YouTube videos that could be pirated and hilariously remixed), this new campaign is designed to teach kids in grades K-6 that file sharing is really, really bad.

They’ll learn exciting lessons such as how bad it feels when someone steals credit for your crafts (Kindergarten), that hastily-scribbled doodles contain value that their “friends” will be quick to steal and profit from (1st grade), that “sharing” means “theft” (2nd grade), that taking a picture of something is the same as stealing it (3rd grade), that singing a song you like at school is akin to piracy (4th grade), that recording a movie on your mobile phone in the theater will land you in the slammer (5th grade), and that ignoring copyright laws is destroying the lives of REAL TEENS everywhere…even if those real teens are being portrayed by actors (6th grade).

You can check out the videos of the new campaign here.. Cracked has a pretty funny article about it, too.


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[NEWS] Music Piracy Plunges, Doesn’t Stop Music Sales Decline

TorrentFreak Logo

Ofcom, the UK’s “independent regulator and competition authority” released a report on September 11th, 2013 revealing that music piracy in the UK is on a “clear downward trend” compared to last year.

According to a story published on September 19th by BitTorrent-news site TorrentFreak, this decline may indicate that online music piracy may not contribute to the downward spiral of decline sales of recorded music:

The majority of the reports and press releases put out by music industry groups over the past several years can be summarized in a few words: “Piracy is evil and we lose a lot of money because of it.”

On the other side, however, numerous studies have also shown that on average file-sharers spend more money on legal purchases, whether it’s music or box office tickets.

The most logical explanation for this finding is that “pirates” are more engaged than those who don’t share, and that they complement their legal purchases with unauthorized downloads.

The above indicates that music piracy might not be the right scapegoat for the massive losses the industry has suffered since the early 2000s. At least, not the prime reason. This appears to be supported by new data released by the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom last week.

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