The History of Digital Spam

Communications of the ACM, August 2019
By Emilio Ferrara

“In this article, I will briefly review the history of digital spam: starting from its quintessential incarnation, spam emails, to modern-days forms of spam affecting the Web and social media, the survey will close by depicting future risks associated with spam and abuse of new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (e.g., Digital Humans).”

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At Least 70 Countries Have Had Disinformation Campaigns, Study Finds

The New York Times, September 26, 2019
By Davey Alba and Adam Satariano

“Despite increased efforts by internet platforms like Facebook to combat internet disinformation, the use of the techniques by governments around the world is growing, according to a report released Thursday by researchers at Oxford University. Governments are spreading disinformation to discredit political opponents, bury opposing views and interfere in foreign affairs.”

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The Compositional Architecture of the Internet

Communications of the ACM, March 2019
By Pamela Zave, Jennifer Rexford

“In this article, we present a new way of describing the Internet, better attuned to the realities of networking today, and to meeting the challenges of the future. Its central idea is that the architecture of the Internet is a flexible composition of many networks—not just the networks acknowledged in the classic Internet architecture, but many other networks both above and below the public Internet in a hierarchy of abstraction.”

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Blogging Birds: Telling Informative Stories About the Lives of Birds from Telemetric Data

Communications of the ACM, March 2019
By Advaith Siddharthan, Kapila Ponnamperuma, Chris Mellish, et al.

“The Blogging Birds system shows that raw satellite tag data can be transformed into fluent, engaging, and informative texts directed at members of the public and in support of nature conservation.”

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The New Wilderness

Idle Words
By Maciej Cegłowski

“For the purposes of this essay, I'll call it "ambient privacy" – the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered. What we do at home, work, church, school, or in our leisure time does not belong in a permanent record. Not every conversation needs to be a deposition.”

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In Debt to the NSF

Communications of the ACM, April 2019
By Vinton G. Cerf

“We collectively owe much to the foresight and nuanced decisions taken by the leadership of [National Science Foundation’s] Computer, Information Systems and Engineering Directorates (CISE) and its Division of Computer and Network Systems.” [Without that, there would be no Internet as we know it today.]

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Metrics That Matter

Communications of the ACM, April 2019
By Benjamin Treynor Sloss, Shylaja Nukala, Vivek Rau

“One of the most important choices in offering a service is which service metrics to measure, and how to evaluate them. The difference between great, good, and poor metric and metric threshold choices is frequently the difference between a service that will surprise and delight its users with how well it works, one that will be acceptable for most users, and one that will actively drive away users—regardless of what the service actually offers. … What follows are the types of metrics the Google SRE team has adopted for Google services. These metrics are not particularly easy to implement, and they may require changes to a service to instrument properly. It has been our consistent experience at Google, however, that every service team that implements these metrics is happy afterward that it made the effort to do so.”

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Identity by Any Other Name

Communications of the ACM, April 2019
By Pat Helland

“The fascinating thing about identifiers is that while they identify the same "thing" over time, that referenced thing may slide around in its meaning. Product descriptions, reviews, and inventory balance all change, while the product ID does not. Reservations, orders, and bookings all have identifiers that do not change, while the stuff they identify may subtly change over time. Identity and identifiers provide the immutable linkage. Both sides of this linkage may change, but they provide a semantic consistency needed by the business operation. No matter what you call it, identity is the glue that makes things stick and lubricates cooperative work. … The judicious use of ambiguity and interchangeability lubricates distributed, long-running, scalable, and heterogeneous systems.”

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Informatics as a Fundamental Discipline for the 21st Century

Communications of the ACM, April 2019
By Michael E. Caspersen, Judith Gal-Ezer, Andrew McGettrick, Enrico Nardelli

“The emphasis of the report is on informatics education, with informatics seen as the science underpinning the development of the digital world—a distinctive discipline with its own scientific methods, its own ways of thinking, and its own technological development.”

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Web Science in Europe: Beyond Boundaries

Communications of the ACM, April 2019
By Steffen Staab, Susan Halford, Wendy Hall

“For the past decade, Web Science has been building the interdisciplinary expertise to face the challenges and realize the value of this rapidly growing and diversifying Web. This task transcends the work of any single academic discipline. While our universities continue—overwhelmingly—to be organized in siloes established in the 20th century, or much earlier, the Web demands expertise from computer science, sociology, business, mathematics, law, economics, politics, psychology engineering, geography, and more. Web Science exists to integrate knowledge and expertise from across fields, integrating this into systematic, robust, and reliable research that provides an action base for the future of the Web.”

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The Web Is Missing an Essential Part of Infrastructure: An Open Web Index

Communications of the ACM, April 2019
By Dirk Lewandowski

“A proposal for building an index of the Web that separates the infrastructure part of the search engine—the index—from the services part that will form the basis for myriad search engines and other services utilizing Web data on top of a public infrastructure open to everyone.”

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The Top 10 Things Executives Should Know About Software

Communications of the ACM, July 2019
By Thomas A. Limoncelli

“In 2011, Marc Andreessen wrote an article predicting, ‘Software will eat the world.’ By that he meant two things: First, many traditional businesses are being replaced by software companies. Second, all other companies are finding the value they deliver is increasingly a result of software.

When Andreessen wrote his article none of the 10 biggest companies (by market value) were in software-driven businesses. Today, six of the 10 biggest companies are primarily driven by software. The others are ripe for a transformation.”

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A New Labor Market for People with 'Coolabilities'

Communications of the ACM, July 2019
By David Nordfors, Chally Grundwag, V. R. Ferose

“Powerful technologies are today ready to open the door to a new paradigm of work: instead of squeezing people into existing job slots, companies can tailor work that fits individuals' unique skills, talents, and passions, matching them with inspiring teams and offering them a choice of meaningful tasks. This has tremendous benefits for both the employee and employer by creating a "long-tail labor market" in which diversity brings competitive advantage.”

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Smart Cities – Who Benefits?

Communications of the ACM, July 2019
By Susan J. Winter

“This column uses the case of smart cities to illustrate the ethical dilemmas created by an otherwise innocuous-seeming issue. … Cui bono, which means "who benefits?" … Cui bono? In principle, everyone. But a closer look at the smart cities rhetoric shows the benefits focused on a subset of the total.”

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The Sounds of Silence

MIT Technology Review, June 26, 2019
By Chuck Klosterman. Illustration by Keith Rankin.

“The rock era and the space age exist on parallel time lines. The Soviets launched Sputnik in October 1957, the same month Elvis Presley hit #1 with “Jailhouse Rock.” The first Beatles single, “Love Me Do,” was released 23 days after John F. Kennedy declared that America would go to the moon (and not because it was easy, but because it was hard). Apollo 11 landed the same summer as Woodstock. These specific events are (of course) coincidences. Yet the larger arc is not. Mankind’s assault upon the heavens was the most dramatic achievement of the 20th century’s second half, simultaneous with rock’s transformation of youth culture. It does not take a deconstructionist to see the influence of the former on the latter.”

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