Compulsive YouTube use results in lower academic motivation

try not to use it too compulsively

Compulsively consuming youtube content can lower acadmenic motivation – these are the findings of a recent study.

For many people, youtube is a nearly unlimited source of free knowledge on any topic, for others it can be an addiction. The study concluded that the participants with an ‘informational motivation’ for using youtube were less likely to use youtube compulsively when compared to users who visited youtube with an ‘entertainment motivation’. Basically, if you’re using youtube to learn new skills, it’s less likely to lead to compulsive use.

There’s a grey area between ‘entertainment motivation’ and ‘information motivation’ though. If the videos you’re watching have titles that start with “top 10”, you should be asking yourself what your viewing motivation really is. It’s easy to browse youtube with the intent of studying for a physics class, but 20 minutes later auto-play has taken you down an infotainment rabbit hole with the general theme of “deadliest engineering disasters”.

It seems intuitive that a massive amount of infotainment might lower academic motivation – learning new things can be physically and mentally taxing. It’s better to spend that energy learning things that will actually be useful to your personal and educational goals.

Compulsive use of technologies that provide both entertainment and educational value isn’t limited to youtube. Wikipedia is a valuable tool for learning, but it can also be a rabbit hole for useless trivia. Social news sites like reddit can be used to participate in niche communities and learn new skills, but can also be used to waste hours of time bickering and reading useless comments. It’s a clear conflict of interest for these web giants: they want people to spend as much time on their platforms as possible, but they also want to maintain the image that they care about the heath and well-being of their users.

The massive amount of distraction caused by infotainment is evidenced by the industry of anti-distraction software that are available for your desktop, browser and mobile device. Apple recently introduced new features to help people monitor their device usage, and perhaps this is a good strategy – by showing people the amount of time they’re wasting, they can at least set goals to reduce that waste. Studies like the one in this article are helpful because they show a link between the compulsive behavior and lowered academic motivation – this may be enough to get people to reconsider the way they consume media online.



Man with autism is arrested for allegedly scamming AWS

don't mess with Amazon

Amazon Web Services spends a lot of time enticing companies to move their data to the cloud – but transferring petabytes of data isn’t always a straightforward task. AWS has implemented a service called Snowball to make it easier. Essentially, Amazon ships you some Snowball appliances, you put your data on them, and send the appliance back to AWS. The idea is by no means new (see sneakernets), but the scale at which AWS has implemented it is still impressive.

But what happens when someone simply doesn’t return one of these devices? An Australian man was arrested for doing just that – he’s been accused of stealing 31 of the devices that he ordered over a year ago.

Christopher Hawker is the 26-year old tech worker who was arrested wednesday in a joint FBI/NSW (Australian police) operation. He’s since posted bail, which his attorney argued for based on Christopher’s autism – apparently his condition would leave him vulnerable behind bars. According to AWS, if the devices aren’t returned within 90 days, they may mark them as ‘lost’ and charge a ‘lost device fee’. The Snowball devices come in 50 and 80 terabyte versions.

AWS charges a $250 service fee per 80-TB appliance – so it would only cost $7750 to order 31, and the value of the devices is approximately $600,000. Australian police located the devices in Hawker’s home, in various states of disrepair. Police believe that Hawker intended to sell components harvested from the devices. Hawker will appear before the court again on August 8th.

Christopher also been banned from using Amazon, and from using the internet except for work as conditions of his bail.


source: Australian AP

Is firefox lying to users about viruses in downloads?

Firefox ships with an interesting feature: they automatically flag downloads for viruses and malware. Sounds awesome. Unfortunately, this message isn’t always accurate. Apparently, sometimes this message is an outright lie. Firefox isn’t necessarily scanning the files for viruses, they’re often just using databases that list domains suspected of hosting malware. This would actually be a really useful warning if it was communicated to the end user accurately.

In one example, users report Firefox displaying this message when dowloading files via  “library genesis”, a popular website for downloading books and other materials without a license. A lot of the content on library genesis is pirated content, although there’s also some public domain material there.  But we’re not here to discuss the ethics of pirating books. For some users, Firefox is flagging every file downloaded from this website, telling them it’s a virus.

Several posts on the /r/libgen subreddit have confirmed this behavior. The behavior appears to be inconsistent: some users see the warnings, some don’t – sometimes the warning will display one day, and then not the next. Firefox support explains that the malware lists are updated every 30 minutes – so this might explain the erratic behavior. Apparently this has been going on for at least a month, according to another thread on the /r/libgen subreddit.

When the files in question were actually checked with a virus scanner, none of the flagged files were shown to contain viruses or malware. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any malware on library genesis – it probably does deserve to be on a list of sites that potentially host malware. That being said, to explicitly claim that a specific file in question IS a virus, is disingenuous. The problem could be easily remedied by changing the language of the warning.

Even more perplexing is UI of the virus warning dialog. Upon flagging a “virus”, Firefox gives the user two options: delete the file, or open it. There’s not actually an option to simply save the file. So, instead of giving the user the option to save the file and scan it with their own virus software, firefox says you either have to delete it or execute it immediately. That’s probably not a very good idea for files suspected of containing malware.

Cryptocurrency is driving innovation in the financial sector

The financial industry is often at odds with cryptocurrencies. It’s a situation reminiscent of the digital music revolution, where the music industry was forced to drastically improve their distribution model in order to stay relevant. Today, it’s the digital currency revolution that’s pressuring the financial industry to reevaluate its business models, especially with respect to business-to-consumer services.

Many speculate that the business of cross-border transactions could be disrupted by the emergence of cryptocurrencies. The bulk of these cross border transactions come from the global migrant worker community, a demographic that’s often been marginalized in the past. Traditionally, sending money back home across a border has been an expensive and inconvenient process – it seems like a perfect fit for cryptocurrencies. The financial industry has taken notice of this and has responded with new products and services.

SWIFT (the Society for  Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is one of the companies that’s taken notice. SWIFT provides networking services that enable financial institutions around the world to efficiently transmit funds to each other. In 2017, SWIFT launched a new system galled GPI which they now claim is handling 25% of all cross-border payments and over 100 billion dollars per day in transactions. The GPI system allows banks to offer their customers better options for cross-border transactions, with features like payment tracking, transparent fees and transactions times measured in seconds.

Competition is usually a good thing for the consumer, and the competition between crypto and traditional financial services is no exception. It’s not only the financial sector that innovates in response to pressure, but the cryptocurrency community as well. Every year we see new cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects being launched which meet the changing needs of a changing user base.