The Aspiring Nerd — Issue #10

We’re running out of bitcoins, artificial intelligence might influence your political choices and so are Russian hackers!

Around the web

Data Trove Exposes the Injustices of Criminal Justice

A new tool called Measures for Justice makes court data more accessible. Finally!

Bach set off on a multi-year, labor-intensive effort to build a free, public tool that would make the many injustices in the court system a little bit tougher to ignore. Measures for Justice launches today with deep data dives on more than 300 county court systems(…) It pulls together the data that has traditionally remained hidden in ancient databases and endless Excel spreadsheets. Even with just six states included, the comprehensiveness of the platform surpasses anything similar that currently exists. Measures for Justice compiles granular data for 32 different metrics that indicate how equitable a given county’s justice system might be.

Facebook’s internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence

Hard not to cringe at some (most?) of the rules. IMHO some make a lot of sense, others are just confusing and sometimes very questionable. More on

The Guardian has seen more than 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts that give unprecedented insight into the blueprints Facebook has used to moderate issues such as violence, hate speech, terrorism, pornography, racism and self-harm.

How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful

Thought-provoking article about something we all already know: if it’s free, you’re the product!

Such privacy costs often become clear only after they’ve already been paid. Sometimes a private citizen is caught up in a viral moment and learns that a great deal of information about him or her exists online, just waiting to be splashed across the news — like the guy in the red sweater who, after asking a question in a presidential debate, had his Reddit porn comments revealed.

Russia’s US Social Media Hacking: Inside the Information War

It’s scary to think that at any given moment Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. See how Russia’s hacking efforts keep evolving.

The report said the Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department. Depending on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.

Cambridge Analytica-style psychographic profiling and voter influence are just in their infancy

Curious to see how artificial intelligence will influence upcoming elections around the world. This is just the beginning.

CA [Cambridge Analytica] claims to have “up to 5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters,” which it uses to create psychological profiles for “micro-targeted” ad campaigns designed to appeal to each person emotionally. It’s been credited with helping bring about both a Donald Trump presidency and the Brexit vote. (…) Regardless of how well CA performed in 2016, the methods that companies like it use will only get more precise.

Google starts tracking offline shopping — what you buy at stores in person

Very interesting from a marketing point of view. Curious how far we’ll be able to go and how they will manage privacy issues around this.

Google already monitors your online shopping — but now it’s also keeping an eye on what you’re buying in real-world stores as part of its latest effort to sell more digital advertising. The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won’t be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent.


New kids on the blockchain: A surge in the value of crypto-currencies provokes alarm

It was bound to happen: bitcoin’s capacity has reached it’s limit and we are now facing new challenges.

Not that many bitcoins exist: there are about 16.3m of them, with only 1,800 new ones minted every day. But growing demand has pushed bitcoin’s price to a record recent high of about $1,830, up from $450 a year ago. Problems abide. Earlier this year some of the biggest exchanges, such as Bitfinex, experienced problems with their correspondent banks and were unable to pay out real-world currencies to account-holders. To get their money out, they had to buy bitcoin and exchange them elsewhere. Yet the market is becoming more mature: institutional investors, from family offices to hedge funds, have become more comfortable with crypto-currencies.

Meet These Incredible Women Advancing A.I. Research


Artificial intelligence research benefits from diversity, inclusion, and cross-disciplinary thinking. Meet 20+ women leading innovation and promoting diversity in the AI industry.

There are bots. Look around.

See how what happened in finance (algorithmic manipulation and disinformation campaigns) can apply to the market of ideas. Fascinating!

Something very similar happened in finance with the advent of high-frequency trading (…): technology was used to distort information flows and access in much the same way it is now being used to distort and game the marketplace of ideas.(…) the intersection of automation and social networking has given us manipulative bots and an epidemic of “fake news”. Just as HFT was a simplified boogeyman for finance, “fake news” is an imprecise term used to describe a variety of disingenuous content: clickbait, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories.

A16Z AI Playbook

Frank Chen’s brilliant playbook on deep learning and artificial intelligence. Also check out his awesome video The Promise of AI.

This microsite is intended to help newcomers (both non-technical and technical) begin exploring what’s possible with AI (…) a resource for anyone asking those questions, complete with examples and sample code to help you get started.

The largest Git repo on the planet

That’s a hell of a repo!

The Windows code base is approximately 3.5M files and, when checked in to a Git repo, results in a repo of about 300GB. Further, the Windows team is about 4,000 engineers and the engineering system produces 1,760 daily “lab builds” across 440 branches in addition to thousands of pull request validation builds. All 3 of the dimensions (file count, repo size and activity), independently, provide daunting scaling challenges and taken together they make it unbelievably challenging to create a great experience.

Web development / Web design

Nick Craver — HTTPS on Stack Overflow: The End of a Long Road

See how a large-scale website switches entirely to https.

Fair warning: This is the story of a long journey. Very long. (…) While Stack Exchange/Overflow is not unique in the problems we faced along the way, the combination of problems is fairly rare. (…) It’s hard to structure such an intricate dependency chain into a chronological post, so I’ll break this up by topic: infrastructure, application code, mistakes, etc.

How to Go From Hobbyist to Professional Developer

A struggle a lot of people in our field are going (or went) through.

An important part of my transition into a professional developer role was viewing the time I spent with my previous company as an apprenticeship. I learned as much as I could. The real-world knowledge gained from working at a company is invaluable. Knowing how to work with clients, coworkers, and within constraints is essential. This is something you can only learn in the field.

Node.js Streams: Everything you need to know

Node.js streams have a reputation for being hard to work with, and even harder to understand. Well I’ve got good news for you — that’s no longer the case.

Streams are collections of data — just like arrays or strings. The difference is that streams might not be available all at once, and they don’t have to fit in memory. This makes streams really powerful when working with large amounts of data, or data that’s coming from an external source one chunk at a time.

Bits and pieces

See how Montreal’s rapidly growing artificial-intelligence sector is transforming the city into a Silicon Valley of AI. ⚠️ Update your VLC and Popcorn-Time because subtitles could allow hackers take control of your computer.

Also, Facebook’s tentacles reach further than you think. If you think the internet is broken, check the Blockstack Browser: A Gateway to a New, Decentralized Internet. The WannaCry ransomware hackers made some major mistakes that prevented them from making millions.

If you do product development: your SaaS might not be charging enough. Someone tested internet security at four Trump properties and it’s not good. Last but not least, see how VC’s talk differently about female entrepreneurs.