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Archive for September, 2016

Do you need rest? Then spend some time alone.

September 29, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology No Comments →

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How much rest do we think we need, who is getting the most, and what are the most restful activities? The results of the world’s largest survey on rest indicate that to feel truly rested, a lot of us want to be alone, reports Claudia Hammond.

Read How being alone may be the key to rest.

Start and finish writing a short story in two weekends in our Writing Boot Camp.

September 26, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops No Comments →

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Poster by Anne Tamondong

Both sessions will be facilitated by Jessica Zafra.
The venue is WSI Corporate Centre on Metropolitan Avenue corner Kakarong Street, Makati (behind the Makati Fire Station).
For details and to book a place, email saffron.safin@gmail.com.

Best Writing Tips from William Boyd, Claire Messud, Tessa Hadley, Philip Hensher and others

September 26, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →

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Illustration by Jill Calder in The Guardian

Plan your ending

About once a month or so, when someone says to me, “I’ve got this great idea for a novel/film/play/TV series” and then outlines the (usually pretty good) opening, I say: “So – how does it end?”. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the answer is: “I haven’t quite figured that out yet.”

Therefore my default response to all “great” ideas in the writing business is to do with the ending. A good ending can redeem a mediocre idea. A bad ending can sink a really good idea. As soon as you know how your narrative ends – in whatever medium – then a huge percentage of the problematic issues that arise in the writing will be solved.

If you have a clear sense of how your story will end then you can, as it were, rewind to the beginning and plot any number of various routes that will allow you to arrive at that desired ending – with its attendant catharsis, of course. If you start writing (however striking your original idea) with no sense of how your story will end, then life becomes progressively harder. Flailing around. Writer’s block. Draft after draft. This is how novels get abandoned; film scripts bottom-drawered. The thing to do is to stop and envisage your final pages, your final scene. Take your time. What note do you want to strike? What surprise do you want to spring? What denouement will justify this journey?

It may sound mechanical, but story-telling is a very complicated business, full of moving parts and many cogs engaging. You can’t rely on the Muse to descend and sort it all out for you. A bit of serious forethought about the conclusion will mean you don’t need the Muse’s help at all.

Read My Best Writing Tip

North Korea has officially banned sarcasm. What a wonderful idea! Truly a great move.

September 23, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Places No Comments →

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What it looks like when Kim Jong-Un crushes sarcasm

Behold the Glorious Leader pointing at things, with the Ghost of the Glorious Leader’s Father behind him.

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Action figures by Contra Bandidos.

AI in the war against troll farms and outsourced online hatred

September 21, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Technology 1 Comment →

Manila, Philippines. August 28, 2014. An employee working as a content moderator for Task Us sits in front of her computer at her cubicle on the 11th floor of the SM Aura Office Building Tower in the Taguig district of Manila. Task Us is an American outsourcing tech company with offices in the Philippines. (Photo by Moises Saman/MAGNUM)
Companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. It’s a soul-killing job better left to AI. Photo: A content moderator from TaskUs in BGC.

Mass harassment online has proved so effective that it’s emerging as a weapon of repressive governments. In late 2014, Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro reported on Russia’s troll farms, where day laborers regurgitate messages that promote the government’s interests and inundate oppo­nents with vitriol on every possible outlet, including Twitter and Facebook. In turn, she’s been barraged daily by bullies on social media, in the comments of news stories, and via email. They call her a liar, a “NATO skank,” even a drug dealer, after digging up a fine she received 12 years ago for possessing amphetamines. “They want to normalize hate speech, to create chaos and mistrust,” Aro says. “It’s just a way of making people disillusioned.”

All this abuse, in other words, has evolved into a form of censorship, driving people offline, silencing their voices. For years, victims have been calling on—clamoring for—the companies that created these platforms to help slay the monster they brought to life. But their solutions generally have amounted to a Sisyphean game of whack-a-troll.

Now a small subsidiary of Google named Jigsaw is about to release an entirely new type of response: a set of tools called Conversation AI. The software is designed to use machine learning to automatically spot the language of abuse and harassment—with, Jigsaw engineers say, an accuracy far better than any keyword filter and far faster than any team of human moderators. “I want to use the best technology we have at our disposal to begin to take on trolling and other nefarious tactics that give hostile voices disproportionate weight,” says Jigsaw founder and president Jared Cohen. “To do everything we can to level the playing field.”

Jigsaw is applying artificial intelligence to solve the very human problem of making people be nicer on the Internet.

Read it.