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Tyler Breisacher
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Let's talk for a second about North Carolina's HB2, and look the HRC's gift horse right in the mouth. Super happy that +Sundar Pichai signed the letter, but I am incredibly pissed at the organizers of the letter. Why?

Read the wording of the letter (and not the PR fluff surrounding it). The letter states opposition to HB2 because it "overturned protections for LGBT people and sanctioned discrimination". Says nothing about the fact that it specifically targets trans and gender-expression-variant people. This is like saying "all lives matter" instead of "black lives matter". Yes, overturning LGBT non-discrimination ordinances is bad. But the bill doesn't just 'sanction' discrimination, it causes massive discrimination and makes the state utterly unliveable for trans folks.

People need to say that they explicitly oppose bathroom bills. Not just say "we oppose attempts to repeal non-discrimination bills". It's downright cowardly and erasing to refer to HB2 as an "anti-LGBT" law. It was targeted specifically at trans people. Acknowledge it. Support trans people explicitly.

And never, ever, ever trust the HRC. Lambda Legal, NCTE, and the ACLU do great work. The HRC keeps repeatedly showing its true colors.

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Does Google sell my personal information to third parties? After all, look at those personalized ads! - This is one of the most Frequently Asked Questions I receive about Google. And the answer is straightforward: No, they don't. But what about those Google-served ads that usually seem so relevant to you? How can the advertisers show those to you if they haven't obtained your personal information from Google? In fact, advertisers are only bidding their ads related to relatively broad categories of interests, not individuals. So for example, if you're looking at a page related to blue unicorns, you might see an ad that a provider of unicorn-related services has indicated to Google they'd like to have shown to unicorn enthusiasts. Google can then display the ad as appropriate, but the advertiser itself has no idea you even exist as an individual user unless you click on their ad to go to their site (essentially, just like most other visits to any site).

What's more, Google provides you with extraordinary control over how ads are displayed to you, permitting you to control interest categories or even opt-out entirely from personalized ads, via their nifty Ad Preferences Manager at:

https://www.google.com/settings/ads

Yeah, pretty cool.

Be seeing you.

-- Lauren --

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We're working on giving some love to the Closure Compiler's documentation this week. If you see anything wrong/misleading/confusing on our developers.google.com pages, our Github wiki, etc., or if a particular compiler feature seems undocumented/underdocumented, please let us know on our email list or by opening an issue.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/closure-compiler-discuss
https://github.com/google/closure-compiler/issues

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Sometime in the last few weeks I started getting legitimately worried. It'd be easy to say that the NYT is just being alarmist but I don't actually think they are in this case.

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Welcome to the weird, wacky world of the USA, where the federal government will be registering hobbyists who fly model aircraft, but doesn't register people who own guns, even assault weapons. And where you can be on the no-fly or terrorist watch lists, and still buy all the guns your little heart desires!  And where fascist racists like Donald Trump ( #nazitrump  ) spout hateful lies with impunity. Meanwhile, Internet users are concerned about harmless web cookies and anti-Google conspiracy theories. This is what you get when you start a country with religious misfits.

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¯\(ツ)/¯
Hey, Google+ peoples: where did Events go? The feature I most use, other than Photos, doesn't have a clear link. Did it get combined with something else?

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This is one of those news items that hasn't gotten nearly enough coverage -- because it's the sort of thing that makes professionals go OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME.

What happened? Back in 2005, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (a branch of the DOJ) did a study on recidivism, and found out that the rate is tremendously high: 68% of state prisoners end up back behind bars within three years of release. Once a criminal, always a criminal, they concluded -- and people have been shaping policy to match.

But a team read through it carefully, and it turns out that the BJS made a basic, bonehead, mistake in their statistical analysis. They thought they were measuring whether people who go to prison will reoffend; what they actually measured was that most people in prison, on any given day, are repeat offenders.

Which makes sense, because repeat offenders spend a lot more time in prison than one-time offenders. 

These are not the same thing. At all. It turns out that if you do the analysis right, only 30% or so of prisoners will ever re-offend, and only 11% will do so multiple times. In fact, this "once a criminal, always a criminal" rule appears to be completely false -- unless, that is, you structure policies so that anyone with a criminal conviction is treated like a permanent criminal, and so not allowed to (say) get virtually any job other than "criminal." In which case, you will in fact end up with lots of criminals.

In the post linked below, +Andreas Schou gives some of the explanation of what went wrong in the study. You can read more at the linked Slate article (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/10/why_do_so_many_prisoners_end_up_back_in_prison_a_new_study_says_maybe_they.html), and even more with the paper that actually found the mistake. (http://cad.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/26/0011128714549655.abstract)

The most important lesson in all of this is that it's easy to make bonehead mistakes in statistics. If the statistics matter -- if you're going to use them to prescribe drugs or set public policy or something like that -- it's very important to have people check your work, repeatedly, and ask the right questions. The most important question is "have you actually measured what you think you measured," because there are all sorts of ways to screw that up. 

There's also a great new book on that subject: Alex Reinhart's Statistics Done Wrong. (http://www.statisticsdonewrong.com/) Please, if you do statistics in your daily life, read it. 

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