A Steem essay discusses the importance of strong passwords; A Harvard researcher suggests that occupational licensing doesn't drive consumer decisions, raises prices, and lowers the quality of options that are available to the consumer; Examining the reasons why older Internet users share more misinformation; The Linux GUI is coming to Microsoft Windows without a need for 3rd party X server software; and research finds that bumble bees force flowers to bloom by biting the plants
Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for May 26, 2020
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- Steem @steemtimes:How To Create An Almost Inviolable Password? - This Steem essay discusses the importance of a strong password and describes techniques that can be used to create one. In short, it says that a strong password should be at least 16 characters in length and it should include special characters, numbers, upper case and lower case characters. It goes on to note that the most common attack against passwords is a "brute force attack", and that all passwords can - eventually - be guessed by such an attack. Thus, it concludes that a strong password is necessary for security, but not sufficient. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @steemtimes.)
- Has Occupational Licensing Outlived Its Usefulness? - Subtitle: A recent study shows that consumers do not value occupational licensing of their contractors or the higher prices they charge. Chiara Farronato. - There are two intended functions for occupational licensing. One function is to provide information to consumers, and a second is to prevent "bad apples". Fundamentally, both of these are intended to let consumers trust service providers. Another way to accomplish the same goals is through data aggregation by online platforms. In A recent study, Farranoto and her colleagues looked at how consumers view occupational licensing, and they found that consumers care more about online reviews and lower prices than they do about whether or not a contractor is licensed. They reached these conclusions by studying an online marketplace for home improvement services like plumbing, air conditioning, and electrical services. This article contains the transcript of an interview with Farranato. She summarizes the work in these paragraphs:
For consumer choices, we find the knowing that a professional is licensed does not affect the decision of whom to hire. Instead, we find that consumers are very price sensitive and care a lot about online reviews of the professionals they want to hire. This is what we find using data from the online platform we study, but we also confirmed this result in a nationally representative survey of consumers.
At the market level, we find that more stringent occupational licensing regulation actually reduces the number of professionals available to any given consumer and increases the prices that consumers are going to pay. This is not surprising. When you are required to attend more years of education, pass more exams, and pay higher licensing fees, fewer home improvement providers are going to enter the profession. What is perhaps more surprising is that the higher scrutiny that comes from stringent regulation does not translate to better quality, at least as measured by customer satisfaction metrics.
If you follow this series, you've already learned about this study a couple months ago in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for March 7, 2020
- Older users share more misinformation. Your guess why might be wrong. - Common explanations include age-related cognitive decline and loneliness. Neither of those explanations stands up to scrutiny, though. Older users are not actually the loneliest demographic and they are generally better at identifying fake news. The actual reasons for the difference are varied, but one includes a sort of digital naivety. Older users tend to have smaller circles on digital media, and they tend to trust their connections more. Ironically, the article also notes that when fact-checking services pair a link with a "false" label, older users are more likely to believe that it's true, suggesting that fact checking services may need to be redesigned (or that prominent fact checking services are untrustworthy).
- Microsoft is bringing Linux GUI apps to Windows 10 - Subtitle: Linux on Windows 10 gets a big boost and GPU acceleration - Later this month, Microsoft is adding the full Linux kernel to Windows 10 with the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The firm is also updating the operating system so that it can run Linu GUI apps right alongside of Windows GUI apps. This has been possible with third party X software in the past, but the performance has been slow. GPU accelaration is also expected to start rolling out in the next few months. -h/t OS news
- Bumblebees Bite Plants to Force Them to Flower (Seriously) - Subtitle: The behavior could be an evolutionary adaptation that lets bees forage more easily - A new paper in Science reports that when resources are scarce and plants have not started flowering yet, worker bees will force them to bloom by puncturing a plant's leaves. When the researchers discovered the behavior, they attempted to duplicate it with the use of razors. The plants that were damaged by the bees and the plants that were damaged by the researchers all bloomed earlier, but the ones damaged by the bees bloomed first. This suggests that there may also be a chemical interaction with the bees' saliva that accelerates the process even further. In future research, scientists may explore how the behavior evolved and whether it is present in other species of wild bees.
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