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NEWS & TIPS
Reporters Love Chatrooms But Worry Security Is Slacking Slack and other virtual newsrooms have some reporters concerned about privacy in an era of embattled journalism that relies on discretion. Last year, then Gawker Media executive editor John Cook found himself in the unsavory position of explaining in front of a jury why he posted a picture of an uncircumcised penis to his colleagues. The picture had been shared on Campfire, the internal messaging software Gawker used at the time. In a videotaped deposition shown in a Florida courtroom, a lawyer asked Cook , "Was it common at Gawker to share pictures of penises with colleagues?" The image, inserted into a discussion about the Hulk Hogan sex video that Gawker had published, was part of a long-running joke between editors and reporters. Cook couldn't have imagined at the time that three years later, he would have to explain and defend it to a court of law after Hogan filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. The jury ruled in favor of the wrestler, Gawker is over, and Cook is now an editor for a retooled entity under Univision, the Gizmodo Media Group. But Cook's messages did underscore a new reality for anyone who uses digital chatrooms to communicate with their colleagues: Chats that seem to be more ephemeral than email are still being recorded on a server somewhere. Gawker Campfire log Still: via David Bixenspan (@davidbix) Amid concerns by a battered but determined press about privacy and the Trump administration's quest to stop leaks , a growing number of journalists and editors are being forced to think carefully about how they communicate with each other. Newsrooms still use chatroom apps like Campfire and HipChat, but neither has been embraced by the tech and media industries quite like Slack has. In just a few years, the company has rocketed up to 4 million daily users, with 1.25 million of them paying for extra features. You'd be hard pressed to find a media organization that doesn't have at least some Slack interactions; many companies use it as their primary way of communicating. "There are several dangers that I think journalists need to be aware of when they're putting so much of their communications on Slack," says Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation . Slack "has access to all of your chats," he tells me, "[as well as] any internal communication you may not want in public," including private conversations. The reminder extends beyond journalism too, to organizations like Timm's, he notes: Indeed, even Freedom of the Press uses Slack. Slack's ease of use is great for a busy newsroom. Reporters and staff can post links they've found online, leads they've uncovered, public records they want to request , or edits, in real-time and in one place. (Most of Fast Company 's staff relies heavily on Slack.) New chatrooms or "channels"—either public or private ones—can be created on the fly. The app's ease of use also means the virtual newsroom is a sort of digital watercooler, where reporters share the sort of gossip they would never want associated with their bylines. A release of this data—either by a court's subpoena or a hacker's intrusion—wouldn't only require the public explanation of private jokes. Five Tiny Ways Nanoscience Will Change Our Lives The science of the very small will bring even more science fiction to reality. Russian author Boris Zhitkov wrote the 1931 short story Microhands , in which the narrator creates miniature hands to carry out intricate surgeries. And while that was nearly 100 years ago, the tale illustrates the real fundamentals of the nanoscience researchers are working on today. Nanoscience is the study of molecules that are one billionth of a meter in size. To put this into perspective, a human hair is between 50,000 and 100,000 nanometers thick. At this tiny size, materials possess properties that lie somewhere between a lump of metal and that of a single atom. This unique environment means they can become very reactive and be used as catalysts. The ideas behind nanoscience are often easier to understand when considered simply in terms of how a single material's properties change. But the field is not limited to just that: we are now moving into the realm of healthcare therapies, and vehicles smaller than a speck of dust. What were once regarded as science fictions are rapidly becoming fact. 1. Medi-gels In video games like Bioware's Mass Effect, players are able to heal characters' injuries with the seemingly miraculous medi-gel . Though it may not give you the unlimited life or epic adventure that a video game can, there is a real-life gel that can similarly stop an arterial bleed in seconds. " Veti-gel " is made of polysaccharide polymers found in the cell walls of plants which, when applied to wounds, can mimic the structure of the extracellular matrix – the complex web in which cells sit. The gel essentially acts as scaffolding for the matrix to reform, pulling it back together and stopping bleeding without any pressure. 2. Healing molecules Indeed, wound healing is a key feature of many an action-packed science fiction plot line. Handheld tools have already been created , similar to Star Trek's dermal regenerator, to heal injuries.
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