Microsoft replaces dozens of journalists with AI system

Microsoft is replacing dozens of contract journalists with AI systems, in a move to save money and streamline content curation, but which could also lead to more inappropriate or lackluster content appearing on Microsoft’s sites.

“By favoring machines over humans, Microsoft runs the risk that all kinds of things might go wrong,” said Dan Kennedy, associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University and author of the Media Nation blog.

AI in journalism

The tech giant currently employs full-time staff as well as contract news producers to help curate and edit homepage news on its Microsoft News platform and Microsoft Edge browser. Their duties, according to LinkedIn job descriptions, include cycling relevant news content, editing the content and pairing images with articles.

While Microsoft plans to keep its full-time staff for now, some 50 contract journalists will not have their contracts renewed at the end of the month, according to the Seattle Times.

Microsoft said in a May 29 statement it is not making the move to AI in journalism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” Microsoft said. “This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others.”

By favoring machines over humans, Microsoft runs the risk that all kinds of things might go wrong.
Dan KennedyAssociate professor of journalism, Northeastern University

Using AI for content curation isn’t new. Many social media, video and news platforms have been using AI to recommend content or remove inappropriate content for years.

News organizations, including the Washington Post and the Associated Press, have used AI to produce content quickly and inexpensively. Largely, that content is simple, such as a roundup of the latest scores in sport games. Other news organizations, including the New York Times, use AI to augment staff efforts, such as automatically providing research or identifying headlines and key phrases.

Risky business

Even so, AI isn’t advanced enough yet to handle the duties of human employees at the same skill level, and Microsoft is making a risky move by replacing so many employees, analysts said.

“Certainly there is a risk of badly formatted and incorrect content being produced, but a larger concern may be dull content,” said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of market advisory and research firm Deep Analysis.

AI in journalism
Types of marketing and news content AI can produce

Readers are discerning, but journalists know how to draw in readers to even the dullest of topics, he continued. However, “that’s not a strong point of AI,” he said.

“Indeed, even the best AI-driven content is fairly easy to identify and even for readers not conversant with the nuances, they will not engage to the same degree with AI-driven content.,” Pelz-Sharpe said.

Nonetheless, he pointed out, AI does work well for summarizing facts, for ”’reporting’ that is simply ‘reporting.'”

To Nick McQuire, senior vice president and head of AI and enterprise research at CCS Insight, Microsoft’s move comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that Microsoft’s emphasis on responsibility in AI.

“One of their most important [principles around AI technology] is accountability, which means humans must have some oversight and accountability in the deployment of AI,” McQuire said.

“In this respect, I expect Microsoft to still have human oversight around the technology as per their standard governance procedures for AI operations,” he continued.

Microsoft’s AI governance policies are overseen by the vendor’s AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research committee, an advisory board that provides recommendations to senior leadership on responsible AI, including issues such as AI bias, regulations, safety and fairness, as well as human-AI collaboration.

Not a revolution yet

Still, Microsoft’s decision to end the employment of dozens of staff doesn’t mark a revolution for AI in journalism, said Pelz-Sharpe. Rather, it should be viewed as an incremental step.

Pointing out how other news organizations use AI, Pelz-Sharpe said that “enthusiasts like to say that AI will free reporters from drudge work so that they can report and write higher-value stories.’

But, he cautioned, “cost-cutting corporate chains are going to be tempted to use AI to replace reporters.”

And more use of AI won’t have an immediate impact on the journalism industry, but rather a cumulative one, Kennedy said.

“Lower paid entry-level jobs disappear and are automated, reducing the intake of new journalists and making the sector less attractive,” Kennedy said.  “Those jobs will likely never come back — the end result is fewer people in the industry.”

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Remote work cybersecurity a concern during pandemic

While technology has helped organizations continue operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study from NordVPN found remote work cybersecurity issues to be concerned about, considering the use of personal devices and unsecured networks.

The survey, which had 5,000 respondents, found that 62% of employees are using personal devices for remote work.

“On a personal endpoint, there is a greater risk,” said Chris Sherman, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. “Whenever you’re outside of the organization’s control, you frankly have very little control as the company IT admin or security admin over these personal devices.”

Forty-six percent of employees weren’t working remotely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by Kaspersky of 6,017 IT professionals.

“I think there’s a lot of folks who weren’t used to working from home — like in government, healthcare, retail and manufacturing [where] there’s a little bit more of a learning curve,” said John Grady, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “I think those are industries that are not always issued a corporate machine and have to use their own device.”

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed by Kaspersky said they had no special IT awareness training when switching to full-time remote work. The Kaspersky report also found that employees are more comfortable on personal devices and are more likely to download applications that are not work-related, browse unsecure websites and click suspicious links.

“[Employees] have taken past training, so their organization does have some level of awareness training, whether that’s kind of introductory or part of onboarding are ongoing — but they’ve not had anything specific to COVID,” Grady said.

Unsecured network access affecting remote work cybersecurity

The Kaspersky survey also found that just 53% of respondents were using a VPN to access their employer’s network while working from home. This means that nearly half were not using a secure access point to handle company content.

“It’s more important for you as security admin to take into consideration all of the different IoT devices and all of the consumer devices that may be interacting with whatever laptop or mobile device that employee is using on the same network as those IoT devices,” Sherman said. “Many endpoint security vendors offer endpoint security SaaS. The benefit here is you eliminate the hands-on server maintenance by your remote admins, who are also working from home.”

Future of remote work cybersecurity

Grady said that although there could be some security risks associated with remote work, he believes more executives will push for more flexible and remote work schedules even after the pandemic.

I think there’s a lot of folks who weren’t used to working from home — like in government, healthcare, retail and manufacturing [where] there’s a little bit more of a learning curve.
John GradyAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

“Executives think there’ll be more flexibility. I think that’s positive because if the IT team is thinking like that, the kind of buzzwords coming out of this are going to be flexibility and agility,” Grady said. “That is difficult to scale, and you’re kind of locked into it. Everything’s going be more cloud focused and that is intuitive.”

It also helps companies to prepare for another pandemic or situation where most employees have to go remote. Cloud adoption is seeing more interest because of the uptick in remote work.

“I think over time when people go back into the office, there has to be that contingency plan in place so that if you do have to suddenly shift 80% of your workforce to remote you won’t run into that kind of first phase that we went through in the end of March and beginning of April, where you’re trying to just get people access to what they need and forgetting about security,” Grady said.

NordVPN’s study also found that remote workers were spending three hours more online than when working in offices. This brought up the average workday to just shy of 11 hours. The 35.5% increase is just in the U.S., but NordVPN found that the workday had increased for workers internationally as well.

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Microsoft fuels ‘developer velocity’ with Azure, new tools

Microsoft has jumped on the emerging buzzword “developer velocity” as a measure of how fast a development organization can turn ideas into software.

Microsoft’s recent Build 2020 virtual conference repeatedly invoked the phrase, which was highlighted in a recent McKinsey & Company report that ties competent software development to better business performance.

“Improving business performance through software development comes down to empowering developers, creating the right environment for them to innovate, and removing points of friction,” the McKinsey report said. “Industry leaders refer to this capability as ‘developer velocity.’ This goes beyond the definition of velocity as it relates to agile methodologies — meaning it is about not just speed but also unleashing the full potential of development talent.

Developer velocity is about “turning developers’ ideas into software that supports the needs of your customers, and the goals of your business,” wrote Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and AI group at Microsoft, in a blog post.

Moreover, developer velocity involves minimizing barriers to developer productivity, he wrote.

“The more you enable developers to build productively, collaborate globally and securely, and scale what they invent, the better business outcomes you’ll see in areas including financial performance, innovation, and customer satisfaction,” Guthrie wrote.

Old wine in new bottles?

The buzzwords change, but is developer velocity anything more than good old programmer productivity writ large? Either way, that should be the end goal for any developer organization, and some experts voiced skepticism.

6 steps to a product mindset

Andrew Brust, a Microsoft MVP and founder of Blue Badge Insights, a New York IT consulting firm, said he views developer velocity as nothing more than “marketing mumbo-jumbo for enablement and productivity — which is also marketing mumbo-jumbo, but probably easier to decode than ‘velocity.'”

Organizations should enable developers in three primary ways: to develop apps for new platforms and form factors without significant new skill set requirements, to do collaborative development more effectively and to enhance the developer experience across platforms, as opposed to building cross-platform apps, Brust said.

“I’m just thinking of things like VS Code that let you do dev work on Linux and Mac, and even in the browser, as well as Windows,” he said of the cross-platform enablement. “That’s distinct from developing applications that would run natively on those platforms.”

Developer velocity comes to the fore for enterprises burdened with rapidly responding to unexpected challenges with new applications.

“The concept and positioning are very valid, but it does seem like a very marketing-oriented initiative,” said Larry Carvalho, an analyst at IDC. “In a broader sense, developer productivity/velocity is tied to capabilities of overall cloud adoption beyond just developer tools and Microsoft’s message does not completely cover all aspects of the challenge.”

Most major software-driven companies now have teams to support developers with more productive workflows and tooling.

James GovernorJames Governor

“We generally look to companies such as Netflix, Uber, Lyft and Spotify for leadership in these areas because of their proven release cadence for new features,” said James Governor, an analyst at RedMonk, which is based in Portland, Maine and focuses on issues that are important to software developers. Governor cited Netflix for building its open-source Spinnaker continuous delivery engine and having its own Developer Productivity team.

GitHub and HashiCorp are two of companies most well-loved by developers and they’re collaborating on the developer velocity term, which should help it become more widely adopted. Developer velocity is not super well-defined, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable,” Governor said.

[Developer velocity is] marketing mumbo-jumbo for enablement and productivity — which is also marketing mumbo-jumbo, but probably easier to decode than ‘velocity.’
Andrew BrustConsultant, Blue Badge Insights

Enterprises need to move faster than ever before, to remain relevant or even transform to be winner in digital transformation. Changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shutting down, slowing down, speeding up and reopening, make it even more important that enterprises can move fast.

Developer cycle time

According to Richard Campbell, an IT consultant, co-host of the .Net Rocks! podcast and Microsoft MVP based in Coquitlam, British Columbia, speed counts, as developer velocity is a bit of a spin on an older concept called developer cycle time — the duration between writing some code and getting it running.

“So, you code a little, run a little, debug a little, run a little and so on — cycle time,” he said.

This was easy in the days of tools like Visual Basic where the developer’s PC was essentially the same hardware that a user would have, so they could code and test in the same machine.

However, between mobile development, utilizing the cloud and so on, the cycle times have been getting longer.

“You write some code, and it takes time to push up into the cloud, out to the mobile device — so it takes a while to see what you’ve written in action and make corrections,” Campbell said. “Microsoft is nothing if not a dev tools company. So what you’re seeing from them is an emphasis on improving cycle times by improving the tooling — creating fast mobile emulators, rapid deployment engines, edit-and-continue mechanisms so that you can push changes out without recompiling — all techniques for shortening cycle time.”

Ultimately, shorter developer cycles mean that more software gets delivered faster.

Microsoft is positioned to drive this idea forward by bringing the best of their developer tooling into the cloud and enabling new ways of working collaboratively so teams can focus on delivery, noted Elton Stoneman, a Microsoft MVP and director at London-based Sixeyed Consulting.

Low-code equals more velocity

There are two key ways to accelerate  software development: Offload traditional developer work to (tech savvy) end users with low-code/no-code tools and at the same time provide the pro developer with productivity tools, increasing their velocity. Microsoft addresses these two areas with PowerApps and innovations around Visual Studio, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, Monte Vista, Calif.

“PowerApps and other low-code/no-code tools are about getting to something useful in as little time as possible,” Campbell said. “For certain classes of application, they are the fastest way to get things done. That’s some serious developer velocity.”

McKinsey also identified low-code, no-code tools as enablers of developer velocity. In that regard, Microsoft made a bit of a splash at the Build 2020 event when it announced its acquisition of Softomotive to expand low-code robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities in Microsoft Power Automate.

But Microsoft still has work to do.

“The first is around continuing to strengthen their low-code story and improve things like their RPA game,” said Thomas Murphy, a Gartner analyst. “I think this is key as people need ways to quickly automate more processes and workflows. On the other side of developer productivity are things like IntelliCode and how you make [pro] developers more efficient. Overall organizations need people and tools that can help them be responsive to events, be effective with new technologies and gain effective skill levels.”

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For Sale – HP Probook x360 11 G3 – Touchscreen Laptop

HP probook x360 11 G3 – Excellent condition. Bought this for my Daughter secondary school but she is comfortable using Ipad and this never gets used. Had this for just 5 months and used maybe 5 times.
No scratches.. Comes with original charging cable and original box.
Pickup from Woodford Green can be arranged.

Windows 10 Pro

Intel Celeron N4000 (2 Core), 1.1 GHz (2.6 GHz Max Turbo)

4 GB (1x 4 GB), DDR 4, 2400 MHz Ram

64 GB embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC)
11.6 inch 1366 x 768 HD, LED-backlit

Happy to take reasonable offers

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For Sale – MacBook Pro Faulty

Faulty does not power on.

I have gone through some generic charger (3)

Changed charging port.

Prior to this was working fine.

Screen looks as though was replaced in the pas as the edges are a bit rough.

I have removed the hd, so no hd/os is present.

From what I can recall it is a 2009 model core 2 duo.

Strictly for parts only, no returns.

Has bumps and scratches all over and the bottom pads are missing along with some screws.

Looking for £60inc courier (hermes).

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