Tech Blitz: Women's 'Pull Requests' Most Accepted if Gender Unknown

Izenda Content Strategist

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By Bob Pepalis, Izenda
bob.pepalis@izenda.com

Each month we take a look at recent technology news to spot the trends and advances in software and other industries. If you spot a piece of news that should be shared or have a comment, send it to me via email.

Women's contributions in an open-source software community tend to gain acceptance more often than men's - as long as their gender isn't identified. If gender is known, that trend reverses.

A North Carolina State University study focused on a single research question, according to Emerson Murphy-Hill, an associate professor of computer science at NCSU: "To what extent does gender bias exist when pull requests are judged on GitHub?"

The online programming community fosters collaboration on open-source software projects. Software developers who identify ways to improve a project's code submit a "pull request." Those requests get approved or denied by "insiders", the programmers who oversee the project.

The study examined more than 3 million pull requests from approximately 330,000 GitHub users. About 21,000 of them were women. The researchers found that 78.7 percent of women's pull requests were accepted, compared to 74.6 percent for men.

If a developer was easily identified as a woman based on her name or profile picture, a lower pull request acceptance rate (58 percent) was recorded than by users who could be identified as men (61 percent). Women programmers with gender neutral profiles had 70 percent acceptance rates, higher than any other group including men with gender neutral profiles (65 percent).

Hello Alice Connects Women Entrepreneurs to Resources

Female entrepreneurs will be the beneficiaries of a new machine-learning platform, Hello Alice. Dell and the Circular Board launched the platform to connect women with information, mentors, referrals, and other resources.

The more women entrepreneurs use the service, the smarter Alice will get, according to Dell. The company said eventually Alice will predict users' needs and, based on the industry, revenue and the startup's age, provide hyper-targeted content.

The experience will be like chatting with Siri or Alexa. Alice guides users to an appropriate list of resources from partners, including the Case Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, Y Combinator, and the Small Business Administration.

Carolyn Rodz, founder of the Circular Board, said Alice is designed to take the organization's "by women, for women" experience and "bring it to the whole world." For now, the service is free, but expect fees for premium services in the future.

Who Made Ransomware Victims 'WannaCry'?

Thanks to a 22-year-old security hacker the spread of the WannaCry ransomware was stopped in its tracks. But who was behind the attack?

The NSA identified the vulnerability used by the malware, and that information was stolen. So far analysis of the malware hasn't revealed a smoking gun on who weaponized it.

"We're tracking over 100 different ransom Trojan gangs, but we have no info on where WannaCry is coming from," Mikko Hypponen, head of research at security company F-Secure, told the BBC.

The UK security researcher who told the BBC how he accidentally stopped WannaCry's spread has been identified as Marcus Hutchins, but is known by the pseudonym MalwareTech. He was taking a week's vacation when he decided to investigate the ransomware. By registering a domain listed in the malware he activated what appeared to be a "kill switch" in the software's code.

Microsoft Lays Blame on Government for Hiding Flaws

Microsoft criticized government agencies like the NSA for not revealing software flaws, which opens up users to attacks like the WannaCry malware, CNET reported.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief counsel, said keeping software vulnerabilities secret from vendors open up users to these attacks. And he compared the release of CIA hacking tools by WikiLeaks and the theft from the NSA of the vulnerability in April to the theft of U.S. military weapons.

Facebook Bans Fake 'Live' Videos

Video means more than a poll or a countdown to Facebook users, so the social network decided to ban these misleading uses of its Live video format, according to TechCrunch.

Violate that policy and your Facebook visibility will get reduced. Keep on breaking this new rule and your access to Facebook Live may be restricted.

TechCrunch pushed Facebook to crack down on these "Live" videos in January when half of the top 10 Live videos of 2016 weren't really live.

Toyota Wants You to Take a Skydrive

Toyota wants to put you in a car that flies three stories high at speeds reaching 62 mph. The automaker decided to back "Skydrive" developer Cartivator, according to this Engadget article. If the startup meets its first goal, we'll see the car flying in time to light the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games torch.

Here in Atlanta a flying car would have been useful after a portion of Interstate 85 burned and collapsed, but that's been fixed, so I'll stay happily on the ground.

A crowdfunding page says Cartivator plans a 2.9 meter (9.5 foot) long SkyDrive able to take off from any public road.

Toyota added its support to the tune of 40 million yen ($353,000) and offered the expertise of its mechanical engineers. The founder of Japanese web game developer GungHo Online Entertainment joined with a crowdfunding pledge of approximately 2.5 million yen ($22,000).

Don't sell off your SUV yet. It takes millions of dollars and usually many years to test and certify aircraft in the United States, assuming federal regulators are cooperative. And you'd better hope self-flying automation becomes a requirement so that guy whose been tailgating you every day for years on your way to the office doesn't crash his flying car into yours.

Waze Makes Donuts a Vital Part of Your Drive

Finally apps for our smartphones are getting some valuable functionality. Dunkin' Donuts cooperated with Waze to make ordering donuts and coffee from within the traffic navigation app as easy as adding a traffic hazard warning, according to this article by Phys.org.

If you use the Waze app you already know it prods you to add visits to fast-food stores like Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bell to your trip. Now it's adding the ability to place orders.

On Tuesday, May 16, the Google-owned app began letting drivers buy coffee, donuts and other items from Dunkin' Donuts for pickup along their way. If this test works, expect to see the ability to order pizza, groceries and even reserve parking spaces as you drive down the road.

You'll still need the Dunkin' Donuts app and registration with its customer loyalty program to make an order, and a payment method set up. Expect the same requirements for any other business that Waze adds. It's safer- and cheaper if you split the cost - if you have a passenger actually make the order.

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