Steven Pruitt, Wikipedia's Unofficial King, Has Shaped a Third of the Site's Articles

iStock.com/tomch
iStock.com/tomch

For every Wikipedia article you've read about pop stars, historical figures, Star Trek races, or defunct fast food chains, there's been a writer behind it. And there's an outsize likelihood that writer is Steven Pruitt. The Virginia resident has made 3 million edits and authored 35,000 articles on the website over the past 13 years, meaning that he has helped shape up to a third of all English-language content on Wikipedia, CBS News reports.

Pruitt made the news back in 2017 when TIME magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people on the internet. Prior to that, he had been working for the site for more than a decade, writing under the username Ser Amantio Di Nicolao, an homage to his favorite opera character (from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi).

He wrote his first article while studying art history at William & Mary college, and his passion for history drives many of his contributions. His first Wikipedia subject was Peter Francisco, a sergeant-at-arms during the Revolutionary War (who also happens to be Pruitt’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather).

Today, Pruitt spends at least three hours a day researching, writing, and editing for Wikipedia, but he doesn't receive any compensation for his work. The time he devotes to the website on evenings and weekends is strictly on a volunteer basis. His day job is working for the records and information governance department at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C.—a gig he believes he landed thanks in part to his experience with Wikipedia.

Pruitt is notable not just for the sheer number of articles and edits he has contributed, but for what he chooses to highlight. After learning that women were the subjects of just 15 percent of biographical articles on the site, he worked to fix that imbalance by writing hundreds of articles about influential women. That number has risen to 17.6 percent in just the past couple of years.

Learn more about Pruitt and his Wikipedia habit in the video from CBS below.

[h/t CBS News]

Now Ear This: A New App Can Detect a Child's Ear Infection

iStock.com/Techin24
iStock.com/Techin24

Generally speaking, using an internet connection to diagnose a medical condition is rarely recommended. But technology is getting better at outpacing skepticism over handheld devices guiding decisions and suggesting treatment relating to health care. The most recent example is an app that promises to identify one of the key symptoms of ear infections in kids.

The Associated Press reports that researchers at the University of Washington are close to finalizing an app that would allow a parent to assess whether or not their child has an ear infection using their phone, some paper, and some soft noises. A small piece of paper is folded into a funnel shape and inserted into the ear canal to focus the app's sounds (which resemble bird chirps) toward the child’s ear. The app measures sound waves bouncing off the eardrum. If pus or fluid is present, the sound waves will be altered, indicating a possible infection. The parent would then receive a text from the app notifying them of the presence of buildup in the middle ear.

The University of Washington tested the efficacy of the app by evaluating roughly 50 patients scheduled to undergo ear surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The app was able to identify fluid in patients' ears about 85 percent of the time. That’s roughly as well as traditional exams, which involve visual identification as well as specialized acoustic devices.

While the system looks promising, not all cases of fluid in the ear are the result of infections or require medical attention. Parents would need to evaluate other symptoms, such as fever, if they intend to use the app to decide whether or not to seek medical attention. It may prove most beneficial in children with persistent fluid accumulation, a condition that needs to be monitored over the course of months when deciding whether a drain tube needs to be placed. Checking for fluid at home would save both time and money compared to repeated visits to a physician.

The app does not yet have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and there is no timetable for when it might be commercially available. If it passes muster, it would join a number of FDA-approved “smart” medical diagnostic tools, including the AliveKor CardiaBand for the Apple Watch, which conducts EKG monitoring for heart irregularities.

[h/t WGRZ]

Uber Passengers Can Now Shush Their Drivers with a Mute Button

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Even friendly and sociable people don't always feel like talking, especially if it's late, they're sad, or they're in the middle of an arduous trip. For customers of the ride-sharing service app Uber, there's now a way to terminate conversation with drivers. You simply push a button on your phone and request they stop talking.

This slightly dystopian feature is part of Uber Black, the app's premium interface for people looking for a ride in a luxury vehicle and drivers with top satisfaction ratings. If a passenger isn't in the mood for chatting, hitting "quiet preferred" on the app will notify the driver to stop speaking. They can also opt for "happy to chat" if they care to engage in conversation. It's part of a bundle of features that also allows users to ask for help with their luggage, request more time to get to the vehicle, or adjust the temperature inside the car.

The button is an attempt by Uber to address some of the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between driver and passenger for the service, which allows both parties to rate the other on the overall experience. Some passengers have felt that being uninterested in speaking to their driver might lead to a lower score.

The quiet button might eventually be rolled out to encompass all of Uber's platforms. If the idea of a human mute button is uncomfortable, passengers can also choose "no preference" and let conversation—or the lack of it—takes its natural course.

[h/t Vox]

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