“Sakawa” exposes the underbelly of Ghanaian internet scammers

“Sakawa” exposes the underbelly of Ghanaian internet scammers

Source:  The Austin Chronicle

How much flirting does it take to unlock a lonely man’s wallet?

Spoiler alert: For the Ghanaian scam artists in “Sakawa,” the answer is “roughly seven days’ worth.”

Much of “Sakawa” takes place inside a cramped house where a dozen Ghanaian men sit on couches, tapping away at their keyboards to build relationships with “clients” on dating sites.

The scammers pose as women, augmenting their voices with special cell phones or simply by speaking in a higher pitch.

Female scammers “use what they have to get what they want.” (For better or worse, the gritty, long-distance sex acts described never appear on screen.)

It’s lucrative: The first ask is usually for $50, but the sky is the limit once a client is hooked.

Read the story at The Austin Chronicle.

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“Autonomy” makes the convincing case that self-driving cars will change everything

“Autonomy” makes the convincing case that self-driving cars will change everything

Source:  The Verge

“Autonomy,” a new documentary on self-driving cars directed by Alex Horwitz and produced by Car and Driver magazine, gets its most grievous sin out of the way in the first 15 minutes.

Executive producer and New Yorker magazine writer and author Malcolm Gladwell discusses his vintage BMW, while a rotating cast of other talking heads wax poetic about the rise and fall of American car culture.

Thankfully, the movie’s nostalgic phase passes quickly.  Even better, they’re actually making a point.

The film, which had its world premiere here at SXSW in Austin this past week, is a comprehensive, thorough examination of the state of autonomous vehicles, and a vital bit of education for people who haven’t paid close attention to the technology’s slow, steady arrival.

“Autonomy” is currently seeking distribution.  Visit the film’s website for additional festival and local screenings.

Read the story at The Verge. 

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There’s a documentary about Ember.js and it’s really good

There’s a documentary about Ember.js and it’s really good

Source:  TNW

Ember.js is a hugely popular JavaScript framework. Used across web, mobile, and desktop, it powers the likes of LinkedIn, Groupon, and even Apple Music.

Behind its thousands of lines of code is a deeply human story of innovation and risk-taking, as portrayed in “Ember.js: The Documentary.”

Beautifully shot with impressive production values, the short film tells the story of Ember.js, starting with the JavaScript revolution that took place toward the late 2000s.

The documentary leans heavily on interviews with the framework’s co-founders, Tom Dale and Yehuda Katz. Although it’s clearly geared towards those with an interest in programming, it’s not really a “programming” documentary per se.

The film discusses events and concepts even non-technical people can understand — like the risky decision to leave a stable job to start something new.

Read the story at TNW.

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“The Great Hack” turns the Cambridge Analytica scandal into high drama

“The Great Hack” turns the Cambridge Analytica scandal into high drama

Source:  IndieWire

As the trauma of the 2016 presidential election gave way to self reflection, Cambridge Analytica epitomized a unique form of 21st-century villainy.

The British technology firm’s covert use of Facebook user data to map voter behavior boosted the Trump presidential campaign and “Yes on Brexit” vote by sowing disinformation, and it only faced comeuppance once a few employees decided to speak out.

Co-founded by former White House senior advisor Steve Bannon and tied to broader concerns about Facebook’s loose privacy standards, the company’s impact says much about the divisiveness of the last two years.

Cambridge Analytica’s exploitative online behavior became public in piecemeal, culminating with the company’s decision to shut down in early 2018. As a result, the full scope of its impact has been elusive.

Netflix production “The Great Hack,” a sprawling 137-minute documentary from the directors of “Startup.com” and “Control Room,” goes to great lengths to understand it.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

“The Great Hack” will premiere on Netflix later this year.

Read the story at IndieWire.

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“Valley of the Boom” captures the 1990s tech revolution in weirdly wonderful ways

“Valley of the Boom” captures the 1990s tech revolution in weirdly wonderful ways

Source:  Ars Technica

The first dot-com boom set the stage for a lot of the world we experience today. IPOs and insane valuations, tech companies without an obvious business model, the vague aroma of scams, all of it centered on Silicon Valley.

Two crashes later, most of the big players are dead, merged, or dismembered. Yet some of the ideas—massive online social networks, web browsers as a software platform—have come to pass. So how did we get from the first boom to here?

National Geographic’s six-episode series, “Valley of the Boom,” (the first episode premiered last night) doesn’t trace out the entire history from the 1990s to the present. Instead, it follows three very distinct companies—Netscape, TheGlobe.com, and Pixelon—from that first boom to bust, using a mix of interviews with key players, documentary footage, and some extremely well-acted scenes to fill in the details.

It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but there are definitely some lessons about Silicon Valley and tech companies here in a package that’s fantastically entertaining.

Read the story at Ars Technica.

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To understand cryptocurrencies, the Wall Street Journal created one

To understand cryptocurrencies, the Wall Street Journal created one

Source:  The Wall Street Journal

In 2017, bitcoin was one of the greatest investment manias in recent memory. This year, that boom has turned to bust.

To understand what drives the wild cryptocurrency market—the technology, hype, and innovation, combined with the hacking, market manipulation, and increased regulation—the Wall Street Journal decided to experiment with a digital currency of its own: WSJcoin.

In an original Wall Street Journal documentary, markets reporter Steven Russolillo ventures to Japan and Hong Kong to explore the universe of cryptocurrencies.

Russolillo’s mission: create WSJCoin, a virtual token that could save the newspaper industry — or not.

Read the story at The Wall Street Journal.

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