May 2016

Venture Beat
Will Facebook ever stop fiddling with the news feed? No, no they will not, stop asking stupid questions. Determined to make all your decisions about how to absorb information for you, they've recently been playing around with the idea of organising individual user news feeds into preferred topics.

It's already cropped up on both desktop and mobile in a few limited pockets, but this is the first time it's been tested on a more general basis - Australia. They did this without any fanfare, and have yet to directly comment on it, seems like they're just waiting to see how it lands.

This is how it works: just below the home bar, a new bar appears with a tab saying 'News Feed', and then a series of other tabs saying things like 'Travel', 'Lifestyle', 'Music' and so forth. Depending on what pages you've liked, and what you post, you'll see different ones.

note.taable.com
There's more, though, by clicking on the 'settings' icon, you can decide which topics you want to see manually. Facebook will also prompt you to select sub-topics within the banner topic. In music, this would be particular genres, or in politics this would be representative of your personal leanings.

Doing this will make content that you wouldn't have otherwise seen visible, either through friends, friends of friends, public content or pages that you haven't liked, but have been recognised as relevant to your interests. In essence though, it just streamlines something that a lot of people already do with their Facebook feeds - like content that they want to see more of.

Branded content is already categorised on Facebook, you just aren't necessarily aware of it. Brands certainly are, as it makes it more challenging for them to control their audience reach, something which will likely only be compounded by this change. That's unlikely to discourage Facebook, and we probably won't know what the general feeling about this change is until it's already dropped anchor.

Tech Crunch
Twitter really are pushing music to the front of their service right now and after the recent addition of playable playlists on Twitter, users can now share more music on their accounts through Spotify. SoundCloud embeds and iTunes previews were one thing, but being about to play music through Spotify was a pretty big step.

In the past, the audio cards could only play music when you were actually looking at the tweet. This wasn't so bad if it was short, but it meant that Twitter wasn't very musical. Even their playlists you have to keep open whilst you listen. But this deal with Spotify will allow users to dock the player in the corner of Twitter and then keep on scrolling. This is great if you spend a lot of time on Twitter as it means you can have music you discover playing in the background as you keep on looking through tweets.

This deal was great news for both Spotify and for Twitter. Spotify is trying to catch up with Apple Music and is pretty so close to doing so. This should bring them even closer as usually with Spotify you do need to be a member to listen to the music on other sites. That can kind of suck if you don't have a Spotify account, but this should encourage more users to subscribe. This is also great for Twitter as users will be able to have more of a conversation about music. If you can easily share a song then more users may re-tweet or reply to the tweet and this will help the music be spread across the service.

Media is definitely the area that social media needs to be focusing on and were Facebook are focused on video, Twitter is still focused on music as they have video capabilities on the side with Periscope. Though this feature is great, it's not one that will probably draw many new users in which is what Twitter needs and it's only really great for users willing to spend a lot of time on there. If you just pop on and off, then it won't make much difference. Spotify is focused on 30 seconds previews for now, but this will probably improve as more users start tweeting using Spotify.

smallbiztrends.com
It's all very well using social media to promote some bright idea you've had and pull in the funding you need to get it off the ground, but before any of that you actually need to have an idea, and you need to be assured that it's actually worth pursuing. We can't all be struck by inspiration while we're out for a leisurely walk (Nikola Tesla) or figure out geometry from watching a fly buzz around your head while you're sleeping in (René Descartes), some of us have to focus test our bright ideas.

This is where Flare comes in. It was developed by GoDaddy, a company which offers domain and hosting help to small businesses. Now, it seems, they want to have a hand in getting those businesses started. Essentially, any time you get an idea, whatever it might be, you post it on Flare, and other uses have the ability to hit the 'love' button. If it gets 10 'loves' within 24 hours, you can then ask the community more specific questions about the idea, what works, what doesn't. Other users can at this point also pledge to buy your item or invest in your business if it comes to fruition.

In terms of other people's ideas, you'll see 3 of them every time you boot up the app, and tapping on any of them will take you to that idea's main page, so you can learn more, and smash the love button (I'm aware how dirty that sounds, but I'm not changing it). There's also a snooze button, if you'd rather look at an idea properly later, or if you aren't interested at all, you can skip it, Tinder styley.

The idea profile pages are very basic, just an image, a short description, and a share button for your various social media pages. This is by no means limited to pre-existing businesses or seasoned marketers, anyone and everyone can use it, in the same way that anyone can use Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the idea is to encourage people to invent their own jobs and bring a little bit more self-sufficiency into the world. We're speeding headfirst into a world where startups make up the core of the business sector, and it's far from a bad thing. It's good to see more apps setting out to foster this kind of creativity.

The Mirror
Contrary to what you might think, there is plenty of porn on YouTube, it just doesn't stay up for very long. It used to happen more often, with content staying up for as long as it took for some sensitive soul to flag it, but the upload process is a lot better at ironing out the kinks now than it used to be. Many people (most of whom are presumably trying to promote more explicit content on their own sites) will upload clips or intro sequences in the hopes of coaxing the horny masses away like some sort of perverted Pied Piper, but there's never been porn developed specifically for YouTube until now.

Well, there was 'PG Porn', but that was a parody, and anyone masturbating to it should probably seek out a therapist. This is actually meant to serve the same purpose as actual porn, just without the actual explicit imagery. Presumably, in this case, the actors involved aren't actually doing the bad thing, either, which might make it more suitable for people who question the morality of porn.

Erika Lust is more well known for raunchy photo-shoots or videos which do actually feature naughty bits, but she's eschewed them in favour of videos which focus on romance and eroticism in this case. The first one, 'Do You Find My Feet Suckable', is embedded below. It is technically SFW, but you might want to explain to anyone sat near you why you're actually watching it, otherwise questions may arise, since it is still very, very erotic, especially if you're into feet.


The idea, according to Erika herself, is to create videos which are just as erotic, but suggestively, rather than explicitly. It's been said by many in the past that what you don't show is often as titillating as what you do, and a large contingent of pornography actually uses storytelling to present the sex, rather than just putting two naked people in a room, filming it and then handing them some money (I assume that's how it works).

Before this, Erika's main MO was to create content that appealed more to women, as most porn is primarily aimed at men, even the porn with no women in it, since gay men tend to find different things attractive than heterosexual women (duh). Lust's approach also comes from a frustration from the lack of variety in erotic content in this day and age, and she aims to represent all sexual preferences as fairly as she can.

The narrative part is certainly well accounted for in the first video, as (spoiler alert) it all turns out to be a sexy daydream, but thankfully the guy having the daydream didn't get quite as swept up in it as that guy did in that Sonique video (NOSTALGIA BLAST). It's cute, and it's easy to imagine a myriad of other ways you could approach the idea of 'softer-than-soft-core' porn.

BuzzFeed
The idea of a buy button on Twitter was introduced when Dick Costolo was still running things. The thinking was that they could create product pages and they'd easily be able to make more money from sales. It hasn't worked out that well though, so three months ago they finally decided to disband the buy button committee.

In the past, it did seem like buy buttons on social media would be the next big thing. Users would see something they want to buy and they could just click a button to get it. A few social media services like Facebook and Instagram have put things into place and Snapchat has said they would like to start selling products in the future, but it is all very slow. Users are a little more wary about buying things on social media because of scams so they might only buy things once or twice. Twitter decided to grab onto the idea because most social media companies thought that it would be easy money but it never really fitted Twitter.

Twitter have always been focused more on how they could improve their core experience and that is necessary right now. Their stocks are still low and they really need to keep the money coming in. Because of this, the staff who haven't left Twitter after the committee was disbanded have either been moved to customer service or dynamic product ads.

Most of these will have moved into the product ads section as Twitter want to earn more money through them. Their recent earnings report found that the product ads encourage more click-throughs than promoted posts do and that they've earned them a lot of money. The more staff they can have to work on the dynamic product ads means the more money that they can possibly earn.

The best course of action for Twitter right now is to focus on what they're already good at. The buy button was always a maybe that'll do great in the future and because of that it wasn't focused on. Twitter need to be pushing what they're good at and that is what they're trying to do now. Ending the development on the buy button probably was the best idea and who knows, maybe this will change in the future, but for now, this was a good thing.

htxt.co.za
Reddit and Imgur, two the most prolific meme broadcasters on the internet, are no longer an item. Reddit has never had an image uploading function, users were instead encouraged to post on Imgur and then link share onto Reddit, which was always remarkably easy to do and representative of a casual partnership between the two sites.

Now, that's all changed. Reddit have unveiled a new, dedicated image uploading feature. Thus far, it's available in 16 different communities, including EarthPorn, Gaming, Funny and Food. Next week, that number will fatten out to 50, and presumably one or two weeks after that it will go up again.

There's a 20MB upload limit for photos and a 100MB limit for GIFs, which makes sense, but also gives you an idea of the kind of content they're expecting to see. Clicking on one from any listing will take you back to the original source, so they work as a neat kind of referential shortcut, as well as a way of making Reddit more visual in nature. GIF viewing also now works within the app, whereas before you had to link out of it into a browser.

Their stringent content policy is just as applicable to this change as it is to their written content, so presumably their moderators have been given a new aspect to their workload. This moderation was likely much more difficult before, as a lot of less than savory material gets between the bars on Imgur, and that may have even played into their reasoning for actually doing this.

Users can still freely use Imgur or any other site for image hosting, so this doesn't necessarily have to be regarded as a replacement for that, just an alternate, more convenient service for those who choose to use it. When approached for comment, Imgur said that they didn't find it all that surprising, given that most platforms have introduced a dedicated image hosting service already. Imgur doesn't live and die on its partnership with Reddit, it has a strong dedicated following, and is still the go-to source for GIFs of dogs doing things like this.

LinkedIn
Well, you might not be able to make a successful Snapchat filter, but like Graham Allgood, you might be able to do something. Allgood is a university student who has been looking for an internship for this summer. He decided the best way to promote himself to Horizon Media was to design a Snapchat geofilter targeted at them on the day they would update their Snapchat.

This was a pretty clever idea and one that could have flopped quite easily. Allgood designed a sleek filter with the company's details and a little square in the corner saying hire me. His name was at the bottom and it worked pretty quickly. On Tuesday when Horizon Media went to go send their usual snaps, they spotted the filter and were impressed by what they saw. Eventually, they called him up and they informed him there wasn't a role at the time, but they've since found something for him and he'll be an intern for them working on their Snapchat. That's pretty impressive and definitely something that many people would aim for.

Business Insider

It might seem like something that he can do as he's talented and you wouldn't even be able to attempt something similar as you don't have the same skillset. That doesn't mean that you can't do something, though. Social media is a great way to connect with both people and companies. If you can find a way to sell what you can do on there, then you should do it and put those skills to good use. If you want to become a writer, then be interacting with the publications you want to write for, create your own blog and share those articles. If you want to work in a graphical form, then you can be using Instagram to again contact those companies and share your own work. Sometimes the usual send out a C.V and hope what you're doing on the side works, but sometimes you need to take the side products to the next level.

Allgood focused on one company and used his skills to show what he could do for them on social media. He had to pay to do so but it paid off. Most social media you won't have to pay to do this sort of thing. Show companies an article on something they might do, a redesign of their website, show them you can tweet or share on Facebook in a way that they want.

For Allgood, this was a success and he'll be starting this internship this summer and hopefully, this will prove to others that they can get their dream job using social media too.

wessexscene.co.uk
It's kind of upsetting to know that Twitter would probably be the best social network there is, were it not for all the abuse. That isn't strictly Twitter's fault, but it has almost served as an awful flame to draw in larger and larger whispers of awful moths (yes, the collective noun for moths is whisper, you have my permission to impress someone at a pub with that). Tay alone was evidence enough of that.

Online abuse is difficult to quantify, but when you pare it down to specific flavours, it becomes easier, and more upsetting. A new study by British think tank Demos has done exactly that, focusing on misogyny. The study monitored certain words, specifically 'slut' and 'whore'.

Over a 3 week period, it was found that 6,500 users had been targeted for abuse across 10,000 tweets in the UK, whilst on an international level, 200,000 tweets were sent and 80,000 people were targeted. To put that in perspective, that's enough people to almost fill Wembley Stadium, each getting one abusive tweet per week.

In terms of gender distinction, Demos found that it was a 50/50 between male and female culprits, although less surprisingly, the vast majority of the targets were women. In a previous study, they looked at the word 'rape' and found that it was directed at women in a threatening manner 1 time out of every 10. That was between December 2013 and February 2014 though, I shudder to think what it would have been like when Gamergate kicked off a few months later.

Twitter have released a statement saying that, as ever, they're exploring new ways to cope with the matter, and once again it isn't their fault that this happens, it's a regrettable side effect of the format that they use. More often than not, freedom of speech is misused as a counterpoint by those who feel that they should be allowed to get away with this stuff, but we're living in a new, rapidly changing world as far as communication is concerned, and it needs new rules.

Red Lotus, a sari label owned by designer Sharmila Nair, has taken up the cause of transgender people in India. In a society where the word transgender is associated with ridicule, it was a bold move on Nair's part to design her newest body of work with inspiration from the transgender community in India. Even riskier was her choice to use transgender models.


Red Lotus
Having just recently released her collection to the public, Kochi-based Nair has been busy participating in interviews with a batch of publications regarding Red Lotus' digital ad campaign. With the dual benefit of getting her work into the public eye and spreading a message of acceptance, Nair has a clearly-formed vision. Raising awareness about gender equality and portraying beauty beyond physical appearance, Nair's work takes on a different quality.

Conducted in-house rather than through an agency, the shoot posed some very telling difficulties. Even after cancelling nearly 5 times because finding a location and booking a makeup artist were so difficult (Nair was turned away with "a vague reason to avoid us" she says in an interview with Polka Cafe), the shoot has been a rousing success. An outpouring of support from the LGBT community have sent models Maya Menon and Gowri Savithri into viral territory. When the idea of using transgender models first cropped up, Nair said that she didn't know how to go about finding them. Luckily Jijo Kuriakose, founder of LGBT community Queerala in Kerala, bridged the gap between the two 29-year old models and Nair.



At first, Menon and Savithri approached their working relationship with cautious eyes; understandable considering the stigma a transgender person must fight against. Eventually, Nair's dedication to getting the shoot done and sharing parts of herself paid off, "as we interacted, things started becoming more and more clear and comfortable ... they were dedicated and confident with whatever they were doing," despite having no prior modeling experience. In an interview with afaqs!, Nair states that they were looking for inexperienced models, and forewent the screening process entirely. The authenticity that accompanies unfamiliarity gave this campaign the jolt it needed.

Having been inspired by the transgender community, it is only natural that the collection have an appropriate name. Mazhavil, meaning rainbow in Malayalam, is the name Nair chose for her latest collection. Every color in the rainbow has been used in this collection, made of organic, hand-loomed Hubli cotton which has been naturally dyed to retain its vibrancy over the years. A sari will cost anywhere from 1,500 rupees ($23, £16) to 2,500 rupees ($38, £26).



The reception of such a daring ad campaign teetered until the internet got hold of the pictures. Nair went forward with the campaign despite skepticism from associates and even the models themselves, according to an afaqs! interview: "So, people asked me if I really wanted to do this? Think twice, or three times before doing this, but I was pretty confident that I should do this."
Support from the LGBT community and Facebook regulars alike continues to support Nair's decision.



Queerala, a non-profit organisation that fights for LGBT rights, is located in Kerala, one of the most forward-thinking states of India. The city Nair is based out of, Kochi, is a district of Kerala located in the southern part of the country. Last year in November, Kerala's state government passed a Transgender Policy in order to ensure that their rights to freedom and movement will not be infringed upon. Access to social and economic opportunities are now legally guaranteed. Proper terminology has been enacted to cover transgender people in all forms of transition. This follows on the heels of a 2014 decision by the Indian Supreme Court to introduce a third gender.

Red Lotus

9To5Google
YouTube has been making a lot of changes recently and this latest one is just a few little tweaks for how the app looks and works on Android devices. They won't really affect how you use the app very much, but they do make the app a little less cluttered.

The main change is on video settings menu. The little option will remain in the corner of your video but how it pops up has changed. Whereas before it was  a transparent menu over the video, the background now turns grey and the menu pops up at the bottom of the screen in white. You can still see what's going on up there and where you've paused the video, but the menu is clearly the most important thing open right then. The menu stays like that if you switch to change the quality of the video as well. It's thought that these changes might have been made since the autoplay button that has been introduced otherwise clutters up the app. The menu does cover the autoplay button and the recommended videos so this does make sense.

The other change is to the red video bar that allows you to pause, skip and see how much longer you have next. Before you had to hover over the video, even when it was small for the bar to pop up. This was also apparently seen as too cluttered so there is now a consistent red bar at the bottom of the video when it remains small. The bar does still disappear if you have the video in full-screen mode fortunately so you can still enjoy clear videos. I guess it makes a little sense because the bar is now beneath the actual video, but I feel like a disappearing bar is a little less cluttered.

As well as this their new messaging feature is still in testing. It looks as if Google have been making a lot of changes to YouTube recently and that is interesting. They don't seem to be working on what people would like them too though like how bad the connectivity can be sometimes, how the ads can be an issue for mobile viewers and so on. Maybe they will get to this eventually as YouTube can be a pretty good app and it's nice to know that Google is continuing to work on it.

Snapchat is always adding little bits and pieces to just make their app brighter and more attractive to their mostly teenage user base. The latest addition is stickers, which might not sound like much to write home about but could be very fun.


Mashable
Usually, Facebook is trying to copy Snapchat and not the other way around, but not this time. There have been stickers available on Facebook Messenger for a long while now and they are one of the most popular aspects of the app. Snapchat before this allowed you to doodle and to stick emoji onto videos, but they didn't have stickers like this. These are like most of the stickers available on apps. There are food and animals and things with some references some adults might not get about the bae among other things. They look very fun even if some of the artwork isn't great looking.

These stickers can be added onto normal photos or they can be used like the emoji in videos. They probably wouldn't look the same as the emoji do if you tried to attach them to something in a video. but you know people are going to enjoy this. Snapchat is great because it is a very personalised messaging app. You can add people easily and follow celebrities or brands without it feeling too invasive. Most of what you send will be private and every now and then you might love a picture enough to put it in your story and make it public. These stickers can help push or create an inside joke, it can make it easier to say something rather than typing it out and it's just a lot of fun that adds to that personalised experience.

Now I'm starting to wonder what Snapchat could actually do next to improve the experience for their users further. You can do pretty much everything you already want to do on there, but Snapchat is bound to still have improvements in the works.

If you want to access these new stickers, then make sure your Snapchat is updated first. Once it is you'll see a little square next time you take a photo. You can add as many stickers as you like then move and resize them. It can make your snaps a lot cuter so next time you use Snapchat, have some fun with stickers.

Twitter
When it comes to dating apps we kind of expect them to have a name similar to Tinder now. There's Grindr for the gay man and Bristlr for the man with a beard and the women who love beards. But now Tinder have decided that 3ndr, the dating app for curious couples looking for a third person, is infringing copyright by having a name too similar.

In a way, you can sort of guess why Tinder are going after this app and it's not because their name is too similar. You do stumble across some couples looking for a third person on Tinder. A lot of the time these couples are the type of people that are skipped over as most Tinder users aren't looking for a three-person date or relationship. 3nder, on the other hand, is a specialist app for this sort of thing and with three-way dates and polyamory becoming more common, it's obvious there is a market for it. 3nder has a user base of 500,000 members. That's nowhere near as many users as Tinder so they don't really have so much to worry about there

Tinder are claiming that 3nder, which is said like threen-der, sounds too similar to Tinder. In a letter they asked the company to cease operations or Tinder will sue them in London's high court. 3nder have argued that their name comes from the words three and friender put together because they aim to introduce three people to each other. It makes sense and they point out they aren't the only dating app with a similar name, but they are the only ones under threat of a lawsuit.

3nder have responded by pretty much ignoring the request, but are not letting this lawsuit go to waste. Not that many people are likely to have heard of 3nder and this is certainly getting them noticed. There probably should be more out there for people who want to introduce a third person into a relationship and this does seem like a good idea. So 3nder have created the hashtag #TinderSucksMySocks and would like users to post pictures of their dirty socks. It's supposed to suggest they're busy people, but it seems kind of weird to me.

It's hard to say whether this is going to end well for 3nder or not, but they aren't giving up anytime soon. Even if there aren't many pictures of socks around, people are still showing their support and hopefully that will help.

The New York Times
If you are an American Snapchat user, then earlier this week you may have been surprised to find that all your usual Snapchat filters had been replaced with X-Men filters. It was a one-day takeover aimed at promoting the release of X-Men Apocalypse on Friday. Superhero movies are huge and what better app for a possible summer blockbuster to take over. Unfortunately, many of the users didn't seem to agree.

I think we can generally agree that superheroes are hit or miss and so are most of Snapchat's filters. Who doesn't want to turn into an adorable dog or cat, after all? On the other hand, the makeup filters are looking to be a little shifty when it comes to lightening people of colour. These X-Men filters wouldn't have been a huge miss like that, but there was an issue with users only being able to access the X-Men filters. If you live outside the US, then you wouldn't have noticed as all your filters would have been the regular rotation. In fact, I checked Snapchat myself yesterday morning to check something on the dog filter (if you have two people, then one of you will be a Dalmatian by the way) and I had no clue about the takeover.

As much as many people love X-Men, a complete takeover was clearly a bad idea. Where one or two filters could pique a few new viewers attention, forcing everyone to participate actually alienates the people who do not care. These filters are supposed to attract people to see the movie and instead the only people really enjoying them are the people who liked the series anyway. This means that their promotion has sort of failed. You have to remember that for these filters to have been put in place, they'd have had to pay Snapchat and now it looks as if it might have been a waste of money.



If you are going to pay to get a sponsored filter placed on Snapchat then make sure you only release one or two that do different things. Users do want to see something new, but they also want the chance to play with the same old stuff in case they don't like the new. The X-Men filters might have seemed like a good idea when they were paid for, but turns out you shouldn't take over all of Snapchat if you want people to be happy.

The Verge
When you're using a dating app you want to be able to feel safe. You might have your location available, but that's only to find people near you and some people don't even want users to see how much distance there is between you. For some users on gay dating apps, this is even more important if they live in an area or a country where they could be at risk because of their sexuality. A study by a group of researchers at Kyoto University has found that even users who put security measures in place on Grindr, Hornet, and Jack'd can easily be tracked down to within a few feet of their actual location.

Dating apps, especially Grindr, are already known to be pretty risky when it comes to security. Back in 2014, it was reported how easy it was to track users down using a technique known as trilateration. This meant that users locations could easily be narrowed down by using the distance data. It was then that the apps made it possible to hide how far from you that they are. However, this can easily be emulated still by using GPS spoofing apps which are more commonly found for Android. By using these apps, a user can make spoofing accounts that will allow them to track a user's location down in a similar way to how they used to.

This is far too easily done and the Kyoto researchers pointed it out to try to protect LGBT people in countries where they could be persecuted or attacked for their sexuality. There may be similar issues with apps like Tinder, but the way they handle data mean it's safer at the moment. However, it is still possible that someone could track you down.

There aren't very many suggestions that the researchers can make to fix this. The companies could obscure user location data even more, but that could make the app less useful resulting in a loss of users. Another suggestion is that users do not share pictures of their faces so they cannot be recognised. This isn't saying share intimate photos because, well, not everyone will appreciate that, but it's just a suggestion. The other issue could be that people might not be certain you're real as they cannot see your face. The only other suggestion is to only run Grindr on Android or jailbroken iPhone devices with GPS spoofing software so you can hide your real location.

This research was necessary, but the results are terrifying and it seems like using dating apps might still be putting some people at risk.

Tech Crunch
Sometimes when you're watching a particularly long video or a stream after it's finished, you do just want to know when it gets good. Facebook have decided that Live should address that and they're introducing engagement graphs on finished streams.

These engagement graphs will sit at the bottom of the video and will appear to be emoji on different levels. These emoji are the reactions to the video and the higher it sits, the more common that reaction was. So for the funniest bits, you might look for the smiling reaction, whereas if you want to see something that made people mad, you'd look for the angry emoji. It's simple to understand and it means that you don't have to sit through a whole stream if you don't have long and someone wants you to watch something.

This Live feature makes the Facebook service a little less so, but it was something that they had to do. More people are watching streams after they've ended. It's the whole reason Periscope gave users the ability to save their streams recently. Facebook users have been able to save their streams from the off and this new graph kind of makes it look like Facebook and Periscope are dipping in and out of each other's features, altering them slightly to seem new like the appearance of the graph on the Facebook streams rather than users just seeing the reactions after the fact. You will still see those reactions and comments if you watched a finished stream, but that is only just being rolled out on Facebook as well.

As more and more people continue to watch streams after a fact, both services will have to change. Facebook's graph will mean that users will have to make their stream work so that they do have moments of humour, climaxes and everything that anything recorded for an audience is supposed to have. No one is going to want to watch a stream where someone just talks about nothing in particular for an hour, but if they perform it like a stand-up comedian, then they could make it work. Same goes for skits with storylines and so on. The interesting thing is this is not what's doing well on Facebook Live right now. The watermelon smashing video might have had some sort of structure, but it was still kind of open and then you had the Chewbacca masked lady that didn't have much of a point. Even if this doesn't do well for Facebook Live, it might encourage the other streaming companies to follow suit and do the same.

This update should be a practical one for Facebook Live, but it is questionable as to whether it'll have the effect that they expect it to.

BuzzFeed
When Disney started selling Chewbacca masks that talk when you move your jaw, they didn't sell massively well. People were buying them and enjoying them, but they weren't something you'd look at and go, "Oh yeah! Everyone online will be jealous of me." Candace Payne didn't care about that though and when she shared the video it was just to show her friends and family this new product that made her laugh, it went viral, and now everyone wants one.

If this is not an example of how powerful social media is, then I don't know what is. This video is even being talked about on traditional television because of how many people like it. Facebook Live still isn't that huge; this is only the second of their more popular videos and it goes to show that sometimes the inane videos do the best. The last popular video was Buzzfeed's watermelon smashing one. A video that was literally just about the destruction of fruit. This video was simply a woman buying a mask and enjoying it so much that she had to share it. You do have to wonder why this video has gotten so popular, but it's nice that something that isn't too serious or negative has gotten popular for once.

The biggest thing about this video becoming viral has nothing to do with the fact it's kind of positive, though. No, it's more the fact that those masks have now begun to sell out. Star Wars is popular in its own right and the toys will often sell well because of that. However, it's been a little while now since the last film was released and toys and products aren't going to be selling as well as they were. Now people have seen how fun the mask is, they're going out and buying them in droves. The masks suddenly selling well is great news for Disney and Hasbro. What's not such good news for consumers, however, is the fact some people are re-selling the masks on eBay for more than they're worth. Some people will be so desperate for them they'll pay the extra, but they shouldn't need to.

Buzzfeed

This actually says some amazing things about Facebook Live, though. Video might not still be a big there on there, but it's doing well enough to make some viral hits. At the moment, it feels like this is what video is going to continue to do on Facebook. It's not going to be a huge live video service to rival Periscope or YouTube, but they will every now and then host these hits that will get everyone talking and maybe they'll feature more product placement in the future.

Blizzard Entertainment has been rocking the gaming world since its inception in 1991. Drawing on the success of its previous titles (for example, World of Warcraft, one of the highest-subscribed MMORPGs of all time, reaching 12 million subscribers in its prime and surviving for 5 expansions over a decade) the company has continued to release polished, well-received games. Currently, Diablo's cult-following is dredging through Torment mode, Heroes of the Storm players are relishing in their eSports inclusion, and Starcraft players are inputting 200 APM (actions per minute) in game; it's not hard to see why Blizzard's brassy, new take on the FPS has fans scrabbling for more.



After releasing an enticing graphic announcing "Agents Activating" on the Overwatch Twitter, fans of Blizzard Entertainment's team-based shooter quickly began speculating. It wasn't long before diligent Twitter and Reddit users deduced the meaning behind the map. Showing coordinates in Hollywood, Paris, and Busan, Korea, Blizzard wanted their life-sized, MIB (mint in box) figures to be found by those willing to look. The special event, meant to spread awareness of the game's release on May 24, has been a rousing success.

The heroes featured are Tracer on Hollywood Boulevard, Genji outside Pompidou Center, and Pharah at a Blizzard-hosted Overwatch launch event at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center. Standing 15-feet tall, the impeccably detailed figures are displayed as collectible boxed action figures, complete with weapon accessories and key descriptions. A handy "Try Me" button will even light the box up and play a voice recording. As of now, the figures are slotted to be promotional items only (according to box details), not available for purchase in the future regardless of size.

Video Overwatch Pharah - Over Sized Figure in South Korea - OGN from Overwatch
Steve Wang is the confirmed creator of the Tracer statue, while the other two remain uncredited. For those interested in seeing more, enjoy this collection of pictures compiled by Redditor MartyHasBeard.

Overwatch will be available on the PC, boasting superior graphics (depending on the computer) and gameplay, as well as on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Earlier this month, 9.7 million players across all platforms got a chance to play Overwatch in open beta over 7 days. Blizzard even released an infographic detailing the event.

Now enjoy some pictures of these amazing heroes. Pharah, however, remains shrouded in mystery, not surfacing much on social media.





Launched in September, Pay Your Selfie gives anyone willing to sell branded pictures of themselves a chance to make a profit. Simply submit a sponsored selfie with the brand-of-choice and reap the rewards! Actually, it isn't quite as easy as all that; the majority of selfie prompts are unsponsored, paying a smaller amount, usually under $1. For every sponsored $1 prompt, are 5 unsponsored prompts paying $.20 or $.50 each.


TrendHunter

Keeping in line with the values of the Chicago-based company, the home screen perpetually shows the front-facing camera. After creating an account, a list of selfie prompts can be accessed by selecting a red piggy bank, the app's mascot, in the upper right-hand corner of the home screen. The list shows the monetary reward given for each selfie. Upon choosing a prompt, a brief description appears in a bar running along the bottom of the screen. If anything about the title or description is unclear, a quick touch on the bottom bar will pull up a full description complete with an example picture for inspiration. Selfies taken on the app are stored on a "shelfie" for later perusal.

At the top of the home screen is a counter, keeping track of how much you've made off of branded selfie-absorption. After reaching $20, the company will mail out a check or donate the money to the user's favorite charity.


Tech Times

Millennials everywhere will agree, this is the perfect job! Seems like a pretty decent way to sell your soul piecemeal in exchange for $20 checks. I'm on board, and hope to have a backlog of branded selfies by the end of the month. This app can only benefit consumers, but what implications does this data-collection service have for companies?



Pay Your Selfie Facebook

Brands are eating up Pay Your Selfie, purchasing app-accrued data where it pertains to them. By tapping into a previously unavailable resource, showing when and where people use their products, brands are attempting to capitalize on this information.

In addition to the where and when accompanying the submittal of each selfie, the app has certain information on file for each user including age, birthdate, and gender. The content of each selfie, from what's kept on the bathroom counter to who else is photographed, all play a part in the analysation of consumers.

Operating with a sparse team of three, including CEO Michelle Smythe and co-founder Kristen Holman, the company has made it on their own funds thus far, but are working towards seed funding in the future.

Tech Radar
There's been an unusual amount of news on Tumblr recently. Tumblr introduced the ability to make your own GIFs on their mobile app last year. However, the feature was hidden within a photo post and you might not pay attention to it unless you're looking for it. Tumblr has since decided that they want more users making GIFs so have introduced a specialised GIF button.

This feature is only for mobile, so you can't make GIFs this way online. It is a shame as Tumblr isn't used on the app that often due to the fact a lot of users find it a little useless. However this could be another way to encourage their members to keep using the app rather that switching to using the service on a browser. The GIF feature is pretty neat though as you can use a video or connected pictures you took in one burst together to create a GIF. This is great for reactions and memes that are really big on Tumblr and they help make these posts more personal. However, in the past, you could literally only use those videos so you may have had to have made a few GIFs and then add the text between them.

The new GIF button takes all that was good from the original feature and improves on it. Now you can make the base GIF and then draw on it, add on emojis and write or draw on it. This means you can have your own "deal with it" GIF or won't need as many GIFs to make that joke you want in on. The feature is pretty much identical to Snapchat's photo editor so it's not going to be difficult to use or anything. If you want to check it out, then just tap the post button as you usually would and you'll see a GIF bubble at the top of the options. Tumblr is hoping that this button will encourage more users to be sharing GIFs and it'll be fun to see what users can come up with. The only worrying thing with this being Tumblr is that someone else might decide to take the GIF of your face and use it for their own means. So make sure you're really okay with that GIF possibly becoming spread around.

At the moment, the GIF button is only available for iOS users, but Tumblr hopes to roll it out to Android users within the next few weeks.

The Guardian
Earlier this month, a Gizmodo report appeared claiming that the Trending Topic review staff on Facebook were told to wait for stories to appear on mainstream news sites and ignore the conservative news sites. At the time, Facebook claimed that there are guidelines in place to prevent that but since then it's been proven otherwise. Now Facebook has realised that they need to change that.

When you look further into this, you can find that Facebook had a list of 1000 media outlets and websites that they use to gather their information. This list does contain some conservative news sources such as RedState and The Daily Caller, but they're the few conservative sources among the many liberal ones. What makes it worse is the fact they do have these sources, but they trust only ten of them as having the editorial authority and all of those are liberal. When you're sharing the news with the world then you shouldn't have a political bias. You should be willing to share all the facts and debunk all of the lies no matter the viewpoint. The only thing they need not share from any political viewpoint is pointless abuse or hate which they wouldn't do anyway. Facebook should have admitted that they had been doing something wrong earlier but now they're doing something at least.

Mark Zuckerberg met up with a few influential conservatives recently to try to sort the issue out. A few of the Conservatives have come out of this meeting pleased and Facebook is saying that they may try and revamp their Trending Topics guidelines. Rob Bluey, the editor of The Daily Signal - one of the news sources not actually featured on Facebook's source list - was one of the people who got a chance to talk to Zuckerberg. He told them how much The Daily Signal actually relies on Facebook and he heard them say that they would think about revamping the topics. He was someone who left the meeting happy that Facebook would actually try to fix this. In a way, this seems to be the opposite of how Twitter have been dealing with the upset conservative users.

What it comes down to is the fact Facebook aren't trying to push conservatives out or upset them. They made a mistake and shouldn't have denied it but they are trying to fix it. A lot of Facebook's former editors still feel that they weren't exactly doing what Gizmodo claimed so it is hard to work out how to fix this but they do need more balance. Fortunately, Facebook is not a company who are going to risk upsetting so many users so they will most probably make some changes in the near future.

Buzzfeed
It looks as if Google are really getting in on messaging apps now after they announced the release of Allo and Duo at their annual IO developer conference. The two apps both do different things but look to be Google's attempt at private messaging. The announcement of these two apps follows on after the announcement of Spaces before the conference began.

The first app, Allo, looks to work a little like Whatsapp. The app creates an account off of your phone number and provides end-to-end encryption to ensure users privacy. That's where those similarities end though as Google are working hard to make this app their own. For one thing, the privacy is a lot more advanved than other apps. Like in a browser you can open the chat in an incognito mode. When you do this, notifications are discreet and you can choose to automatically delete these private messages after a short period of time. However, this incognito mode is the only way you'll get end-to-end encryption so it still needs a little work. Google will build more privacy features for the app in the future but for now, that is a pretty impressive start. As well as this, you can scale the size of emojis and text easily and there's a practical auto suggest feature. The suggestions don't work in the same way as most, if you're sent a picture of a dog, then the app might suggest that you say cute dog or ask for a recipe if they send you a picture of something they've cooked. These could still be rather annoying, but it's an interesting way to suggest things.

The other app is Duo, which is just a video messaging app that is, once again, connected to your phone number. It also features end-to-end encryption so you don't have to worry about anyone hacking in on your video calls. The app can easily transition from wifi to a mobile network if necessary and it monitors the network quality for the video.
This isn't all though as they've also introduced a feature called Knock Knock, which basically means you can see a quick live stream of the person you're calling before you connect. That is a little creepy and worrying, but I'm hoping that the person you call has to confirm the live stream first or some people could see some things that they really don't want to.

Neither app is actually available yet, but if you search for them on the Google Play store then you'll see that they are coming soon.

BBC
In the US, there are some great stories about how Tinder and politics have been intertwined to create these original and interesting campaigns. First, we had the Bernie Sanders supporters asking the users who swiped yes on them to go Democrat and vote for Bernie. After that, Tinder seemed to have realised that some users on there cared about politics and they decided to create Swipe The Vote. The feature was designed to help American users decide who to vote for with a quiz that would match their views to the political claims. Now rumors have been suggesting that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is going to pop up on Tinder with adverts for the EU referendum. Unfortunately, that has turned out to be false.

UK politics has never really been that focused on social media and that is starting to be a little weird. Cameron recently met with representatives of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Buzzfeed, Bite The Ballot and Tinder to find ways to connect with young voters. This is going to be important with the EU referendum being this year and could be helpful with any other elections in the future. However, nothing was officially decided.

It's not known why one newspaper thought that the Tinder deal had happened. The staff at Downing Street have since confirmed that David Cameron will not be popping up on Tinder and the BBC reported so, revealing that two of the companies there might be working on something in the future. I suppose we should just be glad that users are not going to be spammed with more adverts yet.

Tinder and Bite The Ballot are the ones with something in the works, but they aren't willing to release any information yet. As annoying as adverts disguised as profiles might be, we do need more things like that in the UK. There are many young people not taking as much notice in politics who are spending a lot of time on social media.

As we get more information we will report on it, but for now, there's not as much to make fun of than people thought.

bg3productions.deviantart.com
Brace yourselves, internet, Reddit have joined the embedding race. Twitter and YouTube have had embedding enabled since before we knew the Earth was spherical (which it is, despite what Tila Tequila might tell you), but Facebook have only mucked in and now it seems like Reddit have decided that they also want a go. It doesn't necessarily make as much sense to embed long written posts as it does for photos and videos, but if you're quoting a particular source it can be quite useful.

Reddit is, at heart, a forum, and most forums don't have any kind of embedding as such, as this systems enables you to embed single comments, rather than just threads. The most important thing is that Reddit is regularly a prime source for stories, especially where AMAs are concerned. Often times the subjects will reveal things that people at large had been unaware of, and even if they don't, it tends to reveal what type of person they are much more clearly than more scripted, pre-planned press interviews.


It could also serve as a way of logging reactions and discussion surrounding a topic right there within the article, rather than quoting or linking out. The other benefit is that if a reader wants to involve themselves in the discussion, it just takes one click. Such a thing might increase the sharing rate of the article in question.

Reddit have also partnered up with AOL, TIME Inc. and Advance Local to create some specific publisher tools, but the ultimate plan is to make any Reddit post embeddable on any website, full stop. No word on exactly how long it will take for that to be the case, but expect to see Reddit posts flaring up on articles every which way from now until the end of time.

Another update on Facebook's video push is here and this time it focuses on their Live service. Facebook have released a live map similar to Periscope's mobile map. This basic feature should make it easier to see what exactly is going on with a stream.


Digital Trends

Essentially what this feature does is show you a map of the world. The map is scattered with blue dots which indicate a stream being aired there. On the left of the map you'll see a bar that has a list of worldwide streams that have gone viral. These will usually be from TV stations, musicians or anyone who is famous online. These streams will have an image and a little more information on the person, but for the rest of the streams, you have to click a dot to find out anything more. You can watch the stream and leave comments if you're signed in and so wish.

When you have clicked on a dot you can also see where other viewers are watching from. Lines will spread out from the stream towards the location of the viewer so you can see if something is truly global. Some streams won't really have much of a spread due to what the stream is about, but some of the more viral videos may have a lot of lines. This is going to be a great thing for Facebook as well because they want people using video and this is one way for them to really see that they are.

This should hopefully help encourage more users to stream on Facebook because they now have the ability to easily see how many live streams there are out there. You can see how many viewers there are and you can see how random some of the things are out there. You might not see much of interest, but hey, you could find something fun or maybe someone will be streaming one of their pets or something else cute.

Facebook's next video update will most probably be the inclusion of adverts. Apparently users are watching streams for three times as long as normal videos so this could be good for advertising.

If you're curious and you want to check the live map out here.

The Deli Agency | Twitter
Video really is the thing Facebook is pushing hard right now and what some users are beginning to see is the next step for them. At the moment, you can post a video and someone can comment or post a picture in response. Now users may be able to record short videos and post them as comments. This feature is being tested on iOS, Android and the desktop site.

Some users are now seeing a little pop up box above the camera icon on the comment box alerting them to the fact they can now post video comments. For app users who have the feature, you just need to tap the camera icon like you would for a picture and then you can upload a video already on your camera or quickly record a new clip. We don't have any details on the desktop version, but it'll probably work in a similar to way as picture comments already work on desktop too. Obviously, video responses should be short for easy accessibility, but Facebook are hoping that this will encourage more users to create and share video.

This update does have a ring of Snapchat to it. The videos aren't private and they aren't deleted once they're opened, as Facebook never managed that successfully, but they do want user responses. At the moment MSQRD has nothing to do with this feature, but if it works out, it might eventually. Facebook have made no secret of the fact that they want Snapchat or at least something like it and aside from MSQRD, this is probably as close as they're going to get.

At the moment this feature is still in the testing stages so if people don't use it then it shouldn't be rolled out. Video is still an awkward thing on Facebook as while some users are adopting it, others still find it an annoyance and aren't likely to record anything any time soon. Facebook are hoping for the opposite result though and that if users like this feature, they'll start streaming more.

It seems likely that Facebook will keep pushing this until people are using it so expect to see video comments on your status updates soon.

If, like me, you dread typing  out long texts on your phone's no-longer-tiny-but-still-difficult screen, then the Tap Strap might just be your next major purchase. Joining the waiting list now will get you a spot somewhere around 4000th place.



Made of a flexible smart-fabric, the strap is embedded with sensors which monitors the mechanical information of the hand and fingers to collect raw data. That data is processed by an MCU (microcontroller) to decode into key presses. The finger tap combinations are then transmitted over Bluetooth. The strap can be paired with any Bluetooth-capable device including iOS or Android phones and tablets, computers, and smart TVs.

Right- or left-handed, it doesn't matter with Tap; wear two if you like. Simply slip the strap onto the desired hand, up to the knuckles, and you're able to enter text, characters, symbols and punctuation, turning the surface of your choosing into a virtual keyboard. Input is all done through gestures which are learned on the TapGenius app with a total of 31 possible finger taps reported by Digital Trends. Each finger represents a vowel, and by combining fingers different letters and symbols are created.

Tap With Us

This technology, while appealing to phone users, takes on a different light when considering the implications of a virtual keyboard for smartwatches and other wearable tech. Text input of any kind is awkward on devices that use virtual or augmented reality. The Tap Strap is meant to fill this role by offering an intuitive method of typing while engaged in new tech.

Benefiting from the technical prowess of founder Ron Poliakine, co-founder and former NASA engineer Sabrina Kemeny, and engineer David Schick, the Tap Strap is entering a market with no real competition. Set to hit stores by the end of the year with a supposed early release for the blind and visually-impaired, Tap Systems also offers a developer's kit to further test the merits of their project.

Yes, you did read that right, Facebook has filed a new patent which would allow you to use your face as an emoji. I don't mean one of those downloadable emoji makers where you can design an emoji to look like you, no. Instead, Facebook will be using photos of you that they have on the system.


The Next Web

This new idea uses the facial recognition technology that Facebook has been having some trouble with recently. So how  does it work? Basically, when you use one of the more simple emoji, Facebook take note of how it is actually typed and then look through your photos to find a picture that matched. So if you used a sad smiley, the system would look for a picture where your mouth was turned down, but an angry smiley would look for your mouth turned down or set in a line and angry eyebrows. It's quite easy to understand but it isn't something that all people might appreciate. The images provided with the patent at least suggest that the emoji images will still be small head shots so you don't have to worry about them taking over your screen.

This patent actually follows on from Slack's custom emoji option. On Slack this means you can use any image as an emoji without having to worry about waiting for the Unicode Consortium to approve it. Twitch also provides an option similar to this. Facebook's personalised emoji won't work in the same way, but they're taking the idea and making it work in a way that's individual to Facebook. This isn't the first time Facebook have emulated Slack as it's actually where they got the idea for their Reactions from. Only it took them two years after filing that patent to actually put them into action.

The biggest problem with this patent will be the fact that once again this feature uses Facebook's facial recognition technology. They may love it, but outside of the US they always have trouble with getting those features rolled out due to privacy laws. Admittedly it might be a little different if you're choosing to send those emoji, but you have to hope that you'll be able to opt in to use these special emoji rather than have to opt out, otherwise there might be even more trouble with the European courts. Of course by the time they release this feature, those problems should hopefully be all ironed out.

Social media is soaring to new heights of public consideration. The federal government has expanded its review process to include social media posts made by prospective employees as a basis to determine eligibility for security clearance.


WHNT 19
The burgeoning review will allow agencies to scrutinise posts made to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms as necessary. Any publicly available information is fair game. However, the guidelines reiterate the passwords are to remain private and any that accounts under a false name cannot be forced out of a person unless it becomes a matter of national security. Confirmed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), certain special cases will allow the agencies to delve into an applicants friends and associates when they are involved with or mentioned in a suspicious social media post.



Proponents of the directive state that social media will not be a required part of the review, but having it as a tool to utilise when necessary is of a vital tool in understanding who a person is nowadays. It determines whether a person can be trusted with secrets. Additionally, burrowing into the past is an opportunity to see if a candidate has something that could be used in blackmail.

Representative Mark Meadows made a good point at the hearing for the House subcommittee: "Today, with more than a billion individuals on Facebook, what a person says and does on social media can often give a better insight on who they are."

Both parties have agreed on the new policy. The best part of this news, if there is any, is that only information considered relevant to a person's background check will be retained. Privacy advocates are circling the proceedings, looking for any slip in the reviews to point out Big Brother's involvement.

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