September 2016

Periscope are taking some cues from their owners - Twitter - and starting to make their approach more TV-like. The mobile version of the live-streaming app has had curated channels for quite a while, but the desktop version requires a lot more human intervention to find the right feed.

Sorry, that should be required, as the curated channels have now made the leap from mobile to desktop. This is yet another example of the recent trend of more advanced services on mobile, which while understandable given modern trends, still seems very backwards to people like me who used to be amazed that you could play Snake on a mobile phone.

If you jump on now, you'll find yourself faced with a brand new home page with channels curated by the in-house team, and channels curated using popular hashtags. You can scroll between them both at the same time until you find a feed that tickles your fancy. As you'd expect, clicking on a channel will take you to a feed of all the relevant streams.

It's all very fluid, and easy to understand, even if the multiple videos can sometimes be a bit visually overwhelming. The featured ones tend to be specific to something that's going on in the world right now, whereas the hashtag ones are based around themes like food, music and discussion. Beyond this, you also get sections like 'Walk on the Wild Side', 'Master Casters' and 'Discover Your Next Favourite Musician'.

You can also view the channels in a list, making it a little bit easier to find something if you already know what you're looking for. Of course, there's always the search function if neither of these options are getting you where you want to be. There's no reason why Periscope shouldn't be as intuitive on desktop as it is on mobile, and in fact if you're following news, this might be even better.

If you're not familiar with Emogi, let me acquaint you. They're a startup who, for the past year or so, have been looking into ways to connect consumers to brands using emoji. Wink is their first fully fledged platform, and it allows brands to present emoji and GIFs through Kik, the popular messaging app.

You might not necessarily be all that familiar with Kik, but 300 million other people are, so it's a good launchpad for something like this, even if it's not as broad as WhatsApp or iMessage. Here's how it works - Kik will notice when you type particular keywords and then present you with a number of appropriate branded emojis. Think 'beer', 'sandwich', or 'movie', for example.

This basically means that brands don't have to actively guide people towards sticker packs which they then have to download. Instead, the content is delivered directly to them, whether they want it or not. It hasn't yet been disclosed exactly which clients Emogi are working with on this, but the keywords seem to be 'coffee', 'fast food' and 'beverage', none of which should come as any kind of surprise.

This is something that Facebook and Google have both been trying to break ground on, but neither of them have gone as far as actually allowing brands to access messaging keyboards. Emogi are, allegedly, in talks with a few other messaging services and dating apps, so in that sense, Wink might be the thing to push the big hitters into making that leap.

Is it intrusive? You could argue that there's nothing forcing you to use the branded content, it's just being shown to you. What's more of a worry is the fact that the words you're using in private chats are being directly monitored, but if Facebook's targeted advertising is anything to go by, there's already plenty of that going on.

Beyond Wink, Emogi have also been doing some interesting research on 'heavy users' of emoji, and the results have uncovered some telling trends. You can see the full details in this infographic, courtesy of Adweek, but in short - branded emojis are becoming more popular, flag emojis are very unpopular, and the demand for more varied emoji options is rising rapidly.
About a year ago, Twitter introduced Moments, a service which curates tweets into rolling, subject-relevant clusters. When it was first announced, only Twitter were doing it, but in the months between announcement and release, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram all rolled their own versions out, and in a bizarre twist of brutal irony, Twitter ended up at the back of the race.

One of the reasons why Moments ended up looking like a poor cousin to things like Snapchat Stories was the fact that it wasn't open to the user-base. Twitter had control over Moments, and each new 'Moment' was framed around a specific event, theme, famous person or whatever else. That's fine, in principle, but people rarely respond well to a social media feature which they are left to passively observe.

Well, it looks like that's finally about to change. The company announced on Wednesday that the feature will soon be updated so that anyone can create a Moment, and the announcement came bundled with a short video explaining how to actually do it. According to said video, you don't necessarily need to be following the accounts the tweets are coming from, so long as the subject is pertinent.

Additionally, being the generous buggers they are, Twitter also provided a list of tips and tricks for creating the ideal Moment (which is, in and of itself, a moment). Tips include keeping titles short, keeping the number of tweets in the Moment to around 10, making use of images, GIFs and videos and using top tweets as a form of inspiration.

Of course, Twitter's users have never been overly keen on directly following advice like that, so expect to see plenty of Moments which colour outside the lines; far from a bad thing. The hope, presumably, is that this move will help improve their user engagement and push them further away from financial turmoil (and the disturbing notion of a Mickey Mouse being placed over the logo).
It was bound to happen eventually. Despite attempts to expand beyond dating, Tinder will seemingly always retain that grim veneer of cynicism that it was coated in when it spawned. Case in point - Tinder Boost. This new service will basically allow you to pay your way to the front of the line, appearing on other people's feed before anyone else. Gotta love capitalism, eh?

Of course, being seen first is no guarantee of getting matched, and really it's hard to say how much it will actually boost your chances. Boost only applies to users in the same area, and each payment nets you 30 minutes, so I guess the idea would be to buy a Boost pass (or whatever) when you're actually out and about, in the hopes that you'll get matched straight away and meet someone within the next half-hour. Tall order.

As with many added Tinder features, Australia will be the first people to get it, but as yet we have no bearing on how well this whole thing is actually going to work. The other thing we don't know is exactly how much Tinder are planning to charge per-Boost, but one imagines that the Australian test run will also provide the final basis for that.
The pricing aspect is probably, Tinder hope, a way to make sure the feature isn't so overused that it becomes redundant, but there's a flaw in that approach. Have you ever used the Amazon app while you were a little drunk? Yeah? Did you buy something? I figured as much. Imagine then, for a moment, that you're out at a bar, swiping away, and the option to drop a few pounds/dollars to activate Boost flashes up. Of course you're going to do it, you're drunk, and so is everyone else. The net result? Tinder is working in exactly the same way it normally would, except that everyone in the vicinity just lost a little bit of booze money.

Of course, if you're already on the paid 'Plus' service, you'll get free Boosts, one per week, to go along with those Super Likes that definitely also work really well. If I'm coming across as a bit negative, it's only because this strikes me as yet another Tinder innovation that simply makes it even more depressing than it already was.

The association between Facebook and actual, physical matter is sometimes difficult to make. Have you ever set foot in a Facebook building, or held something developed by Facebook in your hands? No, you haven't, and you probably never will. To most of us, social media giants are colossal, but spectral, like a ghostly Kaiju looming over the Tokyo skyline, breathing a flaming blue stream of thumbs up symbols.
In fact, Facebook have offices and facilities all over the world, and they're making some major inroads in tech development. In order to reflect this, Mark Zuckerberg has started sharing images of Facebook's various projects on his personal page, staring with the gigantic data centre they have nestled away in the Swedish coastal city of Luleå.

As it turns out, a huge, Facebook-run data centre looks like the set for a dystopic sci-fi film. Long corridors full of monolithic server units, cooling fans, stoic-looking people carrying armfuls of technology that's probably worth more than their houses, the works. The photos have obviously been staged to give off this vibe, but even still, the sterility is striking.
The reason Facebook even have such a facility within about 70 miles of the Arctic Circle is, perhaps unsurprisingly, because of the cold. The big fans pull the cold air into the building to keep the server units at an optimal operating temperature, and the coastal location means that the whole place can be powered hydroelectrically, making it far more energy efficient than other, similar data centers.
Perhaps the most interesting photo in this share, however, doesn't show the facility at all, but an early conceptual sketch of it, drawn on a napkin by Director of Datacenter Engineering Jay Park. Facebook's offices might be bright, and full of bean bag chairs and VR headsets, but it's in cold, Bauhaus structures like this that the real innovation is being done. 

Among the many many things that social media has given the digital age (I'd almost consider that statement laughable, but it really has given society a baseline for interactions, personal achievements, and an omnipresent network of connections), the most fundamental of which is a standardized way to present yourself to the world. Profiles mean a lot nowadays, whether professional, like LinkedIn, or expressive, like DeviantArt. A profile can be the determining factor in a person's job eligibility, or act as a tool for scoping out potential friends/lovers.

If we're talking about a social media baseline, Facebook defines it. Though not quite as popular as it was in its heyday, Facebook has set the tone for internet culture from as early as 2005. In their quest for digital dominance, they've bowled over smaller companies to stake a rightful claim at the top of the food chain. As such, assimilation by mergers and acquisitions have helped to construct the formidable backbone that makes Facebook such a domineering force. When unable to buyout, adopting others' ideas is the next best option.
Facebook has been working towards making your profile pictures more interesting by integrating Snapchat, Vine, Boomerang, and other video-sharing apps into their website. Facebook's Profile Expression Kit allows people to share photos and videos from third-party apps to their profile video flow.  A profile picture, your chosen representation of yourself, can be so much more than just an image thanks to the Profile Expression Kit.

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If you have a one-of-a-kind Vine that you simply must put up, add it on. It will appear on your profile video flow along with any other photos or videos you've uploaded. This personalisation not only benefits those unique snowflakes among us; if you've created a photo-or-video focused app, submit it for approval. Once it passes the review process, photos or videos submitted to Facebook profiles that originate from your app will have a visible attribution tied to it. A link to download your app will appear in the News Feed. It's worth reading Facebook's documentation to understand what is expected.

During its early stages, the software development kit (SDK) was available to beta partners for iOS versions of their apps. Announced at Facebook's F8 conference, the Profile Expression Kit was first approved for use by MSQRD, Boomerang, lollicam, BeautyPlus, Cinemagraph Pro, and Vine. The SDK was made globally available to developers on 22 Sep.

According to Facebook, an appropriate app must "have the primary purpose of creating and editing photos or videos, ... encourage people to take selfie photos and videos with the front-facing camera, ... not include ads or commercial content, such as logos and watermarks, in photos and videos."

Land O'Lakes
Posting images of meals is the weapon of choice for many an Instagram user. Even if the food you cook for yourself is about as aesthetically pleasing as a vulture with conjunctivitis, visits to restaurants will almost always warrant photographic documentation.

There are likely millions of food-related images in Instagram at this point, but an ingenious new initiative put in motion by agricultural coop Land O'Lakes is aiming to downsize that figure. Basically, they want you to delete your old (or new) meal photos, and for each one you get rid of, they donate 11 meals to any one of Feeding America-affiliated 200 food banks.

In order to do this, you have to head to their 'Delete to Feed' website, sign into Instagram through the site's portal, and then go through your profile and pick the images to delete. Technically, you could probably just delete any old picture, but that kind of defeats the purpose, especially if you then share the deletion on your social media channels. The banner saying "I just deleted a meal to donate meal" is somewhat less meaningful if the image in the middle of it is just you on a night out with your eyes half closes and a stain on your shirt.

Land O'Lakes are hoping to get 2.75 million meals sent out within the next 2 or 3 weeks, which is a tad ridiculous, but certainly achievable if this gets enough traction. Regardless of how many meals they shift, the drive ends in mid-October, so best get on it if you want to shed some Instagram weight and do something good at the same time.
After a drum roll which has lasted for months, it looks like we finally have a firm confirmation for when we'll be seeing Facebook at Work (or whatever it actually ends up being called). It's been under construction since 2014, with the first builds emerging early last year.

Since then, Facebook has been quietly gathering a roster of big time businesses to sign up to the service, and now they're finally ready to let the world see it in a commercial launch. Companies will be charged to use it, and the price will vary depending on how many employees they sign up for the service. A few companies were granted early access, such as RBS, who now have over 100,000 staffers using the platform.

In terms of actual structure, it's an inter-office communication service, rather than another version of Facebook that you won't get yelled at for using at work. Whatever your system for communication in the office is, this will act as a replacement with a layout familiar to anyone on Facebook. So everyone, basically.
What Facebook at Work doesn't do is connect to the personal accounts of the people using it, it's an entirely separate entity, and thus the news feed you see on there will not be in any way informed by your regular one. The platform also comes outfitted with separate chat applications, also available on Android and iOS.

The success of Facebook at Work depends on how quickly it's adopted, and how quickly they can overcome the natural association between 'Facebook' and 'procrastination', but the fact is that workplaces which maintain Facebook bans are becoming ever rarer. As long as Facebook at Work remains fluid, efficient and, crucially, ad-free, it'll live up to expectations.

Getty Images
The 2016 presidential campaign in America has reached an all-time low, and that's really saying something considering how absolutely ridiculous the entire affair has been. There have been quite a few harsh words slung from Republican candidate Donald Trump to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and vice versa. Much of the beef has been spread via social media; check out  @realDonaldTrump and @HillaryClinton if you're curious.

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In a bid to win over the fickle millennials' vote, Trump has hit below the belt. What has he done this time, you ask? Created a Snapchat geofilter outwardly calling Clinton "Crooked Hillary" and putting his stamp of approval at the bottom. This might be the most damning filter Snapchat has released yet ... er, ... I'm forgetting something black and yellow, aren't I?

Back to the topic at hand, Donald Trump's public shaming of Hillary Clinton. Considering his character-revealing antics, I'd say this is more telling of his personality than it is of Clinton. According to Independent Journal Review, the Trump campaign "purchased the national Snapchat geofilter ahead of Monday's debate." This is truly an historic moment, when "the first purchase of its kind by a presidential campaign" represents the worst parts of a candidate.

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With the way Snap Inc. operates, a national filter is only available for purchase to one advertiser per day. After 24 hours, the geofilter will disappear.  Trump has made it so that the Monday debate filter will feature his slogan and be slanted in favour of himself. This misguided attempt at pandering to the Snapchat audience, the majority of whom are millennials, has been branded as "a lowbrow meathead digital attempt to maim Clinton and not something JFK, Ronald Reagan, or Lincoln would do if they were alive campaigning today," says
Eric Schiffer, CEO of The Patriarch Organization and Chairman of in an email to Digital Trends.

Trump has managed to get the filter released just before the 2016 presidential election's first major debate. According to Time, the filter was changed mid-debate to a different version not running Clinton's name through the muck.

This is not the first time that a geofilter that has purchased exclusively for this presidential race. Regional, on-demand filters were purchased to promote Trump rallies. Clinton used geofilters for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Bernie Sanders even shelled out for a geofilter during campaigning in Iowa, with the charming line, "Geofilter paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires)" stamped at the bottom.

Tumblr has released a new app, and it is everything that GIF enthusiasts have been dreaming of: a mobile-based GIF maker. The iMessage extension is affiliated with Tumblr only in name; anyone can use the app, regardless of whether you use the video-and-picture-based blogging platform or not.
Who better to create an organically-integrated mobile GIF Maker than Tumblr where daily GIF postings top the charts at 23 million. Mysteriously, making GIFs on the photo-and-video blogging website was not possible without fiddling around with a webcam. However, they've lived up to their legacy in the GIF-dom by ensuring that the beloved video loops are now simple to create. The extension, currently available through the latest update of the Tumblr iOS app, is only available through iMessage. Tumblr says that they're working on the Android equivalent.

Apple has added a GIF search function as a part of their iOS 10 update. So now, iPhone users can add them to their messages. With Tumblr's extension, GIFs can be created and added all through the iMessage app. Having this tool puts personal expression at your fingertips. Convenient and creative!

The Tumblr iMessage app gives the option to add text and emojis, customize auto-play function, or even star in your own creation using the app's GIF camera. Opening the GIF camera prompts the user to shoot a video. If you want to use an existing clip or Live Photos and bursts, that's also an option. Regardless of your choice, the editing process is the same for both. You choose what parts of the video you'd like to include, making it into a 3-second clip by trimming the excess. After trimming, you have the choice to sped up or slow down the clip, make it loop, bounce, or play backwards. Now that your GIF looks more presentable, it can be further customized with coloured text, which can be sized, or emojis. And there you have it! The GIF will be saved to your iPhone and be available in iMessage to send.

According to Digital Trends, iPhone models 5S and older do not support the extension.

Now, you might be thinking, there are numerous ways to make GIFs online. You're right. There couldn't have been a GIF revolution without the proper tools for internet-dwellers to express themselves in hilarious, sad, touching, disturbing animated loops. Tumblr's version allows you to access your personal photos/videos in a form of expression that has not yet become mainstream. This tool is, hopefully, the first in a new wave of digital language.

I will not fight the future

Some Useful Information

A GIF, graphics interchangeable format, has become a staple of online conversation in our technologically-minded society. Much in the way emojis are the future of communication and expression, so too is the correct usage of GIFs. They usually feature pop culture icons, commercials, or celebrities to convey a poignant message. People are so adamantly for GIF-culture that when the battle over its pronunciation went public, it wasn't pretty. If you're one of those people... Just click the link to hear the correct way to pronounce GIF (it's a hard G people).

The last time we heard anything about Hinge, it was the rather disturbing notion that they might have been about to charge their users. That's rarely a good sign, and the news that they're ditching their old app in favour of a brand new design suggests that the past few months haven't exactly been kind to them.

The original premise was an attractive alternative to the prevalent Tinder swiping model - using a deep pool of data in order to provide the most accurate matching around, with the help of Facebook. Well, now they've completely ditched that, and created a brand new app.

This new Hinge is aimed towards people who are only interested in finding a serious relationship, hopefully the last one they'll ever get into. There's still a fee attached, but it's far cheaper than eHarmony or, which are being regarded as the most direct comparisons to this new service.

This change was allegedly set in motion as a response to the damning article published about Tinder in Vanity Fair, widely regarded as the catalyst for the spate of criticism Tinder and similar dating apps have weathered in the course of the past year-or-so. Comparisons to Tinder used be detrimental to progress, but now it's like having your stand-up material compared to Bernard Manning's.

To further cement their departure from this model, Hinge created a website, The Dating Apocalypse, filled with quotes and data about swiping culture, as well the old version of Hinge, and none of it positive. It's a clever site, and it gets the point across brilliantly, but what does this new Hinge offer that makes it so much more preferable?

Nobody knows, yet, all we really have to go on is the claim that it'll be a more 'in-depth' experience with more sophisticated profile building. That doesn't mean much by itself, but Hinge are wise to keep all this under their hat until the structure of Hinge Mark 2 is finalised. In a few weeks, we'll have our answer, and the old Hinge will be gone for good, so if you were planning on arranging a date through it, I'd get a move on, you couldn't have a better excuse.

It can sometimes be easy to forget that everyone's favourite Nazi-sympathiser's film studio is actually such a hulking multi-media conglomerate. As well as Marvel, Lucasfilm, Hollywood Records, ABC and ESPN, they also own 20% of Vice, the controlling stake of YouTube network Maker Studios and 30% of Hulu. That in mind, I think it's fair to say that they have a vested interest in online media.

The idea of a Disney-run social network has been banded about before, but as you might have already figured out, Disney are more in the habit of monopolising pre-existing things than making their own from scratch. When you think about it in that way, it makes almost perfect sense that they'd go after Twitter.

Although all the recent updates and changes Twitter have made have been hugely beneficial, they're still in financial turmoil. Talk of who might swoop in and snag them has been blustering back and forth for well over a year now, but Disney seem like perhaps the most viable candidate yet to emerge. They're currently in talks with a financial team, trying to hammer out a bid which will be fair/attractive enough to win Dorsey and co. over.

The key-word here is live-streaming. With their deals with the NFL, MLB, NHL, Bloomsburg and others, Twitter are way ahead, and it's something Disney are extremely keen to expand on, especially given their ownership of ABC and ESPN. This, of course, also pushes Twitter's value up, and estimates fall somewhere around an eye-melting $30 billion.

That could well be beyond Disney's price range, and they would have to fend off some seriously heavyweight competitors, including Verizon, Apple, Google and News Corp. Most of that is just grist from the rumour mill at present, but it gives you an idea of the magnitude of headbutting that will happen if/when bidding on Twitter actually opens up.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that this might never happen. Twitter's ad revenue is a big problem, and any company, however colossal, is going to be looking for a major return on investment if they do drop such a morbidly obese cheque to lay claim to Twitter. It's not as if, post-purchase, Twitter will just carry on as was, it's a fixer-upper, so the purchase price is only the tip of the iceberg.

If a bidding battle does start, the most likely front runners are going to be Google, Salesforce, Comcast and arguably Apple, but, of course, Twitter have to actually agree to the terms laid out in the bids, and in the past they've never done that. Financial woes or no, they may still decide that they're not for sale.

Canada has displayed an awesome response to a racist poster directed at Sikhs. The poster was found in numerous spots across the University of Alberta.

This is the original poster:

Image result for racist sikh poster university of alberta

This is the response, which has gone viral:
Image result for racist sikh poster university of alberta
This reaction to racism is one that's becoming more familiar and way more effective in solving the issue.
Humour is fast becoming a way to undermine fear.

This is called Laughtivism. Laughtivism is the strategic use of humor and mocking by social nonviolent movements to undermine the authority of an opponent.

This kind of response is probably the best way for a campaign to organically gain traction.

Another example of people using their initiative to undermine a racist act, was in 2014 where a group attempted to stop a Neo Nazi march in 2014. The campaign organisers did this by offering to donate to the 'Exit Deutschland' initiative for each step they took. So they were basically marching against themselves.

A similar case was when Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) members came to protest at a Panic! at the Disco, concert:
So, the WBC went to rally the troops and garnered 13 valiant members. The band wasn't impressed by the turn out so they rounded it up to $1000.

Again, this is a genius way to tackle a really worrying problem against a fundamental right.

There are numerous other kinds of laughtivism cases. This technique is used in advertising and PR as well, to promote a particular brand; but they generally tend to be against issues that is enjoyable to watch them tackle.

For instance, Honey Maid made an advert that demonstrated their support of gay marriage, which resulted in them receiving some abuse on Twitter, Facebook and a dash of hate mail. Their response was to take the hate and turn it into love.

Instagram and Facebook's ban of any image of female nipples is ridiculous, especially when you try to show women how to check for lumps. Cue #ManBoobs4Boobs.  Manboobs are not sexual, just like checking for lumps in your breast isn't sexual. This was a beautiful idea to highlight how silly this kind of censorship can be.

Just so long as we keep thinking creatively about the response to these kinds of issues, we'll always find a way out of the darkness of the fear that certain people try to induce and instead point an even larger audience in the direction of funky turbans, beautiful hate mail and manboobs.
We've reached a technological breaking point ever since the release of the iPhone 7. Once the headphone jack was done away with, phone users were forced to depend solely on Bluetooth. Away with you, dangling cords! Be prepared, however, to spend a frustrated minute every now and again making sure your Bluetooth headphones are connected to the right device. Oh, no sound? Spend an equally annoying moment reconnecting your headphones to your phone.

The reasoning for nixing the headphone jack must come from a place of betterment. Apple is trying to take a step towards advancement, and Google is doing the same with their newest voice chat messenger, Allo.

Coding Horror Blog

How We Got Here

Using just your voice to make phone calls, pull up a calendar event, or text while driving (just kidding, we would never dare to be so dangerous) is well and good, but it's never truly caught on. This is because voice recognition has consistently remained appallingly inaccurate. To be fair, the most primitive form of speech recognition was born in the 1950's and could only understand digits. It wasn't until the early 2000's that speech recognition was given any attention. How serendipitous that Google took the reins in vitalizing the technology. By the time Google took over, voice recognition accuracy had reached a plateau at 80%.

In 2008, Google created a voice search app that used its cloud data centers to do heavy computing and data analysis. Essentially, this yielded the search power and data processing abilities of Google in voice-activated, app form. A couple years later, Google's voice recognition became personalized. Recording voice queries paved the way for constructed speech models, meaning that the software could more easily understand the nuances of your specific speech. Their technology became integrated into Google Chrome, incorporating 230 billion words amassed from user queries.

Siri is the final product. Operating from cloud-based processing, Siri generates responses based on known variables about the user. By now, voice recognition accuracy hovers close to its human counterparts at 98%. Yet, she still seems lacking.

Is it perhaps the novelty factor? Siri responds to certain queries with humorous answers, after all.

Google Takes Charge Yet Again
Enter Google's newest app, Allo. Announced at I/O, the smart messaging app operates using machine learning and Google Assistant service. Basically, it's an AI-based chat platform. It has all the capabilities of any other messaging app on the market (think WhatsApp and Messenger), in addition to animated graphics, enlarged/shrunken text, in-Google calls to share media, plan events, make purchases, and, if you're feeling uninspired, have a message created for you.

Let's take a closer look at the features. Contacts can be found using phone numbers or through Google accounts. As we've seen in the past year, privacy is fast becoming an important factor when using messaging services. As such, there will be an "incognito" mode in Allo, similar to Google Chrome, where chats are end-to-end encrypted. When in incognito mode, notifications are discreet, something that Google has said will be iterated and updated according to TechCrunch.

Where Allo has set itself apart from the pack is with AI integration. A Smart Reply feature will suggest responses to conversations for you, inserting them without the need to type. Generated responses are based on what the AI learns from your replies to conversations, which are continually analyzed. Smart Replies attempts to copy your persona in its suggested reply. With this feature you won't have to worry about typing out a lengthy response. It can even work with photos, suggesting replies to images by sourcing Google Photos.

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The bot-based Google Assistant has the ability to chat directly to its users. Typing @google into chat will prompt the Assistant to enter. From there ask it questions, bring it into a group chat to help with planning, or have it reference information from other Google applications. For now, the AI only has access to information from Google, meaning no information from third-party services is available.

We haven't even gotten to emojis yet. Taking cues from Snapchat and Viber, Allo will have its own selection of unique stickers. Over time, new sticker packs will be released. For now, here's Julio the Bull to titillate your interest.

After failing to find an appropriate startup company to use as a baseline for development, Allo was created in-house and led by Erik Kay, Director of Engineering for Google's Communication team. Looking back on Google's contributions to voice recognition technology, Allo is the fruition of their efforts. Google has had continued, unrivaled success in providing information services, phone technology, and basic services (email, professional profiles). Hopefully, a bit of that magic will spread to Allo.

It should be noted that Edward Snowden has issued a warning on Twitter urging people to steer clear of Allo.
Facebook want you voting, all of you, but especially those of you in the States. Currently, the November presidential elections are making headlines everywhere you look, from websites to papers to the vocal chords of your local town crier. It's hardly surprising, this has already been one of the most bizarre, controversial presidential races in US history, and it's far from over.

Early estimations suggest that this may well end up being the biggest voter turnout in US history as well, and plenty of work is still being done to ensure that that's the case. From this week onward, American users over 18 will all see a prompt at the top of their news feed reminding them to register. It's a nationwide rendition of something they did during the California primaries.

You can't register directly through Facebook, because that would be weird and mildly unsettling, but you can register online (and frankly if you couldn't that would in itself be weird and very unsettling), and tapping the little Facebook reminder will tab you out to the government page where you can do so. In much the same way that you can share when you've actually voted, you'll be able to declare that you've registered, the idea being that you'll be spurring others on to do likewise.

A few other platforms are also trying to encourage people to register, such as YouTube and Snapchat. In fact, Snapchat are probably winning this race at the moment, as their in-app 'TurboVote' tool allows users to actually check their eligibility and then register without ever even leaving the app. YouTube, meanwhile, is doing what YouTube does and leaving it to their prominent influencers to get more young people in on the act.

Facebook have been actively involved in the voting game since Obama first became president in '08, and the scope of it has only increased since then, branching out to a number of other countries including the UK, Spain, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore. Going after people at the registration stage could be regarded as a more viable strategy, as people who miss the vote usually miss the registration deadline too, meaning that even if they did ultimately decide they wanted to vote, it'd be too late.
It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see in a child-friendly 90s spy movie, or a free giveaway at Clarks. It would seem that Snapchat have been quietly working away at their first piece of wearable tech - a pair of sunnies with a little video camera built into the frame. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

The officially named 'Spectacles' were first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, revealed directly to journalist Seth Stevenson by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, but there's more to this story. The day before, Business Insider were tipped off about a video on YouTube which seemed to show the Spectacles in action.

The advert shows a man putting them on, and then playing around with his child(ren) at a party, presumably in his garden. The last few shots show his parents (presumably) watching the video on a phone. The final frame reads - 'Spectacles by Snap Inc'. Almost as soon as the video was reported, Snapchat had it taken down, but by that point it had been re-uploaded by Business Insider to their native player, alongside a few choice stills and a GIF.

Whether or not they had planned to announce the Spectacles on Saturday anyway is anyone's guess, but what I would say is that Saturday is a very unusual day to announce anything this big, especially for a tech company. If you feel the need to stroke your beard, be it real or imaginary, and go 'hmmm' at this point, have at it.

Suspicious motivations aside, the glasses are coming this autumn. They will cost $130, or around £100, and will be available in 3 different colours, at least to begin with. The camera itself records footage in a kind of fish-eye format to make it seem more similar to actual human eyesight, and it will link directly to your phone, enabling you to upload the footage to your Snapchat profile instantaneously (or, presumably, start a live feed).

Just so that people can't do anything creepy with them, the camera on the Spectacles features both inward and outward facing lights to show when it's recording. In terms of battery life, Snapchat say that a full charge should last about a day.

If the words 'Google', 'Glass', and 'Sincerest form of flattery' are currently ringing in your ears, don't worry, that's normal. The Spectacles were inspired to some extent by Google Glass, but because the functionality is so much more basic, they can be marketed more cheaply, and with more mass appeal. There's also the fact that they look and work like normal sunglasses, whether as Google Glass makes you look like a character from one of those aforementioned PG-rated 90s spy films.

That's not to say that they're in any way stylist, but they're nondescript enough that you'll still look fairly, well, normal. Leaks or no leaks, this is another example of Snapchat getting ahead of the game, understanding the balance between innovation and practicality. I'm calling it now, this is going to be the hottest Christmas list item of 2016, just you watch.

Twitter and Bloomberg media have partnered up to bring us live Twitter coverage of the presidential debate. Twitter's chief financial officer, Anthony Noto, has said:

"Twitter is one of the fastest ways to find out what’s happening in global business and financial markets and to engage in the live commentary about it. Partnering with Bloomberg will give people on Twitter the best way to see live financial markets performance, combined with the live commentary on the underlying drivers and implications."

So, the social media lens has been slowly molding to the point where we're actually using it as a part of a democratic debate.

Weird, but cool. Here's another example: earlier this year in the U.S., Snapchat tried to legalise the use of cameras in the voting booth. Snapchat's Amicus brief is super interesting for looking at the argument for social media's segue into a more serious form of news and its place in democracy.

In their Amicus brief, Snapchat claimed that because it's 'largely user-generated approach to news coverage, the company has a unique concern about laws to block regular people from capturing and sharing content that comments on issues of the day.'

If this is the primary way people communicate and receive news, then this can be considered a restriction on expression.

However trivial the concept of a selfie is, it's being used as the 21st century way to express yourself. If you impede freedom of expression then you're in breach of the First Amendment.
"ballot selfies and similar digital information-sharing are important ways that younger voters participate in the political process and make their voices heard."

"the flimsy speculation that the State has offered in support of its ballot-selfie ban cannot survive First Amendment scrutiny."
Twitter's live stream of the debate is to follow a similar format to their NFL live coverage on Thursday night.
The NFL said that the average audience size watching the game on Twitter was 243,000 people with an average watch time of 22 minutes per viewer.
The presidential debate will likely reel in a much bigger audience.

This is the new way of communicating. The evolution of new word of mouth. I mean, we knew that for a while but this is on a whole other level.

The boy on the street corner who would yell out the news to sell his paper for a penny, has evolved into a billions of people on every street corner beckoning their own interpretation of the news through the lens of their Snapchat filter or the litany of hashtags.

Legal requests may ask for us to turn over information about a Twitter account and/or ask to remove content, like tweets.

Twitter's new transparency is setting the standards not just for all social media platforms but for all businesses.

Twitter's updated transparency section, includes interactive infographics, better breakdowns of numbers, and generally, far better explanations helping to explain the data and the issues Twitter and its users are facing, in a simpler way.

They're not like an iTunes terms and conditions update, which hardly anyone actually reads, it's actual information. This is made for you, not for you to avoid.

Twitter launched their first transparency report in 2012,  back when it was the end of the world... Of closed door company politics.

These reports are Twitter's attempt to draw attention to the government requests for customers’ information they receive. Providing this insight is simply "the right thing to do". It's very good company policy and it's a policy that has encouraged numerous other companies to follow suit.

The data in the report includes government requests (and other complaints of illegal content from authorised reporters) that they've received to remove or withhold content on Twitter whichever country you're looking into.

The information shows a better insight into requests they formally or informally challenge. There is far more transparency into the inner workings of Twitter.

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The fact that Twitter's quite openly discussing their current lawsuit against the U.S. government, (Twitter v. Lynch) which seeks more meaningful transparency regarding national security requests, shows their attempt to be as transparent as possible with their users.

Twitter has added several new sections about global information requests, including the number of preservation requests for users data.

It carries more information regarding a breakdown between emergency and non-emergency requests.

Twitter has published a new, publicly available resource for users who have been impacted by legal requests, whether for the production of account information or the removal of content. They also define what 'legal requests' actually refers to, what it means for Twitter and what it means for you.

It's just really interesting/awesome to have a company as open as this, in terms of helping the user to understand the legal information when their using the website.

It's like that book of Civil Law that's tucked away in a corner of your house which you've forgotten about. Twitter finds it for you, dusts it off and says: 'here's the updated version, and how the law will affect you in what you're posting'.

At the same time they're drawing attention to the massive debate of surveillance.

The data's interactivity makes it super easy for everyone to use and to understand. This isn't the information that the company is compelled to report, this is information for you, for the everyday user to read up on and to understand. Twitter has once again set a standard by demonstrating the 1st commandment of the Internet "This is for everyone".
The trend that Tastebuds started by being a music-centric dating service is really starting to catch on. First Bumble integrated their service with Spotify in order to bring music taste into the matching process, and now Tinder are getting in on the act. I'm sure that Bumble founder, and ex-Tinder staffer Whitney Wolfe is laughing pretty hard right now.

Tinder have approached it a little bit differently, however. Instead of linking your Spotify profile with your dating profile and taste-matching you with any other massive Burzum fans which might be lurking about, it enables you to add an 'Anthem' to your profile. Remember how you could set a song to auto-play on your MySpace profile page? This is similar.

You don't necessarily need a Spotify account for this to work, you can still add an Anthem, but if you do have one you can just connect the two accounts and slightly streamline the process of hunting out the ideal song for your profile. Beyond that, if your Spotify profile is linked, other users can have a riffle through a list of top 20 artists that you pick when you add the service.

There will also soon be 'Tinder Music' playlists, curated by the app's staff. These will be based on five rolling themes - 'Pre-Swipe', 'Discovery', 'Match', 'Date Night' and 'Love at First Swipe'. I have absolutely no idea what kind of bearing these categories will have on the song selection, but I imagine they'll find a way to get Whitney Houston into all of them. The real mystery is why anyone, on Tinder or off, would want to listen to a playlist of music compiled by people who work there.

There's no denying that taste in music has a role to play in dating, and social interaction in general, and matching music tastes is a simple, surprisingly effective way of getting to know someone, as outlined by John Cusack in the above clip from High Fidelity (which contains a small, low-yield F-bomb, so fair warning).

Previously, Tinder did include a 'mutual likes' feature which works through your Facebook profile, and often times music would factor into that, but being able to curate and edit your own top artists list is a more active way of doing the same job. Tinder profiles are characteristically threadbare, largely because they're trying to encourage you to talk to the other person. Often, the first line is the hardest, so having the option of mentioning that you're also really into Vincent Price's Orphan Powered Death Machine could well make that initial step easier to take.

Despite having such a specific, significant approach, LinkedIn often feels like the kid with lice, left in the corner of the playground to pick at the grass while Facebook chases Twitter around with a spider on a stick and Snapchat and Instagram play conkers.

LinkedIn has always been the place to go if you wanted to blend social media sensibilities with job hunting, but their engagement figures have never risen beyond middling to moderate. It's a shame, the platform has a great deal to offer, and few people are actually tapping its full potential, but now they aim to change that.

The site has been given an epic update, including a major redesign of the desktop layout, expansion of the messaging service and a trending news feed. LinkedIn has never been a site to sit scrolling through, like one would with Facebook or Twitter, but that seems to be what they are angling towards. Although the claim is that they started doing all this before they were acquired by Microsoft, you have to imagine their new owners are playing some role in this new approach.

The trending news feed has been dubbed the 'Interest Feed', and tailors itself to your areas of interest, offering posts from other users, full articles and content written by LinkedIn influencers. Depending on what everyone else is reading, your feed will change and morph to reflect those trends.

As far as messaging goes, the service is simply becoming more streamlined, where before it was on about the same level as MySpace messaging - email with a different hat on. To remedy this, LinkedIn have made it more consistent with the messaging on their mobile service, and stripped out all the annoying ads. Bots are also being factored in, used for things like suggesting links to send to people, scheduling meetings and other secretary-ish things.

Beyond this, and the aesthetic retouching, a database of all the online courses offered through the platform, imaginatively dubbed LinkedIn Learning, has been bolted on. With all these new bells and whistles, we may well start seeing a spike in LinkedIn membership, and lord knows they deserve it at this stage in the game.
Spending a boatload of time on YouTube is a pitfall that many of us have succumbed to at one time or another. They've made it so easy by linking to related videos at the end of each video and having a permanent sidebar of interesting/sponsored content within sight. For some, dogging the pages of YouTube has become a habit, maybe enough to be called a hobby. Whittling away daylight by staring into ever-enlarging maw of YouTube content can give you vertigo.

Here's how you can take that dedication to the next level, Hero.

YouTube Heroes (#YTHeroes), launched on Tuesday, is a kind of rewards system. Where there is inappropriate content to be flagged, a hero is born. Where captions and subtitles are lacking, a hero is born. Where forums are lacking in knowledge ... well, you get it. Basically, you contribute to the larger YouTube community by correcting things, adding what is missing, or patrolling for things that should not be seen by a civilized human. In doing so, you "help create the best possible YouTube experience network for everyone."

Each contribution garners a certain number of points which unlock perks; as it goes, top contributes get "top Hero perks." These rewards include sneak previews of new products, access to new features in the testing phase, and exclusive workshops.

There are several Hero levels to progress through, 1 to 5, with level-ups based on a points system ranging from 0-1,000 points. Examine the madness for yourself here.  Those who really throw themselves into the work, Level 5 Heroes, will be able to apply to attend the "Heroes Summit" where, based on the above video, a group of the most dedicated YouTube Heroes will gather for YouTube-themed festivities.

The position is open to anyone with a YouTube account, apply here if you're interested. If chosen (I doubt there's any selection process, probably just verifying information and such) Heroes are given a personalized dashboard to track their history of heroism and keep tabs on upcoming rewards.

I commend YouTube for their creativity in encouraging community support, but this seems like a way to pass off work. Granted, YouTube is a massive, swirling vortex of endless videos that continues to have content hurled into it at all times, so I'm sure it can be tricky to get a handle on things. They've taken advantage of their mass appeal by allowing their loyal users to have a part in the mania.

Digital Trends
What's this you hear? Tinder are actually taking a step away from online dating? In some ways this should come as no surprise, nearly every improvement they've made to the app of late has gravitated away from their original directive, perhaps as a response to the veritable avalanche of negative press they were buried under early last year.

Tinder Stacks is a new standalone platform. It uses the same swiping system as the dating app, but dating has no place here, this is about polling. Stacks allows you to create opinion polls with images from your photo library, and use them as options in said poll. For example, you could be deciding where to go on holiday, and post images of all the potential destinations. Other users then swipe to either approve or disapprove.
The catch is that it's not a public vote, it's your friends, or 'squad', as Tinder describes them for some reason. Evidently the Tinder staff are appealing in particular to people who are basically incapable of making a decision by themselves. You know, the sort of people you find yourself wondering why you ever associated yourself with them.

The app works within iMessage, and activates with a button called 'start a stack', which makes sense, but also makes me crave pancakes. Once you've started a stack, you then select the photos you want and build a little multiple choice slideshow. Lastly, you actually put the pertinent question in, and then it's added on as a kind of subject line. You then share it either with one specific, very patient person, or a group of people.

It's an odd idea with a surprisingly broad potential. You could use it for isolated market research, or to decide on a destination for a night out. The things Tinder themselves are recommending are probably the ones you want to avoid, though. Pick out your own damn sunglasses.

I can get a free drink at Starbucks if I pay for 15 others via my Starbucks app. When it's my birthday (allegedly) I can get a free doughnut at Krispy Kreme...I had to earn that item through having a birthday, or paying enough to be given 1 for free. Each company basically has the same method.

What I cannot do is walk into Starbucks and demand a platter filled with Thor sized goblets of coffee, for no money. However, I probably could if I had enough followers on Twitter or Instagram.

That is how a lot of people's worth are being measured now.

For instance, there are apps where, with enough followers, you can stay at certain hotels and other places without having to spend a penny during your stay.

Even Hollywood is forcing actors to mold into this new landscape. Actor Gemma Arterton, explained how she'd been told that “a lot of the casting for film happens on social media”.

Do you think Cara Delevigne would've made it into Suicide Squad without her 33 million Instagram followers?

If she's crap in a movie then her reputation as an actor might suffer slightly, but that doesn't really matter.

Hollywood: Will her presence make us more money? 
Casting director: Yes.
Hollywood: Then make me a Suicide Squad!
Casting director: There is a better actor who could...
Hollywood: I don't care.

It makes sense. Especially as the number of financially successful original movies has been dwindling, whilst the number of sequels or remakes has been on the rise.

How original are the top 10 Hollywood movies 2005-14

So, is there really much risk for actors now? If a social media famous person becomes an actor is their credibility at stake?

I doubt much harm can be done if you stay true to the persona you had where your reputation was built.

Look at PewDiePie, he has millions of followers, even with his recent blunder in saying he was going to join ISIS, the followers stay true to him.

It seems that with enough followers you could do anything. Just earn enough of them before going out into the world to pursue your job as an actor or *insert word here* then jump out of an Oscar shaped plane with zero finess and land on your Net of followers.

Why should any company make an advert when you can do it for them now?

So, the next time you see me in Starbucks or Krispy Kreme making some strange ostentatious order, I'll be doing it whilst wearing a shirt with my Instagram name and shaving a Nike tick into the side of my head.

Hillary Clinton has fully proven that her prowess for campaigning is nothing to scoff at; she's sent her dogs sniffing for nay-sayers on the internet, continually drawn attention to her history of delivering aid to those in need (disabled, children, military), and has stood on the opposing side of mainstream ideals (LGBT and women's rights). For all the times Clinton has been made out to look like a wolf in sheep's clothing, there are quite a few things she's done right. And she's just taken full advantage of her successes in a new ad campaign.

Released on Clinton's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the ad features no audio. Strange, until you think back; when was the last time you unmuted or even remotely paid attention to an ad whilst in pursuit of the latest cat posts?

Clinton has enlisted the help of Dancing With the Stars champion and America's Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco. The 27-year-old talent is deaf and communicates using sign language. As such, the silent ad features DiMarco signing a simple, clear message: "Among the 50 million Americans living with a disability, many don't have the ability to work, to travel, or to do countless other things you might take for granted. So this November, please consider voting for the only candidate with a plan to change that. Because the voice of your vote is the greatest voice we have."

At the end of the 51-second ad, DiMarco throws a cheeky kiss to the audience and the subtitles oblige with a kissing emoji. It's worth waiting till the end just to see his unabashed smile.

There's not much that can stand against this empowered and determined woman. A major campaigning point for Clinton is Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) which aims to grant disabled people all the privileges that able-bodied people do, such as education and job opportunities, transportation, and, though this should be granted in this day-and-age, the ability to enter any building. By utilizing autoplay, the ad conveys a pointed message about the stigma towards disabled Americans.

Funnily enough, DiMarco throws in a quick bash on Republican candidate Donald Trump during his speech at the Human Rights Campaign's national dinner.

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