Archive for News

Another Facebook Live Fallacy

Facebook Live News

Facebook Live has yet again become subject of controversy as a pre-recorded video was shown under the guise of being live, through the network’s live video platform.

The reputedly pre-recorded not-live “live” video in question was that of a sky-high maintenance job; somebody changing a lightbulb on a 609 metre high tower. This “live-video” (but not live) was simultaneously hosted by the Facebook pages Interestinate and USA Viral.

It didn’t take long for users to spot that the video, marketed as both live and four hours long, was neither of those two things. It was in fact a looped 18 minute video that was first posted on YouTube back in September 2015.

Facebook Live has been subject of a number of controversies in recent months, including live broadcasts of killings in France and the battle for Mosul by Channel 4 News. However, the main thing that critics are taking issue with is the fact that Facebook has technically promoted and brought millions of views to something by marketing it as something that it isn’t. This is the exact type of misinformation that the social networking giant have been trying to rid itself of in recent years.

In many ways, fingers can’t be pointed at the perpetrators - these are simply publishers making use of the tools available to them to the best of their ability. It is Facebook who, in their infinite wisdom, have given preferential treatment to those creating “original” content, while failing to ensure that such content is truly what it says it is.

Facebook’s intentions are admirable - they want to increase the accessibility and frequency of high-quality, worthy content for their users. But something has to be done to ensure publishers are abusing these tools. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Instagram Tests New Instant Shopping Feature

Instagram Tests Shopping Feature

Instagram have started to test new features which could allow users to instantly purchase their favourite products direct from the social network. Ready to roll out on US iOS devices in the next week, the test will involve adding a ‘Shop Now’ call to action button on product posts by a selection of American retailers.

The photo sharing network are displaying their intentions to meet the demands of e-commerce business users by experimenting with new ways to connect shoppers with their favourite brands. If successful, it could completely change how and where advertisers invest their social media marketing budget.

In recent years Instagram has rapidly become the go-to social network for marketing by fashion and beauty brands. It’s emphasis on content-driven influencer marketing makes it the ideal platform for leveraging the purchasing-power of users. In regards to the new feature, a post on Instagram’s Business Blog describes how the test will work and the reasons behind it:

             Most mobile shopping experiences today take people from the shop window right to check out-without giving consumers the opportunity to consider a product… in an internal survey, we learned that the vast majority of purchases take a day or longer, with only 21% of purchases made within a day. Knowing that Instagrammers are open to discovery on the platform, and that people take time to better understand the products that they’re interested in, this test gives our community valuable steps along their shopping journey before they make a purchase.

The test phase will only be available to US based users and will include a selection of twenty different retailers, including Kate Spade, Warby Parker and JackThreads. Instagram isn’t the only network honing in on e-commerce in recent weeks; their big sister Facebook recently unveiled Marketplace. They have also announced tests to pages such as allowing restaurant delivery and other purchases direct from the app/site, while YouTube and Pinterest have been eager to entice retailers into investing their Christmas product advertising budget on their network.

Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain: Instagram are serious about becoming a key competitor in the collision of social networking and ecommerce. Check out the video below to see how the new feature will work for retailer Kate Spade.

Source: Kate Spade from Instagram for Business on Vimeo.

The Next Macbooks Could Include E-Ink Keyboards

Macbook e-ink keyboard rumours

As technology has advanced one staple has held firm - the Qwerty keyboard. Now it seems that the next generation of Apple’s Macbooks could feature e-ink keyboards as a dynamic evolution of the traditional.

According to a rumour brought to light by The Wall Street Journal, Apple Inc. are reportedly teaming up with a Foxconn-backed Australian start-up start called Sonder Design for their latest keyboard design. Sonder market their benchmark product, the world’s first e-ink keyboard, with the tagline “infinite possibilities at your fingertips”.

E-ink is the same technology used in Kindle and other e-reader devices to create a paper effect. It may sound like another flight-of-fancy for Apple by but Sonder have already made the technology. On their website they list the “infinite possibilities”:

“Customise your keyboard from QWERTY to DVORAK, from English to Chinese and beyond. Type emoticons to text, or create your very own keys to perform whatever command you wish... Create macros to eliminate long, complex sequences of commands to the touch of a single keystroke along with its own custom icon.”

Okay, so the idea of macros and keyboard shortcuts is by no means new, but does that mean the change would be purely aesthetic? Unlikely - the range of different characters (languages and Emojis) that we now engage with is insurmountable in comparison to the pre-Raphaelite age of computing in the early nineties.

E-ink keyboard buttons would have multiple benefits for Apple. In theory they would totally streamline the production process, ridding the need for separate production lines for different alphabets. Not only would the premise potentially be appealing to multi-lingual users who regularly engage with different alphabets, but if the rumours are true then it could also assist in the use of hotkeys for those who use media software. It could also potentially streamline the experience for the average user by making it easier to input Emoji or ASCII art before switching back to a conventional Qwerty layout.

Apple has yet to comment on the rumours. A page on Sonder’s website gives very little away but mentions “partnering with experienced manufacturers, Sonder will redefine laptop keyboard design and user experience.”

Instagram Introduces Mental Health Support Tools

Instagram Introduces Suicide Prevention Tools

Social media has really helped open up opportunities for identification of depression and mental illness, and offers significant potential for prevention. Now Instagram have joined parent company Facebook on their task to do their part in helping individuals who might be struggling.

Instagram have introduced a new tool that helps identify and offer support for potential issues of negative mental health. It allows users to anonymously report posts by their friends that they consider to be a concern. These reports result in an automatic notification offering a list of resources for support to the user in question, alongside the words “someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”

The new tool is almost identical to the suicide prevention tools rolled out to UK Facebook users back in February 2016. Flagged posts are reviewed by Instagram’s team who will send the auto-message if they agree that the users could be at risk of self-harm or suicide. Resources include contact details for a helpline, tips and support, and an option to contact a trusted friend.  Marni Tomljanovic, a spokeswoman for the network, said this:

“We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review these reports. They prioritise the most serious reports and respond quickly. If someone on Instagram sees a direct threat of suicide or self-injury, we encourage them to contact local emergency services immediately.”

Often warning signs displayed by at-risk individuals on social networking are some of the first that friends will be able to spot. On Instagram the markers can be so specific that a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont recently developed an AI program which can identify clinical depression in users’ posts at an accuracy rate of 70 percent.

Google is Creating a Mobile-only Search Index

Google Mobile Search Index

Ask any Webmaster or SEO specialist what have been the most significant advancements in search over the past few years and they are highly likely to count mobile at the top of their list. Now it appears Google is willing to take its focus on optimising services for mobile users to the next level with a search index devoted entirely to mobile results - and make it their primary search index.

According to information published by Search Engine Land, Google is going to create a new mobile search index “within months”. This will help to give mobile users access to more relevant and higher-quality content. It is currently unclear how exactly the new mobile index will work; whether it will only contain results considered “mobile-friendly”, and, as a primary index, whether it will really not be used for desktop queries.

The new index is undoubtedly the culmination of Google’s attempts to push webmasters to prioritise the creation of mobile-friendly sites; already they favour those who do so in their current SERPs, a result of so-called #Mobilegeddon back in April 2015. A mobile-only index would empower the search engine to expand on the quality of their current algorithm, with which it is all-too common for alternate mobile sites of desktop sites to not live up to the expectations created in SERPs.

In relation to how it will affect ranking Barry Schwartz of RustyBrick had this to say:

“The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.”

While a desktop index will continue to be maintained, it will eventually take back seat to the mobile index, becoming less regularly updated. In a statement to the Guardian Google commented “[we] are always experimenting with different approaches to keep search index as relevant and useful as possible, but we don’t have any new developments to announce.”

Is Facebook Marketplace a Feature Too Far?

Facebook Marketplace Feature too Far

Facebook’s newest update introduced the world of classified ads to the social network. Reminiscent of Gumtree and Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace gives users immediate access to a local buy and sell board. But with users already abusing it to sell illegal and illicit items, could it be a feature too far for the network?

When Facebook Marketplace was announced at the beginning of this week, it didn’t take long for controversy to come a-knocking. Within a matter of hours, a number of illicit ads had been posted purporting to sell items such as baby Hedgehogs, drugs and guns. Rather unsurprisingly, these items come under a list of prohibited items within Facebook’s Commerce Policy.

While the social networking giant were quick to tell the BBC that the violations were a result of a “technical issue that prevented [the] system from identifying some posts that violated [their] commerce policies and community standards” and has since been (in the most part) resolved, it’s nevertheless launched the listings feature with a sense of unease.

The sheer volume of prohibited and illicit ads that were highlighted at the feature’s launch far outweighed the amount of spam listings that often turn up on Craigslist and Gumtree.

A feature too far?

You’d have to be living with your eyes closed to fail to realise that Facebook is currently trying to become the internet on the internet. Each of their most recent updates have been intended to limit the amount of time that users are required to spend away from the network - from creating an in-app browser to view external content, to enabling businesses to showcase and sell their products and services direct from their pages, all the way down to trying to control how users communicate via messaging and live video.

It’s fairly evident that, to Facebook, Marketplace is another step towards their ultimate vision. But some users are sceptical, taking issue with the fact that this product relies wholeheartedly on content supplied by users. With Marketplace they have effectively created a feature that does not feel at all defined by the network and actually feels slightly like a departure to an external product altogether.

For users it feels like Facebook is in a transitional phase as social network. A transition from being defined by its features, to being defined by each specific user’s preference of a bucketful of different features, all of which nobody uses and of which you’d have to be an expert to know quite how many actually existed.

One thing is for sure, there is a lot going on at Facebook at the moment - sooner or later, users are going to get annoyed.

Instagram Adds “Save Draft” Feature

Instagram Adds Save Draft Feature

This week Instagram unveiled yet another feature intended to both improve the core components of the social network and enhance accessibility for users. The photo-based social networking app now allows users to save a draft of their photo edits so that they can return to them later…

Very recently Instagram rolled out an update that gives users the ability to pinch to zoom in on photos. This update was announced on the official Instagram account, alongside the statement “as things change, we’re still focused on improving the core parts of Instagram.” It seems as though the new “save draft” feature is one of these cited improvements.

Users now have the ability to save a pre-edited draft of one of their posts that they can return to later. While not the most momentous of updates, “save draft” means that we no longer have the stress of getting to the end of a perfect edit before discovering that we have to either exit the app or rush off before we have had the chance to draft the perfect caption and post. First world problems? Perhaps, but a useful feature nonetheless, and one that looks to make the network more user friendly and limit instances of annoyance.

The social network first began testing the feature back in July, but is only now making it official. Once they have started editing an image and drafting their caption, users can press the return button and will prompted to either discard their post or save a draft. If the latter option is chosen, the saved image can be accessed by tapping the Camera button and then hitting “library”.

Although it is a very simple process, there are full details of how the feature works available on the Instagram Help Centre.

Facebook Messenger Code May Hide Chatroom Feature

Facebook Messenger Hidden Chatroom Feature Rooms

A glance behind Facebook may have revealed an unlaunched feature called Rooms, reminiscent of those notorious public chat rooms of the pre-social nineties and noughties. The hidden feature came to light after developer evangelist Chris Messina discovered that public chats were mentioned inside Messenger’s iOS app code.

TechCrunch have reported that buried deep within Facebook Messenger’s iOS code is an unlaunched feature which allows users to launch chat rooms that can be accessed by both friends and strangers, alongside enhanced sharing capabilities. The report was released following a tip-off by Chris Messina who discovered multiple references to the feature, including a logo and description of the service, found below:

“Rooms are for public conversations about topics and interests. Each room has a link that can be shared so anyone on Messenger can join the conversation.”

Facebook Messenger now tops over one billion monthly users. It is fairly evident that features such as this are intended to bridge the gap for Facebook Groups and the communication channel.

Forums and chatrooms were all the rage in the late nineties and early noughties but went somewhat out of fashion with the development of social networking. Due to the app’s ever-increasing popularity, if the feature is released and accepted by users it could prove a particularly lucrative feature, albeit one that takes inspiration from the vanilla web communication of the past.

This is not the first time that Facebook have experimented with public chatrooms. Back in 2014 a standalone app called Rooms was released. Intended as an entirely separate entity to the social network, Rooms was reportedly inspired by WordPress as a platform for creating public chat forums on specific subjects. However, this gained little traction and, due to a lack of downloads, was discontinued in 2015.

Integrating the feature automatically within Messenger is an ideal way of encouraging interest, should the speculation be true. So far Facebook have only commented saying “We often run small tests- nothing more to share beyond that.”

Facebook and Twitter Join News and Eyewitness Media Coalition

Facebook and Twitter Join News Coalition

Facebook and Twitter have become confirmed partners in a new coalition of news organisations committed to tackling misinformation on social networking, and improving the quality of reporting across media.

Organised and announced by the Google-backed First Draft News, the coalition is an expansion into a new partner network intended to “tackle issues of trust and truth in reporting information that emerges online”.

Originally formed in June 2015, with support from Google News Lab, and developed with its founding members to ‘raise awareness and standards around the use of newsworthy information and eyewitness media sourced from the social web’, it now boasts a partner list of influential news organisations including: The New York Times, Channel 4 News, The Telegraph, Agence France-Presse and Aljazeera Media Network.

In the announcement, First Draft managing director Jenni Sargent shared the vision for the partner network:

“There is a thriving community of specialists working around the world who have developed and honed social newsgathering and verification skills… With the launch of this partner network, First Draft brings these people together to work on ideas and initiatives, including a train-the-trainer programme, the launch of a collaborative verification platform, and the creation of a voluntary code of practice.”

Facebook inclusion in the partner list has significantly positive implications for both the coalition and the site itself. The social networking giant is fundamental to the distribution and gathering of news but has come under fire for being a contributing factor to the spread of erroneous information and bogus news stories. The partner network is intended to streamline the process of verification of information, particularly with eyewitness media, giving tech companies a central port to improve newsgathering and the quality of reporting across social web.

Áine Kerr is Facebook’s journalism partnerships manager. She believes that the network will give them a platform to showcase the products and tools they have built for journalists, whilst giving them another opportunity to learn and improve. She commented:

“We want to ensure we are building opportunities to learn from the industry and to ensure we continually hear their questions and feedback.”

LinkedIn Announces Conversion Tracking Capabilities

LinkedIn announces conversion tracking

In a move to make the network more appealing for advertisers, LinkedIn yesterday announced the introduction of conversion tracking capabilities for LinkedIn Campaign Manager. The new features will allow marketers access to better insights into their Sponsored Content and Text Ads campaigns, giving them a greater understanding of what the most valuable is in relation to their specific goals.

This week the most popular professional social network announced conversion tracking on a post on their Marketing Solutions blog. The new features have been introduced in response to the wide amount of requests by customers for more in-depth insight into the success of their LinkedIn ad campaigns.

Most notably, marketers have been requesting features that allow them to garner a greater understanding of which sections of their audience are driving campaign conversion, an insight which conversion tracking is cited to give. According to their announcement, it will give audience insights based on a number of factors including company size, industry, seniority and job function.

Having already been piloted with over 200 different advertisers, conversion tracking will also give users a far more accurate and accessible measure for a variety of different results, including lead generation, purchases, content downloads and sign-ups. These insights benefit advertisers by allowing them the ability to optimise their campaigns through the use of data for even better results.

Three particular positives were highlighted in the post...

Track the metrics that matter the most:
Easily track website conversions from your LinkedIn programs… [allowing you to] understand your LinkedIn advertising ROI, conversion count, cost-per-conversion, conversion rate and more…

Record every conversion, every time:
Track conversions from desktop and mobile, whether members converted after clicking on -- or after just viewing -- one of your ads.

Optimise your campaigns to drive even better performance:
Monitor the specific campaigns, ads, and the nature of the audiences that are driving conversions…

The announcement comes little under a month after news of the social network’s sale to Microsoft for $26.2bn, and is evidence that LinkedIn are serious about becoming the go-to social media marketing solution for B2B businesses.

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