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Facebook and the Young at Heart Spells Trouble for Alphabet

August 26, 2015

Poor old Google. Imagine. Hassles with Google Now. Grousing from the no fun crowd in the European Commission. A new contact lens business. Exciting stuff.

Then the Googlers read “Facebook’s New Moments App Now Automatically Creates Music Videos From Your Photos.” The idea is that one or two of the half billion Facebookers who check their status multiple times a day can make a movie video automatically.

Sounds good.

But instead of doing the professional video production thing, the video is created from the one’s shared photos.

I wonder how many of the young at heart will whip up and suck down videos of [a] children, [b] pets, [c] vacations, [d] tattoos (well, maybe not too many tattoos).

The idea is

With the update, Facebook Moments will automatically create a music video for any grouping of six or more photos. You can then tap this video in the app to customize it further by changing the included photos and selecting from about a dozen different background music options. When you’re finished making your optional edits to this video, one more tap will share the video directly to Facebook and tag the friend or friends with whom you’re already sharing those photos. The option to automatically create a video from your shared photos also makes Facebook Moments competitive with similar services like Flipagram, or those automatically created animations that Google Photos provides through its “Assistant” feature, which also helpfully builds out stories and collages.

Google may apply its Thought Vector research to the problem. The question is will Alphabet be able to spell success from its social services. Why would a grandmother care about a music video of a grandchild when there were Thought Vectors, Loon balloons, and eternal life to ponder?

Stephen E Arnold, August 26, 2015

Search Your Yahoo Mail? Yeah, Right

August 19, 2015

While Web site search used to be considered the worst before Google released a high-performing search widget, the title now officially goes to email search.  Nobody wants to search through their email to find a missing email and you are doomed if you even think about using a mail application such as Outlook or Apple Mail.   In part of its rebranding effort, Yahoo is taking measures to fix email search, says the New York Times in “Yahoo Tweaks Email To Make Search More Personal.”

Yahoo has been working for a year to improve email search and now Yahoo mail has implemented the changes.  It now offers auto complete and suggestions when a search term is typed into the query box.  It will also index attachments and links included in emails, so users do not have to find the actual email they were in.  The sorting options have also been updated and social media accounts can now be synced.

The changes are small and the auto complete/suggestions usually revert to basic keyword suggestions, but it is a step in the right direction.  Yahoo does not want to overhaul the mail system too quickly, because, as anyone knows, too many changes at once are upsetting to users.

“Instead, Yahoo is subtly making changes. Last month, for example, it added a small plus button to the bottom right of the window used to compose emails. If you click on that button, you can drag and drop photos and documents from your email archive, pull in an animated GIF from Yahoo’s Tumblr social network, or add the results of a web search.”

Yahoo made a good business choice and is working to improve its email and other applications.  It will be interesting to watch the changes unfold.

Whitney Grace, August 19, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Twitter Message Disinformation: The Light Bulb Goes On

July 28, 2015

Twitter messages or tweets can be spoofed. No kidding. I read “Embedded Tweets Can Be Easily Faked.” Many exciting actions can be applied to the lowly tweet. The write up reveals this Ah Ha insight:

you may modify the actual text of the tweet. The favorite & retweet counts can be altered as well.

Marketers, rev your engines. Think of the possibilities for disseminating misinformation, reformed information, and good old disinformation.

Stephen E Arnold, July 28, 2015

Facebook Strokes Brain’s Pleasure Center

July 21, 2015

Why do people like using Facebook?  It is a question that researchers have asked since Facebook premiered in 2004.  It was assumed to be a passing fad like prior social networks, including Myspace and Live Journal, but over a decade later Facebook is still going strong without a sign of stopping.  MakeUseOf.com decided to answer the question using an informative infographic and many research studies, check out “Why Do People Like, Share, And Comment On Facebook?”

Apparently Facebook taps the pleasure center of the brain, because when users actively share or “like” content they feel like they are directly engaging with a community.  The infographic also explains that posting status updates relieves loneliness and increases a user’s virtual empathy.  While “likes” are a quick form of communication, comments still seem to be the favorite way to interact on the social network:

“Moira Burke, who is studying 1,200 Facebook users in an ongoing experiment, has found that personal messages are more satisfying to receivers than the one-click communication of likes.”

Direct, more personal types of communication are still preferred by users.  Facebook also is appealing, because users feel like they are getting something in return as well.  They get discounts or coupons for their favorite brands, participate in contests, receive updates, and get individualized advertisements.

There are several other studies highlighting in the infographic, but the bottom line is that people are gaining a high level of personal interactivity that they can share with their friends and family.  Facebook is an integral part of the Internet, because it connects users organically and appeals to a deep, psychological need to interact with other humans.

Whitney Grace, July 21, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook Opens Messenger to Non-Members

July 20, 2015

Facebook is making its Messenger app free, even to those who don’t have a Facebook account, we learn in “Does this Spell the End for WhatsApp?” at the U.K.’s Daily Star. What does that have to do with mobile messaging tool WhatsApp? Reporter Dave Snelling writes:

“This means even people without a Facebook account will be able to start using the service and that could put it in direct competition with WhatsApp. And guess who owns WhatApp…yes Facebook! The social network paid an insane $19 billion for WhatsApp late last year and it’s gone on to see a huge rise in success. WhatsApp now has over 800 million users and the figure is growing daily. Facebook Messenger brings users the same features as WhatsApp including sending photos, videos, group chats, voice and video calling and stickers.”

We notice that “search ability” is not among the features. Pity that; users must continue to employ an outside method to find a certain drop of info in their sea of messages. We’d value a search box over “stickers” any day, but perhaps that’s just us.

So far, the non-Facebook-member Messenger is only available in Canada and the U.S., but is expected to cross the Atlantic soon. Snelling wonders whether users will switch from WhatsApp to Messenger. I wonder whether Facebook plans to merge the apps, and their users; why would they hang on to both? As the article concludes, we’ll have to wait and see.

Cynthia Murrell, July 20, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Quality Peer Reviews Are More Subjective Than Real Science

July 16, 2015

Peer reviewed journals are supposed to have an extra degree of authority, because a team of experts read and critiqued an academic work.  Science 2.0 points out in the article, “Peer Review Is Subjective And The Quality Is Highly Variable” that peer-reviewed journals might not be worth their weight in opinions.

Peer reviews are supposed to be objective criticisms of work, but personal beliefs and political views are working their way into the process and have been for some time.  It should not come as a surprise, when academia has been plagued by this problem for decades.  It also has also been discussed, but peer review problems are brushed under the rug.  In true academic fashion, someone is conducting a test to determine how reliable peer review comments are:

“A new paper on peer review discusses the weaknesses we all see – it is easy to hijack peer review when it is a volunteer effort that can drive out anyone who does not meet the political or cultural litmus test. Wikipedia is dominated by angry white men and climate science is dominated by different angry white men, but in both cases they were caught conspiring to block out anyone who dissented from their beliefs.  Then there is the fluctuating nature of guidelines. Some peer review is lax if you are a member, like at the National Academy of Sciences, while the most prominent open access journal is really editorial review, where they check off four boxes and it may never go to peer review or require any data, especially if it matches the aesthetic self-identification of the editor or they don’t want to be yelled at on Twitter.”

The peer review problem is getting worse in the digital landscape.  There are suggested solutions, such as banning all fees associated with academic journals and databases, homogenizing review criteria across fields, but the problems would be far from corrected.  Reviewers are paid to review works, which likely involves kickbacks of some kind.  Also trying to get different academic journals, much less different fields to standardize an issue will take a huge amount of effort and work, if they can come to any sort of agreement.

Fixing the review system will not be done quickly and anytime money is involved, the process is slowed even further.  In short, academic journals are far from being objective, which is why it pays to do your own research and take everything with a grain of salt.

 

Whitney Grace, July 16, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

How Not to Drive Users Away from a Website

July 15, 2015

Writer and web psychologist Liraz Margalit at the Next Web has some important advice for websites in “The Psychology Behind Web Browsing.” Apparently, paying attention to human behavioral tendencies can help webmasters avoid certain pitfalls that could damage their brands. Imagine that!

The article cites a problem an unspecified news site encountered when it tried to build interest in its videos by making them play automatically when a user navigated to their homepage. I suspect I know who they’re talking about, and I recall thinking at the time, “how rude!” I thought it was just because I didn’t want to be chastised by people near me for suddenly blaring a news video. According to Margalit, though, my problem goes much deeper: It’s an issue of control rooted in pre-history. She writes:

“The first humans had to be constantly on alert for changes in their environment, because unexpected sounds or sights meant only one thing: danger. When we click on a website hoping to read an article and instead are confronted with a loud, bright video, the automatic response is not so different from that our prehistoric ancestors, walking in the forest and stumbling upon a bear or a saber-toothed hyena.”

This need for safety has morphed into a need for control; we do not like to be startled or lost. When browsing the Web, we want to encounter what we expect to encounter (perhaps not in terms of content, but certainly in terms of format.) The name for this is the “expectation factor,” and an abrupt assault on the senses is not the only pitfall to be avoided. Getting lost in an endless scroll can also be disturbing; that’s why those floating menus, that follow you as you move down the page, were invented. Margalit  notes:

“Visitors like to think they are in charge of their actions. When a video plays without visitors initiating any interaction, they feel the opposite. If a visitor feels that a website is trying to ‘sell’ them something, or push them into viewing certain content without permission, they will resist by trying to take back the interaction and intentionally avoid that content.”

And that, of course, is the opposite of what websites want, so giving users the control they expect is a smart business move. Besides, it’s only polite to ask before engaging a visitor’s Adobe Flash or, especially, speakers.

Cynthia Murrell, July 15, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Plus, the Future of Google, Gets Harder to Find

June 3, 2015

Shocker. At age 70, I don’t pay much attention to social media. I did notice Google Plus and one of the goslings may have created an entry for me. I did notice Google Plus when the lovable outfit incentivized employees to use the service. Okay, really popular. Like Orkut and other social experiments, Google Plus seemed to be an add on to a service focused on algorithmic functions.

I read “Google Ditches the Google+ Link on Its Many Web Properties, Hides It in the App Menu.” I don’t think of the nine dots as hidden, but Google Plus is not displayed like the search box or the feeling lucky link.

Does Facebook makes its service one extra click away?

Stephen E Arnold, June 3, 2015

Russian High Tech Propaganda

June 1, 2015

The Soviet Union was known for its propaganda, and Russia under Vladimir Putin seems to have brought the art into the digital age. The Guardian gives us the inside scoop in, “Salutin’ Putin: Inside a Russian Troll House.” Journalists spoke to two writers who were formerly among the hundreds working at the nondescript headquarters of Russia’s “troll army” in St Petersburg. There, writers are tasked with lauding Putin and lambasting the evils of the West in posts and comment sections on a wide variety of websites. Though the organization cannot be directly tied to the Kremlin, it’s reported the entity does not pay any taxes and does not register its employees. It does, however, seem to have grown heartily in the two years since Russia went (back) into the Ukraine.

It is said that working conditions at the “troll house” involve 12-hour shifts, a dreary environment, strict rules, and low pay, though that sounds no different from conditions in many jobs around the world. Workers describe writing a certain number of “ordinary posts” about things like music, travel, or dating advice; writers are  responsible for coming up with those topics themselves. Interspersed with such bland content, however, they write pieces asserting political perspectives assigned to them each morning. Editors check carefully to make sure the stories are on point.

I’d recommend reading through the whole article, but this is the section that struck me most:

“‘I would go home at the end of the day and see all the same news items on the television news. It was obvious that the decisions were coming from somewhere,’ said Marat. Many people have accused Russian television of ramping up propaganda over the past 18 months in its coverage of Ukraine, so much so that the EU even put Dmitry Kiselev, an opinionated television host and director of a major news agency, on its sanctions list.

“After two months of working in the troll agency, Marat began to feel he was losing his sanity, and decided he had to leave. From the snatched conversations over coffee, he noted that the office was split roughly 50/50 between people who genuinely believed in what they were doing, and those who thought it was stupid but wanted the money. Occasionally, he would notice people changing on the job.

“‘Of course, if every day you are feeding on hate, it eats away at your soul. You start really believing in it. You have to be strong to stay clean when you spend your whole day submerged in dirt,’ he said.”

Sounds like some people I know who always have a certain U.S. news channel blasting away in the background. Writer Shaun Walker is unsure whether the site they found in St Petersburg is the only location for this activity, or whether there are other hubs throughout Russia. The effectiveness of such propaganda on Russian citizens, however, seems clear to Russian journalist Andrei Soshnikov (quoted in the article), especially with the older, less tech-savvy set. As disheartening as these revelations are, they should not be surprising.

Cynthia Murrell, June 1, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

 

SharePoint Is Back and Yammer Is Left Behind

May 28, 2015

Many old things become trend and new again, and even that holds true with software, at least in principle. The old functions of SharePoint are withstanding the test of time, and the trendy new buzzwords that Microsoft worked so hard to push these last few years (cloud, social, collaborative) are fading out. Of course, some of it has to do with perception, but it does seem that Microsoft is harkening back to what the tried and true longtime users want. Read more in the CMS Wire article, “SharePoint is Back, Yammer… Not So Much.”

The article sums up the last few years:

“But these last few years, Microsoft seemingly didn’t want to talk about SharePoint. It wanted to talk about Office 365, the cloud, collaboration, social, mobile devices and perpetual monthly licensing models. Yet no one appears to have told many of the big traditional SharePoint customers of these shifts. These people are still running SharePoint 2007, 2010 and 2013 happily in-house and have no plans to change that for many years.”

So it seems that with the returned focus to on-premises SharePoint, users are pleased in theory. However, it remains to be seen how satisfying SharePoint Server 2016 will be in reality. To stay tuned to the latest reviews and feedback, keep an eye on ArnoldIT.com and his dedicated SharePoint feed. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search with an interest in SharePoint. His reporting will shed a light on the realities of user experience once SharePoint Server 2016 becomes available.

Emily Rae Aldridge, May 28, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

 

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