Tag: social media

Instagram Is Hiding Likes. Will That Reduce Anxiety?

What would Instagram be like if people couldn’t see how many likes fellow users’ posts receive?

Less competitive, less pressurized and more personal, Instagram surmises.

The social media platform, which began testing that theory in May in Canada, this week expanded the experiment to include Instagram users in six more countries. As part of the test, users in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand will no longer be able to see the counts of likes and video views on other users’ posts.

They will still be able to see who liked someone else’s post or viewed their video, but there won’t be a tally. Of course, people can still do a manual count, if they want to take the time. And users will still be able to see like counts and video view counts for their own posts.

[Read more: What if Instagram Got Rid of Likes?]

“We are expanding the test to get a better sense of how the experience resonates with Instagram’s global community,” Seine Kim, a Facebook spokeswoman, said Thursday. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012.

Instagram did not share any information about what the testing with users in Canada has shown, nor would it say how long the testing will take place in each country. It is also not clear how the company is measuring the test results.

In late April, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, announced at Facebook’s annual event for developers that the testing would begin in Canada.

“We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition,” Mr. Mosseri said at the event. “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Mosseri announced the test’s expansion to the six additional countries on Twitter.

YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant

Proposals to change recommendations and curb conspiracies were sacrificed for engagement, staff say.

A year ago, Susan Wojcicki was on stage to defend YouTube. Her company, hammered for months for fueling falsehoods online, was reeling from another flare-up involving a conspiracy theory video about the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that suggested the victims were “crisis actors.”

Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive officer, is a reluctant public ambassador, but she was in Austin at the South by Southwest conference to unveil a solution that she hoped would help quell conspiracy theories: a tiny text box from websites like Wikipedia that would sit below videos that questioned well-established facts like the moon landing and link viewers to the truth. 

Wojcicki’s media behemoth, bent on overtaking television, is estimated to rake in sales of more than $16 billion a year. But on that day, Wojcicki compared her video site to a different kind of institution. “We’re really more like a library,” she said, staking out a familiar position as a defender of free speech. “There have always been controversies, if you look back at libraries.”

Since Wojcicki took the stage, prominent conspiracy theories on the platform—including one on child vaccinations; another tying Hillary Clinton to a Satanic cult—have drawn the ire of lawmakers eager to regulate technology companies. And YouTube is, a year later, even more associated with the darker parts of the web.  

The conundrum isn’t just that videos questioning the moon landing or the efficacy of vaccines are on YouTube. The massive “library,” generated by users with little editorial oversight, is bound to have untrue nonsense. Instead, YouTube’s problem is that it allows the nonsense to flourish. And, in some cases, through its powerful artificial intelligence system, it even provides the fuel that lets it spread.

Wojcicki and her deputies know this. In recent years, scores of people insideYouTube and Google, its owner, raised concerns about the mass of false, incendiary and toxic content that the world’s largest video site surfaced and spread. One employee wanted to flag troubling videos, which fell just short of the hate speech rules, and stop recommending them to viewers. Another wanted to track these videos in a spreadsheet to chart their popularity. A third, fretful of the spread of “alt-right” video bloggers, created an internal vertical that showed just how popular they were. Each time they got the same basic response: Don’t rock the boat.

The company spent years chasing one business goal above others: “Engagement,” a measure of the views, time spent and interactions with online videos. Conversations with over twenty people who work at, or recently left, YouTube reveal a corporate leadership unable or unwilling to act on these internal alarms for fear of throttling engagement. 

Wojcicki would “never put her fingers on the scale,” said one person who worked for her. “Her view was, ‘My job is to run the company, not deal with this.’” This person, like others who spoke to Bloomberg News, asked not to be identified because of a worry of retaliation.

YouTube turned down Bloomberg News’ requests to speak to Wojcicki, other executives, management at Google and the board of Alphabet Inc., its parent company. Last week, Neal Mohan, its chief product officer, told The New York Times that the company has “made great strides” in addressing its issues with recommendation and radical content. 

A YouTube spokeswoman contested the notion that Wojcicki is inattentive to these issues and that the company prioritizes engagement above all else. Instead, the spokeswoman said the company has spent the last two years focused squarely on finding solutions for its content problems. Since 2017, YouTube has recommended clips based on a metric called “responsibility,” which includes input from satisfaction surveys it shows after videos. YouTube declined to describe it more fully, but said it receives “millions” of survey responses each week.

“Our primary focus has been tackling some of the platform’s toughest content challenges,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We’ve taken a number of significant steps, including updating our recommendations system to prevent the spread of harmful misinformation, improving the news experience on YouTube, bringing the number of people focused on content issues across Google to 10,000, investing in machine learning to be able to more quickly find and remove violative content, and reviewing and updating our policies — we made more than 30 policy updates in 2018 alone. And this is not the end: responsibility remains our number one priority.”

In response to criticism about prioritizing growth over safety, Facebook Inc. has proposed a dramatic shift in its core product. YouTube still has struggled to explain any new corporate vision to the public and investors – and sometimes, to its own staff. Five senior personnel who left YouTube and Google in the last two years privately cited the platform’s inability to tame extreme, disturbing videos as the reason for their departure. Within Google, YouTube’s inability to fix its problems has remained a major gripe. Google shares slipped in late morning trading in New York on Tuesday, leaving them up 15 percent so far this year. Facebook stock has jumped more than 30 percent in 2019, after getting hammered last year. 

YouTube’s inertia was illuminated again after a deadly measles outbreak drew public attention to vaccinations conspiracies on social media several weeks ago. New data from Moonshot CVE, a London-based firm that studies extremism, found that fewer than twenty YouTube channels that have spread these lies reached over 170 million viewers, many who where then recommended other videos laden with conspiracy theories.

The company’s lackluster response to explicit videos aimed at kids has drawn criticism from the tech industry itself. Patrick Copeland, a former Google director who left in 2016, recently posted a damning indictment of his old company on LinkedIn. While watching YouTube, Copeland’s daughter was recommended a clip that featured both a Snow White character drawn with exaggerated sexual features and a horse engaged in a sexual act. “Most companies would fire someone for watching this video at work,” he wrote. “Unbelievable!!” Copeland, who spent a decade at Google, decided to block the YouTube.com domain. READ MORE:https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-04-02/youtube-executives-ignored-warnings-letting-toxic-videos-run-rampant

THE BEST MUSIC STREAMING SERVICE

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 9.13.55 PMYou probably already know that listening to music no longer requires trips to a music store, or purchasing individual songs or albums from iTunes to download to your computer. Today’s best music streaming services have millions of songs in their catalogs, offer personalized playlists, and feature exclusive internet radio shows and podcasts. But which should you pick and pay a subscription fee for?

A good streaming music service has a straightforward user interface that makes it easy to organize a library of thousands of songs or playlists across the web, Android, and iOS apps, and in some cases, a desktop Mac or Windows app. However, while most music streaming services have these features, most of them aren’t free, and nearly all services require paid plans that grant you access to a full on-demand library of music and other features.

While testing these music streaming services, I considered factors like audio quality options, social integration, and built-in lyrics. It’s also absolutely necessary that your streaming app plays nice with more than one personal device. These are all important points when considering which music service to pick and ultimately, make for a better listening experience.

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Spotify is the best streaming music service for a variety of reasons, but there’s one in particular that stands out. It has the most consistent iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows experience. It’s far from perfect, of course, but features rolled out to the iOS version follow on Android not too soon after. Competing music services sometimes have issues with certain platforms, like the clunky Android version of Apple Music or the Windows app for Tidal that sometimes won’t load.

Other than having a unified app experience, Spotify has a large catalog of music (35+ million songs), the best playlist recommendations, useful, yet non-intrusive social features, and a variety of plans (including student discounts) that make it great for most music listeners with a smartphone and some headphones.

It’s also one of the streaming services (alongside Amazon Music and Apple Music) that supports offline listening for both mobile and desktop, which is useful when you’re doing work and don’t want to eat up bandwidth or using your device on a plane without internet. Spotify is also supported by most smart speakers and smart devices, so it’s almost universally available on all platforms.

However, Spotify isn’t without shortcomings. There’s no hi-fi option, the app can misbehave when you have a poor cell connection, and uploading purchased songs to your desktop Spotify library is a convoluted process. Still, Spotify’s mobile and desktop experiences are fast and easy to understand. Spotify’s pricing also set the precedent for other music streaming apps. It has a compelling free option on desktop, a $4.99 option for students (US only), the standard $9.99 premium option that lets you download and stream on all your personal devices, and finally, a $14.99 family plan (for six users total).

A GREAT ALTERNATIVE: APPLE MUSIC

Apple Music has a lot going for it that’s pegged on exclusivity. Beats 1 is home to many top-tier artists that use their respective radio shows to demo and tease new music and collaborations. If you’re a fan of certain popular artists, you might find that the first chance you’ll have to hear their new music is on Apple Music, not Spotify or Tidal. Sound quality is usually better than Spotify’s, thanks to Apple Music using a 256kbps AAC bitrate, compared to the max 320kbps Ogg Vorbis bitrate used by Spotify.

Banking on this sense of access and being “in the know,” Apple Music tops this off with artist’s music videos, adding a visual treat you can enjoy without having to go to another app. However for comparison, Tidal, YouTube Music, and Spotify are the other streaming services that offer music videos built into the app. Of those, only Spotify has short vertical videos for a few of its popular songs; Apple Music does not.

Apple Music also has a digital locker feature that subscribers can take advantage of, to the tune of 100,000 songs. Although, you should be hard-pressed not to find your purchased music in Apple Music’s library of over 50 million songs. You can also save these songs for offline listening on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and the Apple Watch.

The iOS, Android, and desktop apps are my least favorite user music streaming interfaces. The abundant use of hot pink accents and white backgrounds everywhere isn’t the most comfortable to view at night. On Android, the Apple Music app feels even more out of place and occasionally had problems staying open on my Pixel 2 XL. Using Apple Music on a desktop requires you to use iTunes, an app that’s slow, cumbersome, confusing, and long overdue for a redesign. Apple Music has definitely not been blessed with the most beautiful interfaces the designers at Cupertino have released.

Apple Music’s pricing is similar to Spotify and other services: $9.99 monthly or $14.99 for a family plan (up to six users), with student discounts varying by country.

If you’re an audiophile — someone who is enthusiastic about hi-fi reproduction — and want to use a streaming service, there are some good alternatives.

For those that have audio hardware capable of taking advantage of lossless hi-fi, then Tidal or Deezer’s $20 lossless plans might be good options. Tidal has a $9.99 on-demand plan as well, but it doesn’t get you the higher sound quality.

On the flip side, casual listeners who want a more radio-style streaming service can opt for the $5 radio-only, no ads version of Pandora; it also includes on-demand streaming, but it’s less mature than its competitors in terms of playlist recommendations and library management.

But what if you have thousands of songs you’ve already purchased the old-fashioned way? If you want the benefits of uploading your music to the cloud and a music streaming service to back that up — that is more consistent on Android and the web — then Google Play Music is the perfect option. However, next year Google is merging YouTube Music with Play Music into a new service with a music uploading feature, so it might be worth waiting.

Instagram Is Too Big Not to Mess With

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On the face of it, there’s nothing surprising about Instagram’s founders leaving six years after the company was sold. Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom’s tenures at Facebook were longer than that of most Facebook employees, where the average is 2.5 years. And Instagram has come a long way since Facebook bought it in April 2012 for a reported $1 billion. In the past six years, Instagram has grown from 50 million users to more than a billion users, and it currently employs more than 700 people. Today, its estimated worth is over $100 billion.

When Facebook acquired Instagram, it promised that it would not mess with the company. But the truth may be that Instagram has become far too important to Facebook’s bottom line for Mark Zuckerberg to keep that promise. With Mr. Krieger and Mr. Systrom’s departures, the future of Instagram is now completely in Mr. Zuckerberg’s hands.

Instagram’s explosive growth is a success story in its own right, and a big part of the credit is due to Instagram’s executive team, which carried out its vision of an uncluttered feed of photographs. Another part of the company’s story, however, is how much Instagram was able to leverage the technical and advertising infrastructure built by its parent company.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/opinion/instagram-facebook.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Contributors

For Capitalism, Every Social Leap Forward Is a Marketing Opportunity

Brands are now racing to capture the market of young people who strive to live gender identities that fit.

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They are the new beautiful people and their pronouns are they, their and them. Fashion courts them. Publishers pursue them. Corporations see in them the future of consuming, as generations come of age for whom notions of gender as traditionally constituted seem clunkier than a rotary phone.

Why settle for being a man or a woman when you can locate yourself more exactly along the arc of gender identity? And, on another axis, why limit your sexual expression to a single definition when you can glissade along the Kinsey scale?

“It’s all about letting go of gender so you can be everything in between,” said Terra Juano, a model with 100,000 Instagram followers who track the booming career and amatory antics of this androgynous Mexican-Filipino beauty with a shaved head, a mile-wide smile, an affection for cowboy hats and an uninhibited tendency to go top free.

In the evolving language of gender expression, Terra Juano, though assigned female at birth, identifies as nonbinary. And in business as in life, TJ, a native of Stockton, Calif., has lighted out for a new territory. It is one in which the conventions of both homo- and heteronormative expression are called into question daily.

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/18/style/gender-nonbinary-brand-marketing.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Ffashion&action=click&contentCollection=fashion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=4&pgtype=sectionfront

‘Instagram playgrounds’ for the hashtag obsessed are taking over U.S. cities

Packed with interactive features and social media appeal, pop-up exhibits have taken major cities by storm, allowing visitors to step into another world.

A sunflower garden, a caviar pool and a psychedelic laundromat are among the many Instagram-ready experiences that have taken over vacant studio spaces and abandoned buildings across the country, luring in the hashtagged obsessed.

These interactive pop-up exhibits in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities charge people $18 to $45 to capture their experiences in immersive “Instagram playgrounds,” many of which lead to thousands of posts on the social media platform.

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“It’s meant to feel like a dreamscape, a little oasis away from the chaos of the city,” said Michelle Price, on-site brand manager of The Egg House, a pop-up exhibit that started in New York and is currently in Shanghai, attracting over 16,330 Instagram followers.

The Egg House revolves around an egg named Ellis who, Price said, was brought to New York to attract people and take them on a journey through “his Big Apple dreams.”

While the installations’ visual appeal helps the exhibits attract visitors, abstract narratives like Ellis’ engage visitors.

“Every installation is meant to be interactive,” Price said. “Usually when you go to an art exhibit they’re more passive, you have that sense of separation.”

But with these exhibits, “there’s no rope,” she said. “There’s no velvet rope, separating you.” READ MORE: https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/lifestyle/instagram-playgrounds-hashtag-obsessed-are-taking-over-u-s-cities-n893326