Twitter and the Void

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What kind of sound does a single tweet make? Our writer considers the reasons she left Twitter, and what it would take to bring other lapsed Tweeters back online.

My Twitter account fell silent last April, about six minutes after I had opened the thing. I say “fell silent,” but truly it was not much more than mute to begin with. I followed some folks. Replied to a friend. Something along the lines of, “between you and me…I’m tweeting.” I wasn’t sure what to do with my extra 105 characters. I added, “no promises.”

On Jan. 13, I scrambled, with many, for information. How many casualties among my colleagues in Haiti? What condition Toussaint L’Ouverture airport? How frequent, and how strong, and how long the aftershocks? What the hell is my Twitter ID?

…there are plenty of tweeters whose sudden silence comes without warning. A guy whose handle was “You Look Great,” hailing from “the universe’s loving embra,” posted daily aphorisms of a mildly amusing nature from February until August before slowing. By October it was biweekly. Not too long after “We touch the lives of every person we meet; we can also touch their tushies,” the dude left a million followers without their “daily passive aggressive affirmations.”

I wonder how many people clamored, “where is my ha-ha @You Look Great?” (There are no hashtags at the universe’s embra.)

 

…Certain hiatuses truly make one pause. Like Jennette’s last tweet in October 2009: “but my apartment is such a mess. I wouldn’t want them finding all that shit in my apartment.”

 

Or Britney, last tweet, November 2008: “FOR SALE: Parachute. Brand new, used only once. Never opened. Condition: stain on one side.”

 

Or Kelvin, who in September 2009 posted: “I need some spiritual guideance [sic] right now.”

 

… When I began writing this column I thought I saw a somber conclusion at its end. I thought I would be asking, how many tweeters does Twitter gain when there is an earthquake in Haiti or Chile? Or when there is unrest in Iran or a music festival (#sxsw)?

 

I thought I would ask, dramatically, just how lopsided was the Twitter equation—the one that saw the addition of me in the days after Jan. 12 and the subtraction of tiphilippe90 on his way back to school?

 

I asked on Twitter, is tiphilippe90 gone? And in no time at all, I heard, “nah he just don’t tweet anymore. No mystery.” I just hope I can time my exit with equal panache.

What If Smart Homes Were Designed For Seniors, Instead?

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So when Kevin Gaunt envisions the future of the smart home, he doesn’t think of it in terms of millennials, or their “picturesque Airbnb-style houses inhabited by attractive people who effortlessly interact with technology, dealing with all our chores and reading our deepest wishes before we are even aware of them.” Instead, he asks what the smart homes and conversational interfaces of the future can do for the elderly. And his answers seem a lot less empty than the thermostat-automating smart home bots of today.

As part of his graduate project at the Umeå Institute of Design’s Interaction Design in Sweden, Gaunt imagined a series of smart home bots aimed at helping the elderly, as opposed to these devices’ current roles as “gatekeepers to a particular company’s ecosystems,” as Gaunt puts it. “That led me to think about what if a future smart home had multiple [assistants] that each focused on a narrow set of tasks, like online shopping, managing the daily budget, or spying on the neighbors’ whereabouts,” says Gaunt.

 

Google Maps is putting Europe’s human-traffickers out of business

europe refugee migrant crisis

Excerpt from this article, via @whatleydude:

Unlike previous crises, however, refugees aren’t making the journey blind. Smartphones are ubiquitous among the crowds, aid workers say — empowering migrants to make smarter decisions and transforming the way that aid is delivered to them.

Srba Jovanovic, an aid worker for a coalition of charities in Serbia called Refugee Aid Serbia, told Business Insider that nearly every young male refugee he sees has one. The devices provide a lifeline for people to their families and friends — apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype are all widely used, and they allow them to avoid the prohibitively high costs of making traditional phone calls across borders.

Google Maps is another very popular app. It means refugees are able to make their own way like never before, without having to rely on the high prices and often horrendous conditions offered by people-traffickers. Foreign-currency-conversion calculators are another popular choice, helping people to avoid getting ripped off as they cross borders and currency areas.

Is mobile video killing the importance of sound?

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Between 75 and 90 percent of Facebook usage in Asia is on mobile (depending on the country) and globally the platform has over 8 billion video views a day. However when these videos start (like on Twitter or Instagram) they autoplay with the sound off. This is a big challenge for advertisers and their agencies. I continue to see brands across the region persisting with putting content made for TV onto social platforms. This typically results in a very poor view rate (which translates back to a very high cost per view) and little to no impact on brand metrics. This is because there isn’t the time to build the story with a captivated audience like there is with TV, or to wait for the ad’s emotional apex, fuelled by the power of a soundtrack, to introduce the brand. News feed environments certainly don’t seem audio-friendly. A recent Digiday interview found up to 85 percent of Facebook video plays without sound. However online video formats can also struggle to deliver audio. Many top publishers have video units that also autoplay without sound, or that are of the click-to-play type (and therefore are often ignored).

No sound, no go? Great video ads have sound, so does that mean I should forget social video? The short answer is no.

I Love You, But Our Happiness Doesn’t Fit My Personal Brand’s Narrative Strategy.

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If I want to have a strong brand narrative, my “voice” has to be consistent across all distribution channels. So, yes, that does mean captioning Instagram photos of us with “If I had a time machine I would change everything. EVERYTHING.” And yes, that does mean that when I check into our favorite restaurant on Facebook the caption is just that straight-line-mouth emoticon. And, yes again, that even means pinning cross-stitch patterns that say STARING INTO THE ENDLESS BLACK VOID on my Pinterest page. That’s just strong brand equity common sense.

The Unexpected Joys of #FirstSevenJobs

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It (almost) goes without saying that all social-media-based calls for self-disclosure are bait for parody, political satire, and incisive social criticism, and #FirstSevenJobs—a meme that came to life this past weekend— was no different. The initial solicitation came from Marion Call, a singer-songwriter who asked her fans to chime in with a list of their early jobs to help her write a song. Soon enough, there were thousands upon thousands of entries.

… Nevertheless, beneath many of the entries hummed a sense of pride. Is this particular brand of navel-gazing a good thing or a bad thing? It depends. Writing in The Atlantic earlier this year,  Robert H. Frank copped E.B. White’s famous remark on the divide between those who see themselves as industrious and those who see themselves as lucky. “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men,” White once wrote.

Citing some studies, Frank offers that fixating on one’s own mythology without also acknowledging good fortune apparently makes a person “less generous and public-spirited” and less willing to invest in what might help deliver success to others. “Happily, though,” he added, “when people are prompted to reflect on their good fortune, they become much more willing to contribute to the common good.” It’s an encouraging thought, but it’s hard to see that catching on as a meme anytime soon.