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Social Media Helps Fuel Political Debate

ieplexus blog 1 11-11-15Since more and more people use social media on a daily basis it is becoming increasingly important for presidential hopefuls to interact with voters through the different social media platforms. Politicians use social media presence to provide voters with information about their views and to connect with younger voters who are less likely to tune in to presidential debates. They can also use information on social media to see the way that opinions over certain issues and hot topics of debate are viewed by the general public. Since social media has a growing influence in people’s lives, it is becoming a platform that politicians can use to interact with voters.

Some might feel like the politician with the most followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook, is the one most likely to secure more votes, but it isn’t that simple. Since people follow not only people that they actually agree with, but also accounts that are entertaining, it is likely that many followers and friends on Facebook and Twitter are actually looking for statements or possible slip ups that they can then share. In many cases, these items are shared along with sarcastic commentary to show the opinion of the person sharing the post. This means that in many cases the number of followers does not help anyone predict how many votes a candidate might obtain.

In the past, social media has been shown to give a positive boost to campaigns for different individuals. Many people would agree that President Obama was able to secure much of the younger vote at least partially because of his social media campaigns prior to the 2008 and 2012 elections. However, it isn’t about getting followers, but instead actually expressing opinions and interacting with voters. People are more likely to be able to communicate with politicians on a personal level over these platforms. Supporters of the candidates can also push information about the views of the candidate that they like the most, giving candidates an extra boost. For example, the supporter created hashtag for Bernie Sanders, #FeelTheBern, became a big deal on Twitter. This hashtag spreading information about the candidate, while requiring little effort by the politician himself.

While campaigning on social media is no doubt important, there have been many slips and failures throughout the time that politicians have been using social media as a campaigning tool. When Jeb Bush tried to start the slogan “Jeb Can Fix It”, Twitter users attacked the slogan, relating it to suspicions of his involvement with the voting scandal in 2000. Social media may be helpful to some candidates, but when something goes wrong with a campaign, social media makes it so that more people are more likely to hear about it. Campaigning in the age of social media has risks and benefits that were previously unheard of.

Changes to Facebook’s Real Name Policy

iePlexus blog 1 10-30-15For a while now, the real name policy on Facebook has come under fire for causing certain people to be removed from its site solely because they don’t use what would be considered their legal or “authentic” name. Many people believe that there are plenty of valid reasons that people might not be using a legal name which do not merit their removal from the site. Under the current policy, if people are reported as not using a legal name, then they have to show legal documentation that the name is valid. Critics of the policy state that this policy is discriminatory against certain groups of people.

In response to a published letter about the problem, Facebook has announced that they are going to begin testing some changes to the policy that will keep it from being weaponized and used as a discriminatory measure. As the policy stands currently, many are criticizing the social media site for allowing their policy to continue. They claim that people are able to report those who they may not agree with to make it so that their page will be removed from the site. In many cases, this has led to transsexual individuals and drag queens being targeted by viewers of their pages. Facebook users complain that this damages the Facebook community and is unfair to those who may have controversial views to express.

After coming under criticism for the policy, Facebook has responded to the problem by starting to make changes to the policy. With the new changes in place, people who need to confirm their name with Facebook would not have to provide legal documentation of their name and could give context to explain why they are going by a different name than their legal one. This change to the policy would allow people to use the names that most people know them by whether these are their legal name or not. Another change would require Facebook users who flag others for having a fake name to explain why they decide to flag the profile. Facebook plans to start testing their changes starting in December.

The Truth about Facebook’s Upcoming Dislike Button

Picture 9-17-2015The Internet has been taken by storm after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook is working on a ‘Dislike’ button. The Dislike button is one of Facebook’s most frequently requested features, likely because many other formats online (such as Reddit and Disqus) allow for a downvoting function to contrast the upvoting function that is equivalent to the Facebook ‘Like’ button. However, there are plenty of people who feel like a Dislike button would promote negativity, pettiness, and add to the existing problem of cyberbullying.

Most newswires seem split in their views; some believe that the Dislike button is a necessary feature that Facebook has been missing for years, while others believe that there is nothing good about the idea of a Dislike button. In either case, a lot of these newswires seem to be misinformed entirely about how this Dislike button is going to work. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement specifically mentioned that he doesn’t want the Dislike button to be equivalent to Reddit’s downvote; he wants this button to allow users to show empathy and express themselves in more ways than the Like button currently allows, saying “Not every moment is a good moment.”

In reality, this upcoming Dislike button likely will not be as simple as a literal Dislike button. It’s more likely to take the form of a ‘Sorry’ button or something similar to that. This way, users would be able to express their condolences in situations like death, loss of a job, or the end of a relationship. Though Zuckerberg specifically mentioned that the Dislike button was being worked on it, it likely will not appear in the form that many people are expecting. The new feature, however it may appear, is likely to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

What Else Can Be Done with Social Networks?

Picture 9-10-2015When most people think about social networks, they see them as methods for keeping in touch with friends, family, and acquaintances. Social networks are frequently used for messaging, image sharing, and status updates, but there are so many more functions that social networks and applications can provide. With social media being a particularly competitive industry, most social networking companies are always looking to see what they can do for their user base that will separate them from the herd. For instance, Facebook has proven that their service can be used as a functional way to help people. Earlier this year, they launched a function that shares Amber Alerts with users in the area of a missing child, in an effort to make it easier for people to help.

There are other ways that various social networks are aiming to help people in ways that you might not expect. LinkedIn, which has functioned as a way to maintain a profile that potential employers can see, launched a standalone job search application last year, intended to help users find and apply for jobs easily. The application ensures privacy, so that users will not have to publicly declare that they are searching for a new job to their boss or co-workers. By separating these features in a dedicated application, LinkedIn hopes to make job searches easier for those in need of employment.

In addition to expansions of existing social networks, there are standalone social networking applications that are launching to provide helpful functions to users. For instance, Roomi launched in June as an application that makes it easier for people to find new roommates for their apartments and houses. This works as yet another example of how social media can work as a positive force, making tasks that once were difficult just a little bit easier. From everyday tasks like finding a roommate or a job to high-importance tasks like finding a missing child, it’s incredible to see what ways social media can benefit people.

Facebook Branches Out with Messenger, Events, and Notes

Picture 9-3-2015With the evolution of Messenger, Facebook has been doing its best to create standalone experiences that don’t necessarily have to work in tandem with the main social network. We’ve seen how Messenger has been evolving on its own; Facebook has been bringing new features to Messenger themselves and opening the platform up for third-party applications to provide users with even more interesting features. Most recently, it appears that Facebook is aiming to make the experience even more standalone. Since June, users have been able to sign up for Messenger without having active Facebook accounts, separating the app even further from the social network.

The success of Messenger has been very apparent, so it’s no surprise that Facebook is looking into creating standalone applications for other aspects of the social network. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook Groups has 850 million active users, while Facebook Events has 450 million active users. Facebook has already launched a standalone Groups app, so it stands to reason that there could be an Events app coming in the near future, especially with Zuckerberg mentioning that Facebook Events had hit ‘global scale’ in a recent earnings call.

While Events may be next on the horizon for a standalone app, Facebook is also working on tweaks to the various utilities that will surely remain as part of the social network itself for the time being. Specifically, it seems that Facebook is planning on revamping Facebook Notes, transforming the area into a blogging platform rather than something that looks similar to other Facebook updates. The updates to Facebook Notes have not yet been rolled out to all users, but they show that Facebook is serious about updating every aspect of their interface and staying competitive with other platforms.

Meet M, Facebook’s New Personal Assistant

Picture 8-28-2015Last month, I spoke about a personal assistant that Facebook had been working on, at the time codenamed Moneypenny. It seems that the personal assistant’s final name is a different James Bond reference, however, as Facebook announced the launch of M this week. There are a number of ways that M will differ from other personal assistant services like Siri and Cortana. Primarily, M will work as a fusion between artificial intelligence and human input. Effectively, this means that your requests to M, as supervised by a team of people, will be able to complete tasks on your behalf.

Though M is still in its early stages, Facebook believes that they will be able to create the ultimate personal digital assistant with its unique build. M will be able to purchase items for you, deliver gifts, book restaurants, make appointments and travel arrangements, and so much more. Another way that M is differentiating itself is by avoiding the voice-activation that can sometimes be a nuisance with services like Siri and Cortana. Instead, you’ll ask questions via text and a real person, an AI, or some combination of the two depending on the task at hand, will respond to you.

M will be built into Messenger, so that you can easily communicate with your digital assistant without issue. There are many potential ways that M could be used that are getting people excited. With the combination of human and AI input, the possibilities are endless. There are likely to be plenty of business applications and ways that Facebook will be able to monetize M as well. Though M has not been fully rolled out yet, it has begun open testing with a select number of users in the Bay Area.

More Competition in the World of Live-Streaming

Picture 8-6-2015Live-streaming is something that I have discussed before. Applications like Periscope and Meerkat, which allow users to live-stream video on Twitter, are more popular than ever. Thus, it shouldn’t be incredibly surprising that there are other groups that are interested in getting in on the live-streaming magic. A number of other applications and updates are being released that will allow live-streaming to become available to an even broader audience, with a variety of different nuances and options that make them stand out from their potential competitors.

It’s probably least surprising that Facebook has decided to jump into the business of live-streaming, although they are handling it quite a bit differently than the options that have been available on Twitter. Facebook has added live-streaming as a feature called ‘Live’ to Facebook Mentions, which is the app that allows celebrities to connect with their fans. Thus, the live-streaming function is not available to all Facebook users and is instead only offered to those who have Facebook Mentions accounts. Anyone following these celebrities on Facebook is able to like, comment on, or share these live-streaming videos. The ‘Live’ product manager has stated that this feature may be rolled out to other users in the future, once the company has received feedback from public figures and viewers.

Another type of live-streaming has appeared that’s more accessible for the average person. With Blab, a new app currently in beta, users sign in with their Twitter information and can join a live-streaming video chat of up to four people. Effectively, the app manages to operate as Meerkat or Periscope, only for groups of people. Users can watch the video chat and can mute any of the windows at their leisure. Blab is expected to make waves, in that it could be used for interviews, debates, and other purposes.

In the Future of Facebook: A Look Forward

Picture 7-23-2015As I’ve said many times before, it’s necessary and expected for social media to always be changing. That simply fits with the average attention span of the millennial generation and the overall user base of social media apps, who are always on the lookout for the next big thing. As the biggest social media platform, it’s always going to be important for Facebook to keep up with the times in order to stay relevant in a realm that’s always going to be introducing new types of competition from different angles. Currently, Facebook is working on a number of different major changes and ideas.

Businesses have been able to thrive with successful Facebook pages and Facebook’s next hope is that their users will be able to buy things directly from a business’s Facebook page, without even having to be redirected somewhere else. Facebook has been allowing users to connect their debit and credit cards to their accounts to make payments to other users for some time now. Apparently, the next step will be including a ‘Buy’ button for a number of retailers, which is something that they are currently working on testing. Another feature currently being tested is a ‘Watch Later’ button, which will allow users to save videos they find potentially interesting for later.

One of the most interesting recent developments is that Facebook is working on a personal assistant service that will be able to compete with Siri and Cortana. However, what separates their service – known as Moneypenny – from the others is that it won’t be a virtual assistant. Instead of being powered by computers, the intention is that Moneypenny will have a real human on the other end at all times. Unlike the other things that Facebook is testing, it is likely that Moneypenny may be quite a bit further away from completion, but it’s yet another interesting way that Facebook is trying to stay competitive.

Facebook Users Gain More Control over Their News Feeds

Picture 7-9-2015The newest way that Facebook has changed to provide users with a better experience is by making it easier to control what shows up in the News Feed. The updated version of the News Feed allows users to pick out which of their friends and acquaintances they’d like to see appear more in the News Feed. This feature will allow users to see all of the posts made by certain users. A Facebook user can select any number of their friends and no one but the initial user can see which friends have been chosen.

For a long time, Facebook’s News Feed has mostly been presented as part of an ‘algorithm’ that determines which posts you wanted to see more of based on your likes and interactions on Facebook. However, the people behind Facebook have recognized that this algorithm is far from perfect, which is why giving users a bit more direct control over what appears in their News Feed was a positive step forward for making Facebook more appealing to its users.

The News Feed changes are accessible from the ‘News Feed Preferences’ section of the Facebook app. This section now allows users to prioritize who they see first, unfollow other users to hide their posts, reconnect with those that have been unfollowed, and discover new pages. Though the new features are currently only available on the iOS platform, they are expected to be rolled out to the desktop and Android versions of Facebook in the coming weeks.

Facebook Launches Moments for Photo Sharing

Picture 6-18-2015With the amount of apps Facebook continues to launch, from Rooms to Messenger to Paper, it’s a surprise that we haven’t yet reached a point of Facebook app fatigue. Their most recent app is called Moments, which was launched earlier this week. The purpose of Moments is effectively to be able to easily share any photos that are stored in your phone, using facial recognition software to make private photo sharing even easier.

Moments operates by taking a look through the photos on your phone, checking to see if any of them have your friends’ faces in them. Using facial recognition allows you to easily send pictures of your friends to them without having to share those pictures publicly on your Facebook profile. Pictures can also be shared manually if the facial recognition software does not recognize someone. The primary focus of Moments is to be able to share photos with individuals or small groups of friends, as opposed to the entirety of your Facebook friend list.

There has already been some criticism targeted at Moments, however. Some don’t see why it is necessary to create yet another app to download, when it might be more useful to integrate these photo sharing features directly into Facebook. Others believe that it might be held back due to its unfamiliar sharing format and facial recognition software that leaves something to be desired. In any case, time will tell if Moments manages to flourish on its own or if the features will eventually get moved over to the main Facebook application.