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Using Social Media to Predict Elections May Be a New Trend

social mediaAfter the surprising results of the election on Tuesday, many people were blindsided as the results were quite different from those predicted by traditional polls before the election. With this stunning turn of events, many have started to question the validity of traditional polls, turning instead to different ways of predicting upcoming results in elections. Some are suggesting that social media could be the best way to predict elections in the future.

 

Prior to the election, several articles came out suggesting that Trump would actually make a stunning win in the election. These articles used evidence gathered from different sources all connected to social media. In one case, a professor said that an algorithm he created predicted a win by Donald Trump. This algorithm utilized data available from Twitter that showed what people were talking about prior to the election. He had used this algorithm before with 95% accuracy to predict the 2013 Australian federal election and the 2015 Queensland election.

 

In another example, an artificial intelligence system predicted that Trump would win the election as well. This particular AI system takes a wide number of data points from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to create predictions on who will win. Earlier in the election process, the system was able to predict correctly the results of the presidential primaries. Since 2004 when this AI system was created, the system was able to predict the last three U.S. presidential elections. Now has correctly predicted this one as well.

 

There has been a great deal of success with just using social media alone as a predictor of who will win the election. While polls failed miserably at predicting the results of the election, other systems were able to predict the results by comparing the number of pro-Trump and pro-Clinton tweets in the months leading up to the election. There are some small failings in this kind of a predictor since computers are not always best at judging whether a tweet is for or against a specific candidate. Still there was much more success in predicting Tuesday’s election this way than through polling.

 

Analysts monitoring social media were able to predict the outcome of the election months in advance, while polls were still predicting an easy win for Hillary Clinton. Their data suggested that those who were responding to the polls may not be answering truthfully when confronted by a stranger on the phone. While these people may not have claimed to be voting for Trump or may have refused to answer polls, on social media they were able to speak their mind. This evidence suggests that in the future, social media may actually be the place to start when attempting to predict elections.

Facebook Looking to Launch a Feature Supporting 360 Degree Photos

panoramic pictureOne of the strange problems that many have after taking a panoramic photo is that there is no real way for you to share this kind of a photo with your friends. Panoramic photos typically turn into long drawn out lines of picture that are too small to look at easily on social media sites. Facebook is seeking to remedy this problem by providing a space for 360 degree photos.

 

Facebook recently announced that in the coming weeks Facebook users will be able to start sharing panoramic shots in a way that will actually allow people to interact with them more meaningfully. The plan is to offer something that will allow you to click and scroll around the photo much like Google Street View or if you are on a mobile device you’ll be able to use the phone like a viewfinder turning it to see more.

 

Many are saying that the reason that Facebook is launching this system is that they have to build content that can be used with new virtual reality software. Already several companies are developing different software that can make it so that a person can view a space as if it were all around them. The new feature would also target those using new devices that are built to specialize in panoramic photos.

 

The new feature will certainly benefit Facebook because it will help to provide content that will be viewable by their new Oculus device which is an early leader in virtual reality. It will also help them to flesh out their goal of becoming a place where users can come to explore the world around them in new and unique ways.

 

This new feature will be a wonderful new way for users to connect with one another. Now when a person is at a beach or enjoying vacation in a foreign country, they will be able to snap a panoramic photo and actually share it with their friends in a way that allows them to really experience the place rather than having to squint at a tiny elongated picture. Users will be able to see places that their friends are at in a way that is really meaningful.

Checking Back in with Google Plus

Picture 5-7-2015It’s been a while since anyone has given much thought to Google Plus. Google’s attempt at a competitor to Facebook effectively crashed and burned, after not really providing users with anything that they didn’t already have from other existing social networks. It simply never offered anything that made people want to switch from one social network to the other. After Vic Gundotra, who focused largely on Google Plus during his tenure at Google, announced he was leaving the company last year, some news sources declared that Google Plus was effectively dead in the water.

However, Google has recently announced an overhaul of the Google Plus interface, which is drifting further away from a Facebook clone and actually seems to be emulating aspects of Pinterest. Google Plus’s newest feature is called the Collections tab, which allows users of Google Plus to group similar posts into sections, so that users can easily organize all of the things that they are interested in. These Collections can be shared publicly, privately, or with a specific group of people.

While Google Plus may have massively decreased in use, there were still plenty of people that were clinging to it. Roughly 6.6 million users made public posts in 2015, although that is only representative of 0.3 percent of all Google Plus accounts. However, Google was paying attention to what their loyal users were doing on the social network. These observations ultimately led to the launch of Collections, which is now available on the web and Android platforms and should be available for iOS in the near future.

Twitter Finds New Ways to Interact with Search Engines

Picture 2-5-2015One of the best ways for social networks to move up in the world is to pair themselves with the major search engines. Many of the larger social networks have some kind of history working with Google or Bing in different capacities. This is something that Twitter has recently been doing, as new features have been announced that directly implement aspects of these search engines. When it comes to Bing, Twitter has paired up with the search engine for translation reasons.

On the Twitter website, as well as in the mobile apps, users can now easily translate any tweet in a foreign language to the user’s default language. Though the translation tool is not perfect, it’s still a step up from not being able to read foreign tweets at all. Bing is not the only search engine that Twitter has found themselves recently pairing with, however. There has also been a deal made between Twitter and Google, which will ultimately allow tweets to appear in Google searches.

Yahoo and Bing already offer the ability to show tweets in their searches, but this will allow Google to have the same benefits. Twitter and Google had an agreement that was similar to this in 2009, but it was discontinued in 2011, around the same time that Google Plus launched. Google pairing themselves up with Twitter again may be yet another sign that they’re gradually removing support from Google Plus, which has been circling the drain for a while now.

Facebook and Bing Go Their Separate Ways

Picture 12-18-2014Facebook and Microsoft have had a long-standing relationship, which for quite some time has led to Facebook including Bing results in the Facebook search bar. Similarly, searching in Bing would allow Facebook users to find results from their friends. However, it appears that Facebook has been making some changes regarding the way their search function works. In particular, it looks like they have removed Bing from the equation, without fanfare.

One of the reasons that Facebook worked with Bing in the first place was because it has long considered Google to be a rival, especially with Google’s mostly unsuccessful plunge into social network territory with Google Plus. What this means for the future of the partnership between Facebook and Bing is currently unclear, though it is likely that these changes have been made in relation to Facebook’s new search functions, which I talked about last week.

It seems that Facebook wants to refocus their search functions to work within Facebook, rather than extending to the rest of the web. However, the refining of their search functions appears to be used to compete with other search experiences. A Microsoft spokesperson says that they continue to partner with Facebook in other areas apart from the search function. It still is possible that Facebook and Bing will work concurrently in the future, but under what circumstances is currently unknown.

The Death of Facebook?

Picture 1-23-2014I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that Facebook’s popularity amongst kids and teens has been on a decline. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even noted that this is the first time that there has been a decrease in daily teenage users since the social network was launched a decade ago. Even though Facebook has over a billion active users, this recent decline has made some people believe that the death of Facebook, at least as the supreme reigning social network, might not be too far away.

A recent study done by researchers at Princeton University compared the growth and potential decline of Facebook to that of an epidemic disease. When comparing the spread of the social network’s popularity to the way diseases like the bubonic plague were once spread, the researchers were able to predict that the site’s user count will drop by 80 percent before the year 2017. The reason behind the study was that ideas have often been shown to spread infectiously before dying out, not unlike diseases. Losing interest in an idea can be compared to developing an immunity to a disease.

The researchers viewed the number of Google searches for Facebook and noticed that there had been a peak in December 2012. They were able to compare this to a similar peak in searches for MySpace in 2008, right before it began to head towards its eventual decline. Though the researchers did not insinuate what the successor to Facebook might be, it’s not impossible that their findings could be accurate, considering how MySpace was once at the height of popularity and now is not even close in popularity to many of its competitors.

One interesting report has stated that even President Obama is aware that Facebook is losing its ‘cool factor.’ Obama was quoted as saying, during a meeting regarding the 18-34 year old demographic, that “It seems like they don’t use Facebook anymore,” which shows that Facebook’s decline is something quite noticeable. With many teenagers and twenty-somethings turning to Instagram and Snapchat, it’s entirely plausible that Facebook’s user base may not be such a powerhouse in a few years.

Inventor of Twitter Launches Jelly, a Q&A Social Media App

Picture 1-9-2014The social media world has recently been buzzing about the launch of Jelly, a new social media app that integrates existing social networks to help answer the questions of its users. The app has been launched by Biz Stone, who is best known as the co-founder and co-inventor of Twitter, who also worked on popular websites such as Xanga and Blogger over the course of his career. Stone has been working on Jelly since 2012, where the nature of the application was kept mostly under wraps.

Jelly was launched for iOS and Android on Tuesday and aims to compete with existing Q&A services such as ChaCha and Quora. There are a few features that separate Jelly from these other question and answer services. For one, users are able to post images alongside their questions (“What is this?” is frequently mentioned as a way images and questions can be used together). The social media app will allow friends on existing social networks — as well as friends of friends — to help answer questions that are posed on the Jelly platform.

Some people are very excited about the potential of Jelly. One blogger referred to the types of questions one would pose for Google compared to the questions that were meant for Jelly — “How much is this new video game?” versus “Is this game appropriate for my ten year old?” The ability to gain this sort of knowledge from someone a Jelly user knows directly or indirectly is exactly the appeal of the social media app.

However, while some have embraced Jelly since its recent launch, others are a bit more skeptical. One journalist mentioned a number of problems that Jelly users may run into. He described that many questions posed on Jelly are snarky or obviously ridiculous or pointless (“Should I drink coffee or tea?”) whereas others are clearly stealth marketing questions that may irk new users of the app. Even when genuinely interesting questions are posed, the answers are usually immediately available via existing search engines. Considering the application is merely days old, there is still a lot of room for growth, but the direction that growth ends up taking remains to be seen.

Recent Security Breaches for Social Networks

Picture 1-2-2014In early December, it was revealed that there had been yet another massive breach in social network security, as 2 million passwords were stolen in a hack that affected accounts for Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and more. The hackers, who are believed to have originated from the Netherlands, were using a virus that allowed them to access information for more than 93,000 websites, including many major social networks.

More recently, it appears that the security of Snapchat has also been compromised. A recent hack resulted in information regarding 4.6 million accounts getting posted on a website known as SnapchatDB.info. Though the site has since been suspended, the hackers were able to get information regarding phone numbers and passwords for all of these individual accounts.

According to the people behind Snapchat, the hole that allowed for this security breach has been sealed. However, some people believe that Snapchat’s response to the hack is evident of their existence as a very young startup company. One particular issue is that a group of ‘white hat hackers’ – people who find holes in security so that companies can prevent these kinds of breaches – had explicitly told Snapchat that there were holes that could be exploited. Yet Snapchat ignored this and didn’t even admit to their mistake in not listening when they released a brief statement regarding the breach.

Though these breaches in security have been unfortunate for a lot of people, one website is trying their hardest to help people find out whether or not their account has been compromised. The website ‘haveibeenpwned‘ allows people to enter their e-mail addresses that are used for these accounts to find out if theirs are among the accounts that have been compromised by any of these recent breaches. The website checks Adobe, Snapchat, Stratfor, Gawker, Yahoo!, Vodafone, Pixel Federation, and Sony accounts.

Waze: The Billion-Dollar GPS Social Network

Picture 6-6-2013

If you haven’t heard of it already, Waze is a recent up-and-coming social GPS application that has been the talk of the town in recent months. Essentially, Waze combines the traditional interface of a GPS navigation system with social networking features that allow users to share information with one another. For instance, Waze users can alert each other about speed traps, traffic jams, and other landmarks; it also helps users find the nearest, cheapest gas and can be used to locate fellow friends who also use Waze.

The reason that Waze has recently hit the spotlight is thanks to Facebook, who announced that they were planning to purchase Waze for up to $1 billion; many sources were confirming last month that the deal was essentially done and had been in the works for nearly six months as the two companies negotiated. The main issue was whether to keep Waze in Israel, where the company is primarily located, or to relocate them to the United States.

Eventually, however, the location issue became more than Facebook could handle. Reportedly, Facebook has pulled out of negotiations after Waze’s management repeatedly refused to move from Israel to the United States. Facebook has purchased two previous companies from Israel that were then moved to the United States – Snaptu and Face.com – but both of those were deals of only $50-70 million, nowhere near the billion-dollar value of Waze.

All is not necessary lost for Waze though, even after Facebook has decided to end their negotiations. Before Facebook’s billion-dollar offer, Apple had initially offered the company $400 million, though Waze declined it, believing their company to be worth more than that. It has also been said that upon the announcement that Facebook was going after Waze, Google began trying to outbid them. In any case, it likely won’t be long before this Israeli startup is snatched up and integrated into a larger corporation.

Gmail Debuts More User-Friendly Contacts Manager

Today, Google unveiled a brand-new system designed to simplify two key functions for Gmail users: overall contact management and keeping these contacts consistent with the rest of Gmail.

Such a roll out couldn’t have surfaced a minute too soon as animosity among Google’s users has been brewing worldwide in response to multiple disappointing oversights by the social network. Most notably, a formal letter to Google orchestrated by 10 nations to express deep concern about the lack of privacy regulations in the company’s recent debut of Google Buzz.

Now, more than ever, Google fans are craving a little reassurance about why they’ve pledged their cyber loyalty to the enterprise. And now, thanks to Google’s Gmail enhancement, supporters can rest assured – for the meantime – that the network is powering through their obstacles to provide a better overall Google experience.

Gmail members can now look forward to new features that include:

• Keyboard shortcuts that mirror Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts
• Sort by last name filter
• Faster editing options
• Autosaving
• Custom labels

(more…)